Douglas H. Clements
In this article I react to the thoughts of Hennessey, addressing mainly the student, and Esquivel, addressing mainly the teacher. These authors present complementary, interesting, and consistent pictures of creativity education. Here I comment on a few issues that are less clear and discuss implications of these authors' work for computers in education. I conclude that teachers need to play with ideas about how they might use computers to build a culture that promotes deep, meaningful, and creative learning. (Key words: creativity; computers; education.)
The articles by Hennessey, addressing mainly the student, and Esquivel, addressing mainly the teacher, present complementary and interesting pictures of creativity education. What is so pleasing about these pictures is that -- in contrast to some many other areas of educational research -- they are so consistent and clear. Here I shall make brief comments on a few issues that are less clear, and I shall discuss implications of these authors' work for computers in education.
As Hennessy states, one issue that remains unclear is the precise role of "work" and "play" in the development of young children's creativity. Perhaps psychologists need to extend their view of work versus play to include the wider view of self-directed activity (including that normally called "play," but also other activities) and controlled activity (including "work," but also other routines and patterns at home and school that control children's behaviors and time.) The developmental psychology perspective may imply that the balance of assimilation and accommodation in such self-directed and controlled activity helps explain the different degree of creativity they engender. Variations on a theme, according to some the crux of creativity (Hofstadter, 1985), may be more likely in activity that consists of relatively high amounts of assimilation and that is not scheduled.
Researchers might wish to examine additional roles of the wider environment. For example, who is considered creative or gifted may to a large degree depend on the definitions and needs of the culture. From this view, it is a match of the capabilities of the individual and the characteristics of the surrounding culture that determine creativity and, possibly, what education for creativity should be.
This perspective also suggests that educational psychologists should constantly seek to extend conceptual borders. For example, Esquivel identifies characteristics and strategies of teachers who foster creativity. Although these may always be worthy of emulation, a more fundamental shift in teachers' -- and society's -- beliefs about the nature of knowledge and education may be necessary for a full realization of creativity teaching and learning. These are the philosophies that underlie much of the research on Logo in education (Clements, 1991; Papert, 1980; Papert, 1993), as well as the intentional learning environments discussed in my article (Scardamalia and Bereiter, 1992). The culture may have to change to reflect a social construction of knowledge in a profound sense, as opposed to promoting "more creative" teaching approaches, which may constitute positive but less than fully adequate attempts to modify systems that require fundamental redirection.
Of course, such change will not be easy. Hennessey cites research indicating that the same factors that depress creativity in students negatively affect creativity in tutoring. This suggests that many forces are working against teachers' creativity, from teacher education programs that employ primarily extrinsic rewards (and punishments) to unions that bargain more tenaciously for direct rewards than for conditions that encourage creativity in teaching, to education administration that focuses narrowly on students' test scores, teacher's behaviors, and the connection between these two.
Esquivel's article contains an extensive discussion of the teacher's role in facilitating students' development of creativity. To begin to make sense of the rather large array of characteristics and strategies found to correlate with successful teaching of creativity, educational psychologists need more elaborate, differentiated, and explanatory models. Regarding the teacher's own creativity in a domain, for example, it is possible that how teachers exhibit and channel their creativity influences whether higher levels of such creativity help or hinder their students' development.
Hennessey and Esquivel's research summaries have implications for the use of computers in education that both confirm and extend those in my article. Esquivel sets the stage by concluding that educational approaches to the facilitation of creativity are no in vain. However, some types of computer software may hamper creativity. For example, if imposing restrictions on how students choose to complete a task is detrimental to creativity, as Hennessey indicates, the use of traditional computer-assisted instruction (CAI) -- such as drill-and-practice and other highly structured programs -- may be contraindicated. On the other hand, the use of open-ended programs (e.g., word processors, drawing tools, spreadsheets, Logo computer programming, and student-constructed hypermedia database programs) allow students maximum freedom in approaching tasks in their own manner. These programs, and curricula harmonious with the intentions of their creators, eschew placing controlling limits on student's work.
Further, publishers often promote structured CAI programs because they provide "immediate rewards." If students know that they have to complete the tasks in any case, such rewards may not be particularly harmful. However, if the goal is for students to choose to use computers as lifelong creativity tools, such rewards may often be detrimental. If teachers do use such software, "immunization" training such as developed by Hennessey and her colleagues seems strongly advised.
Such CAI programs also sometimes provide comprehension evaluations, both immediately and at the end of a session. This would probably maximize students' expectation of evaluation and so minimize their creativity -- even if students, because of the "individualized" nature of a drill program, are performing well. It would also likely lead students to develop belief systems that the goal of learning in schools is to copy prescribed procedures to efficiently determine correct answers. Such belief systems have been identified as detrimental to numerous aspects of students' learning, besides creativity (Schoenfeld, 1992; Stodolsky, Salk, and Glaessner, 1991). Furthermore, drill and tutorial CAI will not (or at least will not soon) demonstrate the characteristics of creative teachers identifies by Esquivel, such as flexibility, openness, acceptance, empathy, a predisposition toward positive personal relationships, and a humanistic philosophical orientation.
Hennessey's contrast of play and work is also relevant. The benefits of a playful approach for young children's development and for problem solving are well known. Jerome Bruner has shown that children encouraged to first play with materials are far more creative involving problems with those materials. He suggests that play loosens the coupling between ends and means and allows for exploration of different combinations. In work, people hold the end steady and vary the means until they achieve an end. But in play, people can also do the opposite (Brunner, 1985).
Children see play as activity that they chose voluntarily, directed themselves, and conducted in an uninterrupted time span (i.e., work as required activity). Curriculum -- computer-based or not -- that includes mostly practice and assigned tasks will not engender a playful approach in students. Bruner's research indicates that play is richest when the material has a clear-cut variable means-end structure, has some constraints, and yields feedback that students can interpret on their own. Interestingly, these descriptions -- originally about puzzles and building blocks -- fit certain computer environments quite well. Logo programming and student-constructed hypermedia database programs are designed to encourage and help students solve real problems, to tackle real projects, and to provide feedback on their solutions. These environments also are consistent wit the models of construction discussed by Esquivel. Playfulness and willingness to take risks characterize students working on self-directed problem solving and project work (Harel and Papert, 1990). Teachers who wish to use computers to promote such cognitive play could certainly benefit from learning more about Esquivel's models. This adds another perspective to those discussed in my article on how and why computers might help teachers facilitate their students' creative growth. I wish to emphasize one final point. Although my own empirical studies on creativity have been based on a cognitive perspective, the wider foundation of my own and others' work with computers should be considered. For example, computers facilitate positive social interaction and positive cognitive interactions, each to the benefit of the other (Clements, 1987).
Computers are used in a social setting. That setting -- including, and to a large measure determined by, the teacher -- is critical (Olson, 1988). For example, Logo tends to induce high quality instruction, even from inexperienced adults. Nevertheless, "the importance of Logo is that it provides an unusually rich problem space with which children can confront important ideas; it does not guarantee that the confrontation will occur" (Fein, 1985, p. 22). This is a valid conclusions for all software designed to engender creative thinking. Teacher's need to play with ideas about how they might use computers to promote deep, meaningful, creative learning.
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Scardamalia, M., and Bereiter, C. (1992). An architecture for collaborative knowledge building. In De Corte, E., Linn, M. C., Mandi, H., and Verschaffel, L. (eds.), Computer-Based Learning Environment and Problem Solving, Springer-Verlag, Berlin-Heidelberg-New York, pp. 41-66.
Schoenfeld, A. H. (1992). Learning to think mathematically: Problem solving, metacognition, and sense making in mathematics. In Grouws, D. A. (ed.), Handbook of Research on Mathematics Teaching and Learning, Macmillan, New York, pp. 334-370.
Stodolsky, S. S., Salk, S., and Glaessner, B. (1991). Student views about learning math and social studies. Am. Educ. Res. J. 28(1): 89-116.
Time to prepare this material was partially provided by the National Science Foundation under Grants No. MDR-8651668, MDR-9050210, and MDR-8954664. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
Correspondence should be directed to Douglas H. Clements, State University of New York at Buffalo, Department of Learning and Instruction, 593 Baldy Hall, Amherst, New York 14260.
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