Monday, October 5, 2009

First Draft of Proposal


‘Schools kill creativity’. Sir Ken Robinson, one of the world’s leading thinkers on creativity and education,goes on to assert that throughout the entire academic track from grade school to university level education, creativity is systematically eradicated. Public education has been designed as a process that values certain subjects above others, ‘strip-mining’ students’ minds of particular commodities and leaving the rest (creativity in particular) behind. (

If we are to adequately educate the upcoming generation for a future that we cannot yet even envision, we must reinvest in the commodity of creativity. Facts and knowledge will be ever changing, but the creative process, or the production of valuable, novel ideas, will endure. Einstein, himself, proposed that creativity was to be more highly prized than knowledge.

The task of educators today, should be to focus on the power of creativity by encouraging students to unwrap their own personal gift of human imagination, and explore the energy of this valuable commodity. Current technologies provide an increasingly relevant venue for exploring this under-developed resource.

Virtual worlds allow art students (via their avatars) to literally walk inside an Escher painting, following the winding, nonsensical maze of staircases and allow architecture students to visualize buildings from every conceivable angle, as they build, rotate, and walk around their products. In both cases, the creative process seems to be enhanced by immersion in a 3D virtual space. Virtual worlds, or those “computer-based simulated environments intended for its users to inhabit and interact via avatars”, (Wikipedia),certainly seem to hold promise in promoting creativity. Since students today are, as a whole, accustomed to interacting with computer technology, educators can capitalize on this interest and provide opportunities for creation that are more easily accomplished ‘in world’ than in the traditional classroom.

Johnson and Levine state that: "From the earliest models of learning that we know of, immersive experiences have proven to be effective, effecient ways to learn at high levels and quickly". Virtual learning is certainly immersive, highly social, and lends itself to learning quickly and encourages higher forms of abstraction and experimentation than more traditional lecture methods.

Harry Pense, noted author and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Suny-Oneonta in N.Y. states:

It appears that 3D virtual worlds are poised to make a significant contribution to higher
Education…the potential applications offer many exciting possibilities…Millions of
teenagers are already involved in virtual games…and when they reach college age,
they will expect to see this technology that has become familiar to them. The widely
respected Gartner Research Group has predicted that 80% of active Internet users will
have a “second life” in some virtual world by the end of 2011. Developing effective
pedagogies for teaching in virtual space may be the most serious challenge to face
higher education in the coming decade (J. Educational Technology Systems, vol.36(2)
171017, 2007-2008).

It is crucial to develop pedagogies that take full advantage of virtual education and especially as it relates to student creativity. By developing such pedagogies, and testing their efficacy, we will be able to more accurately answer the question, “When university level students are presented similar tasks, how much does student creativity increase in an online, avatar-represented virtual classroom as compared with the creativity of those who participate in a traditional class room setting?”

If we are to prepare today’s students adequately for tomorrow, educators must accept the challenge of reversing the accusation of Sir Ken Robinson, “Schools kill creativity” to read “Schools kindle creativity”, which might well be accomplished in the virtual classroom.

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