Creativity: the Key to Unlocking the Potential of EdTech

Emerging Technologies and Edtech May 04, 2016

Whenever I get a new device, be it a phone, tablet or notebook, I spend the first few hours customising every setting possible and a few things that probably shouldn’t be customisable! For me “accepting the default setting” is an anathema. That device has to reflect me, my needs and priorities. Leaving anything on factory settings limits me to experiencing the minimum capacity available.

EdTech initiatives should elicit exactly the same response from practitioners and managements. The arrival of any new device/programme/e-resource should provoke a flurry of creativity and innovation within classrooms and schools. However, it seems that often EdTech provokes exactly the opposite response. Rather than being seen as an enabler of creativity, it is viewed as a “plug and play” solution or even worse merely a “labour saving device” in the same manner as blender or electric can opener. Yes, EdTech solutions can in some instances enable you to save time, energy and reduce admin; but if that’s all we see them as… we are seriously missing out!

For me, the integration of EdTech is just the start of a long and evolving journey that may include a few wrong turns; where although the destination may be set by the education system, the journey is deliciously vague. The EdTech solution is just the start, the seed; it is the creativity of the practitioners and management in EdTech integration that really allow its transformative power to be unleashed!

Too often the focus of EdTech deployment is in understanding how every nifty little aspect works, rather than in the nurturing of a creative response to the integration process. In my experience I have found that the greatest impact gained from EdTech has not come from the people who understood every sentence in the operating manual; but the people who could envision how this tool could transform an aspect of their learning environment, and had the bravery to try.

We can all get a little lazy and allow the “wow” of the new device/programme to supplant the excitement that should be generated from the actual learning experience. Sometimes the learner engagement we see with EdTech can come from the novelty of the “toy”. The problem with this approach is that like with any toy this excitement has a very limited lifespan. It is the creative practitioner that takes any EdTech solution and utilises it in such a way that it is the learning experience that elicits the “wow” factor. The best lessons are when you are enjoying the learning process so much that the tool that you are using is unimportant.

Honestly, the most creative teachers with EdTech are the most creative teachers without it. Creativity does not depend on your technical mastery of the device/software but on your ability to imagine how this tool can be best deployed for your context. The reality within education is there are as many learning environments as there are children and days of the week. There should never be just one way to use an EdTech solution. It’s the ongoing creativity of the practitioner that allows a single EdTech solution to have a myriad of uses over time.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Try something small and simple to start. Great ideas grow with time and trials
  • Don’t panic if it your idea doesn’t work the first time. Very rarely did I get an innovative approach to EdTech perfect the first time I tried it, it’s part of a long and noble tradition of “falling forward”
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel, you don’t need to think of everything! Share ideas and learn what has worked/not worked, perhaps you can build on someone else’s idea
  • Allow space for teachers to be creative around the use of EdTech in their learning environment. As Sir Ken Robinson says, “You can’t just give someone a creativity injection. You have to create an environment for curiosity and a way to encourage people and get the best out of them.”

Don’t just limit yourself to the default settings!