Preparing for the creative economy

The Creative Economy Deficit

Interesting speech yesterday by Russel Howcroft at the National Press Club - 15 Aug 2018. (https://www.npc.org.au/speakers/russel-howcroft/ ) 'The Creative Economy Deficit'. You might have seen Russell on various ‘Gruen’ ABCTV programs. He has also managed or lead various media and advertising entities in Australia.

So what did he say?

  • 'Creativity is not a soft word.'
  • "Employment (in creative industries) is growing at almost twice the rate of any other sector'
  • 'We need to start taking (creativity) seriously'
  • Creativity brings 'new perspectives to complex problems'
  • 95% of 5 yr old children are tested as highly creative but drops off after that age.

He talked about 'the need for the creative economy to be valued and represented at senior levels of Government and across a range of portfolios – from infrastructure to education to innovation and business.' This is the next thing after the STEM push that we are currently seeing in schools. We acknowledge that coding is going to be a vital skill with AI (Artificial Intelligence) on the doorstep of our lives.

But how do we make coded products actually acceptable and integrated into our lives?

As important as STEM and coding are… all of these products will need a physicality or other representation. Have you seen the robots that sort-of look like dogs with no head? They can open doors and walk upstairs – very clever… BUT THEY’RE CREEPY!

Headless dogs really need the input of creative people to humanise them and make them emotionally and cognitively acceptable and perhaps even beautiful.

Since I got my first smartphone in 2002, I have noticed how the world has moved from text-based literacy to a graphical-literacy focus - as an adult literacy teacher, I couldn’t help but notice- and my teaching changed to reflect this too.

Just think about how many icons and graphics we now see and use to find things and communicate in a type of shorthand. Infographics give us a summary of topics and draw us in to read them and learn about topics we might otherwise have never considered.

Someone designed these. We have, and need, creative thinking people now more than ever.

AI cannot replace true creativity. Algorithms cannot be truly creative (and do you really want them to?).

Creativity is not just about drawing and art, but the ability to think laterally, problem solve in new ways, join dots that don’t immediately seem related, and then communicate this in way others can work with. But let’s not undervalue the impact of the arts to the beauty of life and their ability to make life liveable.

Language skills, communication, teamwork and many other skills are going to need to be learnt even more explicitly in the coming years. One of the biggest concerns being discussed by employers and educators now, is the poor ‘soft skills’ of our young people. They stare at their gadgets and don’t engage with others. We worry for them and they are lonely, stressed and fragile in numbers not seen in previous generations.

So how do we nurture the vast gamut of creativity in our students, so that when they get into the workforce, they can be part of, influence and leverage off this new economy?

  • creative teaching strategies: Problem or scenario-based learning, gamification and games-based learning, make and recycle
  • pose problems and scenarios that need solving in a real-world context and also future crystal-ball gazing, pose 'what if' discussions
  • challenge students to explain their thinking - use their language skills to communicate, explain, inspire and draw an audience for their ideas- build respect and credibility through the soft communication skills
  • Help students join the dots for how one thing might impact another even when they don’t seem connected https://www.yellowstonepark.com/things-to-do/wolf-reintroduction-changes-ecosystem 
  • Challenge students with higher level Bloom’s Taxonomy levels of thinking and engaging.

 The world is changing faster every year. As educators, parents and friends and colleagues, we need to make sure we, and those around us, have the skills and resilience to engage with the coming Creative Economy. Let it be a beautiful thing.


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