Can creativity be taught? Absolutely. The real question is: “How do we teach it?” In school, instead of crossing subjects and classes, we teach them in a very rigid manner. Very rarely do you witness math and science teachers or English and history teachers collaborating with each other. Sticking in your silo, shell, and expertise is comfortable. Well, it’s time to crack that shell. It’s time to abolish silos and subjects.
So begins an excerpt from a book written by 17 year-old high school student, Nikhil Goyal. Nikhil asserts – and I agree – that learning will experience a paradigm shift when we as educators change how we teach. Skills such as creativity can be taught more effectively when students can construct a holistic view of the world, rather than an isolated, departmentalized and, ultimately, incomplete understanding of the material. Learning should be messy because life is messy. Rarely do I find myself not leaning on another colleague or mentor for perspective or support when faced with a complex issue or decision. At Alexandria Country Day School, we have used our 1:1 iPad initiative to bust silos and create a shift in our Middle School in the role of teacher and student. Both are now viewed as learners with individual or group needs that can be met in a variety of ways. Grant Lichtman, COO of The Francis Parker School in San Diego, dropped by recently as part of his country-wide tour of innovative schools, and had the following observation to share:
ACDS has busted an important set of silos that in the past separated the responsibilities of teachers and “other” specialists. This is an important step in broadening the effective use of new pedagogies, and also in evolving a mindset that constant updating, at an appropriate pace, is both OK and expected.
The process is clearly far from complete and will require intentional leadership on the part of both admin and faculty. Indeed, a key part of our success is due entirely to our faculty team that has invested countless hours and their mental/emotional energies in their own professional growth. More than admin leadership, empowering our cadre of teacher leaders has been essential to our progress here at ACDS. The key questions facing us now, as they are many other schools wrestling with a similar paradigm, are how to align a schedule and curriculum with new thinking, new structures and routines, and an updated set of skills for the 21st century. When we began almost two years ago, we had many ideas to choose from on how to roll out our 1:1 iPad initiative, but what was immediately clear to everyone at the table – to borrow from Nikhil again – is that we had to “start rolling around in the dirt from the get go.”