Recently, we brought together some of the brightest educators and school leaders in the Americas at the Microsoft Global Forum in Miami, Florida from November 5-7. The 2014-2015 Class of Education Innovators were announced at the Forum. While there, educators explored new technology that has the potential to revolutionize both teaching and learning and to discuss the next wave of innovation that promises to reshape education from top to bottom including how to use technology to enhance creativity and humanity. Sir Ken Robinson, a keynote speaker at the Forum, explained, "The real virtue is not in the tools we create, it is in how we use the tools to create, how creative we become with the tools. The challenge with technology is not a technological one, it's a spiritual one."
Enthralling the educators he spoke to, Sir Ken Robinson discussed the phenomenal change that has occurred since releasing landmark work on education, Out of Our Minds, ten years ago. Apologetically, he said "If you bought the original version of the book," he said, "I'm sorry. It's dreadful." "The reason I had to rewrite the book is so much has happened in the last ten years. Things were in prospect, but not actualized ten years ago," says Sir Robinson. "Ten years ago, the Internet was still pretty much a limited occupation for very many people. There were no smartphones, no tablets, certainly no Surface Pros. There was no social media, no Facebook, no Twitter."
Sir Robinson emphasized that the evolution of technology has and will always continue to transform the planet and education. However, "what's often less clear is the consequences of technology– they are almost always entirely unpredictable."
Transformation in Technology Allows Creativity to Flourish
The significant transformation in technology over the past ten years bring about both challenge and opportunity for educators and students. Perhaps the most important thing that technology has the potential to unleash is creativity.
Creativity is what allowed the human species to flourish and bring the population up to the nearly seven billion it's at today, but consequently also created the massive problem of sustaining the consumption that comes with such a vast population, Sir Robinson explained. These challenges, he says, were created by the "human ingenuity" that come from creativity, but at the same time, it's that same creativity that may be the only thing that can solve these vast challenges we face.
"I define creativity not as some piece of connectivity," says Robinson "but as a pervasive human trait. It's the capacity to apply your imagination, the process of having original ideas that have value. Part of what we try to do in creative thinking, is to disrupt the habitual patterns of thought that we take for granted. The hardest part of creativity is to challenge what we think of as obvious."
"There is an endless and indomitable supply of creativity if we create the right environment for it," he says. "If the culture is right, things will start to grow again."
Using the Right Technology to Unleash Imagination and Expression
The key to nurturing this creative thinking and personalized learning in schools, explains Robinson, is not only taking advantage of all the technological advancements made in the ten years, but by using the right type of technology, and in the right way, to create the type of learning environment that unleashes imagination and expression beyond what was even thought possible before.
"Technology is pervasive," says Sir Robinson. "Human progress, from the earliest times, has been a kind of conversation between our hands, our minds, and the tools we've created. Technology, put simply, is the design and use of tools, the first of which was probably some kind of flint axe, but as soon as we've created a tool, whether it's a flint axe or Surface Pro, we are doing two things – the first is, a tool extends our physical capacities. Secondly, the availability of a tool expands our minds– it makes us think of things that we couldn't think of before."
It is this kind of 21st century digital technology in classrooms that can spark new ideas and unleash the creativity that defines us. Today, digital inking in Windows empowers us to illustrate ideas when ideas flourish. And, powerful collaboration tools like Office 365 and OneDrive make it easier for students to capture creative and critical thinking, then actively exchange ideas and share with others. Educators are more easily about to created flipped classrooms with online lessons created in Office Mix and then engage students in lessons, tools like the OneNote Class Notebook Creator , and successfully teach students of all abilities using Lync for distance learning. The innovative educators that came together at the Forum are reshaping education, using the right technology tools to help students unleash and express their creativity.
Rethinking the Fundamental Principles of Education and the Role of Technology
As Sir Robinson explained at the Forum, "The real virtue is not in the tools we create, it is in how we use the tools to create, how creative we become with the tools. The challenge with technology is not a technological one, it's a spiritual one."
Sir Ken Robinson closed his speech with these words — "If we start to rethink some of the fundamental principles of education, its relationship with technology, there's a better chance that we will create the world that we and our children will want to live in."
Watch the video recap from the Global Forums in Miami: