ICT for Learning, Innovation and Creativity

The main message of the EU policy paper ICT for Learning, Innovation and Creativity is:
"New technologies, and especially social computing, provide new opportunities for education and training, as they enhance learning and teaching, and facilitate collaboration, innovation and creativity for individuals and organizations. The benefits of deploying social computing and ICT for learning depend on the learning approach used, emphasizing the role and the skills of the teacher and the need for supportive settings for both learners and teachers."

Technologies are already accepted by the young generation, who are appropriating ICT tools and in particular web 2.0 applications in new creative ways. New pedagogies have to take into account what it means to be educated in our times, as the overwhelming presence of technologies in our lives brings about a change in the way young people and children learn and understand. ​A cultural shift is also required in order to promote values, that are not always recognized in a school environment, such as risk-taking, uniqueness and originality. Teachers are key figures to implement change, but they need support to understand and accept creativity in their practices.

ICT for Learning, Innovation and Creativity
Learning and creativity relate to each other. One can learn to be creative and while we are creative we are also learning. The usage of ICT does not automatically enhance learning outputs. The same applies for creativity. Both processes can be supported by ICT but the involved players need to know the approach, when to use ICT tools, to which purpose and what kind of competencies are needed to handle these tools successfully.

In EYNCRIN`s ICT Academy for Creative Innovation we believe that ICT and social computing tools and approaches in particular can enhance learning outcomes by:
• Supporting different senses with multimedia visualisations and representations, both in materials developed by teachers and by providing new opportunities for creativity for the students;
• Supporting collaboration with new online production, commenting and networking tools, improving both overall and individual performance;
• Supporting differentiation and diversity by supplying teachers with a wide variety of didactical and methodological tools that can be fitted to the respective learning objectives;
• Empowering learners to personalize their learning process in a supportive environment of mutual assistance, reflection and critique and in interaction with their teachers and peers, combining formal, non-formal and informal learning activities.

Our Approach: ICT supporting creative thinking and behavior
Some of the main characteristics of creativity can be developed with the aid of ICT.
Often ICT is now even the medium of choice by which an outcome is created. One of the best understood features of ICT, to increase the speed of a process, can be exploited for the creativity process.

 Creative individuals often generate ideas rapidly when they are at the peak of their creativity. The speed of ICT ideally enables some further development beyond the ideas – providing associations, alternatives or applications. Complex software has been developed serving this feature. Another main feature of ICT, provisonality, is used by software developed to aid creative thinking. Provisionality enables young people to use ICT to develop their creative skills for innovation. 

​​Support pedagogical innovation with new tools

• Encouraging experimentation. Innovations in the process of learning and teaching emerge from different actors, both learners and teachers. Policies should aim to empower educational actors and institutions in their local contexts to develop innovative approaches to learning with added value in their environment, (e.g. with different local languages, or by using digital tools and media creatively for specific learning topics).
• Networking and best practise exchanges. Teachers should be encouraged and supported to document and share the innovative practices they have developed and encountered in their teaching, as knowledge of practical applications for new approaches in different environments is scarce. Incentives for the objective assessment of enabling and disabling factors should be implemented.
• Teacher Training and Support. ICT and social computing can improve the effectiveness of learning and the learning outcomes, but results depend on the approaches used. Hence, initial and in-service teacher training should disseminate insights and best practices with new innovative approaches, encouraging teachers to experiment with digital and media technologies and to reflect on the learning impacts
of their own teaching practices. Establishing and participating in teacher networks and following innovative practice development of the field should become part of teacher training.

Support innovative organizations 

  • Open and networked institutions. Policies should encourage institutions to embrace the networking opportunities available. By opening their learning materials (open educational resources), institutions can attract learners and also support informal learning outside institutions.
  • Networking between institutions can enrich the curricula provided for students and transfer subject-related knowledge between practitioners. 
  • Institutions should promote collaborative networks between teachers, researchers, and professional networks, in order to support the emergence and sharing of learning innovations.

• Develop and support favourable culture for ICT innovation and learning. Using new tools for old processes does not create change or innovation. Institutions should facilitate emergence of innovative learning approaches by 

(i) ensuring that learners, teachers, managers and parents are aware of their potential and

(ii) by supporting them in curricula, teaching guidelines, and teacher training. Institutions should acknowledge and encourage innovations coming from actors on different levels and develop their practices accordingly, thereby becoming reflective, learning organizations.
• Build a strong vision of ICT and innovation for lifelong learning in Europe. Research shows that in many countries there is a need to coordinate education policies for innovative learning approaches with policies for ICT infrastructure and ICT skills, employment policies for developing and maintaining labour market skills and inclusion policies for accessing learning. Policymakers, researchers and practitioners should engage in developing a common vision of future learning for innovation, as a tool to guide their joint effort.

Support and benefit from technological innovations

• Co-development of tools for learning and teaching. Many innovations result from end-users adapting and developing tools for themselves. Involving learners and teachers in learning tool development processes could create innovative tools, which take into account both learner and teacher perspectives, and support personalization and scaffolding in new ways, Design for All and co-development approaches are crucial for improving the usability of technological innovations, especially for learners with disabilities or special needs.
• Research on ICT impacts on learning. More research is needed for finding evidence on how technology can enhance learning. Together, tool developers and educational researchers should study and develop models for embedding new tools such as computer-based assessment in teaching and learning approaches. This would provide institutions and teachers with proven practical models that support the take up of innovative tools.

How to enhance creativity using innovative and advanced level of ICT tools? 

"The best way to get a good idea is to get a lot of ideas" (Linus Pauling)

 Creativity as a process
There are different models that describe the creativity process. All of them have several phases. Petty splits the creativity process into six phases:

  1. Inspiration: In which you research and generate many ideas
  2. Clarification: In which you focus on your goals
  3. Evaluation: In which you review your work and learn from it
  4. Distillation: In which you decide which of your ideas to work on
  5. Incubation: In which you leave the work alone
  6. Perspiration: In which you work determindedly on your best ideas

 III. The creative person
A focus on the nature of the creative person considers more general intellectual habits, such as openness, levels of ideation, autonomy, expertise, exploratory behaviour and so on. As far as the creative person is concerned, researches have studied the individual from a multitude of perspectives: so, two individuals can be creative but in different styles. The style of creativity measures the way in which creativity manifests itself (“How creative you are?” / “How does your creativity manifests itself?”) whilst the level of creativity measures the capacity to create (“In which degree are you creative?”).
Another important aspect of a creative individual is its personality. We are all unique and different in a way, but not all of us can get an advantage of it. We should be able to regard our potentials as resources that we can build on – especially in the areas we are effective. Exploiting these unique potentials of the personality we can acquire a stable self-esteem. Self-confidence is – on the other hand – a good basis for express novel associations and ideas, thus being creative.

 4. Group creativity
One of the best ways to generate ideas is to ask a team to use known creativity techniques to derive solutions that make the best out of the human creative potential. Groups of different sizes and various professional profiles have a better chance of solving a problem than individuals do. This makes it especially important to take care of the group composition. The more diverse it is, the more it triggers divergent thinking.

 5. The creative environment
A focus on place considers the best circumstances in which creativity flourishes, including degrees of autonomy, access to resources and the nature of gatekeepers. A creative environment is one where people feel at ease expressing their ideas and where positive backing is given in the development of those ideas.

 6. How to enhance creativity?
Nickerson  provides a summary of the various creativity techniques that have been proposed to foster creativity. These include approaches that have been developed by both academia and industry:
• Establishing purpose and intention
• Building basic skills
• Encouraging acquisitions of domain-specific knowledge
• Stimulating and rewarding curiosity and exploration
• Building motivation, especially internal motivation
• Encouraging confidence and a willingness to take risks
• Focusing on mastery and self-competition
• Promoting supportable beliefs about creativity
• Providing opportunities for choice and discovery
• Developing self-management (metacognitive skills)
• Teaching techniques and strategies for facilitating creative performance
• Providing balance
7. Creativity techniques
Creativity techniques are methods that encourage creative actions, whether in the arts or sciences. They focus on a variety of aspects of creativity, including techniques for idea generation and divergent thinking, methods of re-framing problems, changes in the affective environment and so on. They can be used as part of problem solving, artistic expression, or therapy. Some techniques require groups of two or more people while other techniques can be accomplished alone. These methods include word games, written exercises and different types of improvisation, or algorithms for approaching problems.
• Problem Definition - including problem analysis, redifinition, and all aspects associated with defining the problem clearly.
• Idea Generation - The divergent process of coming up with ideas.
• Idea Selection - The convergent process of reducing all the many ideas into realistic solutions
• Idea Implementation - Turning the refined ideas in reality.
• Processes - Schemes and techniques which look at the overall process from start to finish.

 The Six Thinking Hats of Creative Thinking

Early in the 1980s Dr. Edward de Bono invented the Six Thinking Hats method. The six hats represent six modes of thinking and are directions to think rather than labels for thinking. There are six metaphorical hats and the thinker can put on or take off one of these hats to indicate the type of thinking being used. When done in group, everybody wear the same hat at the same time. The different hats stands for:

  1. White Hat Thinking This calls for information known or needed.
  2. Red Hat Thinking This signifies feelings, hunches and intuition.
  3. Black Hat Thinking This is the hat of judgment - the devil's advocate or why something may not work.
  4. Yellow Hat Thinking This symbolizes brightness and optimism.
  5. Green Hat Thinking This focuses on creativity: the possibilities, alternatives and new ideas.
  6. Blue Hat Thinking The Blue Hat is used to manage the thinking process.

Digital technologies provide new opportunities for education and training, as they enhance learning and teaching, and facilitate collaboration, innovation and creativity for individuals and organizations. 

Kirsti Ala-Mutka