SXSWedu: Top Five Take-Aways for Creative Educators

SXSWeduLast week, over 6,000 educators, entrepreneurs and experts came to Austin, TX for the annual SXSWedu. The Adobe education team was lucky enough to attend and engage around a variety of interesting topics. We were blown away by the support for and interest in creativity in education. Here are our biggest take-aways and “aha” moments from the conference:

5. Creativity is top of mind for innovative educators. From the keynote presentations to the smaller sessions, from the parties to the Twitter back channel, creativity was a hot topic. The LAUNCHedu pitch competition invited entrepreneurs to put their creative solutions to pressing problems to the test. An interactive “playground” space invited participants to build circuits, create analog memes and test drive exciting new creative software and hardware. A session led by Columbia University Teacher’s College focused on unleashing teacher creativity through empowering them as designers. Actor Jeffrey Tambor closed out the conference with a rousing call to attendees to access their own creativity to solve the problems facing education today. A quick scan of the #createedu conversation on Twitter reveals over 603 mentions of the topic that was on the minds of many conference attendees.

4. To foster creativity in education, a transformation is needed. We loved hearing from Dale Dougherty, Erik Natzke and Chad Soleo on how to nurture creativity based on their experience in the workplace and in formal and informal education. Some highlights include:

  • Dedicate a space for students and teachers to play, to explore, to create, and to fail.
  • Teach students they don’t have to solve everything on their own. Practice leaning on community for support and inspiration.
  • Focus more on students and learning processes and less on subjects.
  • Ask students interesting and unsolved questions. Education isn’t just about learning answers but also about learning to explore the unknown.
  • Being held to a specific set of standards doesn’t mean you can’t develop creativity.
  • Support teachers in fostering creativity through professional development and institutional support for innovative approaches to teaching and learning.
  • Showcase student success beyond just test scores with portfolios and exhibitions.

3. Never underestimate the creative power of youth. Jonathan Blake Huer of Ball State University shared his exciting initiative, the Digital Corps, which puts students to work in a hands-on, youth-powered design studio. David Conover of Connally High School proudly presented his innovative game design program for at-risk youth through testimonials of four young men whose lives have been changed by the opportunity to create in the classroom. Chad Soleo of Green Dot Public Schools spoke eloquently about the need for teacher professional development to transform classroom practices that stifle creativity.

2. Roadblocks, challenges and failures are nothing more than creative opportunities. An engaging and interactive session on learning from failure, hosted by the team from Working Examples, got us started thinking about how we handle mistakes. Later, Deborah Morrison from the University of Oregon and Glenn Griffin of the University of Alabama shared their findings from a research study on how creative professionals handle failure. The answer? Creatives don’t give up in the face of staggering personal and professional challenges. Instead, they pivot, change the story and imagine new, better outcomes.

1. We all have a role to play in ensuring creativity is the future. Throughout our time at SXSWedu, we were impressed by the broad array of stakeholders who believe that creativity is a vital skill to be fostered in education. At our meet-up on Tuesday night over 100 attendees pledged to support this movement. Their commitments ranged from personal to professional and to the political. Explore the gallery here.

As SXSWedu comes to an end, we know we can’t let the conversation about creativity in education fade away. It will take more than one person, one school, or one organization to make this transformation—we need a global movement.

We ask you today to pledge your support for creativity in education by visiting http://edex.adobe.com/pledge. Together we’ll shape the future of education and unleash a new generation of creators and innovators.