Making Media Taps Creativity and Changes Perspectives in Japan

Patricia Cogley, manager of Adobe Youth Voices, with Yoko Takagi (right) and Ayano Hata (left)

“Creativity is the most important essence in education,” Yoko Takagi believes.  She describes herself as an “old woman who experienced WWII and survived from Manchuria to Japan.”  For thirty years she’s worked for global education in Japan, and when she encountered the new tools and approach of Adobe Youth Voices, she embraced it all.  Yoko has been a devoted advocate for creativity and the creative process, proud to see young people such as Tokyo student Ayano Hata develop their potential through media making.

“Creating videos changed my world.  I watch the scenery with more attention as if I were a camera myself.  I would never see the world and media this way if I hadn’t stepped into making videos.  The world is the same as before, but Adobe Youth Voices has changed me into a creator.” – Ayano Hata

There’s a backstory to Yoko’s embrace of creative education, enmeshed in the history of her country.  “For about seventy years after WWII, educational authorities in Japan tried to get students to level up,” she explains, “to get knowledge-centered higher education to catch up with other advanced countries.”  The pressure to excel drove disproportionate emphasis on university exams – all about giving correct answers in a certain timeframe.  Neither “creativity nor originality counts” in this equation, says Yoko.  “However, young students are not learning robots, but human beings, each with different talents gifted by God.”  And when, for instance, students participated in an event such as “Create Media Day with Media Mentor Kenji” in Tokyo, they revealed their different skills and talents.  “It was a great day for me to find those talented students.  Ayano was one of the brightest among them,” Yoko recalls.

Ayano had taken the opportunity to try making media in high school, encouraged by a teacher who recognized her skills with computers and illustration.  “I love painting.  I am happy when I sketch,” she says, and media making gave her room to nurture her talents.  “Looking at something new, I immediately open my sketchbook,” says Ayano.  “Someday, I want to create motion films with all those sketches I drew.”

In addition to cultivating artistic expression, Ayano gained leadership skills through her involvement with Adobe Youth Voices.  She served as a leader at media festivals in Japan, where she would foster discussion among participants and give feedback on their work.  She became more confident as a speaker and built facilitation skills, guiding people to “cooperate with each other” and drawing out “the good points” they have to share.

What Ayano observes with her artist’s sensibility shapes her worldview.  She cares about wide-ranging issues such as war, gender discrimination, inequality, pollution, and countless others that stand in the way of “the equal right to live a normal life.”

The chance to be creative and make media on issues you care about can be a transformative experience, one which veteran educator Yoko has endeavored to share with students and teachers in Japan.  She faced language barriers in recruiting teachers for Adobe Youth Voices, as well as other obstacles, such as the school curriculum. “It was (and still is) rigidly pre-determined by the Ministry of Education, mainly aimed to pass entrance examinations of universities,” and, she notes, “there were no such examinations to test media making and creativity.”  As a consequence it was difficult for AYV school teachers to make time to work on media projects with students.  Despite this, she persevered, “wishing they could experience media making with excitement like I experienced.”

“Creativity requires students’ full talents,” says Yoko.  “In the process of creating something new, not a copy, students meet their own talents, develop them, and polish them to completion.  They experience the excitement of creativity.”  During five years of seeding and cultivating Adobe Youth Voices in Japan, “some wonderful flowers bloomed,” she reflects.  Students like Ayano “got to know what media making meant for them,” and be empowered in the creative process.

“Media has a strong power to guide society and people in this technology era.  If young students in the next generation are full of creativity with media making skills to appeal for world peace, they will make a difference!” – Yoko Takagi

Patricia Cogley is manager, Adobe Youth Voices.