Adobe, in their creative anthem, tell us that creativity is no longer an elective, it’s our future. I absolutely agree. They exhort us to learn the tools. Fair enough, that is one approach. I have had students who were software mechanics. They could not wait to discover a new technique, a new tool, a new method. These students were the masters of the menus and buttons. They were not necessarily more creative, but they were technically ahead. However, there is another approach.
Instead of learn the tools, I would suggest, discover the poetry within.
Several years ago I created a philosophy which has guided my teaching on a daily basis… Don’t teach theory, teach what you can do with it. We could apply that philosophy to this situation by focussing first on expression and then on learning the tools that would allow that expression to see the light of day. Expression first, tools second.
This semester I have a grade eleven class, all beginners, the majority of whom are struggling with school. School really is not their favourite thing. But – something interesting is happening. These students are showing up regularly (other teachers are just a little jealous). They are working. They are asking questions that only come from people trying to do better, to learn more, to express their inner visions. Granted, these inner visions are pretty limited right now. They are the seeds from which other, more complex and interesting ideas, will grow. At the start of the class I focussed on showing them what was possible. I then taught (and continue to teach) the tools that were and will be required. Expression first, tools second. This way works because it puts the students first. Motivation has to come from within, and I would suggest that feeding their inner visions feeds this process most of all.
I am not a software mechanic. I am and always will be, an artist. Opening doors to richer, more articulate self expression is what I try to do for my students every day. Adobe’s tools are and have always been, incredibly powerful, reliable and yes, complex. We need complex to create what we see in our inner visions. These are rich visions – they need and deserve this level of tools. But perhaps it is time for Adobe to embrace this broader perspective of expression first, tools second, one in the service of the other. I think this new message around creativity is an excellent start. Can we take it one step further? Discover the poetry within – the software itself, the incredible projects created by that software, and within the people using the software. If we want to encourage more people, new people, to explore and master this digital universe, perhaps we should start by reaching out to feed their inner visions. Expression first, tools second.