Creativity is more important now than ever before. In recent years, reports such as The Future of Jobs, from the World Economic Forum, and the Workplace Learning, from Linkedin, emphasized that creativity is an essential skill in the workplace. However, the importance of creativity is not limited to the work environment. Throughout humanity’s history, it has been (and will continue to be) a critical survival skill. If someone had any doubts about that, this year the pandemic has shown us that creative thinking is essential to help us navigate the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous times we are living in. It allows us to adapt to our new reality by developing original and useful solutions.
More than ever, there is an urgent need to develop creative thinkers. Parents and educators need to put creativity on their agenda and bring creativity into homes and schools. But how do we do that?
When explaining how to incorporate creativity into the curriculum, Ronald Beghetto mentions three strategies: teaching about, teaching for, and teaching with creativity. As educators and as parents, we need to understand and promote these three complementary methods. Our final goal is to teach for creativity, to transform students’ creative potential in creative achievement. One of the best ways to do that is by teaching or parenting with creativity. We need to see ourselves as creative individuals and demonstrate that we are willing to explore new ideas, use our imagination, take risks, learn from mistakes, and tolerate uncertainty and complexity. When we take a creative approach to teaching (and to life in general), we model creativity and create a safe environment for children and teenagers to be creative as well.
However, teaching about creativity is also beneficial and necessary. This involves teaching about the nature of creativity itself, its processes, and how to use some creative tools to help youngsters understand the value of creativity in their lives. As Beghetto stated, teaching about creativity includes introducing the new generation to the field of creativity studies and its findings and insights.
Teaching Students About Creativity
What might be all the ways we can teach high schoolers or even undergraduate students about creativity? As educators, providing lessons, suggesting creativity books, and delivering workshops are some of the typical options. However, I want to recommend a new approach: using TED Talks as conversation starters. Since these talks are short (from five to less than 20 minutes), it’s possible to watch the video and discuss some interesting aspects of the creative process in a half-hour class. Some TED Talk presenters also have books on the same topic, allowing additional resources to extend the learning if wanted.
Ten TED Talks
Here are ten TED Talks that I believe are great resources for high schoolers and college students. They can easily be used at home or in the classroom.
1) The Way of Improvisation – Dave Morris (11 minutes) – TEDxVictoria
In this very informal talk, Dave Morris shows that improvisation is a process and explains the seven steps of improvising.
2) The Art of Asking Questions – Dan Moulthrop (17 minutes) – TEDxSHHS
Dan Moulthrop explains that asking questions is executing the act of curiosity, which we know is an essential aspect of creativity. He talks about an experience he had when he was in high school and gives eight lessons about the art of asking questions.
3) Where Good Ideas Come From – Steven Johnson (17 minutes) – TEDGlobal 2010
In this talk, Steven Johnson explains the types of environments that lead to great creativity and innovation levels. He highlights the importance of “liquid networks,” or places where people with different ideas and backgrounds get together and share their knowledge. Steven Johnson also has a book with the same name (Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation).
4) My Invention that Made Peace with Lions – Richard Turere (7 minutes) – TED2013
Delivered by Richard Turere at age 13, this talk shows an example of creative problem solving. He identified a problem in his community, came up with some ideas, prototyped and tested them, and eventually solved the problem, sharing his solution with others.
5) Angel’s Advocate – Marci Segal (10 minutes) – TEDxCanmore
In this talk, Marci Segal emphasizes the need to welcome new ideas instead of quickly criticizing them. She proposes we play the “angel’s advocate,” using affirmative judgment when analyzing new options.
6) How Drawing Helps You Think – Ralph Ammer (17 minutes) – TEDxTUM
Ralph Ammer delivers an illustrated talk showing the importance of thinking in pictures to improve our thinking, creativity, and communication. He highlights some essential lessons for creativity, such as producing many alternatives, deferring judgment, and combining ideas.
7) A Crash Course in Creativity – Tina Seelig (18 minutes) – TEDxStanford
In this talk, Tina Seelig presents her Innovation Engine model, explaining its six elements. She also delivers some lessons about creativity, such as the importance of reframing problems, combining ideas, and challenging assumptions. Tina Seelig also has a book called InGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity.
8) How I Harnessed the Wind – William Kamkwamba (6 minutes) – TEDGlobal 2009
This short talk has an inspiring story behind it. William Kamkwamba talks about how he built a windmill to pump water and irrigate the maize fields during a drought in Malawi, Africa. It is possible to learn more about his story in a book called The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind as well as the movie produced by Netflix of the same name.
9) Steal Like an Artist – Austin Kleon (11 minutes) – TEDxKC
Using his experience as an artist and writer, Austin Kleon shows how new ideas are built upon old ones and introduces the concept of the genealogy of ideas. He mentions that nothing is entirely original, but it is actually a remix. Austin Kleon also has a book called Steal Like an Artist.
10) A Powerful Way to Unleash Your Natural Creativity – Tim Harford (17 minutes) – TED@Merck KGaA
Tim Harford claims that working simultaneously on more than one project (what he calls “slow-motion multitasking”) can be powerful for creativity and explains why.
This is just a starting list. Feel free to look for more options. I know there are other exciting talks out there, and I would love for you to share them in the comments below. Maybe a good challenge could be to ask students to find a new one to add to the list. Now more than ever, we need to encourage creativity. And it seems that we can do that even sitting on our sofa, eating popcorn, and watching a video!
- Creativity is more important than ever. Teaching about, for, and with creativity are all essential needs in today’s education. Consider experimenting with different ways to promote all of them in your classrooms.
- If you are teaching about creativity, embrace the risk of doing something different. Consider looking for different approaches. Movies, songs, commercials, cartoons, and even picture books can be great resources to bring a new perspective to some aspects of creativity. And they can also encourage your students to look for “creativity” in the world around them.
*Creativity and Education has a YouTube station, Createtubeity, and a playlist titled, TED talks to spark conversations about creativity with your students. It will be updated regularly, so please subscribe to the station!
Luciane Bonamigo Valls has more than 20 years of experience with children, teenagers, families, and educators. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and two graduate certificates (Educational Psychology and Educational Management). Luciane is pursuing a Masters’ Program in Creativity and Change Leadership at SUNY Buffalo State, where she received the Mary Murdock Creative Spirit Award. Originally from Brazil, Luciane has been living in the USA since 2012. Her previous experiences include projects such as creating and teaching an online course for teenagers about invention and innovation, problem-solving, and creativity, and working with teachers and school administrators to bring creative thinking into schools.
Beghetto, R. A. (2013). Killing ideas softly? The promise and perils of creativity in the classroom. Information Age Publishing.
Linkedin (2019). 2019 workplace learning report – Why 2019 is the breakout year for the talent developer.
Puccio, G. J. (2017). From the dawn of humanity to the 21st century: Creativity as an enduring survival skill. The Journal of Creative Behavior, 51(4), 330-334.
World Economic Forum. (2016). The future of jobs: Employment, skills and workforce strategy for the fourth industrial revolution.