Technology and the Arts: Can They Play Well Together?

The impact of technology on the arts has been a matter of debate at least since we had to be reminded to turn off our cell phones in performance halls.

At Lincoln Center Institute (LCI), we always prided ourselves on espousing the latest technology, but we also insisted on engagements with live performances. This duality was not easy to maintain, especially in a frosty economic climate, and, early on, technology came to the rescue in the form of video. After the students have attended a performance, they need something that will stay with them and be available as long as they study the subject: video allowed us to bring storytellers, chamber ensembles, and Shakespeare to classrooms where being stranded without technology would have meant being stranded without art.

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Creativity in the UK

Image by Lee Fenner*

A recent article in British newspaper The Guardian by Nosheen Iqbal quotes Sir Ken Robinson as saying, “Creativity is not an exotic extra for education. Like literacy, it should be at the heart of national education priorities.” Robinson’s influential 1999 report, “All Our Futures,” led Arts Council England (ACE) to form Creative Partnerships, an arts education program to integrate “creative learning” into schools by having “creative agents”—artists of all kinds—work with teachers across subjects. The September 14 Guardian article deals with the fact that Creativity, Culture, and Education (CCE), the charity that now runs Creative Partnerships, expects deep cuts in the annual funding it receives from ACE. The bittersweet irony of this arises from the extremely positive findings of a new study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which estimates that for every £1 invested in Creative Partnerships, the program delivers £15.30 to England’s national economy; this adds up to £4 billion! (The calculation was derived from data showing that students in Creative Partnership schools score, on average, 2.5 grades higher than their peers on standardized tests.) Despite such impressive figures, which align with LCI’s belief in the broad efficacy of imaginative teaching and learning, proponents of this approach to education still face challenges in convincing others of its effectiveness. Iqbal writes, “Alison Peacock, head of Wroxham primary school … agrees that applying creativity in education can’t be a woolly or vague notion but must be rigorous.” Eric Liu and I think so, too: we argue in Imagination First that institutions must “routinize imagination” (203). It sounds like Creative Partnerships is doing just that in UK schools.

*There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.

Full STEM Ahead in Rochester

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Image by Vestman*

On March 4, I wrote about the connection between the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—and the arts. Guided encounters with works of art and study of them based on the Capacities for Imaginative Learning help develop students’ imaginative and creative thinking skills—skills that supplement STEM knowledge in crucial ways. But let’s not try to change STEM into STEAM by simply adding the arts to the mix. It will not work. What will is to utilize the learning and thinking skills developed through the capacities within STEM education, so that the arts + STEM may be STEM with an “attitude.” It’s quite gratifying for me to see this concept very publicly embodied by the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival. Continue reading

Notes from an Imagination Advocate, Part One

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Image by Jacob Bigelow (1786-1879)*

As regular readers of this blog know, most of my entries have to do with things going on in the world—with people in various sectors whose careers and actions embody imaginative practice. But it seems appropriate now and then to retreat from the hustle and bustle, exciting as it is, in order to reflect on some of the major issues facing imagination advocates like me and my colleagues at Lincoln Center Institute. One matter I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the educational discussion centering on the STEM fields.

“STEM,” for those who don’t know, refers to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the fields arguably responsible for the most impactful advances in society. In recent years, the United States government has demonstrated its desire to promote STEM education in public schools and in colleges and universities. This makes plenty of sense; as the STEM Education Coalition explains on its Web site, these fields play a “critical role … in enabling the U.S. to remain the economic and technological leader of the global marketplace of the 21st century.” Yet, with all of the enthusiasm for STEM, arts-in-education proponents sometimes wonder, “Well, where do we fit into this picture?” Continue reading

A Creative Town is a Healthy Town

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Image by Allie Caulfield*

In Imagination First, Eric Liu and I state our conviction that “it’s in the collective arena that imagination can do the most” (200). One of our main goals in the book is to help the reader turn his or her community—whether that means the home or the workplace or the town—into “an ecosystem where good ideas can emerge from anywhere” (203). I’m quite pleased, therefore, by a recent article in The Enterprise-Bulletin—a newspaper published out of Ontario, Canada—that stresses this essential connection between imagination/creativity and community. In “A Creative Town is a Healthy Town,” columnist Tanya Mazza nicely supports the claim that she makes in the title of her piece. Continue reading

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