Can we teach Imagination?
We have previously addressed the question of whether the 21st century’s more sedentary lifestyle – with contributing factors being the more indoor school curriculum, children’s use of computers/television for entertainment, and security concerns about children “playing out” – impacts on the physical development and health of the current generation.
What about the impact of these same factors on creativity, with children increasingly expecting to be entertained rather than devising their own forms of entertainment and indulging in “make believe” games of the imagination?
Will the current generation be able to become the creative writers, artists, composers, dramatists and designers of the future?
The Latest Study
A Manchester-based organisation, formed in 2007 with the aim of fostering creativity in the young computer game obsessed generation, commissioned a study in October this year (2014), which found that most parents feel the school curriculum and consumer technology are stifling their children’s creativity.
According to the study, 60% of parents of children aged between five and 11 believe the creative juices of their offspring are being staunched by the current school curriculum together with modern technology.
A whopping 90% of parents interviewed in the study said creativity lessons should be included in the school curriculum to stimulate children’s imaginations.
Founder of the organisation that commissioned the study, Paul Hutson, said:
“In my opinion, too many games are taking up a great deal of children’s time where they are just asked to bash some buttons or wait 10 minutes until they can unlock a certain feature and bash some more buttons.”
The Building Blocks
Earlier this year a Daily Telegraph article by Education Editor, Graeme Paton, asserted: “Infants unable to use toy building blocks due to tablet addiction”.
Mr Paton reported that the Association of Teachers and Lecturers were concerned that rising numbers of children were not only unable to perform simple tasks such as using building blocks because of lacking motor skills due to tablet addiction, but that this also had a negative effect on their social skills and ability to pay attention.
The Other Side
Many argue, however, that the fantasy world so easily accessible on the small screen actually fosters the imagination. The position is that computer games can actually challenge children and make them come up with strategies, especially in the case of adventure, quest or simulation games.
Facing a Digital World
No-one can contend that today’s generation of toddlers will have to live in a digital world, but it is still difficult to find any expert endorsements of giving a child’s imagination over to purely technological aides, discounting the benefits of imaginative play.
The bottom line seems to be a good balance: good old-fashioned creative playtime and healthy fostering of the imagination by parents and teachers, coupled with early exposure to the internet and television.
While Dad may have been happy building a tree-house in the woods, his son today has limited access to those woods, but he can experience a similar sense of excitement online.
The Scout Association’s recent announcement that recruits will no longer be tested on their ability to tie knots is a case in point. Apparently modern scouts are earning their badges in areas like public relations and IT. Today’s scouts have also eschewed woodland crafts as not relevant. Sad, perhaps, but don’t today’s youngsters have a more fascinating future ahead?
As to whether creativity will suffer… the jury’s out. Will this all mean the future is less creative and that we need to teach children at school how to be creative and use their imaginations? It’s hard to say, but how would one teach such a fundamental and basic concept?