Education in the XXI Century: New Paths.

Julia Arkhipova,
INNO-MIR, analyst
From the 7th to the 10th of July, Paris was host to the 11th International Centre for Innovation and Education (ICIE) Conference, which the Centre for International Innovational Development "INNO-MIR" participated in. This year's central theme was focused around development of creative ability and innovativeness in both middle and high school. The conference posed an opportunity for various educators and psychologists from around the world to express their views and demonstrate original, innovational approaches to the problem, as well as exchange ideas and experience.
For four days, representatives of educational organisations from around the world, Australia to Brazil, attended plenary sessions and symposiums discussing questions that should concerning any caring educator, who thinks about the young generation's prospects and, eventually, the future of our planet. Specialized sessions and post-conference workshops explored concrete research in the area of methods allowing more fully opening up creative potential in students and developing their artistic self.
The ICIE's main mission is forming responsible, active, creative individuals that accept the process of education as a natural necessity, and form a comfortable environment for such an individual to develop unhindered. The generation stepping into the adult role is the generation that will determine new paths for humanity to take in the very near future, and it must be ready to find solutions to problems posed by a constantly changing society. The ability to look at such problems in a new way, outside the standard manner of thinking, to accept revolutionary thoughts and present your own unconventional ideas - that is the defining feature of future success. Therefore, the education of an innovational culture needs to already start in school, the earlier the better. On the other hand, such a program requires educators and methodologists to develop new approaches to the process of teaching, which allow the maximum development of the creative aspect of an individual. The 11th conference was dedicated to the discussion of these questions.
The forum's main topic can be shortly summarized as "Creativity is not that which is given to us once and for always, but rather an ability that can be successfully trained!” This was a leading idea in Université Paris Descartes's professor of psychology Dr Todd Lubart's lecture "Getting from Creative Potential to Creative Talent". Dr Lubart is one of the leading specialists in the area of psychologically creative thinking, author of a large number of essays and a head writer of the book "The Psychology of Creativity". The lecture explored the concept of creative potential as a sum of a number of aspects, mainly: the cognitive factor, so the ability to know, the conative factor, so the concept of motivated processes, the emotional element, and the environmental factors. Then the idea of creative talent as an individual's ability for multiple creative acts is introduced, while the conclusion looks at educational paths that allow both children and adults to make the jump from potential to talent. Professor Lubart's team developed methods of psychological profiling, allowing the assessment of an individual's strong and weak points to be used in planning the most effective training program.
The question of globalising the education system and international cooperation in this area was touched on in Patrick Blessinger's presentation. He is one of the founders of the Institute for Meaning-Centered Education. Mr. Blessinger believes that the right to education is the irrefutable right of every human, which extends not only to a basic education, but also high school. Of course the purpose of the education process should become to prepare students for life in any of its forms, not only in training skills necessary for their future profession.  Reaching such a goal is impossible without developing creative potential. The report postulates that the ability to create is not just intended for geniuses, but an internal quality that must be cherished in any individual. By defining creativity as the intentional employment of the imagination, Blessinger follows in Einstein's footsteps, confirming the supremacy of imagination over the pure knowledge of facts. "Creativity is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status” says Patrick Blessinger, quoting Sir Ken Robinson, a recognized authority in the field of creativity and innovation in education.
The innovational approach to developing thought, in both schoolchildren and students, was demonstrated in the "LEGO-Engineering: Creating Engineering Literacy at All Ages" presentation by Professor Ken Rodgers, from Tufts University, USA. This lecture was dedicated to the use of LEGO Mindstorms models in the process of not only teaching future engineers, but also those studying subjects not even remotely related to technology. Professor Rodgers focused on using such tools to educate children from the youngest ages and to ignite an everlasting interest. A new, influence-free approach to a problem always results in an original solution. Even in the simplest of tasks, like building a duck out of six LEGO bricks, every child acts differently, combining the basic pieces in their own way, and ultimately creating completely different shapes. The spectrum of tasks for older students is surprisingly broad: from inventing new musical instruments to designing programmable flying devices, but the results always have one thing in common - they are all bright, unusual pieces. Professor Rodgers notes that group work on a new project helps develop such qualities as innovation, a creative approach, leadership and problem-solving. These are skills necessary to be successful in any profession. By using LEGO models from very early on, a child learns the basics of engineering literacy and design, but also develops his artistic abilities and creative potential.
In general, the question of how best to foster creative talent in students and not supress children’s desire to create often featured in debates. Representatives from schools and higher education facilities from different countries raised the importance of revising the concept of grading, for both students and teachers, as the current system of standards is aimed at evening out results and does not account for the possibility of using progressive innovative methods of teaching. This topic was not unique to individual countries and is a concern for everyone involved in education in all parts of the world.
The participants of the conference were not restricted to just professional educators and psychologists, but also included representatives from other spheres of work, in some way related to the process of education. For example the "Innovations in Learning/Teaching Organisation for Boosting Creativity of Learners" symposium, which discussed the organization of the learning process, included a talk from the architect Professor Isabelle Biro. The agency she runs is responsible for designing projects for school buildings, and Professor Biro’s demonstration visually showed how current ideas in the area of designing a creative educational environment are realized in modern buildings. During the session dedicated to problems in high schools, Australian journalist and lecturer Virginia Small’s presentation was centred on the thesis that it is high time to involve a new approach in education of young reporters. The students are needed to be taught “Peace Journalism", whose use of language would help find peaceful solutions to conflicts, instead of sparking a fight.
In conclusion, the range problems discussed during the International Centre for Innovations and Education's 11th conference was incredibly broad. The lectures and discussions touched on practically all aspects of the education process, and highlighted the most pressing problems faced by the modern system. Yet the forum's main topic definitely leaned towards the idea that a quality education, in accordance with that required by the XXI century, is impossible without implementing innovative approaches and methods. A balanced individual that feels confident in our ever-changing world must have developed their creative potential, their ability to accept and learn information, should be able to look at a problem from a new angle. Teaching such person, igniting the spark of creativity in everyone - that is the problem teachers-innovators face.


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