There are well over 100 scholarly definitions of creativity, spanning a variety of disciplines, so there’s no surprise that how it’s measured is equally diverse and confusing. For example, musicians are generally called “creatives”. Virtuosos learn their craft by copying, not creating. Schools barely make any attempt to measure it and if they do, it’s hardly multi-dimensional.
Here’s were it gets interesting, games have been seen as an ideal environment for testing creativity for thirty years. Torrance (1966) recommended the creation of a game-like, thinking, or problem-solving atmosphere, avoiding the threatening situation associated with test- ing. His intent was to set the tone so that the expectation that examinees would enjoy the activities was created. Examinees should be encouraged to “have fun” and should experience a psychological climate that is as comfortable and stimulating as possible. Why is this contentious for schools? – Well, just think about the HSC and where that is being tested right now. Hardly what Torrance had in mind.
Now here’s where it gets more interesting (Judy O’Connell might even like this). The Torrance test is widely accepted as valid from Kindergarden to post graduate. Torrence was interested in understanding the nurturing qualities that help people express their creativity – so this is something that parents are involved in. Why? Well some parents are really interested in having their kids measured for Gifted and Talented programs – and Torrance’s method has been used as an alternative to standardised tests – to identify G&T kids. This might alarm parents who are hammering kids about learning content and passing ‘the test’ – being able to remember and puke up the right answer doesn’t make you creative – or get you into a decent G&T program. A G&T program that is just using test-scores is therefore not what it appears to be.
So what is measured? divergent thinking, which emphasises fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration.
Of course some parents are freaking about about ‘violent games’, unaware that Gee (2005) showed the relationship between child aggression and video games is half that of watching television. In fact there are no conclusive studies which show games make kids more aggressive in the long term at all.
In a recent study by Jackson (2011) who used the Torrence test for creativity with 12 year olds, video games were the sole predictor of creativity. Also in the study was the use of computers, internet and mobile phone use. Even more interesting, race, gender and family household income didn’t improve the prediction for creativity. This means that any kid who plays video games is more likely to show creative characteristics (see above list of divergent thinking and so on) than a kid who doesn’t, yet might have more access to technology in other forms.
While this doesn’t suggest a cause and effect relationship between games and kids creativity, it does suggest there is no cause an effect between kids use of ANY other technology and creativity. However, it does show that video games (above anything else) have a correlation which is a STRONGER predictor of creativity (and G&T). Of course video games is a broad brush, some games will be better than others … but it highlights the failure of schools and educational research to include video games – or invest anything like the time, money and effort in developing creative programs around them.
Blogs, wikis, podcasts (and anything else being paraded as ‘powerful’) do not come close to video games when it comes to predicting creativity in children (and adults).