Stimulating our creative sense

10th March 2000 at 00:00
Creatives! In some circles it's a term of abuse, with its images of self-obsessed, impossibly arty designers elevating form to the point where it becomes an obstacle to expression. That stereotype is, thank goodness, way off course (OK darlings?). In fact, eight times out of ten, it's the creative element in a task that provides us with the motivation and satisfaction that makes it worth doing. And that creativity ought to give coherence to expression.

This point is made with vibrancy and verve on the website of HarlemLive (feature, page 18), an online magazine and tour de force www.harlemlive.org. We first came across this site when researching a story about the mother of murdered rap star Biggie Smalls, who set up a memorial foundation to help provide computers for students in Brooklyn, New York. A Web search came up with a tremendous interview with her at HarlemLive. We quickly realised that the whole project was put together by students, video-clip interviews and all.

Similar bursts of creativity are happening all round, and teachers are not excepted. A quick look at the website of All Souls primary school in London's West End atschool.eduweb.co.ukallsouls demonstrates how Web multimedia can bring help to teachers working in literacy and numeracy. It's all the work of teacher Leon Cynch (page 38). Leon's understandably frustrated at the slowness of education's institutions to latch on to what is already happening, so much so that he's running his own DFEE (no relation) http:dfee.org. Special schools are also leading the way i harnessing Internet resources, and are not slow in coming forward in honouring achievements of the school and individuals alike (page 22).

Creative technologies are already happily used in many UK classrooms. Computers have made video editing more affordable (page 28), and some students are even burning their own CDs (page 32). But it's not all plain sailing.

Professor Stephen Heppell, director of the Ultralab learning technology research centre, is in a unique position to see what students and teachers are doing globally (page 11). "Don't be fooled by the pool of great and imaginative projects around the world," he warns, "there is a far, far bigger pool of inactivity or dismal activity.

"The teachers in our classrooms can do a better job of what works and what doesn't than we can ever achieve centrally. But this is only the case if we arm those teachers to do the job that is needed and trust them to get on with the job." If teachers are hemmed in by the demands of the curriculum and administration, and held back by their lack of training - which is why the Lottery-funded training is so crucial - Professor Heppell's "if" could be a very big one.

It would be going against our creative grain to end on a dismal note, however. Take a look at our slice of ICT creativity on these pages and see if you can find something that suits you. Better still, take a mouse-trip to meet the students of HarlemLive and schools that make the most of inspirational teachers like Leon Cych. As it says on our cover, express yourself...


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