Head of Creative at Whitespace Chris Davey, talks about his involvement with Day Dream Believers, a programme looking at creative education throughout Edinburgh's schools and colleges.

 

According to the World Economic Forum, by 2020 the top 3 skills that employers will be looking for are complex problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity. Two years is not far away, so what are we doing in our education system here in Scotland to prepare for this shift in the kinds of skills employers will be looking for?

For the past few years, we have been speaking with schools and teachers in and around Edinburgh about how they might approach and teach these skills within their lessons. In 2017 we hosted a gathering of over 20 Art, Design and Technology teachers at Whitespace and talked to them about their fears and challenges going forward into this new future. We discussed with them at great length about their desire to make change happen and how some of them are frustrated with the current attitude towards creative subjects which tend to be sidelined over more academic subjects.

In comparison to academic lessons, which are seen as better subjects to pursue that will lead to better careers and more opportunities in the future, Art & Design is generally not seen as a subject that will lead to a successful career by a lot of pupils and parents. These teachers want help, guidance, and support for their pupils and we need to help them understand and teach creative subjects better so that pupils and parents can make better-informed decisions and be aware that there are amazing opportunities for children to thrive and work in the Creative Industries as well as other careers that would benefit from creative thought and problem-solving skills.

 

 

One of the biggest challenges facing teaching creativity in schools is that it is very hard, almost impossible, to grade. We need to move away from the box-ticking mindset and the standardisation of measuring pupils ability when it comes to creativity. Just because a child cannot draw very well does not mean they are not creative. The perception that Art & Design is just painting pictures and making things out of balsa wood and paper straws needs to be radically changed! Art & Design could be the perfect platform to introduce broader creative thinking theories and exercises that are still fun and hands on. Lessons that might permeate into other more academic lessons like, english, maths and the sciences. After all, these subjects can and should be creative, too. In Scotland, our young people narrow their subject choices at the age of 13. They often see science and art as binary education and career choices, and recently there has been a decline in students taking up art and design courses as part of their higher education.

 

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."

Albert Einstein

 

This quote from Albert Einstein resonates so powerfully with me. Knowledge can be taught and found relatively easily. As AI takes more and more jobs away from us, we need to start doing more of the kind of thinking and work that AI can’t do (yet!). We need to be teaching and encouraging emotional skills and creative lessons that only our minds can do, not those of a machine.

 

 

Over the last 2 years, we have been working in partnership with Edinburgh College and the amazing Helena Good who heads up its design course. Day Dream Believers started out as a way to link the Further Education system and specifically Edinburgh College’s design course with schools. But over the 2 years it has been running it has morphed into something so much bigger than we could have ever imagined.

In a nutshell, Day Dream Believers connects schools and Colleges with professional industry partners. The programme examines ways that we can connect and share the expertise of Employers, Teachers, Lecturers and Students.

Working together as partners, we have created new opportunities for pupils and teachers to develop the theories and skills of different ways of thinking, in particular promoting the essential skills of problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity.

So what’s unique about this you might ask? Well, we have 'Day Dream Ambassadors'. Students from Edinburgh college volunteer to be the conduit through which we all communicate together in our group. In turn, they get exposure to Whitespace, placements and industry connections, all the while helping encourage and develop pupils at the school, passing their knowledge and experience down the chain.

In January of 2018, we looked at ways that we could develop the programme to offer the experience to schools across Scotland. Working alongside AmazeRealise and Skyscanner we created three 15 week programmes of engagement which we will pilot in six schools. The first pilot will start in September 2018. Whitespace will be working with S2 pupils (13-14 yr olds) from Tynecastle School, AmazeRealise will be working with pupils from Royal High School and Skyscanner will work with pupils from Balerno High School. In Feb of 2019 we will offer the pilot to a further 3 schools; Liberton, Drummond and Ross High.

 

 

These lessons will be fun, ungraded sessions that will teach problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity. Each partner's programme of lessons is tailored towards what they do so each school will get a slightly different experience.

The ultimate goal is to have every school in Scotland partnered with an industry professional company and a Further/Higher education college or university. Imagine how beneficial that would be to the industry partner, its employees, college or university, the students studying there, the school, its pupils, its teachers and even the parents. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Right now we are on a journey into the unknown, but if it works and we get proof that it makes a difference, we will need help and support from others. As much as we want to, one college and 3 partners cannot help all of Scotland’s schools. We need you.

 

"This innovative project offers students direct access to real-world opportunities outside the school and a chance to get a feel for life in the world of design. I am excited at what my students will gain from this and indeed myself from the experience."

Shionagh Primrose – Tynecastle High School

 

If you want to know more about what we are doing you can find out more about Day Dream Believers project here.