This week I am in Putrajaya, Malaysia, as an invited keynote speaker at the ICCE, the pre-eminent Asian conference on computers in education. I was invited to talk about my research on creativity and learning; creativity is recognized as an important educational issue in most Asian countries.
In recent years, I have been impressed with the national level initiatives proposed in several Asian countries, focused on transforming schools to be more creative learning environments. Singapore’s Ministry of Education took an early lead in this area, and has invested substantially in the Learning Sciences Lab at Nanyang Technological Institute. South Korea is perhaps the Asian country most centrally focused on creativity (my 2007 book Group Genius has been published in a Korean language edition).
The research presented at this conference is of very high quality; the scholarship of my Asian colleagues is near parity with the U.S. and Europe. But I have the same questions of Asia as I do of the United States: the learning sciences community has reached a consensus about how to design effective learning environments, but so far there hasn’t been much real-world impact on what actually happens in schools. My colleagues here tell me that in almost all Asian schools, classrooms continue to be based in outdated “instructionist” models of passive transmission and acquisition.
A key challenge for the learning sciences research community is: How can we best effect institutional change in schools, to help classroom design align with learning sciences research? Fortunately, many learning scientists are working in schools and with practicing teachers. We know that our findings cannot just stay in the laboratory, if we want schools to be more creative and effective learning environments. At conferences like this one, I am optimistic for the future of schooling.