The Created Environment: An Assessment Tool for Technology Education Teachers: Creativity Doesn't Just Happen by Chance; the Prepared Environment Nourishes It

Article excerpt

Creativity is foundational to the development of technology. New solutions to practical problems result in inventions and new ways of doing things. Creativity provides the impetus to develop new technologies and new products to satisfy the needs and wants of society. Imagine what life was like before computers, television, and automobiles! Such excitement is experienced in the challenge of a quest to find a better way. The first breakthrough inventions are exciting and can have a profound impact on society. This excitement can be an integral part of technology education classes.

How can technology education teachers assess and improve the climate for creativity in the technology education classroom? Ekvall (1999), Miller (1999), Starko (1995), and Torrance (1987) have identified several attributes that are important to the development of creativity.

* Challenge--students are inspired and motivated to be creative.

* Resources--sufficient resources such as time, tools, and materials are available.

* Environment--the physical facility is attractive, and examples of creative work are present.

* Atmosphere--the affective environment is supportive, trusting, free, and open.

* Technology of Creativity--tools, processes, and techniques associated with creativity are utilized.

* Educational Environment--the administration, school, and community support creativity.

The challenge for technology education teachers is to incorporate the excitement that creativity brings to the classroom. To help with this effort, the CREATEd Questionnaire that follows was developed to help technology education teachers assess the strengths and weaknesses of the creative environment in their classroom.

Challenge

The excitement of a challenge is at the heart of a creative classroom in technology education. Competition through Technology Student Association (TSA) events, like the Structural Challenge, provide open-ended problems that encourage creativity and motivate students to do their best. The essence of the problem in the Structural Challenge event is to design and build a balsawood structure that will carry a maximum load. Students who are motivated will not be stopped. They are enthusiastic and will do whatever it takes to solve a problem.

A challenge brings out the best in people and stimulates an individual's motivation to succeed. A strong sense of passion and individual commitment is necessary to sustain the effort required to achieve a creative solution to a technological problem. Task motivation has been identified as an essential element in creative performance. "Task motivation makes the difference between what a person can do and what a person will do" (Amabile, 1987, p. 249). Teachers need to provide challenging problems that motivate students to be creative.

Resources

It takes resources to be able to solve a problem creatively. Relevant information and knowledge must be gathered and applied to a problem. Tools and materials must be available to try out and test ideas. Sufficient time is also important to elaborate upon ideas and develop creative solutions.

Having a sufficient variety of information available provides the critical fuel for a creative solution. Factors related to information resources were ranked as the most important factors for technological problem solving in secondary technology education programs (Boyle, 1991). Examples of the types of information that can stimulate a student's curiosity include: a variety of print and non-print media; examples of prior students' creative work; access to libraries, databases, and the Internet; and bulletin boards containing flow charts and schematics explaining how things work. Creativity doesn't just happen by chance; the prepared environment nourishes it.

Environment (Physical)

The technology education classroom environment can have a positive effect and inspire the creativity of students. …