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IEEE-USA’s New E-Book Fosters Creativity in the Classroom

By Paul Lief Rosengren

IEEE-USA has published Harry Roman’s second book in the three-volume creativity series: Creativity: Our Valuable Lifelong Skill – Volume 2: Spurring Creativity in the Classroom. Roman draws on his extensive experience teaching and interacting with educators to present what he describes as “a variety of strategies to help teachers organize classrooms for creative thinking.”

Roman starts Volume 2 by stressing the value of teams. The author believes the ideal team includes four to five members, and that a team works best when it is diverse — whether its members have diverse backgrounds, or diverse ways of learning (such as mixing students who are “book leaners” with hands-on learners). He stresses teams are ideal for brainstorming; and that brainstorming, “is a great preparation for life after graduation, no matter what profession, or occupation, team participants select.”

Roman makes the case that teachers need to foster divergent, convergent and lateral thinking, growing someone else’s original idea to another level. He also advises teachers to create an environment where mistakes and failures are expected and celebrated, pointing out that “when new ideas and creativity are in progress, there will be misfires, dead-ends and non-starters.” The author notes that “mistakes are the portals to discovery.” Further, he points to Thomas Edison, America’s most prolific and successful inventor. Edison had thousands of lab notebooks — filled mostly with notations of failure.

A common thread that runs through all of Roman’s books is making learning pertinent to students’ lives. He outlines many ways to achieve and foster creativity in the classroom. In addition, Roman encourages teachers to ask students to assess developments in the larger world, such as the implications of an increase of electric cars or robots, or to brainstorm new products to improve the lives of senior citizens.

Roman suggests hitting even closer to home by asking students how they might change their school building, the structure of the school day, or the courses offered. Would students want more team projects or independent study? Should current curriculum reintroduce courses such as woodshop or home economics? Or would they break down the siloed approach to subject learning, encouraging the identification of cross-subject connections and commonalities?

The author devotes several sections in the book to other techniques for fostering creativity, including the following:

  • Asking the “what if” question – Have students focus on the positive, negative and unexpected impacts of a scenario. What if gasoline cars are outlawed? What if internet use is taxed? What if solar energy is mandated for every new home?
  • Dive deep into one innovation – Have students investigate how the introduction of the internet affects different aspects of their lives — including music, politics, the economy, sciences, human-human interactions, or even our national security.
  • Explore science fiction – Have students delve into how authors and directors have explored what if questions in the past — and what futures current sci-fi writers are exploring in their works.
  • Lead a discovery into how war has fostered innovation and creativity – help students uncover not just how war has encouraged the development of weaponry but also the development of codes, radar and advances in medicine.
  • Study inventions and inventors (past and current); discuss how they have influenced society.

In all activities, Roman stresses it is critical for teachers to foster, and be receptive to, new ideas their students develop.

This volume is the second in a three-book series on fostering creativity in the classroom. The first volume focuses on the basics of creativity, and the third will focus on creativity challenges.

Creativity: Our Valuable Life-long Skill Volume 2: Spurring Creativity in the Classroom is free for IEEE members from the IEEE-USA Shop. Non-members pay $2.99.

Harry T. Roman holds 12 U.S. patents. He has received numerous engineering, invention and teaching awards, and has published more than 550 scientific papers, articles and books. Roman was named a Distinguished Technology Educator by New Jersey Technology Education and Engineering Association. IEEE has honored him with a Meritorious Achievement Award, for developing continuing education products for IEEE members — as well as with an Outstanding Engineer award. Throughout his engineering career, Roman has worked with schools, bringing the excitement of real-world problem-solving into the classroom.

Paul Lief Rosengren

Paul is the coauthor of In the Time of Covid: One Hospital's Struggles and Triumphs. He worked for more than three decades in corporate communications at NBC, PSE&G, BD and in state government. He has a Master’s in Public Policy from The Kennedy School of Government, Harvard; and an undergraduate degree in political science from Dickinson College.

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