A Pragmatic View of Teaching and Measuring Creativity Inside Digital Media Design

I feel uniquely positioned. I am passionate about creativity studies and work in the University of Connecticut’s Digital Media Design Department. I have had the opportunity to observe and reflect on how creativity manifests in students as they interact and engage in the process of creating and making using digital technology. 

Our department is unique; I’d argue we are an example of a genuinely multi-disciplinary department. Some of my colleagues will say their background is best suited to the School of Business; others have affiliations with the history department and communications department, and others see themselves as traditional artists with close connections to the fine arts. I feel most connected to education and the digital humanities. This multi-disciplinary community highlights many views and perspectives; at times, I think we make some genuinely remarkable connections that few could make absent our diversity of thought. Other times I feel we suffer from a babel effect because we limit our view of outcomes to a single disciplinary perspective. 

In the department, I teach a class on Design Thinking and work toward a general approach to avoid excluding certain domains (e.g., animation, game design, etc.). Typically, people present design thinking as a generic approach that works for various industries, which should make it easy to connect this class to those interested in animation, film, web design, etc. However, it is hard in reality, and my work at making this a genuinely multi-disciplinary class is ongoing. For some, they make an instant connection; they see themselves as a designer who designs for an end-user and recognizes that they need to think and view outcomes from the perspective of that end-user. For others, it is a little tricky, particularly when they feel that their ideas or work represents them or the connections they’ve made are personal. 

In this chapter, I considered how the 4-C model of creativity could help assume a more pragmatic approach to viewing and evaluating outcomes in Digital Media Design. In this model, all outcomes are considered creative, but by thinking more about the impact and relationship of these outcomes to the discipline, and end-user, I was able to frame some of the discussion simply on “how do views of the outcome vary by the creator, the intended audience, and the classroom environment.” I have found this approach more helpful in challenging students to assume different perspectives of their digital media products, particularly regarding their impact in a classroom environment. 

Some of the highlights of this chapter include the following:

I define a Digital Media product as a technological experience that addresses a communication problem. When designing products in a classroom environment, there are some notable challenges when engaging students in a design process with an intended audience. An assignment might task students with developing an outcome for an Elementary school classroom. Still, unless you engage a bunch of six-year-olds in the project, the student will most likely prioritize another audience for their work. This audience might be the instructor, peers, or themselves. Although there’s nothing wrong with this reality of schooling, it highlights some limitations when evaluating the outcome for creativity and impact. An instructor who is impressed with the product for a choice of color and typography isn’t necessarily viewing the work from the perspective of the intended audience member. If they are, they are most likely making some assumptions about the outcome. And that’s not thinking about the instructor’s influence on the student. Does the student think about the six-year-old? Alternatively, are they judging their work based on their peers or their expectations of what constitutes an A? I explore these questions before presenting a table with simple questions on how to view the outcome differently based on the four types of creativity (mini-c, little-c, pro-c, and big-c).

You can read this chapter here.

I am a professor of Digital Media Design with a research focus on Design Thinking, Teacher Creativity, and technology-assisted creativity. I co-host the Fueling Creativity in Education podcast, blog at DadsforCreativity.com, and I have almost two decades of experience developing new innovative programs across the grades.

Teacher creativity empowers educators to acknowledge the limitations inherent in classroom settings while proactively seeking and crafting inventive solutions to pedagogical challenges.


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