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Here’s how to foster creative problem solving

4 key ways to help students develop essential workforce skills

Last year, Adobe conducted a study of Generation Z students (ages 11-17) that found students and teachers believe creativity is critical for success in the future workforce. Based on this insight, we conducted another study this year to dig into this notion of creative problem solving: What does it mean, what are the sub-skills, and what are the gaps and barriers that exist? We discovered a disconnect between the needs of tomorrow’s workforce and what students are learning in the classroom today.

So how can teachers foster these skills now, even when curriculum standards are catching up, and help their students develop these key skills?

Engage kids with digital projects
What this means: Every industry is going digital and nearly every job has a digital component. Being able to clearly communicate ideas via multimedia (videos, audio, visual presentations, etc.) is more important than ever for people entering the job force, regardless of their level of education. Instead of assigning students to write a five-page book report, teachers can ask students to shoot and edit a short video depicting a chapter or a sequel, or using digital images to represent what they are learning.

How to do it: A great example of turning a traditional report into a fun, interactive multimedia project is Paige Mitchem’s sixth-grade English class in the Roanoke County (VA) Public Schools, which created tourism commercials for foreign countries. The kids had a great time creating them and were able to learn more than if they had done a traditional report. Even in science or math, students can learn how to tell a story with data. Using graphs, videos, and charts to rethink how to deliver information are important skills to build and lead to greater focus, engagement, and learning.

Give kids more choice
What this means: Teachers can apply a creative lens to some of their traditional assignments by allowing students to choose what they want to form a point of view on and how they want to share their learning. Allowing students to choose gives them a sense of ownership and encourages them to go the extra mile. If a student can make a video about the benefits of solar energy or design a new logo for a local business, they will care more about the project and start to tie what they are doing to the real-world need for digital content.

How to do it: Students at Green Mountain Technology & Career Center, a high school in Vermont, create projects that demonstrate their skills and interests, which helps them to secure jobs upon graduation. They experiment with a variety of creative disciplines, including graphic design, illustration, photography, animation, and filmmaking. These are skills used in a variety of industries that translate directly into the workplace.

Make creativity *easy*
What this means: When introducing new technology into the classroom, teachers should pick user-friendly solutions. Developing resilience is a key aspect of creative problem solving; students need to be able to troubleshoot the problem. Nothing will stop a student from using new technology faster than disappointment and frustration.

How to do it: We encourage many of our K-12 teachers to start with Adobe Spark. With Spark, kids can easily create multimedia content and learn the product by clicking around on the screen so they don’t get discouraged (and Spark is free!). Products used in the classroom should be accessible outside the classroom. What’s wonderful about creative projects is that students want to spend their spare time working on them. It is critical for tech companies to license apps that let students log in and continue creating from anywhere.

Encourage teamwork and collaboration
What this means: Digital projects are great for collaboration—one of the creative problem solving sub-skills we looked at in our study. Students can work together in teams in the same ways that will be expected of them in the workplace.

How to do it: At Davis (UT) School District, Eric Scholer’s high school students create television commercials in working teams. They assign roles, create storyboards, shoot video, edit footage, and add visual effects; everyone shares responsibilities and their success hinges on their collaboration. This encourages students to engage their classmates in creative design thinking and reach consensus on how to use imagery and video assets to tell a story.

Last but not least, we all know that automation is shaping future workforce demands. One of the most significant findings from our study is that 75 percent of U.S. educators believe that the people who will be most successful in the automation age will be those who can offer something that automation can’t—creativity and creative problem solving.

Adobe understands that it has a vital role in helping to teach these skills to today’s kids and tomorrow’s workers, and that is why we’re committed to working with educators and students to create the best tools for the job. Only through constant innovation and collaboration will we be able to create a workforce that is equipped to address the biggest challenges facing the world today.

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