Saturday, December 5, 2009

Teaching Creativity in AP Macroeconomics

Summary: Technology is changing what me must teach. Teaching creativity for the 21st Century

Abraham Maslow postulated that human behavior can be modeled by a pyramid. In his model, basic needs are fulfilled first then more aesthetic needs such as acceptance are pursued. When a person reaches the top of this pyramid, the person is self-actualizing. As environmental dynamics change, a person moves up and down the pyramid seeking first to satisfy basic needs then higher wants such as love.

What happens when basic need satisfaction has little or no marginal cost of consumption? In other words, how do humans behave when there is an abundance of food, clothing, and shelter?

In Dan H. Pink's book, A Whole New Mind, Mr. Pink opines (I'm summarizing) that consumers will want value added to their life's in the form of "high touch" or greater artistic expression.

For example, Wal-Mart shoppers no longer want cheap clothing, but designer clothing. Automobiles are not only reliable, but safer and more stylish. I examined my own purchase of an iPod Touch and concluded that I bought the iPod for more reasons than the music I could listen to while working out. I bought the Touch because it was cool. It is for this reason that a "master of fine arts is now one of the hottest credentials in the world." (Pink, page 34.)

Technology has driven the cost of production to its marginal cost. Everything in an iPod is made in competitive markets according to the chief economist at Google, Hal Varian. Everything except the concepts or ideas about design and delivery of digitized products like music and movies. The concepts are made in the USA.

In a society where products are driven down to their marginal cost, only firms that can differentiate their products will retain profits in the long run. Firms wishing to remain competitive must constantly strive to innovate and add artistic value to their products or else find that the price of their product is being competed away in both domestic and foreign markets.

A goal for US schools, then is to teach creativity so our students will be able to compete in a global economy. Educational reformer, Willard Daggett, has stressed that learning should have rigor and relevance to the learner so as to develop skills such as creativity. There is no doubt in my mind that creativity is a 21st Century skill. How do we begin to teach creativity in AP Macroeconomics?

Perhaps, you will find, A Whack on the Side of the Head, a springboard in your life to being more creative. I found Thinkertoys to be brilliant. In this outstanding TED Talk, you will learn how play sparks creativity.

In the best-selling book, The World is Flat, author Thomas Friedman, makes the point that technology has changed the landscape of the world. As educators, we must prepare our students for the work place with skills that can not be digitized and competed away. Creativity is one of those skills.

I look forward to your comments.

About the Author: Mike Fladlien is an AP Economics teacher from Muscatine High School in Muscatine, Iowa. In 2008, Mr. Fladlien was a finalist for ISEA Teacher of the Year.


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