Educating the Educators: How Skills-Based Higher Education in the Creative Arts Promises A Steady Future of Learning for Creatives

If you’ll allow me to get a little anecdotal for a bit, I’d like to talk about my experience in the world of creative higher education. Over nearly 4 years in pursuit of a degree coming from a program titled “Film and New Media”, I’ve met people who want to do almost every imaginable thing that could be contained within “Film and New Media”, and even a few who want to do something outside of that umbrella. One of the reasons I specifically used the wording “almost every imaginable thing” was that I found one specific thing missing: education (particularly higher education). Now, I understand that part of what makes the creative sector, the creative arts and industries, attractive is the glamour and excitement; the ability to be an Oscar winning director or Grammy winning artist; to be the head of a startup company that explodes into a multibillion dollar enterprise or the lead designer on the best video game of the decade; but even while these opportunities seem to be more alluring than teaching, I found it odd that I was the only one who sought to become a scholar of the arts and new media as opposed to a creator and cultivator of them.

The reason I bring education up is that over the last month or so, is that part of preparing to graduate is looking at the world of the creative industries and the nature of careers and prospects in that world. One of the main focuses that has been a recent development in the study of creative careers is the focus of education of creatives being centered on imparting a vast expanse of skills for their future, as opposed to a more traditional stance of knowledge based learning and very specific skills, such as a traditional film school education being narrow and encompassing only the very specific set of skills that film making requires. In the course of reading about this path of education, I got to thinking about a problem: in my experience, most of those who educate today’s creatives are more classically trained. That is to say, they were not taught a vast expanse of skills like the ones they are now being encouraged to teach, but rather they were almost always taught a specific discipline as has been the case in higher education for much of its existence. Granted, in higher education a good educator will seek to learn everyday and become adequate, if not masterful, in a variety of arts and skills they were not originally trained in, but that isn’t always the case, and that can lead to educators learning as they teach, something that isn’t particularly ideal. The new ideas of teaching creatives, the skill based approach, can in so many ways solve this problem.

I mentioned it briefly earlier, but I aspire to teach. Ultimately, I would love to teach creatives in the land of higher education. I couldn’t be happier to be going through the last few years of my formal education (I hope to never stop learning, but at some point it stands to reason one is better served learning on their own than they are earning degrees, though I can’t imagine that point comes before at least one doctorate) at the time of this reimagining of creative education, because it presents me with a unique opportunity that I haven’t seen really mentioned in any of the reading I’ve done on this education.

2012-06-19-US_rise_totals

Creative degrees are on the rise. Has the education of creatives kept up?

This reimagining puts me, as a future educator of creatives, in a place where I have the skills that creatives would like to have imparted unto them. Again, this isn’t to say that educators with this ability don’t already exist and haven’t already done well teaching students, only that when this particular take on teaching takes the forefront, it streamlines a process that for some more traditionally trained educators could have taken far more time than learning it all in the beginning of their education.

All of this would be for nothing if I didn’t make a point. Outside of my film and new media world, I have a particular interest in education as a whole. My mother has worked in the public education system for almost all my life, and has 3 masters degrees. Education at all levels has been baked into my life for as long as I’ve been alive. One of the things I’ve seen over the years is what I personally believe to be a broken education system. Obviously that is a generalization and doesn’t apply to all of the schooling systems in the United States, but I think it is wide spread enough to not feel bad saying it as a generalization. One of my biggest gripes in education is a focus on the wrong outcomes of learning: in particular a US system based on rewarding rote memorization and conforming to generalized thinking. I am a big proponent of teaching specific skills and adaptive learning centered around critical thinking and problem solving. The new style of teaching film and new media, and creatives in general follows this pattern and signals to me that there is a shift in education as a whole towards valuing more effective education techniques. The quickest way to engrain this new style into the system is to teach it to the people who will use it. That means there is equal benefit in teaching this way to my friends interested in making film or art as there is teaching this way to me. Hopefully, I’ll be able to teach this way to the next generation, and they’ll be able to teach this way to the generation after. If we could do that, it stands to reason everybody wins.

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