I Decide to be Creative and Study it Creatively

Seyedahmad Rahimi, PhD
February 27, 2024

Throughout history, creativity has stood as a driving force propelling human civilizations forward. It's not only a skill but a habit of thinking that has contributed to our progress. Recognized as an essential component of success by the Partnership for 21st Century Learning and the World Economic Forum, creativity holds a unique position. It benefits individuals by enabling innovative problem-solving and expanding career opportunities. On a larger scale, it enhances the quality of life in societies, fostering scientific breakthroughs and life-altering inventions. 

Embracing a mindset and a willingness to approach tasks in innovative ways is not only essential but highly effective for becoming more creative. In essence, we have the power to choose creativity. A simple illustration of this lies in my occasional choice of a different route on my way home, purely for the joy of discovering new sights and experiences. Creativity also involves the habit of consistently asking the "what if" question. What if I introduce this new element here? It revolves around experimentation, meticulous evaluation of outcomes, and the subsequent refinement of ideas. Therefore, the more we recognize that our intention to be creative forms a fundamental component of our overall creativity, the more creative experiences we can embrace, further nurturing our creative abilities. Furthermore, there's a compounding effect at play—the more we actively engage our creativity, the more it flourishes, resulting in an increasingly creative outlook.

My own journey reflects the transformative potential of creativity. Starting with a fourth-grade teacher who instilled the belief, "You are creative," creativity became an integral part of my life. Working in advertising at the age of 20, I often woke up with creative ideas in the middle of the night, unknowingly following the stages of the creativity process: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification as outlined by Wallas in 1926. During my pursuit of a Ph.D. at Florida State University, I had the privilege of working with many experts to design a large-scale creativity assessment for the Programme of International Students Assessment (PISA) in 2021. This experience ignited my passion for creativity research, leading to my current role as an assistant professor of educational technology at the University of Florida.

My mission is clear: to design tools that foster deeper creativity and learning. I am particularly interested in stealth assessment, a technology-based method that leverages digital games to assess various skills, including creativity. This approach logs every interaction within the game, allowing for ongoing analysis to adapt to each individual's level and provide tailored support.

My research also explores the intersection of game-based learning and creativity to enhance STEM education. This concept, known as Creative Game-Based Learning (CGBL), introduces creative thinking into the learning process. CGBL engages students in problem-solving, fosters divergent and convergent thinking, and promotes cognitive flexibility, all crucial elements of creative thinking.

In today's era, where Artificial Intelligence (AI) is automating many human tasks, it's crucial to change our perspective on work. Rather than fearing AI and automation, we should pivot towards leveraging AI for its precision in calculations and routine tasks, allowing us to harness our innate abilities, such as creativity, empathy, and compassion.

Technology, especially AI, is playing a pivotal role in creativity research. Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithms powered by Large Language Models (LLMs) like GPT-4 are used to assess creativity in written and spoken language. My recent study employed NLP to classify sentences in Minecraft videos, identifying sub facets of creativity, showcasing the synergy between AI and creativity assessment.

In visual domains, AI-powered image and video analysis techniques, including Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), evaluate visual creativity by analyzing images or videos and assessing their originality. These advances in AI and technology empower researchers to compare creative works against a vast array of similar products, providing valuable insights into the novelty and uniqueness of creative outputs.

As we journey through the modern landscape of learning sciences, creativity research, psychometrics, and technology, we glimpse a promising future. Creativity, not just as a skill but as a habit, continues to evolve, and AI and technology are driving this transformation. By staying open to new experiences, we aim to make meaningful contributions to the field of creativity research, enhancing our understanding of, and our ability to foster, creativity in the digital age.