5 Things Educators Can Learn From Creative Professionals

by Michael Cohen

posted on 10-18-2018

This week I attended the Adobe MAX conference in Los Angeles. The experience has left me humbled as a creator and inspired as an educator to continue my work bridging these two spaces together to help our students see new avenues of work and profession. I have said before that all educators are designers, but that doesn’t mean all designers are educators. That is because teaching others is really difficult! One of my mentors once told me that the hardest thing in life is to know what it is like to not know something once you know it. As designers, we strive to refine and perfect our craft — but that doesn’t mean that we are able to articulate and document the steps from novice to independent creator. This conference left me with a new appreciation for professional creators, and five powerful outlooks or skills that I think educators can leverage to hone their teaching craft.

  1. Collaboration: The level of collaboration at this conference was incredible. There was literally not one person I encountered who told me that they work by themselves in any capacity. Whether they were a designer, project manager, or executive, everyone worked together in teams, and everyone knew that to succeed in the company’s mission they needed to contribute their unique skills and benefit from their team members’ abilities as well. That doesn’t mean it always works, is easy, or even always fun. It does mean that they believe that collaboration will bring the best out in everyone. Whether it is us with our colleagues or promoting collaborative practice with our students, we need to promote this beyond “group projects” and “cooperative” learning experiences.
  2. Failure: Embrace it. Celebrate it. Take it and make things better with it. Failure is this elephant in the room in education — and even with my F.A.I.L.U.R.E. (First Attempt In Learning Unless Reflection Exists), it is very difficult for us to create appropriate learning environments for failure. I don’t mean a failed math test. I mean engaging in experiences that require problem-solving, testing, and failure to improve. That approach turns failure into a pit stop, and not a final destination.
  3. Lifelong learning: The creative professionals at this conference spend thousands of dollars to attend the Adobe MAX conference. Each session is designed to improve your professional skills and make you more valuable in your industry. Students need to know that professionals are constantly looking for how to improve, keep up to date, and stay current with trends and technology. You might even be able to share this with a few of your colleagues.
  4. Experiment: My favorite session was with illustrator and artist Jennet Liaw. I have been a huge fan of her work via Instagram, and the biggest takeaway from her session was that you need to just start drawing, mess up, explore, and keep building on your work. It doesn’t happen overnight. Our students need to know that professionals struggle and that these complex creative processes take time to master.
  5. Find inspiration outside of education: As educators we are preparing our students for that future real world. We need to draw inspiration from that world by looking at how those who inspire us — whether they are designers, engineers, actors, or any other profession — can be a source of teaching-moment opportunities. This conference was like a creative blood transfusion that will keep me creating until next year.

Designers are problem solvers, and so are educators. This conference was a great way for me to continue looking for ways that I can help the world of education introduce new ways to help build students creative courage and creative capacity. The new skills, software releases, and brainstorming sessions were enough to keep me busy, growing, and sharing the great ways that Adobe software can help our teachers teach, and our students share their learning.

Topics: Creativity, Adobe MAX