Thursday, 12 July 2012

Creativity, Education

Being a UK student who has just been through an intense round of academic and music exams, and who has just come out of the school system forever, I've started reflecting over the last 13 years.  I'm a UK student, so I've been in sixth form for the last couple of years, which is a step from secondary education - you don't have to wear school uniform, you get to choose what subjects you do and you're given human rights.  I guess the equivalent in America would be the senior years of High School.  On getting exam results, I'll hopefully be allowed into university where I'm going to study electronic engineering for 3/4 years.

One recurring thought though is why after all these years, I feel like I've come on further in programming than any of my subjects.  Programming has been a hobby - not taught in any way at school - which I did on and off up until a couple of years ago.  I guess one thing is it's been a complete voyage of discovery, so everything I learned came from self-motivation.  At no point in the darkest depths of data structures and algorithms was there some test or tutor having to push me through.  This self discovery means I'm willingly taking the knowledge in, and I enjoy being all on my own for a problem with lots of time to work it out.

Creativity has been another recurring thought.  I've always been creative, when I was a toddler I drew "pipes", basically I scribbled on paper in different colours.  I used to draw a lot, and when I picked up the skill of language I started to do a fair amount of creative writing, mostly stories.  Computer games were like this massive trigger for creativity, these entire worlds that you could create - take "Rollercoaster Tycoon" for example, where you could build these massive themeparks that came alive.  I built these crazy games in my head, that I could see perfectly but I had absolutely no means of making them real, which was infintely frustrating.  A bit later on I started learning piano and music overtook drawing and writing when it came to being creative.  I also started teaching myself 3D modelling with Blender, and at the time it seemed like a perfect career.  However, at some point I realised that my sketching / general art skills would need to be much better to make it as a career, and I guess at that point I decided to choose programming over 3D art.

A piano I made in Blender3D a few years ago

However, I don't view that decision as practicality over creativity.  Now that I persevered a bit with programming it feels like so much is possible artistically.  Code can seem inpenetrable and dull from an outsider's perpective, and I can completely relate to this, once being an overwhelmed newcomer.  However, when programming starts working for the coder, it becomes an amazing combination of problem solving and creativity, while trying to make code that is clear and concise.  Maths and physics are essential tools, but on their own, they seem limited.  Add programming to the mix and you can build games, synthesisers, artificial intelligence - things that captured my imagination when I was younger but that I was unable to express.

This reflection was probably triggered by some procrastination, where I found this video.  I related to and agreed with a lot of the points he makes, being a student who chose to do science, maths and music.

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