New Worlds: Some creative traits can be learned

Routing the best data service; Technion materials expert is tops.

brainbow nerve cells 311 (photo credit: Brainbow/Idan Segev)
brainbow nerve cells 311
(photo credit: Brainbow/Idan Segev)
Can creativity be learned? A new study of high-school pupils and math teachers presented recently at the Fourth Conference of Education of the Gifted at the University of Haifa found that two creativity traits can be improved during the learning process, while there is one that a person is – or is not – born with.
Two traits of creativity in mathematics tasks – fluency and flexibility (the ability to find a large number of solutions to a problem and the ability to find different solutions to one problem) are improved over the course of a learning process, but originality is not improved over time.
“We assume, based on the results of this study, that originality is a trait that a person is born with; our ability to improve it is very limited,” said Prof. Roza Leikin, who headed the team.
According to professional literature, creativity – a central aspect of a gifted person’s perception – is comprised of three elements: fluency, flexibility and originality.
Leikin, together with doctoral student Anat Levav-Waynberg and post-doctorate fellow Raisa Guberman, set out to examine whether these traits improve in the course of the learning process. They applied a research model based on the use of Multiple Solution Tasks (MSTs) that examines the participant’s ability in these three traits with a series of mathematical questions.
The first study examined new mathematics teachers who were asked to cope with MSTs at the beginning and end of the academic year. For this, the class was divided into high-achieving and lowerachieving pupils so as to see whether the traits are related to the level of achievement. The study showed that teens from both groups significantly increased the number of correct answers to the MSTs, as well as their fluency and flexibility.
Originality, however, did not improve, and in fact the study showed a slight drop among the participants.
The second study gave the MSTs to pupils as part of a geometry course. Here too, they were divided into two groups of higher and standard achievers. The results were similar to the first study: An improvement was seen in both groups in the number of correct answers, fluency and flexibility – and again, a slight drop in originality.
The researchers found that the strongest link was between originality and overall creativity. They believe (but say more research is needed) that originality is a distinctive characteristic of giftedness. To identify the gifted in math, they suggest that such pupils be found according to their originality in coming up with ideas and solving problems, Leikin concluded.
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and France Telecom (Orange Labs R&D) have agreed to apply targeted research done at the Beersheba university to the data networks of Europe’s third-largest telecommunications company. France Telecom will collaborate with Prof. Michael Segal of the department of communications system engineering to use “location theory” to determine the optimal placement of their routers so their customers will get the best service.
“The question is where is the best place to position the routers to improve the performance of the network,” said Segal, one of only a few researchers in the world who attempt to apply the theory to communications networks. Location theory uses complex algorithms and reams of statistical data to determine optimal placement. The placement of routers is critical for customer satisfaction. For example, if a router is too far from a customer’s house, there could be delays in the streaming of video on demand, Segal explained. “We will look at factors such as user demand, historical use in particular neighborhoods – whether there was heavier use in the morning or evening – and bandwidth, among others,” he continued.
France Telecom and BGU signed a general cooperation agreement last year; the location theory contract is the first specific project to emerge from that agreement.
Prof. Yeshayahu Lifshitz of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has been named one of the world’s 100 top material sciences experts of the past decade, according to Reuters-Thompson and the Times Literary Supplement. He was the only Israeli on this list, which was selected from half a million scientists in the field. Lifshitz, who received his degrees at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University and Weizmannn Institute of Science, joined the Soreq Nuclear Research Center in 1971 and worked there until 2004 before joining the Technion.
He worked on thin films at Soreq, where he was founding head of the space technology center for 12 years. His Technion group is involved in nanostructuring of inorganic materials using innovative approaches.