Creativity is Not Dead

Sir Ken Robinson, an international adviser on education, gave a TED Talk in 2007 titled Do Schools Kill Creativity?  In it, Sir Robinson tells the audience that kids will inherently take chances, but it’s education’s drive towards skill based learning that trains kids that failure is not an option.  He goes on to state that structured education as we know it is a result of industrialism in the early 19th Century and the need for reading and math skills.  However, times have changed in the last 200 years.  According to Forbes Magazine, the top three skills desired by high-profile corporations are problem solving, collaboration, and critical thinking (Fisher 2012).  These companies desire growth and innovation in their fields and in Sir Robinson’s words, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original” (TED 2007).  These new skills desired by the workplace are in direct correlation to creative thinking and collaborative work rather than drilled skills.

Ideally, the demand for these skills would cause a trickle-down effect, with companies influencing colleges and universities, which then change their entrance requirements from high school graduates (perhaps with less of an influence on SAT/ACT scores), which would change the overall dynamic of K-12 education.  Unfortunately, in a world of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, our focus is instead on high test achievement on normed assessments.

So what do we do?  State assessments aren’t going anywhere any time soon, yet we have a responsibility as educators to prepare kids for the world after structured education.  We can infuse our lessons with digital media and change our teaching methods to incorporate both CCSS required standards and collaborative, creative learning.  Students create every day – they write stories, they imagine how settings and characters look in books they are reading, they find new ways to solve math problems, and they imagine up the most interesting science experiments.  By adding digital media to this already creative process, we only enhance their experience while getting them ready to be productive members of society.  After they write stories, they can create paper slide videos narrating that story.  While they imagine the setting and characters of a book, they can use digital arts software or animation software to give life to their vision.  They can collaborate in pairs or teams using sites like padlet to brainstorm as many ways as possible to solve (or create!) a problem. They can use the internet and sites such as Discovery Education Network to research science experiments.  In all instances, they can chronicle their progress using wikis.  You can change your current presentation model to a media-infused presentation.

The problem isn’t a lack of creativity in school.  The problem is we teachers are unprepared to integrate modern technology into our teaching as a means of developing creativity.  If we are uncomfortable with it, we won’t incorporate it into our teaching.  However, if we look at is as our responsibility to our students and take it upon ourselves to learn it, we will be able to confidently refine our practice.  Technology and digital media isn’t going anywhere.  We owe it to our students to teach them how to use these tools so that they are prepared when enter the working world.  The creativity is still there.  We just need to make sure we know what it looks like in a 21st Century classroom.

Sources:
Fisher, A. (2012, February 1). Executives to new grads: Shape up! [Blog] Retrieved from http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2012/02/01/executives-to-new-grads-shape-up/
TED (2007, January 6). Sir Ted Robinson: Do schools kill creativity? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY

Additional linked sites:
Sir Ken Robinson – http://sirkenrobinson.com/
Discovery Education Network – http://www.discoveryeducation.com

 

 

Media-infused Presentations

Eastern-Cape-Game-Reserves
(image source)

Media-infused presentations are an easy way to bring a topic to life for students.  They can be used as a review for a previously taught subject or to introduce something new.  Use them as a virtual field trip to give students a more rich sense of a location of experience than you can give them from simply reading text.  They provide extra support for ELL students by creating connections through images, videos, and sound.  PowerPoint and Keynote are two easy programs that can be used to create these presentations.  If you’d rather house your presentation online, Prezi is another option. One benefit of Prezi is that, being housed online, if you forget your own computer at home or if your battery dies, you can access it from any computer.  Additionally, Prezis are live, collaborative documents, allowing for anyone to work on them at any time from anywhere.

These presentations help develop both disciplined and synthesizing minds (Gardner 2008).  If you are creating a presentation for your students, you can ensure that students utilize a synthesizing mind by finding images and videos that represent different points of view or experiences.  If presented with a task (for example, a written response) after the presentation, students will be required to take that information and evaluate and present it in a way that makes sense to them (p.3).  If I were creating my safari presentation for an older grade level, I could have included contrasting videos on conservation versus big-game hunting.  Students could determine which viewpoint they agree with and write a persuasive paper.  For Kindergarten, our goal is to learn about a new topic and to write an informational piece about said topic.  My presentation will be used in conjunction with reading non-fiction texts about safaris (such as this one from National Geographic) as an attempt to work towards a teaching model that supports the new Smarter Balanced assessments.

Student-created presentations help cultivate a disciplined mind as well, by requiring students to look for multiple sources of information on their topic.  Spending a “significant amount of time” on a topic is one of the four steps Gardner spells out when developing a disciplined mind (p. 32).  Students will spend such time not only searching for videos, images, and sound effects that are relevant to their topic, but also determining which pieces of media best support their assignment or argument.  This will also employ the synthesizing mind, as students determine the validity or importance of each media source they find and decide whether or not to include it.

Presentation applications are easy to use these days, using a drag and drop style of adding media to slides.  Most applications come with already created themes that teachers and students can use as well, making the process even easier.  I used Keynote to create mine because it is the application that I am most comfortable with, however, I plan to use Prezi in the future in order to become more familiar with web-based presentation tools.

You can download a PowerPoint version of my presentation here.

Gardner, H. (2008). 5 Minds for the Future. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.

 

eduClipper

Screenshot 2014-05-20 22.05.38

In his book, Five Minds for the Future, Howard Gardner posits that one of the minds that we need to cultivate in ourselves and in students is the Synthesizing Mind.  In its basic sense, a synthesizing mind can think about and make sense of all the information that is available to us today.  “The synthesizing mind takes information from disparate sources, understands and evaluates that information objectively, and puts it together in ways that make sense to the synthesizer and also to other persons” (Gardner p. 3)  We do this on a regular basis when we read multiple news reports, when we solve student problems, or when we’re looking for the best way to teach a specific skill.

Digital synthesizing occurs when we are able to understand and evaluate digital information that we find when doing research (or reading on a topic for enjoyment) on the internet.  The website eduClipper allows us to do just that.  Similar to Pinterest in style, eduClipper allows the user to search for and “re-clip” web links, infographics, images, and videos.

I created clipboard around Dolch sight words that you can find here.  Reading and applying these sight words is an important skill in kindergarten, as they are words that are commonly used in the English language and in beginning reading books but often do not follow the standard grammar rules of English.  I have found that sight words are not very well taught or embedded in our curriculum, so I’m always looking for new and engaging ways to teach and have kids enjoy learning them.

Although I didn’t think that there was much for me to find and “re-clip” around my given subject, when I searched for Abraham Lincoln as a student conducting research would, I found many more links and images.  One benefit on eduClipper is that there are separate log ins for students and for teachers.  As a teacher, you can create assignments for your classes and kids sign in using your class code.  Students can then practice researching, collecting and synthesizing digital information on their topic – they can even add their own clips from outside sources (say, information found through a Google search.)  The best part is, you’ll be able to see what they’re finding.

Unfortunately, I found eduClipper to be a little bit buggy.  I had some user problems creating new clips and editing old pins.  I thought perhaps that it was a problem with using Firefox, so I switched to Safari – it wasn’t any better there. The copyright on their website is 2013.  This leads me to believe that they’re a relatively new company/site that will be upgrading as word gets out and it become more popular.  Hopefully, as I use it more, I’ll be able to work out some of the problems and bugs that I’m experiencing.

Gardner, H. (2008). 5 Minds for the Future. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.

Big Huge Labs Motivator

Motivator_Patience
Photo Credit

Patience is a virtue – something we all need to remember at this point in the school year.  My school teaches various character traits throughout the year; the focus on each lasting for 6 weeks.  Patience, friendship, (being) trustworthy, and perseverance are a few.  Each classroom studies the current character trait, and at the end, one student is chosen from each classroom as the Character Trait Award recipient.  Sometimes the student chosen exemplifies the trait, sometimes it is a student who has made gains in this area.

I created the image above using Big Huge Labs, which allows you to upload an image and edit it into (among others) movie posters, magazine covers, or as I did, a motivational poster.

After teaching a few lessons on patience (our current character trait), I am using this motivational poster as a writing prompt:  “Explain why the dog in the picture is showing patience.  Tell what you think will happen if the dog does or does not have patience.  How can you relate to the dog?”  Samples from this writing prompt will help me to understand who has an understanding of the character trait, as well as who can apply their knowledge to both their own actions and the actions of others.  After testing it out with this character trait, I may create more for the others, refining and recreating this lesson to best meet the needs of my classroom.

Week 1 Intro Post

 

The site lemmetweetthatforyou allows anybody with internet access to create fake tweets – no twitter account needed.  If the user name you put in there is an actual twitter account, but if you use kids’ names or a username including your name (for example @kranzush_studentname) it will just have a blank picture and keep their name and their identity private.  It still adheres to the 140 character count that Twitter uses, so it would be a great exit ticket where kids tweet their answer or understanding.  Keep in mind that they’ll have to have somewhere to post to – it’s easy enough to set up a Google doc or a padlet for kids to post to.  Just send them the link or write it on the board for them to type in their browser.