Friday, July 3, 2015

Create This!

Walk into any kindergarten or first grade classroom and the amount of creativity oozing out of those little pores is enough to fill a school, let alone the classroom. Purple alligators, pink trees, polka dotted airplanes, not to mention the games, rules, and words those little minds make up in an instant! Follow up with those same magically creative kids just a few short years later and creativity is hard to find, if not completely absent. What happens to those creative minds as kids progress through school? Some would say we "train" it out of them in the school system. Creativity is welcomed in art class, but beyond that, kids quickly learn they need to color trees brown with green leaves, alligators green or brown, and airplanes are grey with a name on them. Following social cues and adult directions, the "good" kids quickly fall in line and the ones that don't are labeled as "difficult" or "special". Sir Ken Robinson talks about how schools are designed to kill creativity and how that is detrimental to our future citizens. See his Ted talk here.

Both Daniel Pink in his book A Whole New Mind and Howard Gardner in his book Five Minds for the Future discuss the importance of creativity in education and for our future citizens. If this is such an essential skill, why is is being suffocated in our classrooms?

Schools must look at the way we approach instruction with our students today. We are not teaching the same students that sat in our classrooms 20 or 30 years ago. Our students today will not be entering a world with the same requirements, job opportunities or societies that their parents found upon completing school. Instead, they need to be prepared for a connected, global world in which they can find their place. Creativity is going to be an essential skill for our future citizens to find jobs that cannot be done more easily by a computer or more cheaply by outsourced workers in other countries. How can we keep, instead of kill the creativity in our students?

Digital media is one tool that schools can look to that can foster and grow creativity in students. Whether this is used as an introductory or support tool for the teacher to bring information and make connections in a new and interesting way, or a tool that teachers can deliver to students for their own use, these tools can open a whole new world to our students. The vast number of Web 2.0 tools that can be used in the classroom is staggering, and yes, overwhelming to many educators. I have found one that I want to make my new "go to" tool in my classroom. Big Huge Labs is a tool that is free to educators (with an account and a few simple steps to verify) that teachers can use as a part of instruction, or as a tool for students to use in the classroom. An example:

Image retrieved from:

BigHugeLabs: Do fun stuff with your photos

This is just one of the options available on Big Huge Labs. Some of the other options include magazine covers, trading cards, motivational posters, CD covers and many more. The options for how these can be used are almost endless. Teachers can use them to create discussion starters, introduce material, or reinforce concepts in a new and engaging way. Students could use an image to create material that demonstrates understanding of new concepts, reinforce learning, create discussion between classmates or reviews content. As a teacher of science, I start the year off with a science lab safety unit. We set fires, we dissolve chemicals, we even test out if certain material can be dissolved by saliva, all in the name of learning what to do, and what NOT to do in a science lab. As a culminating activity, the students pick one of our 10 lab safety rules and create a "commercial" for that rule stating the rule, giving an example and demonstrating what the rule looks like and what it doesn't look like. Students then plan, film and produce their commercial using iMovie on an iPad. This website gives me a great intro or supporting activity to go along with their commercial. By creating a movie poster to advertise their commercial, students will be able to demonstrate their understanding in a snapshot prior to making their commercial, or as a follow up after the commercial is done. Not only will this support the science curriculum, but it will allow students to dig deep for that creativity to develop a fun, yet educational project that will get them excited about class and what they can contribute as a valued member of our group. I am hoping this will be another avenue to draw my student in and show them that creativity is a great thing!

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