Finding the Why: Part 3–Creativity

What is creativity in the classroom?
How do we inspire creativity in our students?
How do we nurture their creativity for growth and engagement?

This video does a great job of building on last week’s post on collaboration.  What if we let them collaborate & be creative? What are the possibilities for their learning?

One of them most frightening things we can do in a classroom is to allow freedom to our students and give up some of our control.  What will happen? Why chaos erupt? We are forced to step out of our comfort zone in order to do what is best for our students.  I’m not saying to give up complete control and enter into a world of chaos.  However, we can enter into a world of controlled chaos and freedom of choice.  I was never good at art growing up.  So when my assignment required some “art” to go with it-I knew I was in trouble.  But if a teacher let me figure out the best way to prove my learning-and I didn’t have to draw a picture-or fit into the teacher’s box of expectations-I knew I could do great things.  Inspiring creativity in our students will allow them to grow and they might just blow you away with what they come up with.  Our students are digital natives-they don’t know a world without technology, apps, and instant information.  They can teach us so much–if we are open to learning from them.

What is creativity in the classroom?

The Web 2.0 teaching tools website does a great job of defining creativity in the classroom:

Creativity, along with innovation are critical skills for achieving success in the 21st century workplace.

Creativity is the ability to produce new, diverse and unique ideas. Thinking creatively means looking at things from a different perspective and not be restricted by rules, customs, or norms.

Innovation is the implementation of creativity – the introduction of a new idea, process, or product. Creativity provides the necessary spark to get the ball rolling.

The  Fedena blog has a post about the importance of creativity in the classroom.  Here is an excerpt:

We live in a world that is creative; we live in a time where innovation is the key word; inventions by human have reached every sphere of life. We cannot deny the fact that much of the education that has been imparted till now has been memory-based. But proper learning should involve memory-based learning that triggers the cultivation of use of analytics, proper evaluation of skills and above all, the presence of creativity, the urge to create something new that would bring about an evolution!

Kristen Hicks has an amazing post on the blog about why creativity in the classroom matter more than ever:

In his popular TED talk, Ken Robinson made the powerful point that most of the students doing work in your classrooms today will be entering a job force that none of you can visualize. That talk is from almost ten years ago, so we already know he was right and can only assume he’ll continue to be so in the years to come.

Learning a specific skill set doesn’t have the value in today’s world that it once did. Learning how to be more creative (and thus adaptable) – now that’s what prepares students for life beyond the classroom.

Schools and businesses throughout the world are latching onto this idea. Academia has started to embrace providing courses in creativity. Many of the biggest and most successful businesses in the world now practice the 20% rule – the commitment to allowing employees to devote 20% of their work time to thinking creatively and exploring new ideas.

But this trend toward valuing creativity goes beyond the big tech companies that have long treated “innovation” as a buzzword. A 2010 survey of over 1,500 executives found that creativity is valued as the most important business skill in the modern world[K1] . “Creative” is one of the most commonly used terms on LinkedIn year after year.

Creativity is no longer seen as just being for artists and musicians (not that that view was ever accurate). It’s a crucial skill for everybody to master.

How do we inspire creativity in our students?

 The  Fedena blog goes on to say:

We have to stop and think- can we really teach our kids how to be creative within the boundaries of a classroom or is it something that is inborn? Creativity is definitely different to different people and for some, inventing new ways to do the same things might be creative; while for others, discovering new things is all about creativity. But whatever is the concept, motivation should be given to children to be more inventive in education.

As a teacher, you can do a lot to cultivate creativity among your students and let them utilize their brain. Share with your class the attributes of being a creative person through the lives of great names in the creative field; sharing their life stories including how they used to generate ideas or how they dealt with all kind of reactions from everyone around will surely motivate them. Discussions on how important it is for everyone to be curious to learn new things and also how to deal with failure should also be included. For all these discussions and other motivational activities, being the teacher, you must develop a creativity friendly classroom where great ideas and views can shared freely. Develop a classroom where the flow of invention is not disrupted by the regular class routines, textbooks and assignments. A proper creativity driven classroom is characterized by encouragement to question-answer sessions, assessment of performance and feedback, a  class that promotes cooperation with others when it comes to sharing ideas as well as the rightful independence needed to let creativity flourish. In short, create a place where all these activities flourish and not discouraged.

In order to make a classroom creative, a teacher too has to be creative, to some extent.

 When I stumbled on this blog post by Kristen Hicks on the blog I found it to be exactly what I wanted to say-so why invent the wheel! This is such great information! (Thanks, Kristen, for the awesome post!)

5 Ways to Bring More Creativity Into the Classroom

Introducing more creativity into your classroom and assignments doesn’t have to make your job harder. It can actually make it a lot more interesting. Having to go home to a stack of dull papers to grade was never anyone’s favorite part of teaching. Giving assignments that require more creativity will likely result in more engaging work for your students, and a more entertaining grading process for you.

1.    Don’t limit assignments to one format

You can provide them the subject to cover, but give them some freedom in how they complete it. Some students will get more out of creating a video or drawing a comic strip than writing a paper.

Even better, have them mix and match formats. Weda Bory wrote on our site about the impressive (and creative) work she received from students by combining iPhone photos with creative writing in her assignments. Your students could analyze a relevant film by creating a podcast about it. They could collect famous images that represent important themes and make a short video that discusses their common relevance.

When you start allowing more formats in the way students create and learn, they’ll have more opportunities to engage with the work they do and will become more invested in it.

2.    Set time aside for creativity

Take a cue from the 20% rule practiced by businesses. Work a “genius hour” into the school day. The amount of time is really up to you, but deciding to devote time to encouraging your students to explore new ideas and be creative can pay off.

You can provide them with some tools to enable their creativity – crayons, clay, notebooks, iPads, or even just access to the library or internet (within reason).  They can choose to create, or they can choose to do some digging into a subject of interest to them.

Encourage collaboration in these times, but don’t force it. Allowing students the chance to follow their own interests and passions is the whole point and they should be given some leeway in what that looks like.

3.    Use tech to broaden your idea of assignments

Tech literacy is almost as important to succeeding in the world today as creativity. And conveniently the two go hand in hand. Just using Google tools alone, we’ve already covered five creative assignments teachers can give.

You can teach students about geography alongside history, literature, or any number of other subjects by having them map out a road trip in Google Maps.

You can teach students how to make new contacts, conduct interviews, and turn what they learn from their interviews into a well-researched paper by making use of Google Hangouts or Skype.

Students can take more ownership over their work by keeping a blog or making their own educational videos on their smartphones. And they can work more collaboratively with the help of social media.

While all of these ideas teach students skills that will benefit them in finding jobs later in life, that’s far from all they accomplish. They make them better learners, better thinkers, and give them more incentive to care about the work they do.

4.    Introduce unconventional learning materials into class

Have you ever seen a student excited when you assigned a chapter in a textbook? How about if you assigned TED Talks instead? Or educational (and entertaining) podcasts like Radiolab and StarTalk? Or comics like The Oatmeal or xkcd, both of which sometimes touch on educational topics?

Many of the people creating a lot of the entertaining pop culture out there have embraced the geekiness that pop culture used to shun. As a result, teachers have a ton of options for bringing more interesting and cool explorations of educational subjects  into their classrooms.

5.    Encourage discussion.

Debates get kids involved and actively engaged with the topics they’re discussing. The Socratic seminar method provides a lot of different benefits:

  • It gets students thinking more critically about the material.
  • It helps them learn to better communicate their ideas and opinions.
  • It challenges them to listen to other students’ opinions and think critically about their contributions and ideas.
  • It gives them the opportunity to challenge each other intelligently and build off of each other’s ideas.

The ability to communicate your ideas clearly and respectfully is something that will benefit students in all areas of their life – and something a lot of people grow up never learning how to do well.


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