Friday, February 7, 2020

3 Ways To Encourage Creativity

A while back I was having a conversation with a colleague about creativity in learning. We debated back and forth about what creativity looked like and could you really teach creativity. All this stemmed from a comment I made about me not being creative.

Sure, I’ve written books, I talk in front of teachers and leaders often and create professional development to deliver.

But does that mean I am creative?

As educators, when it comes to creativity in the classroom, we can take the path of least resistance and take creativity out of the learning process or we can create an environment that fosters creativity in learning and allow kids to explore their talents.

Fostering creativity in learning in the classroom doesn’t have to be complex or complicated. Here are 3 ways you can encourage creativity in your classroom this year.

Encourage Choice- Imagine being given a task and being told the product you are expected to produce. Everything related to that product is dictated to you. The colors, the font, the margins, the length, the steps you should take to get to that end result. Many of us would revolt. Yet this is what happens to students in classes each day. Projects are assigned and the expectations for the end product outlined. Instead of it being a project, it's more of a recipe.

The easiest way to encourage creativity in the classroom is through choice. Allowing students to discover their own paths to content and process and products helps invest them in their learning. While content may be set by standards or expected outcomes, students can get creative in how they learn that content, the methods by which they connect that content to already known knowledge and especially in how they demonstrate their understanding.

And the ISTE Standards for Students are centered around choice. Here are just 2 examples:

  • 3c-Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.
  • 6a-Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.

Choice can come in many forms. Everything from the devices students use, to the apps and software to the variable methods of demonstrating understanding with technology as an enabler, the ability for students to choose is at the heart of blossoming their creativity. It doesn't mean, however, that it has to be the wild wild west. Most classrooms fail at choice because they are too open ended. Kids are still learning. They still need guidance. Practice Creativity In The Rails. Give them a handful of curated choices so they can decide the best ways to demonstrate understanding. 

Encourage Failure- Failure is only "fatal" when the learning stops at the failure. If we did everything perfectly the first time there would be no room for growth and understanding. Kids need opportunities to fail, sometimes spectacularly, in order to make those critical connections in their brains that help them learn and grow.

The Design Thinking method of problem solving, in my opinion, should replace Problem-Based Learning. In Design Thinking the first step is for students to empathize with a problem. (Normally in PBL the problem is chosen by the teacher which leaves little room for empathy.) As they work on their problem, in a real-world context, they ideate, prototype and test. They learn very quickly there are no easy solutions. They will fail. They will have to cope with ambiguity and the unknown. And it's in these struggles and failures they reach deep within and creativity shines.

Encourage Audience- One of the best ways to boost creativity in your classroom this year is to widen the audience of your students work. In the past much of the work students did lived between the teacher and the student. The student would write a paper and turn it in. The teacher would mark it up with the red pen and return it. And that’s where it ended. What if what students were creating, writing and making could have an impact on the lives of others. The only way we’ll know is by sharing.

We live in an age where sharing is as easy as creating a post, sending a tweet or making a video. You can boost the creativity on the projects and work you assign by tapping into our social side and get students sharing their work with peers, their community and the world. Posting videos to you YouTube, creating podcasts, writing a blog, and building a website are just a few examples of how students can share with the world what they know and help foster creativity. And when we know we are creating something for an audience other than ourselves think about how much harder we work to perfect it? To make it show not only the information we want to share but also who we are as a creative person.

Having transformational technology resources directly in the hands of students, not only helps foster creativity but now students have an easy to use way to publish to their own blog, a website or use something like Twitter or Facebook to share their ideas with the world.

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