Tag Archives: Creativity

International Dot Day is right Around the Corner!

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Make your mark! Based on Peter Reynolds children’s book, The Dot, this day celebrates creativity and collaboration. Each student starts with one dot and draws anything they want from there. Thousands of drawings are posted online for the kids around the world to see. It’s a fun and engaging way to encourage creativity and collaboration.
Here is a video reflection from last year’s Dot Day.

PBL and the 21st Century Competencies

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PBL for the 21st Century Success: Teaching Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication and Creativity, looks like another wonderful edition to the Project-based Learning books published through the non-profit Buck Institute for Education (BIE).  Suzy Boss, lead author, and John Larmer, Editor-in-Chief  of BIE, summarized the book in their June 5th webinar. Although it was written for middle and high school, as 5th grade teacher, I think it would work for upper elementary as well. I’ll give a few highlights here, but it is really worth a closer look.

  • Focuses on integrating and explicitly teaching the 21st century competencies, the 4Cs: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication
  • There are chapters that focus on each of the 4Cs that provide:
    • Example projects
    • Classroom ‘Look fors’ that we should be seeing over time to demonstrate learning
    • Infographics that deliberately explain how the Cs can be integrated in every aspect of the project
    • Rubrics to assess the Cs at all of the four stages of the project

In addition, you will find:

  • Research highlights throughout
  • Non-fiction emphasis
  • Alignment with the Common Core and explanations
  • Reflection prompts
  • Tech tips to help support the development of the 4Cs

You will find the webinar archived here.

The book, as well as their introductory PBL books,  can be purchased here.

You can find all of their webinars:

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Creating Innovators

Creating Innovators

“What you study is not that important. Knowing how to find those things you are interested in is way, way more important. . . . I’ve got this momentum, and the idea is to figure out what interesting opportunities there are around you and use them to get to the next point.” A quote by Kirk Phelps, Product Manager for Apple’s first iPhone, from Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, written by Tony Wagner .

As educators we have to wonder, are we so focused on what we are teaching, that we miss the boat on the things that make a human being resilient and successful in a world that calls forth different skills than it demanded in the factory-driven, company loyalty mindset of the past?  Shouldn’t every person going through our education systems need to develop the capacities to solve problems creatively…in other words to innovate.

The quote above goes on to describe that kind of inquiry as similar to navigating a satellite though space…being interested in one area and going there for a while and then moving on to the next….all in a process of personal integration. This has been my way to learn, so I can say that this type of inquiry cannot be forced by super specific curricular objectives. I see attempts to take the old style of curriculum planning that starts with the standard objectives, and then almost as an after-thought, tries to force in creative problem solving. Can’t happen. What can happen, and what frequently does is my classroom and classrooms all over…is that the structure of the planning is focused on the thinking…the thinking…not the objectives. Then the objectives are put into that structure. The Common Core State Standards are getting some well deserved criticism, but they lend themselves much better to this kind of learning than our previous attempts.

To learn to be innovative, and all the things that go along with that: inquisitive, creative, logical, critical thinking, persistent, resilient… requires some specific conditions. First, it requires freedom to explore and play with the topic. In a school setting, this naturally reflects curriculum, but there are so many possibilities for doing this.  I use Project-based Learning to wed these innovator skills with curriculum. Second, it requires a balance of collaboration and solitude.

Co-founder and teacher of the Phoenix School in Salem, Mass, Betsye Sargent asked me this question about teaching for today’s world, “How does this fit with the current direction education seems to be going? How do we get it to change tracks? If 65% of grade school kids today may be doing work not yet invented (MacArthur Foundation), then the future really isn’t a multiple choice standardized test.”

As the push and pull between testing, curriculum standards, and an ever evolving planet continues…we as educators must become the student the world needs…the innovator. It is in becoming that ourselves that allows us to lead our educational systems, classrooms and students in that direction.

Tioki Conversation with Milton Chen of George Lucas Education Foundation

I followed a recent conversation with Milton Chen, Senior Fellow of George Lucas Education Foundation on Tioki.

A participant asked him what his favorite Star Wars character was, and what he thinks of the Common Core State Standards. Here’s his reply:

Milton Chen, “Of course, I love Yoda, the master teacher! 

I’m in favor of Common Core, it’s amazing it’s taken us so long to have the states agree on high standards. But the main issue is how they will be accomplished, what is the curriculum to get our students to high levels in English and math? I favor more of a creative, collaborative project-based approach, so I’m hoping there will be more discussion and implementation of this and teacher acting more as coaches than direct instructors.”

The more I work with the Common Core, the more I agree with this. I am watching organizations all over trying to incorporate the standards as neatly and gracefully as possible, but it seems the most effective way may be the messiest. In education, we have valued orderliness, sequence, separation, isolated skill assessment….then on the other hand we talk about the value of collaboration  creativity, and problem solving.  Without bridging the  these core values and classroom practice, how can we expect to achieve what we all say we need?

The ideas swirling around in our industry are great. The core focus of the Common Core is sound.   There is just so much distance between those things and how we are often trying to achieve them. I am thrilled at the collaboration within our industry that we are all participating in, and if we really believe in and value the things we say…collaboration, creativity and problem solving, we will get there…and it’s probably going to be messy.

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Leading, Learning and Holding Down Success

Steve Hargadon of The Future of Education hosted another good session tonight with author Jay Cross who wrote Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance. The discussion was interesting, and his book sounds like a great read, but there was one particular thing that he said that stuck with me more than anything else. As he was talking about how most learning comes to us informally on the job or wherever…he said something about Google…and recognizing that some employees are worth 200 times more than the average employee. He wasn’t talking about money value, but in what they were able to accomplish. He talked about how they are the ones that should be invested in.

The type of person he was referring to shows up in the desks of our schools and classrooms. How do we as educators deal with kids like that? It seems to depend on each adult’s comfort level. And then if they survive to adulthood with those tendencies still intact, how does the workplace deal with that? Again, it depends on comfort level. How does a culture like the one he talks about, one that values high levels of creativity and enthusiasm….one that values great thinkers and vision makers…how does that exist and sustain itself? What does that take? And inversely, why are there some work/school environments that actually do everything they can to squelch those exact same qualities? What does that take? There’s a saying: Whatever you feed most gets the strongest. It seems to me that it is definitely a choice..a choice by each and every one participating.

By exploring our own comfort level and allowing our boundaries to soften and widen to include those things in people that make us feel a little out of control, a little uncomfortable…allowing room for people that may take up more space than the average student or employee…that not only encourages that kind of ability in a student, employee or co-worker, but it also increases that in ourselves.

An incredible, Energizing Place to Co-Create

I attended a workshop by Shared learning Collaborative in Chicago held at a location called 1871. I have never seen anything like this incredibly cool space. The first thing you see when you walk in is a 143’ curved, colored, glass wall that is a gigantic marker board used for mind-mapping and visual brainstorming.  Aside from that, group work areas are scattered all over the remaining 50,000 square feet. The space is totally flexible…walls and furniture can be arranged in any configuration. There is a long sleek kitchen, and along the north side is a wall of windows lined with couches and comfortable chairs with an amazing city view. It just felt energizing and innovative. This place supports the kind of thing that changes the world…connection and collaboration…shared ideas and passion…the melding of hearts and minds, in a word: creation. Although 1871 is used for digital start-ups, the idea behind this: a space lending itself to innovation, collaboration, connection, and creation…is a universal need. I can imagine a teachers’ lounge or school conference room with a wall painted with Idea Paint, and seating that is flexible. A place in and of itself can either encourage or discourage collaboration.

1871 opened May 2, 2012, and this is from the 1871 website: “1871—(1) catalyzing moment in Chicago history, when the most brilliant engineers,
architects and inventors came together to build a new city; (2) where Chicago’s brightest digital designers, engineers and entrepreneurs are shaping new technologies, disrupting old business models
and resetting the boundaries of what’s possible.”

Wow. What an amazing way to work…in every industry.

Make your Mark!

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International Dot Day is almost here! A day set aside to honor creativity in all of it’s many forms. You can get your class involved though this link.

http://www.thedotclub.org/dotday/