21st Century, Change, Creativity, Innovation, Inspiration

Imagine A Teacher

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Imagine you are a teacher.

The school year is about to begin – it’s the first day for teachers to arrive at school.

You walk into your classroom and there is a letter for you. From your students.

Dear Teacher,

The most important thing you can do for us this year is to teach creativity. Consider yourself no longer our teacher but be our ‘Captain Creative’ and we, your eager cohort of innovators, curators, makers, and thinkers.

To teach creativity is to equip us with the skills to think critically. To examine, debate, discuss, agree, argue, dissent, come to a consensus, and to think.

To teach creativity is to question. To make sure you ask questions you don’t know the answer to and let us ask questions too. Let’s solve them together in short, frantic bursts of excitement and long, drawn-out wondering that go far beyond the lesson plan.

To teach creativity is to teach us that ideas are treasures, to be gathered and cherished with pirate-like pleasure! We need to come to school each day more curious than the day before and should know that our actions have an impact that goes beyond our classroom walls.

To teach creativity, one can start with empathy. When we know that to empathize is to arrive at the starting point for change and possibility, that to try and to trial and to test and to try again are all part of process, and that there is never a ‘one way’ of doing (but always your guiding hand should we get stuck down a wrong way), you will be a teacher of creativity.

To teach creativity, is to allow us to bloom. To nurture each of us through the learning process at a different pace and in a different space, feeding our quest for knowledge so that new ideas can flourish. Teach us to connect rather than simply collect the dots.

To teach creativity one does not need to be creative (but you are). To teach creativity one does need to rethink ‘school’ (and you will). To teach creativity is to respect us as individuals, to seek the ‘so what?’, and to be authentic in all that you do.

What are you waiting for? The creativity revolution begins with you. And with us. And it starts now.

Sincerely,

Your students

What would this inspire you to do? What does it tell you about your school leadership team? And where does this school exist?

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Approaches to Learning, Inspiration

How To Write A Great Blog Post

Step One: Don’t give your post a lame title 🙂

Our fourth grade students are blogging this year. It has taken a while to get them started but they are growing in their tech skills to be able to do this more independently. Now that they (mostly) have the mechanics of blogging sorted, I wanted to switch my focus to the content.

Up until now the posts they have done have been directed by their homeroom teachers or by me. As they head off on their own, I wanted there to be some sort of checklist in their room to help them. But more than a checklist. I didn’t want it to be purely mechanics. So I turned to two of my favorites: Simon Sinek and Peter H. Reynolds.

Simon STARTS WITH WHY so I did too. We talked about leading with WHY, following up with HOW, and concluding with WHAT. Typically a blog post from a student goes like this:

This is my video of my project.

Using the Sinek way:

I wanted to explain how I understand the connection between people and the impact on the environment. The best way for me to do this was using Adobe Spark Page so that I could add pictures, videos, and links and so I could make sure to tell all the things that I know and how I want to make a difference. I hope you learn from the Page that I have created.

How do you minimise your impact on the environment?

Typically the content speaks for itself but this simple WHY/HOW/WHAT routine helps give a snapshot into the purpose of the post and its content. The question at the end is to give the readers of the blog (mostly classmates) something to respond to in the comments.

My other favorite person is Peter H. Reynolds. He has collaborated on the 4C’s project. I love the 4C’s. In addition to checking other mechanics of their blog post (capitals, punctuation, categories) I wanted to challenge them to check their blog post against the 4C’s. Does their post (and thus the content they created) hit on one or more of the 4C’s? Massive bonus if it hits on all four!

Here is the blogging checklist I created (PDF download):

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Creativity, Inquiry, Thinking

Informed Thinking

In a course I am doing at the moment on Creativity, we were asked to do some Informed Thinking. 

This is the task we were given:

You will inform your thinking about the scholarship of creativity studies through historical and contemporary resources.  Afterwards, you will share on the blackboard some key concepts, definitions, models, theories and information that is particularly important in your eyes.  This should be in the form of bulleted list of at least ten items. Each item should have a 1-2 sentence description to explain it.

We were given a curated list of videos, studies, research projects, Keynotes, visuals, documents to read/watch and then had to create our own ‘top ten’.

About half of the class have done the assignment and it is really interesting to see what others pulled out as ‘important’ or stand-out ideas. It is also really interesting to think about yourself as a reader/viewer when ideas you never heard of appear in someone else’s list. And it is a great way to summarize and inform your thinking in preparation for the follow-up task (which is to apply the new learning).

This would be a great way to guide students through the research phase of a unit that is heavy in names/dates, theories/ideas. One of the group said she is planning on using this during her G5 Governance unit.

I chose to add pictures to the mix in addition to the one or two sentences. I love icons (shout out to the Noun Project) and it helped me to consolidate my chosen ideas into a visual image.

Can you use this in your classroom?

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Innovation

MakerSpace or MakerMindset?

Makerspace.

Trendy? Needed? Overused? Underused? Lots of discussion in our school – and many others – about this ‘new thing’. Sometimes I find it exhausting that we have to form a committee to come to the shared understanding that kids making stuff, tinkering, thinking, designing, prototyping ideas, and playing, is a good thing!

Nonetheless, what if you have already decided it is a good thing? Where to from there? My suggestion: differentiate between a MakerSpace and a MakerMindset.  These are similar but very different at the same time. Don’t get hung up on how many hot glue guns you are going to buy, start by getting buy-in on what it means to be a maker and part of the maker movement.

If you are not sure what this would look like, take a look at the NIST Makerspace website. They do a great job of spelling out the things you see in a Maker Mindset and a Maker Space.  I liked the idea so much I started drawing out my own idea of a maker mindset:

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I would then suggest that you Start With WHY. Why do you want a Makerspace? Why is this an important thing to you? You could try framing your thinking by filling in the gaps:

“Because we believe…………………………………….. we have a Makerspace.”

Move on to HOW. How will a Makerspace work in your school? Within the curriculum? Parallel to the curriculum? Embedded in the curriculum? Totally optional and separate to the curriculum?  How will teachers know it is valued? How will parents share in your vision? How do kids have input?

Finally, WHAT. Now is when you can get the glue gun catalog out and spend! But you can also gather (hoard?) and collect and put out specific requests for those egg cartons, buttons, fabric offcuts, plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, and the like. One thing I think would be useful at this point is for teachers to spend twenty minutes in their rooms. Mentally divide the room into four quadrants and spend five minutes looking at each section, asking yourself:

  • what is useful for making and tinkering?
  • what storage do I have?
  • what could I take out of my room to make more space?
  • are there outlets in this part of the room?
  • is there ventilation in this part of the room?

I subscribe to SmartBrief on Education and in today’s edition, they had a piece on Tips For Meaningful Making. This advice section concluded with links to free resources that may be of interest to anyone in the process of beginning a Makerspace.

  • Wicked Decent Learning blog. Check out Dan Ryder’s “Design Thinking” section to get insights on making and reflection.
  • Agency by Design. Visit the Educator Resources section to see different ways to approach the thinking behind making. This is a phenomenal resource from Project Zero. If you love Visible Thinking Routines, you will love AbD. 

Do you have a Maker Mindset?

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Innovation

Summatively Speaking…

It always seems to be the way – start thinking about assessment (or any other topic) and ideas abound on that topic, literally without even trying.

Assessment is on my mind at the moment. The first thing that popped into my feed was this amazing post on assessment and Makerspaces.  What Does Assessment Look Like in Makerspaces is PACKED with information. Seriously, if you have a Makerspace or want one or are just thinking of how to add more making, thinking, and tinkering into your school or classroom, this is an excellent place to start.

In working with teams at my own school, I returned to the work of Wiggins and McTighe. This gave me three things to share with colleagues – and now with you. I was firstly reminded of GRASPS as it relates to a summative assessment task:

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I was introduced to this when I began teaching at Bonn International School in 2003. It is still my ‘gold standard’ when it comes to thinking about summative assessment tasks.

From here, I was reminded of a newer document. A checklist for performance assessment. The printed version is below. Below that, the short animated slideshow on checking the health of your summative assessment task, made with Adobe Spark Video.

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https://spark.adobe.com/video/1d9MaHwVnqXKM/embed

Finally, I subscribe to Time Space Education blog. Today there was a new post on Learning Continuums. It is really interesting to see how this process of summative assessment is being tackled by different educators in different parts of the world. The author, Chad Walsh is seeking feedback on the ideas within this post. If you are at all interested in summative assessments and rethinking the way we create and analyse these, drop him a line or leave a comment on his post.

21st Century, Action, Change, Innovation, Inspiration, Leadership

Rethink Everything

And start with rethinking worksheets.

I believe that in 7 minutes, you will never look at a worksheet in the same light ever again. What are we doing to our kids when we don’t take the time and effort to breathe creativity and agency into our classrooms?

If you are interested in taking this discussion further, take a look at The Ten Principles For Schools Of Modern Learning. This Whitepaper is the best thing I have read about education and change since I read Seth Godin’s Education Manifesto.

I have just started a course in Creative Teaching and Learning as (a final) part of my Masters Degree and my hope is that we will come up with practical ways to inject greater creativity into schools. One of my classmates shared this video and in it, the speaker tells of the need for knowledge in order to fuel creativity.

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The idea being that having knowledge helps you build creative ideas to problems  and challenges. Do you agree?  I certainly side with Tony Wagner’s thought that “it is not WHAT you know but what you DO with what you know” and believe that the ‘knowing’ and the ‘knowledge’ are important parts to being a creative person.

It comes as no surprise to me that Tony Wagner is an “Expert Education Advisor” for the award-winning film “Most Likely to Succeed”. A ‘grown up’ version of the animated ‘Alike’ this film is on my list of things to watch (when I write up my grant proposal to get the money for a screening).

Most Likely to Succeed Trailer from One Potato Productions on Vimeo.