It is the phrase any parent will know in their sleep. But why isn’t it echoing in our hallways at school? Where is the demand to be seen? To show off what has been created? To share one’s creative endeavours?
The other day I (somewhat) jokingly said to a colleague that we should “Banksy” the heck out of our school walls. Art Activists. Spreading a message. I think I would start with “Watch me!” – the war cry of children who create.
This leads me back to having a Bias Toward Action. Think of your kids. How often are they taking action? And don’t confuse this with “working” or “being busy” but actually making, doing, creating, producing of their own accord?
One of my Maker heros passed away last week. The phenomenal Amy Krouse Rosenthal. She was a maker. She was a creator. She was someone who looked at the same things as everybody else, but through “Amy colored” glasses. She was kind, lovely, generous, smart, and oh so creative. I miss her already. And I wish for more. I have more to say on Amy. But for now, in her honor, please think about having your kids make things. Challenge yourself to do away with worksheets and pre-cut shapes and cookie-cutter “art” projects. Let your kids MAKE things. Stop having them fill in checklists and tick boxes and conform to your timeframe and LET. THEM. MAKE.
Recently I posted about a Maker Mindset. My friend, Darcy, shared an article with me today about a Producer Mindset – specifically, Raising Producer Kids. Written by Assistant Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Philip Guo, this is a great piece with loads of ideas about the concept that we need our kids to be more actively producing ideas/products/songs/plays/art/games than they perhaps are at the moment.
Here are some of the best parts from the post:
Encourage your kids to become producers. To the extent possible, have them strive to consistently produce something new rather than consuming all the time.
Producing isn’t limited to creating tangible artifacts.
…engaging in creative activities can give them a deeper sense of personal satisfaction than the superficial fun that comes with passive consumption.
Fostering a producer mindset isn’t hard.
You can still let them spend the vast majority of their free time consuming media like all of their friends are doing; as long as you encourage them to spend at least some time producing
…kids (at least in America) desire both conformance and uniqueness: Consuming the same media as their peers allows them to conform and fit in with the mainstream crowd, and producing gives them a legitimate sense of uniqueness, which can make them happy regardless of what their friends like.
The key here is intrinsic motivation—doing things for their own sake rather than for the promise of external recognition or reward.
…observe what your kids naturally like doing and then figure out ways to get those activities to involve producing rather than just consuming.
Exactly what they’re producing isn’t important; what’s more important is the fact that they’re getting into a habit of producing regularly.
Here comes the part that I just LOVE:
Reading and school learning are also forms of consumption. Yes, they’re healthier than ad-ridden mass media, but they still involve passively absorbing, memorizing, and regurgitating information. I’d go as far to claim that if your kids have hobbies they’re passionate about concentrating on for long periods of time, then that’s better preparation for being a happy and productive adult than studying more and possibly getting better grades.
Whenever people ask me about apps for the iPad, I talk about consumption -vs- production apps. It is no secret that Book Creator, Adobe Spark, Stop Motion Studio, Doceri, Draw and Tell, iMovie, Hopscotch and Garageband are among my favorite apps. Games and apps that are task specific (solve these problems, drag these words, fill in these boxes) are really just a substitution for a worksheet, and while they may be “fun” and “the kids really like them”, they are not building a producer or maker mindset.
So what? What can I do now with this information?
Excellent question! This is why you need Darcy at your school! Cue an email she sent this morning to a small group of us, currently exploring Makerspaces and the Maker Mindset. This email was about a new global event on May 2nd (which happens to be DARCY’S BIRTHDAY – coincidence? I think not!). Check it out:
Global Day of Design
I have signed up and the email confirmation comes with a file of goodies that are absolutely worth your time in downloading and looking through. I also bought the book (all in the name of education as part of my Masters course on creativity, of course!) But don’t JUST look at the resources! Share them, print them, doodle on them, remix them, leave them out for the kids to see, loop the videos on your Smartboard. Part of our job as educators is to “light a spark” – kids are going to be curious about things we pay attention to so make sure the things you are spending your time on are worth it!
How does this link to the PYP Exhibition?
If I were in charge of the world, I would have kids work through as many Launch Cycles as possible leading up to the exhibition. Traditionally, most PYPX groups follow an inquiry cycle. While these are great, many teachers use them in a very sequential manner that is theory heavy and research heavy and takes a lot of cognitive processing time rather than tinkering/doing/making time. In many cases, kids don’t move toward the messy, making, action, doing part of exhibition until well into week three or four of the six to eight week process. I would love to see iteration become one of the buzzwords of Exhibition. Instead of coming up with one way, come up with ten ways, twenty ways. Try eight or nine different ideas out. Be bold!
Embrace the Bias.
Bias exists. Everywhere. We all lean toward one thing or another which inherently means we lean away from something else. We read one more chapter which means ten less math problems. The PYP is HUGE. There are many components, each jockeying for attention in our day. Ideally, we would slice the day up into fractional perfection: Knowledge, ATLs, Concepts, Attitudes, Action. But life isn’t a perfect pie chart. So why not embrace a Bias Toward Action? (Thanks, Patty!)
According to the d.School, here is the What/Why/How on Bias Toward Action:
How amazing does this sound? We promote action-oriented behavior. We see action as a way to get a group unstuck. Action inspires new thinking. Action promotes group agreement. Action helps make decisions.
Why would we NOT want more tinkering, producing, and action in our classrooms?
What else can I read about tinkering & producing?
For further reading on the subject of tinkering, have a look at these posts previously published with links to loads more ideas to bring a Producer Mindset to your classroom:
It is one of the core components of the PYP and yet it is often something teachers seem to struggle with – inspiring action in their students and helping grow authentic action from inquiries.
Thankfully, there are a lot of really great resources out there to help us in our quest to help kids take action. I have posted about a lot of these, but in light of the fact that it is “Exhibition Season” for many PYP schools, I thought I would do a little roundup of some oldies-but-goodies from the Post Archive and a new graphic that I created last week on the heels of a quick photo posted by a friend of her kids in Singapore working in their classroom.
Speak to Inspire Action
This is the title of a post and of a download by Simon Sinek with 11 “tips to help you speak and present in a way that will inspire others”. It is a great resource and is accessible to fifth graders as well. Check out the blog post about this resource.
Six Ways of Taking Action
This post was sparked by one I read by an Aussie educator, Richard Black, who had broken “action” down into six ways of being, doing, thinking, saying, feeling, and having. I took his words and turned them into a set of posters to help kids visualize what it means to take action. The post also includes links to playlists of inspirational videos for kids and teachers to get them fired up for making a difference.
I was tagged in a tweet by my friend Jocelyn, who teaches in Singapore. (Side note: Jocelyn is an amazing educator, please follow on Twitter – she is so generous in her sharing and creative and thoughtful and inspired in her teaching practice). As I flicked through the photos, I saw an action pyramid. I loved it. And I also knew I could feed my addiction to The Noun Project if I took her picture and ramped it up a bit with some iconography.
Here is the visual or here is the PDF of the Pyramid
I really like this as a conversation starter for kids. I think it breaks things down really nicely, having them look critically at what is happening, hypothesise why this might be so (and even research to make sure that is true), reflect on the impact their own actions could make, think creatively about solutions, and DO IT!
How do you build a culture of action taking at your school?