Creativity, Design, Inspiration, Internet

Become an Enabler….of Creativity!

I have read a couple of articles recently which advocate for the development of creativity in children.

Tinkerers Unite! How Parents Enable Kids’ Creativity

This WSJ article is in favor of kids making and creating without the use of directions.  Trial and error are favored over “getting it right” and parents who support their child developing their tinkering skills, are doing them a huge favor.  One parent interviewed describes mistakes as “part of the learning process”.  Awesome. Tinkering is encouraged as it develops spatial and mental rotation abilities which are integral to geometry and engineering.  One particularly interesting piece of information:

Jim Danielson, of Arlington Heights, Ill., fell into tinkering after his mother said he couldn’t have a TV set in his bedroom. “If I build my own TV, can I have it in my room?” he asked. “They probably didn’t think I could do it, so they said yes,” he recalls.

He built a projector system for his room during his high school sophomore year, and he and his friends used it to play Nintendo 64 games. His mother didn’t let him take the creation to college, though, concerned it might be dangerous in a small dorm room.

No matter. Mr. Danielson, now 21, dropped out of college last year to accept a Thiel Fellowship—an unusual program started by Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal—which pays young innovators $100,000 to stay out of college and spend two years tinkering instead.

Our first unit next year is about Solar Energy.  Based on this information, I want to make sure I have lots of tools and materials that will lend themselves to tinkering with less emphasis on ‘package’ solar energy kits and more on guided discoveries through tinkering. This made me think back to developmental time in New Zealand schools where children are given the option to tinker to their hearts content.  In light of the recent visit of Sal Khan to Boise, I would like to see our school move toward science/math oriented guided tinkering sessions that cross grade levels.  This could also be extended into Family Math and Science nights where teachers, parents, kids all gather together to tinker.  Sound fun to me!

Encouraging passionate learners … even when it’s not your thing

This post was written by Amanda Morgan of Not Just Cute.  The premise of the article is that passion and creativity should be encouraged and supported even when the same passion is not matched by the parent or teacher.  Kids who love worms, toads, dirt….whatever, should be encouraged in the following ways in order to promote self-directed, engaged learning – the opposite of which may be educational apathy:

  • give attention: listen to your child or find someone (aunty, grandpa, friend) who will
  • give supplies: buckets, magnifying glasses, collection containers, art supplies…anything that supports their passion
  • give space: an area for writing, collections, wiggly ‘friends’ or art works

When I think back to our recent Exhibition unit, and I think about how engaged our students were when they were paired with mentors or found community members that shared their passion, I know this to be true.  Seeing first-hand how kids respond when they have someone who really is genuinely interested in what they are passionate about is integral to the learning process.

I then found this website that would support the sharing of the creative process:

DIY – A Website to Share Your Creative Tinkering! 

DIY is an online community for kids. We give kids tools to collect everything they make as they grow up and a place to share it.

We’ve all seen how kids can be like little MacGyvers. They’re able to take anything apart, recycle what you’ve thrown away — or if they’re Caine, build their own cardboard arcade. This is play, but it’s also creativity and it’s a valuable skill.

Our idea is to encourage it by giving kids a place online to show it off, so family, friends and grandparents can see it and easily respond. Recognition makes a kid feel great, and motivates them to keep going. We want them to keep making, and by doing so learn new skills, use technology constructively, begin a lifelong adventure of curiosity, and hopefully spend time offline, too.

– DIY Blog

This looks like a very cool place for kids to share ideas with kids and be inspired by each other. Again, despite the somewhat ‘childish’ looking forum, I would really like to use this as a forum for my little solar tinkerers to share their work, get feedback and be inspired to create more.  What do you think? Take a look at the user interface and the feedback the site has already received:

Innovation, Inspiration, Internet, Leadership

Follow Your Passion – If Tony can, so can you!

My motto, even though I never really said it, is “Follow Your Passion”.

-Tony Hawk

Even though our “Passions” unit has just come to an end, I am still eagerly gathering examples for next fall of what it means to follow your passion.  In this short video clip, Tony Hawk describes what it means to him to follow his passion.  He encourages us to embrace every part of our passion – even the parts we might not have thought were our passion when we began.  He cites the example of learning about the cut and sew clothing industry which is integral to his branding and merchandising, and nothing he ever thought he would be found spending his time on but it is something that has really helped him gain a fuller understanding of what he does, how best to do it and how it all works together.

I sent a survey out to our fifth grade parents to get their feedback on our Exhibition unit.  The final question asked:

Would you be interested in being part of a parent exhibition group that will start in the Fall? We will be meeting as a group to share our passions, check in and support each other, set goals, keep each other accountable and share in the journey together?

So far, of the six replies, four people are interested in more information about this group.  I love that!  My goal is to use this group of parents as a mentor group to the fifth graders when they begin their Exhibition in the Spring next year.  We will be using Seth Godin’s “Ship It” as our guide OR Zig Ziglar’s Pick Four.  I want the parents to try out one or both of these tools to see which one works best for them and so I can offer my students the same degree of choice next year.  I also hope that the parents will gain an appreciation for the inquiry process and a better understanding of what their child goes through on a daily basis as a student of an inquiry based curriculum.

I am excited to see parents interested in taking this leap.  I am excited to take the leap along with them.  Most of all, I am excited that together, we just might make school different.

  • What do you do in your school to build parent/teacher/student relationships?
  • How do you involve your parents as partners?
  • How often do you allow kids to see parents as teachers?
  • How often do you as a teacher, learn alongside your kids?

For more information and a download of Ship It in PDF format:

The ShipIt Journal, now in free PDF format

Free to print, free to share. Don’t sell or modify.Here’s the thing: If all you do is read this on the screen, IT WON’T WORK.I use all caps with care here. IT WILL NOT WORK.You need to print it and write in it.  Good luck. Go ship. Make something happen.

Download TheShipItJournal

If you do not live in Boise, but would be interested in being part of our Passion Group via long distance learning,we would love to have you join us!  Please contact me for more information or leave a comment below! 

21st Century, Inspiration, Internet

Light Your Beacon!

I arrived home from what has arguably been one of the worst weeks at school (nothing to do with my gorgeous kids or my fabulous parents) to find a package on my doorstep.  I took the package and my dog and together we sat in the Boise sunshine and read our new book:  Freedom Is Blogging In Your Underwear by Hugh MacLeod.  It is brilliant.

First of all, superficially some might say, it is physically enticing (I am now imagining Hugh saying “Much like the author” – funny) but it is – an almost square hardcover, great dust jacket, not too many words on a page and a smattering of cartoons throughout.  It also is endorsed by Seth Godin.  What else could you want in a book?

Beyond aesthetics, the book is still brilliant.  It isn’t going to take you hours to read it (or even an hour, actually)  but it will be a book you come back to as you explore the idea of blogging and what it means to you.

I am new to Hugh’s work having followed his cartoons at Gaping Void for only a few months.  A quick search around the web has this book getting lukewarm reviews from some of his ‘biggest fans’ due to the brevity of his message and the punch that it doesn’t pack.

I however, love that some of the best points I picked up are in his cartoons.  He began as someone who doodled on the back of business cards and to have some of these business card-esque doodles interspersed throughout the book, really worked for me.  It also helped that they just seemed timely and almost like Hugh had planned for me to find them on that sunny Friday:

Perfection.

Here are the main things I got out of this book:

  • we all have the means to put ourselves “out there” without waiting for permission to do so
  • in doing just that, we should focus on what it is we want to say – knowing our BS can now be spotted with a few quick keystrokes
  • our ‘stuff’ should be good – whatever it is, make sure it is worth your own time making it
  • trying to separate your online and offline life is foolish – it is all “life” and the same rules apply: be productive, useful, kind and give back when you take what others share generously with you

 

The book concludes with a call to be a Beacon – a light to others, a navigational signal that guides you when you are lost.  One of MacLeod’s beacons is Austin Kleon (love!) and by the tone of voice and message and overall war-cry to action that resonates throughout the book, I would imagine Seth Godin is a beacon too (the endorsement from Seth on the back cover and the reference to him inside the book also helped with this conclusion).

It made me think about who my beacons were in my workplace or in my ‘circle’ of people – those people that make you want to be a better teacher, writer, story-teller, innovator and educator.  I also thought about my kids at school and the type of beacon I am to them.

As we head into our final full week of work before the Exhibition next Monday, I am reflecting on the last 7-8 weeks and the more I do, the more I realize how important it was to place beacons along the path for our kids in the form of people who helped us along the way.  Part of being a good teacher is knowing when to outsource and how to facilitate the involvement of other people. Without the enriching experiencing of having beacons along our journey, I know it would not have been as rewarding and meaningful of an experience as it was.  I know a lot of other people focus on the ‘freedom’ aspect of this book, but for me, the beacons really stood out (no pun intended) as being something worth taking note of.

Who are your beacons?

 

Who are you a beacon to?