Monday, June 28, 2010

#ISTE Session on Classrom Creativity

I attended the Creativity in the Classroom presented by @GaryStager. I like to think of myself as a creative person. I can't draw beyond stick figures, but I like to create. I went into teaching because it allowed me to create lessons and projects. That freedom is something I cherish and worry about as my school, and others, continue to move more and more toward standardized lessons and curriculum. These are a few ideas that stood out to me and my thoughts on them. You can find more information on Gary's site here

Can we ask and expect more from children?

I know that sometimes I'm guilty of setting the bar too low for students at times. I focus on my desire to see them do well instead of forcing them to grow and possibly fail. I think it's ok to challenge students because they can achieve almost anything we put in front of them. We have to be ok to allow students to fail, as long as we don't set them up to fail. It's time that we ask more of our students because if we don't, who will?

Is a quiet child an engaged child?

Raise your hand if you have given quiet time to students and assumed they were on task with their work. As I put my hand down to continue to type this post, I'm guessing many others had their hand raised as well. Don't get me wrong, there is some benefit to allowing kids to have time to work on time, but how does being quiet equal engagement? Creation is a loud process. I talk aloud. @Tgwynn is looking at me from time to time because I speak out loud while typing sometimes. Let the kids talk! Let them move around. Let them write on the board. If a teacher has solid classroom management skills, there should never be a problem allowing kids to be noisy while being engaged. I'm kicking myself over all of the times I've told kids to quiet down as they worked in groups creating projects. Having a quiet kid is not the answer to engagement. Plus, I was usually up to no good when I was too quiet.

Making things is better than being passive.

Duh! We learn when we create. We learn when we attempt to create and fail. Sitting and listening to the teacher is not helping anyone. Allow the students to be active participants in the learning. Let them create a lesson. Let them design their project or essay rubric. Let them be a stakeholder in their learning.

Creativity 2.0 takes time.

The curriculum in some schools is so jammed pack, we are at a rush to hit them with everything and hope that something sticks. True learning happens when students are allowed to emerse themselves in the content. Some of my best results from students came when I allowed them weeks to create their project and present it. I saw growth. I saw learning. It took time, but the kids walked away with memories and new knowledge.

Creativity requires teacher autonomy.

Hey admins, get off our backs! You hired us because you thought we were the best person for the job, so let us do our job. I fear that there will be a day that districts will start handing out approved lessn plans to assure that everyone teaches the exact same thing the exact same way so test scores will be great. I love the freedom to create. Why do we want to take that gift away from students?

All media creation mirrors the writing process.

OMG! Yes it does! I never ever thought of it that way. As an English teacher I should have seen this. This means there is no excuse not to work with media creation in any class. The writing process is important and can be used as a way to help those students who might think they are not creative. We stress the writing process to their kids as an important skill to have for college. Isn't Media Creation just as important to students as they head off to college and the job market? It really is time to start looking at what we do as teachers and see how they apply to the new media out there. We don't need to change everything, but maybe we need to tweak what we have.

Creativity is so important in the world of education and the world in general. We cannot stifle our students creativity. We need to allow them to feel like it's ok to create and be different. I would hate to create a group of students that will end up being stagnant thinkers or creators. We need them to create the net great change. We have to encourage this thinking to make the world a better place. That might seem a bit sappy, but I feel that is my job and I'm starting to today. Old lesson plans look out, you are about to get a dose of creativity Nerdy Teacher style!



  1. Right on! I, too, feel that if they are not conversing (aka loud) then learning is not happening. It is amusing to me how many colleagues make it a point to walk in to my room & think they are complimenting when they say "oh it's so quiet in here". (mind you can't hear my students down the hallway)Yet, I agree that there does need to be some quiet time. Time for children to do something alone.

    Many schools are already working towards that cookie cutter model of teaching that you spoke about. They call it Professional Learning Communities. I call it administrators teaching to the middle of their teachers to teach to the middle of their students. However, I can understand where they are coming from; thinking that if they group a few teachers together, the creativity of one will be absorbed by the rest thus creating a full staff of outside the box teachers. But in actuality, what happens, is that the most creative teachers get burnt out sharing their creativity with their colleagues, who do not understand. They also get burnt out because these teachers do not have other out - of - box thinkers to converse with.

  2. Getting lots of resonance from your post. I'm a librarian and I dislike a quiet library (not all the time, anyway). When the kids are creating, I like to hear the sound of the incubating ideas. Not everyone at the school likes it, but mostly everyone understands it. I'm lucky enough to have an administrator who understands. I had an observation recently where we were doing podcasts, and the kids were insane with noise, but they were also accomplishing a lot. I was a bit worried about what the observation would say. It came back as "there's a lot of noise - but the kids are loving it and it seems to work." This administrator has read "Disrupting Class" - a book I have yet to read, but I will.

  3. Great Post. I too feel the tug to tell students to quiet down but feel guilty because I know the noise is creation and collaboration. Fortunately, my district stays off my back and allows me to be creative. Unfortunately, an overhead is the only staple "technology" in my classroom because money is being allocated elsewhere. I'm a 7th grade language arts teacher and look forward to hearing some of your creative ideas.
    I'm @zgporter.

  4. I agree with most of what you said but this: creation is a loud process. Because that's true for you doesn't make it universally true.

    For those on the introversion side of the extraversion scale, about 25-30% of the population, creation (and thought) is best done internally. To an introvert, listening to an extravert think out loud is annoying. As an oppressed (or at least outshouted) minority, introverts are sometimes chided for holding back or not participating when in fact they need quiet time to figure out what they think.

    Speaking (quietly) for myself and 2 billion other introverts, let me suggest that one size doesn't fit all.: -)

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  6. Great post. Too often we feel under pressure to conform - last week even my daughter, who was visiting my class, commented on how quiet the class next door was compared to mine. I don't know why that makes me feel guilty sometimes, but when I really look around the "noise" is "learning noise" not disruption. A silent classroom is pretty boring!

  7. Great post. I wonder why teachers think classrooms should be quiet. Kids need to construct meaning by talking things through, just like we do! I went to a workshop recently where the presenter gave a 5 minutes break every now and again when he was talking, for participants to chat and discuss.

  8. "Creation is a loud process" For your consideration, I give you. Isaac Newton and his apple moment, Albert Einstein in so many endeavors, Robert Goddard and his The Cherry Tree Dream.


  9. Here by way of a tweet. :)

    I agree for the most part with your list. However, I take issue with your question re: quiet engagement. As a child *and* as an adult, I am at my most productive and engaged best when I am quiet and isolated from others. So, I don't agree that loud and raucous are default indicators that there is something good and positive going on. Perhaps that is the song being sung in the teaching world at the moment, but, I respectfully disagree with this one.

  10. Different kids have different needs. I have always studied best with absolute silence. I need thinking time before I can (optimally) engage in discussions. Creativity will look different depending on the child. A thought process or auditory presentation may be creative but are harder to "see" in the classroom.


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