If newer technologies can foster creativity in students then educators must seriously think about how they can incorporate them into their classroom teaching strategies.
Creativity in the classroom. If you ask the vast majority of students about any links the two might have, there’s a high chance you’ll be met with a sea of blank looks. The unfortunate truth is that, by and large, students view the classroom as a place where they are forced to learn via long-established teaching methods. By comparison, the outside world must seem like a playground of self-expression and creativity. If this imbalance isn’t a cause for concern among educators, it should be.
When students don’t feel engaged, their education suffers. Dropout rates increase, test and project scores dip, and – worst of all – learning becomes synonymous with boredom. (This was something we touched on in a recent blog post on a study that found that more than half of students in the US felt “bored” at school.) This may be harmful in the short term; in the long term, it would almost certainly be catastrophic.
The Power of Creativity in the Classroom
When properly channelled, creativity in the classroom is like a magic bullet for boredom. It is kinetic and energizing. It makes students more adaptable – a vital quality in a world that is evolving so rapidly and in so many ways.
Technology supports creativity in the classroom because it is a medium that requires interaction, unlike the one-way participation of an activity such as watching TV. When used correctly, technology is a platform that allows students to engage in meaningful creative activities and explore their own potential. It lets them learn through curiosity, collaboration, and critical thinking.
One of the criticisms that’s been aimed at the use of technology in schools, however, is that it is being used solely to prepare users to enter the tech workforce by corralling them into STEM-related subjects. Many educators would strongly disagree with such an assessment. Aaron Vanderwerff, Creativity Lab and Science Director at Lighthouse Community Charter School, is one of them.
In a recent interview with KQED News, Vanderwerff said that while tech can really help students with STEM subjects:
“Our goal is not to create more scientists and engineers. It’s to leave doors open for kids.”
Vanderwerff is also convinced that with the right application, technology can also bring out the creative side of students who may not have access to devices and programs at home:
“I would much rather push for this kind of curriculum in schools serving low-income communities than in other schools because I think it will help students to gain their own voice, and a lot of the kind of character-building aspects that are intrinsic in this, but also to be exposed to new possibilities for the future.”
Too Much Information?
Of course, not all that glitters is gold. Introducing technology into classrooms will not suddenly produce a hive of creative activity all by itself. Indeed, without guidance, technology is just as likely to confound and confuse students as cold fusion science is.
Why? Because technology is a doorway to an ever-expanding universe of information. And I say that without a hint of exaggeration.
For example, according to the business intelligence company DOMO, each minute there are an average of:
- 571 new websites created
- 277,000 tweets
- 72 hours of video uploaded to Youtube
- 4 million Google searches
- 347 new blog posts (on WordPress alone)
If you’re an educator, these facts are probably enough to increase your heart rate or make you squirm uncomfortably in your seat – surely letting students loose on a duck hunt through cyberspace is bound to end in total disaster? Misuse of information, plagiarism, misunderstanding, irrelevance and downright distraction are just some of the concerns and objections that teachers may have.
And they are well-founded. In a world that abounds with information, the tendency of the modern brain is to filter out unnecessary noise so we can actually concentrate on what is important to us.
But what exactly is important to schoolgoers? Is there a chance that students are feeling “tired” and “bored” because they are overwhelmed by information and, as a result, are disengaging even from classroom learning?
The big worry from a tech advocate’s perspective is that classrooms that do not embrace technology in some way are holding students back by preparing them for a world that is no longer in sync with modern-day realities. Ignoring technology will not make it go away – it only risks further dislocating students from educational practices.
Therefore surely one of the key tasks of educators is to help students critically evaluate online content and distinguish what is credible from what isn’t. Students will only be able to source quality information if they learn to be more discerning web users. They must learn to cross-check information in an online environment as well as in an offline one. Such efforts promote individual research, digital responsibility, critical evaluation and web navigation skills. They leave students better prepared for the future.
Learning technologies and creative thinking activities
Creativity in the classroom is a relatively new area of discussion. But this newness gives teachers and students an opportunity to do something exciting with learning – experiment.
In an era of views, likes, shares, comments, retweets and all the rest, social interactions offer a clear way of giving students a sense of their content’s worth in the eyes of their peers. As a result, they can also be used to drive students’ motivation to create high-quality work that will be of value to others. But individual glory needn’t be the end game for students. True exploration involves cooperation too as learners discuss and share ideas with one another. Technology can allow educators and students to easily create Study Groups that are perfect for these kinds of exchanges as they provide a space for challenging one another’s ideas intelligently and constructively.
Have you ever tried to explain a concept or idea through words alone and found that you just couldn’t put the right sequence together to unlock a full understanding in the listener? I have. All too often. However, with Mind Maps teachers can be spared this frustration as they provide an extremely easy and effective way of illustrating the key themes or concepts of a particular topic. Mind Mapping tools can boost student creativity in the classroom as they provide them with different ways to interconnect their thoughts, thereby challenging them to visualize as they seek to find new correlations. The beauty of this is that once they have created a Mind Map, teachers have a visual representation of how a student thinks and how well they understand a topic.
Essays and tests are the two prevailing means of testing student engagement and aptitude. But routine can breed complacency (or worse, as Paulo Coelho once wrote: “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine – it is lethal”). You can keep your students engaged by challenging them to produce assignments in a variety of formats.
For instance, Slide Sets allow them to insert text, which they can then support by adding a variety of media – images, videos, links, embedded resources, and more. This encourages flexibility and lateral thinking in students as they consider which content type would best support their main points. In addition, the multimedia nature of Slides encourages students to continue to develop their digital literacy skills.
Quizzes are like the age-old gold-standard for quickly gauging a student’s knowledge on various subject areas. But online Quiz tools allow for so much more than a simple written question-and-answer-type procedure. Use a blend of multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, dropdown, and true or false questions. Or make your quiz even more engaging by basing it on visuals alone. (See how you can do this here.)
Leaving the shore
It is understandable that teachers may be hesitant when it comes to incorporating new learning technologies and creativity in the classroom, but to resist them is the close the door on a hugely valuable opportunity to promote student engagement through creativity.
As the great French author André Gide – whose own work explored notions of freedom and individual empowerment – once wrote: “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
At GoConqr, we make it easy to create and distribute engaging learning content to enhance creativity in the classroom. If you have any questions or are interested in some of the tools we have mentioned, do not hesitate to contact our team.