Thanks to Kim Simmons (@KmSmmns) for responding to my plea for questions and ideas to consider while on the mend from ankle surgery. I have been confined to a reclined position, toes above the nose, for nine days now. I have read many books, accomplished many tasks, and have enjoyed the birds in the apple tree outside the window.
Kim asked a number of great questions which sparked my thinking and I hope my responses help in some way. Feel free to add your own thoughts and resources in the comment box so we may take advantage of this great PLN!
Most of us (adults, teens and children) consume rather than produce digital media. Most of us are products of a factory-based school system where we sat, received data points, and regurgitated to “show” understanding. We have been trained to be consumers. Additionally, music, YouTube videos, television shows, and social media memes are very easy to digest. Our mobile technology allows us instant access anywhere. It is brain candy and we are happy to consume.
Producing media is harder, more time consuming, and takes planning. It also puts you in the spotlight. Producing and sharing work makes you vulnerable and many people are uncomfortable receiving feedback. Producing demonstrates persistence, patience, and creativity. In the end, stretching our creative chops makes us happy, always has. Creating ushers in our childlike excitement for discovery and adventure.
We can all agree that future success will depend on flexibility, problem solving, communication, and collaboration. Creative adventures will help develop those skills. So how do we leverage technology to help students, and specifically in response to Kim’s question teens, become creators of knowledge rather than simple consumers? For me it is simple, start with the student. A student-centered approach will guide us to a more personalized experience. The more personalized the learning the more personal the understanding becomes. Once there, students will have a unique and passionate message to share with others.
As Dan Ryder and Amy Burvall state in Intention: Critical creativity in the classroom, “Intention sits at the heart of critical creativity.” Any creative product should act as a window to understanding. Every decision and step is an opportunity to share knowledge.
Since it is summer, I am framing my suggestions with vacation in mind. What better time to experiment with creative endeavors than the lazy days of summer? Just telling someone to go and be creative is silly. It is funny to say but creativity needs boundaries. Just doing for doing sake is also pointless. Focusing on the passions, interests, and curiosities of the student and encouraging to share in meaningful ways adds intention to the creative work.
Take advantage of social connections
I think being creative is a social endeavor. It requires that we go out for a walk, listen to others, see contraptions, and simply hangout. Here is an idea: As friends, agree to create a DIY video for crafting a family monument in the yard. Each will do their own research, create a plan, gather the resources, and record their own DIY video. The recordings can be posted to a shared YouTube playlist. Next, each member of the group records themselves attempting to follow their friends’ DIY videos or they use the inspiration from a friend’s video to move in a new direction thus remixing the original idea.
Share a message
One great thing I have come to appreciate is that children and teen agers have a lot to say. They have great concerns and fierce wonderings about their world but they don’t always have a sounding board to share their thoughts. Technology has allowed people to amplify their voice and young people should take advantage. Is there a cause or concern that needs to be shared with others? Health care, violence, stereotypes, immigration, multicultural communities, state and local budgets, and mental health have all had their fair share of the news cycle and young people have an opinion. Maybe they seek out local experts and interview community members and hear their stories. In doing so, children develop their ability to empathize and understand other’s point of view.
As an example, A 4th grade student was deeply concerned about global warming. He did some research and gathered some powerful facts. Using Minecraft, he created his vision of what the world would look like if global warming trends go unchanged. Lastly, he created a screencast video of his world, narrating a tour of his creation and sharing his understanding with classmates, family, and friends.
Share a discovery
Create movie trailer for a favorite book. Start with a basic summary or a storyboard and plan a digital representation of that summary through acting, media, or art. Perhaps the final product is supported by music and the movie trailer can then be posted on Facebook or Twitter using hashtags to guide interaction. Friends can support one another by being cast members and they can share on social media and tag with their own personal hashtag.
It inspires and provides a creative outlet. Poetry read aloud in a setting that connects with the poem in some way, images of sidewalk illustrations set to music, stop motion animation, and musical performances are all opportunities to create.
Swap shop fun
Our small community has a swap shop nestled inside the recycling center. Others’ unwanted goods can become a maker’s treasure. Use reclaimed objects to unmake and recreate. Play with recycled materials to create a new design for a fidget spinner or whirligig. Unmake a discarded keyboard and reorder the keys to create phrases. Gather supplies and design a rocket powered by simple kitchen chemistry. All of the creations can become part of a larger project that can be shared with others.
Almost anything will work to get the creative juices flowing. The trick is to focus on the intent of the creative task. With the proper intention, the process of creating and the product itself will expresses personal understanding and interest and that will captivate an audience. Sharing the work responsibly, through social media, requires partnering with an adult. Begin with social networks already in place on a parent or teacher’s Facebook and Twitter account. Friends can also set up a G+ community to curate and share work. However, it is important to model sharing with your children.
After a summer of creating, young people will have stretched their creativity, learned a thing or two, and developed a positive digital presence (your creation of how you want to be seen on the Internet).
If any part of this post interested you I highly encourage you to explore Intention: Critical Creativity in the Classroom by Dan Ryder (@WickedDecent) and Amy Burvall (@amyburvall).