Creativity in the classroom. We want to see that happen, but sometimes it may feel like curricular benchmarks don’t allow the time for that. Sometimes we may think we need to be creative or that creativity itself needs to be taught. Creativity is one of the 4 C’s, the four skills determined as most important to prepare students for our global society by the Partnership for 21st Century Learning and the NEA. It’s a part of our Vision for Digital Learning. That doesn’t mean that we need to be the creative masterminds; we merely need to allow the opportunity and use of the tools which bring out the creativity in our students.
Sir Ken Robinson takes the position that we “teach for creativity.” He says that “the minute you get people to think visually—to draw pictures or move rather than sit and write bullet points—something different happens in the room. Breaking them up so they aren't sitting at the same desk and getting them to work with people they wouldn't normally sit with creates a different type of dynamic” (Azzam). He proposes that we encourage experimentation and innovation, that we don’t provide the answers, but rather provide our students with the tools to investigate and demonstrate their learning.
We have digital tools in our classrooms, in our hands, to help reimagine learning experiences. These tools are the perfect facilitators for encouraging creation, collaboration, innovation and the means for demonstrating understanding.
The digital world is a fast-paced world that our students often navigate more fluidly than we do. How do we keep up with our students and what they’re exploring while protecting ourselves? Here are some ideas:
e-Hallpass is an electronic hall pass system that allows us to continually monitor our students whenever they leave our classrooms. No more writing out passes on scraps of paper or Post-It notes. "Pin" students out of class from their iPads, their phones, your iPad or your desktop. Use your normal classroom policies regarding when a student can leave the room; students may generate a pass, but it's your decision if they can leave. When it's appropriate for them to leave, they generate the pass, you pin or approve it. Their pass changes color depending on its state: waiting, approved, or complete. The visual is great! Is the student just going to the bathroom or getting a drink? Have them leave their device on the chalk rail, on your desk, or somewhere else visible - you know they're still out while it's sitting there.
Visit this link for additional information and a pass creation video.
Interested in a tool that provides for easy, instant communication with students and parents? Try Remind! Remind is a cross-platform tool designed for education. It allows you to send messages to your students or parents that can be accessed via web, iPad and phone (Android or iPhone). Use it for class or club. Remind provides for so many communication options. You can chat with students and parents. Send direct messages, images, voice files, attachments and links. Remind students of upcoming due dates. Update parents on class happenings. Send quick positive notes. Students can message you with questions regarding assignments. You can even set your availability so you don't have to answer questions at odd hours.
Are you ever lacking tasks for your TA to do? Consider having your TA be your Digital Assistant as well! Have your TA be the one to try out a digital tool, desktop or iPad, and see if it meets your instructional needs. Perhaps your TA can transfer an activity or quiz into an app like Socrative for you. Maybe your TA can take pictures of an assignment and upload it into Showbie. Have your TA truly be that Teaching Assistant and help your students with the digital aspects of your activities so that you are free to focus on content.
Now’s the time to start recruiting those students who can help serve you in these capacities. Want your Digital Learning Coach to help train them? Just ask!
Using a Green Screen to Demonstrate Learning
We have so many ways for students to demonstrate learning. Often we ask them to present their understanding using tools such as PowerPoint, Prezi, posters, or other 3-D visuals. Students may have even started creating movies using their iPads and iMovie. Now we can add another tool to our box, the green screen app.
By using a green screen app, one can place their subjects into virtual backgrounds, animate digital backdrops, or transport them to another place and time. You can even shrink or grow the subject or make it fly.
Green screen photography and videos have so many possibilities for the classroom! Here are just some possibilities:
Green Screen by Do Ink is a green screen app to add to your toolbox. Are you interested in seeing how it is working in the classroom? Check out Do Ink's Twitter feed!
Taking Instruction out of the Textbook
It’s Friday afternoon, a time when so many students (and some of us) are counting down to the weekend. Keeping students engaged is often a challenge. Jeff's Algebra 2 classes were working on the Law of Cosines on just such a day. In this case, however, they weren’t counting down the moments until the weekend. They were engaged and having fun and so was he!
Jeff had the students take their practice out of the textbook and into the building. He challenged his students to find or create angles that couldn’t easily be measured. The students then took pictures of those angles, imported them to Notability, and solved their problems by writing on the pictures themselves. “What is great about this activity with iPads, is students can write all over the picture and see what the sides of the triangle actually represent.”
His students were being creative, and innovative with their thinking and problem solving. They collaborated in groups to demonstrate their learning. What a great example of our vision!
“The vision for digital learning at Pine Creek High School is focused on students as learners and teachers as their partners in the learning process. Here we use digital tools to create products, innovate design, collaborate with others inside and out of the classroom, and demonstrate learning. Our learners will be globally connected creators, communicators, collaborators, contributors, and constructivists.”
Students use Sphero Balls to Develop their Programming Skills
Did you find yourself watching small white balls rolling around the hallways a couple of weeks ago? Well, one of Denise's programming classes was responsible for that. Using the Sphero app and an iPhone or iPad, students collaborated in small groups to program those balls to light up and roll around the hallways. The goal was to race each other’s Sphero Balls around the hallways. Races, competition - how much fun is that?! Add in creativity, innovation, collaboration and a fun way to demonstrate learning and everyone wins! That’s not where the learning ended with this project, however, but only the first steps. After establishing those foundational skills, the class moved on to programming their own retro-style games on desktop computers.
Digital learning takes many forms throughout our school. Students and teachers are partnering to create, innovate, collaborate and demonstrate learning. Share your stories with each other (and with me). Talk in the pods. Visit each other’s classrooms. There are so many amazing things being done with our students and Denise’s example is just one. Let’s celebrate these moments!
Partnering to Create Stories and a Wonderful Experience
“Here we use digital tools to create products, innovate design, collaborate with others inside and out of the classroom, and demonstrate learning.” That’s part of our Vision for Digital Learning at Pine Creek and it’s wonderful when we can see that in action.
Linda is currently partnering her ASL 3 class with a 1st and 2nd grade class from The School for the Deaf and Blind. In small groups, her students are writing stories using the app called Book Creator. When finished writing their stories, the 1st and 2nd graders will then illustrate them. The final product comes to life as the ASL students learn to sign their stories to the 1st and 2nd graders. How wonderful is that!
Her students are creating physical and signed products; they are innovating the design of their final product; they are collaborating with others inside and out of the classroom; and, they are demonstrating their learning.
There are many classroom stories to tell; too many for this medium. Share your stories with each other (and with me). Talk in the pods. Visit each other’s classrooms. There are so many amazing things being done with our students. Let’s celebrate these moments!
Using Showbie and Skype to manage missed class time
It happens to all of us - sometimes we can’t be in class. Maybe we’re ill, maybe it’s our children, maybe we’re at a conference or meeting. Luci has figured a way to keep students on track in those situations. She uses Showbie to post assignments when she’s gone. With Showbie, assignments can be uploaded from home and guest teachers need only to ask students to login and begin. Assignments can include documents, links, and images. Directions can be in written or oral form (or both). Assignments can be completed directly in Showbie or uploaded from Google Drive or the camera (video). There are so many possibilities!
Most of the time, however, it’s our students that are missing class. Linda has managed this by having students Skype into class. She had an injured student Skype in from home to watch presentations and answer follow-up questions - she didn’t miss a beat! She has also has an ill student Skype in during group work. When the students break out into groups, this student participates via Skype on the iPad. How awesome is that?!
Who knows? Maybe one day, with the use of practices such as these, we won’t have to worry about snow days and losing instructional minutes.
I am a Digital Learning Coach by title, but lifelong learner by practice. An Apple Teacher, Google Certified Educator and Microsoft Innovative Educator, my goal is to assist educators in investigating, exploring, and investigating resources to embed in their instruction. I also hope to be a part of their journey toward an innovative and transformative practice that empowers learners and strengthens their own craftsmanship. I spends my free time with my family, my dogs and a good cup of coffee.