Tips to be CreativeI've been rethinking learning and see how innovations can happen. I love books and see the potential for eBooks. That is, until I learned about Richard Mason's book History of a Pleasure Seeker. Mason is a prolific author who writes his original manuscripts by hand in a journal the size of an iPad. When he saw the iPad, he visualized how his book could come to life -- not just an eBook or iBook. It took two years, but this is the way I wanted books to be. One reviewer wrote:
"The History of a Pleasure Seeker app is exactly what a book app should be! You can read or listen to the book (or both at the same time) and enjoy the little extras (extremely well produced extras, I might add) without having to put the book down."He included ways for his readers to ask him questions, paragraphs can be read to you, you can visualize text, and more. Mason is a writer and changed the way he saw how his words could be represented to his readers.
- Observe: When you are trying to come up with a new project or idea, study how others do something similar and the problems they might be having.
- Become an Expert: Focus on something you are interested in and learn as much as you can. Then share what you find.
- Step out of your Comfort Zone: Do something outside of the ordinary for you. Sign up for a class doing something you always wanted to do, read a different type of book than you are used to reading, learn a new language, go on a trip to somewhere you never thought you would go to. New experiences change your brain and might open up ideas you never thought of before.
- Be Willing to Work Alone: Sometimes working in a group and brainstorming stops the creative process. If you focus on your ideas and play with them, you just might come up with something yourself. Then share it.
- Play and Have Fun: Balance in your life is good for you. If you only work all the time, you will start resenting what you are doing. If you stop and play, you can come back refreshed and maybe have new ideas to work on.
- Daydream: It is amazing how the mind works. It doesn't stop even when you sleep. Take a nap in the middle of the day. Pause and reflect on what you have been doing. Then imagine things that are just almost impossible.
- Reflect: Keep a journal or write a blog. You never know what ideas come to you as you start reflecting on your thinking. Then share your ideas in social media. It might be interesting to see if any of your ideas are retweeted.
- Share your Ideas: If you come up with something novel, share it. Find others who will give you constructive feedback. They may give you ideas that go in a completely different direction that will make your ideas even better. You may get ideas that will not help you at all but confirm the direction you are going.
- Challenge Yourself: Sometimes you are onto something and just keep doing it because you started it. Stop! See if this direction is going to work. Maybe you need to stop and start a new project or idea and put that other idea to rest for a little to come back to later.
- Express Yourself: Take a break to sing a song, dance a dance, or draw a picture. If that doesn't get you going, then just get up and move. Go for a walk. Your brain works best if you move and stimulate both sides of your brain.
Creativity, Failure and Learning
21st Century Skills include three areas of creativity:
- Think creatively.
- Work creatively with others.
- Implement innovations.
The elements for these skills include:
View failure as an opportunity to learn; understand that creativity and innovation is a long-term, cyclical process of small successes and frequent mistakes.
Traditional school doesn't allow for people to take risks and fail. Glenn Wiebe wrote in Are You an Under-taker or a Risk-Taker?
“One of the reasons that we as teachers don’t take risks is our fear of failure. We’re afraid that our state tests scores won’t be good enough or that we’ll look silly in front of kids or that the technology won’t work or that we’ll get calls from parents or...
But we also know that failure is often a prerequisite to success. Teachers take risks because they understand that screwing up is not necessarily a bad thing. Risk-taking involves possible failure. If it didn’t, it would be called Sure Thing-taking.”
Nothing in life is a sure thing-taking. That is except the answers on a standardized test. Life is not a standardized test or we would have everything labelled A, B, C, or D. Today is so different than yesterday. Look at the economy. Who knows what's going to happen with the stockmarket? Look at jobs and unemployment. What type of jobs will be available for us in the future? Many jobs we used to offer are no longer an option. Because of that higher ed is changing or needs to change. So why am I talking about failure?
For hundreds of years, people were preparing for factory jobs. That's why schools were set up in that model. They needed to know how to follow orders and not question. Failure was NOT an option. Candidates for most jobs now need critical thinking skills and to stand out of the crowd. They need to be remarkable. The only way you can be different is to take risks, fail, and come up with new ideas. You also need to build up a network of people you can ask because the world is changing so fast. You won't find the answer in a book. You may not even find the answer online. You will need to know how to collaborate and work together as a team. Each of the team members will bounce ideas off of the other members of the team; some ideas work, some don't. You learn from things that don't work.
“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” ― Thomas A. Edison
We want our kids to be inventors, thinkers, team players, and innovators. The only way to do that is to create a learning environment that encourages failure or new ways that won't work. I believe the secret to success is failure. We need to create an environment that challenges students so they struggle with unfamiliar or difficult information. Why make it easy for someone to learn? Why is it that teachers are working harder now than ever? The students need to be the hardest working people in the room and challenged so they are excited about the topic.
When you look at children playing a game that challenges them in a good way, they are motivated. They don't win right away. They get feedback right away. What is the fun in winning right away or all the time. The fun is in challenging themselves beyond what they know. I know myself and how I am writing and taking risks to write down new thoughts. I learn from you. I learn from others. I don't have to have the right answers all the time. That's what learning is all about. Challenging yourself to change; trying new things and failing and trying again.
Here's a new challenge: The 2012 National STEM Video Game Challenge that opened today is a multi-year competition whose goal is to motivate interest in STEM learning among America’s youth by tapping into students’ natural passion for playing and making video games. Go ahead and show your students this challenge. It is open to multiple ages. They have until March 2012. Have them experiment, fail, and come up with something amazing. They will learn so much.
Immerse Yourself in VideoA new iPad app just came out, Condition ONE, that lets you change the perspective of what you are seeing in the video. You can physically control the camera’s perspective in the video by moving the events on the iPad as if you are holding the camera. This is just the beginning of what we will be seeing in the future how you will be able to make your virtual experience with technology more personal.
Condition ONE was created by photojournalist Danfung Dennis and his partners as a way to make more immersive documentaries, but the format has the potential to work for any topic or subject that is enhanced by a feeling of immersion (sports, live music, education). The app turns specially encoded video into a virtual reality experience, where the iPad becomes your window into the video that you are watching. Using the iPad’s gyroscope, as you twist your body the viewing window follows with you as if you were in control of the video’s camera. Want to see where that action is coming from? Just turn your body (with the iPad) and look.
How do you see this as an app in education?
Download Condition ONE here.
Innovation Centers for Real-World LearningI've been thinking about the promise of Innovation Centers. These are Community Learning Centers that incorporate K-12 schools, the public library, and a local university and/or community college where learning happens 24/7 with learners of all ages. These centers could be a combination of all of these places and include businesses and non-profits in the area. In some cases, community colleges and senior centers might be involved. In other cases, a preschool might be included in a project. These can also be blended versions where the place is one or all of these sites plus a virtual place to collaborate and learn. I'm going to expand on the virtual place more later.
The idea of an Innovation Center in different parts of the country means that each community can investigate local issues on a global scale. Each Center will include the latest technology and enough bandwidth to handle multiple devices per person. Each Center will be designed by the community to reflect their community. The center is open to all learners but not like a regular school.
One community might address urban gardening and how to feed more people in less space. Another community might address strategies for recycling and reducing trash. All findings will be shared among all Innovation Centers and collaboration will be encouraged.
The goal could be to push the envelope: where learning focuses on real-world projects, problems, and challenges on a global scale. Just imagine identifying a local problem in your area in the US and connect with a school in Africa or Nepal with the same problem. Common problems could be:
- Lack of clean water
- Pollution in your area
- Money managing skills
- Culture and Community
- Jobs or Entrpreneurship
Everything will be student-centered and inquiry-based. Teacher roles change. They are co-learners and co-designers with their students and are advisors for a team of learners. As advisors they are with the same learners for several years. Actually the learners are driving the design of the projects and the community. The community is a viable entity that happens anywhere and everywhere. The culture of that community transcends the design of the projects.
Learning will be personalized by personal learner profiles with support from advisors. Each learner and advisor will be encouraged to take risks, question, and use critical-thinking skills to address local problems as collaborative projects. Personal learning goals will meet Common Core Standards and address curriculum requirements of their learning plan. Individuals and teams will meet learning goals as part of each project or re-evaluate the goals as they monitor their progress towards the goal. Each learner will collect evidence of learning in an ePortfolio and share via social media, websites, mobile devices, etc. Or the evidence will be a product, a showcase, an event. This all depends on the designers of the projects -- the learners. We may even want to call them something different than learners.
I started thinking about this many years ago and then again recently when I added my idea to the Grand Challenge. If you like this idea, vote here. If you have more ideas for this challenge, please add your comment there and/or here.
I know there are great ideas and innovations out there. It's all about finding out about them so we can share and learn together.
Failure is No Longer an OptionThink of your students working at their own pace. Teachers are overwhelmed as they try to meet the needs of all their students. With our current one-size-fits-all system, many children are being left behind and dropping out.
A competency-based system means students address standards in the way that meets their needs instead of waiting to learn something when it comes up in a chapter in a textbook or when it is being taught to the whole class. Competency-based pathways are a re-engineering of our education system around learning: a re-engineering designed for success in which failure is no longer an option. Competency-based approaches build upon standard reforms, offering a new value proposition:
By aligning all of our resources (in schools, the community, and online) around student learning to enable students to progress upon mastery, our country can increase productivity in the education system, while simultaneously raising achievement levels overall and reducing the achievement gap.[Source: Competency-Based Pathways]
So a competency-based system accelerates the pace of learning based upon a student's abilities, needs, and interests, while other students may require additional support and alternative types of instruction until they master the content. The current system expects proficiency of a standard before advancement while a competency-based system monitors progress in meeting a standard. Competency-based design principles [shortened] from Competency-based Pathways:
Design Principle 1: Students Advance upon Mastery
- Students advance by demonstration of mastery, not age.
- Students are appropriately challenging.
- Students are evaluated on performance.
- Some students complete courses at different rates than others.
Design Principle 2: Explicit and Measurable Learning Objectives Empower Students
- The student and teacher relationship changes.
- Learning becomes modular.
- Learning goes beyond the classroom and can be anytime, anywhere.
Design Principle 3: Assessment Is Meaningful and a Positive Learning Experience for Students
- Schools focus on formative assessment.
- Teachers collaborate to develop understanding of what is an adequate demonstration of proficiency.
- Skills or concepts are assessed in multiple contexts and multiple ways.
- Attention on student learning, not student grades.
- Summative assessments are adaptive and timely.
Design Principle 4: Students Receive Rapid, Differentiated Support
- Students progress at their own speeds and students that are proceeding more slowly will need more help.
- Personal learning plans identify learning styles, context, and interventions that are most effective for each student.
- New specialist roles may develop to provide high quality interventions when students begin to slip behind.
- Online learning can play an invaluable role in providing feedback to teachers on how students are proceeding.
Design Principle 5: Learning Outcomes Emphasize Include Application and Creation of Knowledge
- Competencies are designed so that demonstration of mastery includes application of skills and knowledge.
- Assessment rubrics are explicit in what students must be able to know and do to progress to the next level of study.
- Examples of student work that demonstrate skills development throughout a learning continuum will help students understand their own progress.
- Lifelong learning skills designed around students needs, life experiences, and the skills needed for them to be college and career ready.
- Expanded learning opportunities are developed for students to develop and apply skills as they are earning credit.
Businesses, Universities, Community Colleges, and Technical colleges are looking at competency-based systems for career bound students and job seekers. There is a need to address and accept existing knowledge and skills people have no matter what age.
What about providing a system in K-20 for learners to challenge a course or test? This could actually be a way to move people through a competency-based system where life skills and background knowledge mean something. It will be interesting to follow innovative practices where schools take risks to address each students' needs and learning styles.
It is time to "think out of the box" where failure is not an option anymore. We cannot leave one child behind. Every child is important. This is their future and right now -- today -- isn't looking very promising for them. Schools have to change. We cannot look back anymore and say "if it was good for me, it's good for my child." That doesn't work anymore. The world is different. We tried the "one size fits all" now for a long time. We have more children left behind than ever.
Let's look at personalizing learning and competency-based system models. How about learning modules that are available when a student needs an answer or a question? How about teachers as personal learning coaches?
I am going to showcase different schools and innovation centers where the focus is on learning and meeting the needs of each student. Are you with me?
I submitted an idea for the Grand Challenge about Designing Creative Learning Environments. Check it out. Vote. Comment. Leave a comment here.
Building Community Schools to Save our ChildrenWe are educators. All of us. If one child drops out of school early, the whole community suffers.
We need to create the conditions that value all children especially our at-risk children. In Oakland, I saw how devastating the dropout rate was long ago when I was writing Digital High School grants and mentioned my concern. Young black boys were dropping out before eighth grade and it's worse now.
Today only 30% of African-American males are graduating from high school in Oakland. This is wrong. We spend more money on prisons than educating our children. This is more than wrong. We need to start early educating, mentoring, and building community to raise our children -- all children. Jean Quan, Mayor of Oakland, who was on the school board and understands the problem was on the panel of Class Action this morning (9/4/11) with Christopher Chatmon and Mitchell Kapor.
If children dropout and there are no jobs even for educated youth, what happens to these boys? Oakland Unified School District is taking action. They formed a task force called African-American Male Achievement with Chris Chatmon taking the lead. They are starting young with community schooling opening the schools and gyms with programs like Math and Science Academies. Mitchell Kapor from the Mitchell Kapor Foundation wrote...
"We will all lose if we persist in doing business as usual. Our state cannot continue to claim the mantle of innovation if we continue to ignore the human capital that exists in our communities. We cannot remain competitive in the global marketplace by investing more in filling up prison and jail cells - with disproportionately more poor people and people of color - than in creating an educated workforce."
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/05/08/ED5L1JD5MR.DTL#ixzz1X0GJpsNx
Chris Chatmon said on Class Action this morning: "The school system was not set up to meet the needs of black and brown boys. The street culture is stronger than school culture. We need a process of engaging and motivating by taking them through a value education." Jean Quan is coordinating schools and the community. One big thing is keeping the libraries open.
I love Oakland. I have worked with Oakland schools for years and saw the potential in every child. I am very excited that Oakland Unified School District has this task force and is working with the city and community leaders to make a difference in our children's lives.
Here's my take on it:
If we want to keep brown and black boys in schools and help each child reach their fullest potential, schools have to change. The schools still have top-down management issues. Doors are closed. Teachers are lecturing and teaching to the test. I walk through the halls and see kids not connecting and drifting off. They get bored and in trouble. Then it starts spiraling down. Like Chris mentioned: we need to make them co-designers of their learning so it is relevant to them. They not only need more role models, they need to find a purpose, a passion that gives them some hope that their lives will be worth something.
I see these kids. They are smart. But they are told they are not smart. We need to look at what "Smart" means. It is not how well they do on a test. We need to find different methods of assessing what they know and can do. I believe in these kids and am passionate about saving each one. I am only one person but there are more like me out there who want to help make a difference. I have seen the best teaching in Oakland and I work around the country, but teachers are caught in a bureaucratic system that keeps them from innovating. Unless there is a grant, there is no money to help build a new type of curriculum. Unless we "think out of the box", we continue with the same prescriptive curriculum that does not engage our children.
How about creating a K-12 Innovation community school in Oakland where all learning is centered around each child? Each child is part of a team similar to Finland.
Each child is with one teacher for K-3 and this community has parents, mentors, and community members part of the team for that child. Bring in a teacher education program from a local university and create teams Then another teacher can be assigned as advisor from grades 4-8 so there is consistency to monitor progress. Collect artifacts of learning and reflect via portfolios. Design new learning environments that foster creativity and inquiry. For 9-12 each teacher is an advisor for 20 students who guides them in the portfolio process and finds support in the community for internships, shadowing, interviews, building resumés and interviewing skills, and counseling on career and college readiness. Check out my post on Skills and Values Employers Want.
These are just a few ideas that can help all children and especially those at-risk.