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Creativity and Learning!

This evening at our College’s latest ICT SIT (School Improvement Team) meeting we viewed Sir Ken’s 2006 TED talk on “How School’s Kill Creativity”. My colleague Michelle and I spoke about how there are some school settings out there giving their students 20% time, or ‘genius hour’ time to work on creative based projects of their choosing.

The notion of doing this is based on Google giving their employees 20% of their working week off, one day effectively, to work on company based projects of their choice that could add to Google’s offerings! A wonderful concept that fosters heavily on creativity and innovation. 2 things that we want our students to be aware of, and to attempt, as often as they can.

2 great local examples of this are from two fantastic teachers in Anthony Speranza and Narissa Leung, both educators in Melbourne. Their blog posts and online resources about what they are doing with their students is amazing and is certainly something I encourage not only our own staff to take up but are great for anyone wanting to ‘release’ their students to showcase what they are capable of!

What i really enjoyed reading was the way that both teachers went about integrating this and guidelines that they put in to place.This gave this idea I feel a greater purpose and meaning for the students as it guides their thinking to be more creative. This is evident in Narissa’s first project guideline where “Students had to learn something new while doing the project- it wasn’t enough to simply regurgitate information they already knew.” 

Reflecting on Sir Ken’s TED talk which i’ve seen several times now, he promotes a lot of thought provoking ideas and discussion points on the notion of innovation and creativity versus academic ability. The idea that the public education system does not cater for learners who have a need and drive for the creative. That schools are based on their academic success and results and it is this reason that our young learners grow to loose their creative ability.

As teachers and educators we need to ensure that we let all of our students have the chance to play to their strengths. That we do not simply rely on academic ability to judge how successful our students will be.

What do these 5 have in common…

  • Thomas Edison – Inventor
  • James Cameron – Director
  • Walt Disney – Animator
  • Mark Zuckerburg – Facebook Founder

and of course…

  • Steve Jobs – Apple Founder

They all are school dropouts. Oh, and all are known for their creativity and innovation in their respected fields.

The more we can encourage our students to be creative and showcase their skills and innovative capabilities the greater learning I feel we will see. By encouraging our students to think outside the box and move away from the norm is certainly something that needs to take place. The days of producing kids in the education system who are only academically driven are fast, if not already, becoming something of the past. Skills needed to be successful in the 21st century rely more not on reading, writing and numeracy, but on the ability for workers to be more technologically minded and globally connected.

The image below showcases 10 key skills and 6 key drivers our students will need by the year 2020. This has been developed by the ‘Institute for the Future‘ who have focused this work on future work skills, not future jobs. These skills being ones that are transferable across a range of jobs and work situations, all of which will aid workers to be successful in their chosen fields.

Click to Enlarge…

I seem to have gone off on some sort of tangent here however… there is a point! 😉

That point being creativity needs to have a greater focus placed upon it in our education system and i feel that in most cases that the buck stops with the teacher. We need to step back, make room and space, and give our kids time to showcase and demonstrate what they can do, and the notion of ‘Genius Hour’ and or ‘20% Time’ is one great way in which we can assist in making the above happen.

For more information on what both Narissa and Anthony have been up to please head to their respective blogs.

Narissa’s Blog – Teaching in the Big Wired World and her post titled – ‘Putting the G in ‘Genius

Anthony’s Class Blog – Year 5/6 @ St.Marks Primary School and his post titled ‘The Genius Hour!

Anthony’s Personal Blog – ReconfigurEd If you scroll down you’ll find a number of posts related to his Genius Hour exploits as well as presentations that he has completed on this topic.
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Continuing w/ Second Life!

This morning i continued my quest with my Yr 9 students in using Second Life, or SL, for their learning. I can honestly say the work that the students are producing is outstanding and as their teacher i was very impressed with their work ethic today.

Recently we’ve been using SL as a means to learn and engage with what Paris, the place, not Hilton, would have looked like in 1900. As you may have read from the following Blog Post, students have been accessing the ‘Paris1900’ island in SL, which has been created to demonstrate what Paris would have been like throughout this time.

Students have been walking, flying and even driving around the Island and viewing all of the famous Parisian landmarks that are available to them. Examples of these include the Eiffel Tower, Le Arc de Triomphe, The Moulin Rouge, and the Notre Dame.

Students have also been blogging about using SL themselves and what they have found so far about being in an accessing a Virtual World.

Once the students have completed their tasks i will be sure to share them with you!

I have also attached a SL Task that students were also asked to complete explaining the issues associated via living in a real world to that compared of a virtual one and the effects that using Virtual Worlds can have on unsuspecting people.

Virtual v Real

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A Second Life…

So… I thought that i’d attempt to teach using the online Virtual World/s of Second Life, or SL, with a group of keen Yr 9 students. Great idea at the time, and i am pleased to report, after 3 lessons i finally have things on track, up and running and moving along nicely!

I first caught wind of using Second Life a means of engagement and as a valuable teaching tool at the recent DEECD Innovations Showcase where i spoke to a representative from HTVA (History Teachers Association of Victoria), who were looking at creating Islands/destinations that had a strong history focus.

From accessing this place in SL, students could explore and learn about all things history and although the details i was given about this were a little sketchy, i believed that it was a great idea. I had also heard of Deakin University in Geelong, Victoria using SL with their Arts students to enhance their learning whilst away from actually attending the University itself.

Me, just having a fly around Le' Eiffel Tower!

Me, just having a fly around Le' Eiffel Tower!

The first hurdle that i encountered was actually getting myself and my students to access the SL Software and Servers. Our net provider had placed a block on SL for particular reasons, and with a change here and a change there of certain settings from the fabulous Tech’s that i work with, all began to work quite fluently.

The students were asked to create their own free accounts, which they did very easily, and then choose their avatar. What we have found with choosing your avatar is that you can change it to look like pretty much anything you want. Some of my students are assembling Angels, others Demons, some have heads of a rabbit and others have no legs! Quite bizarre but fun and engaging at the same time!

I went in, as did the students, the show was not on though. Maybe a good thing!

I went in, as did the students, the show was not on though. Maybe a good thing!

Once i’d pushed out the software to all my students via ARD (Apple Remote Desktop), which saved each student downloading the software individually, they all logged in for the first time and off they went! The first destination that students visit, (as do all SL users), is what is known as Orientation Island. A place that teachers use for learning the basics of SL, such as getting around by walking, flying and teleporting, looking at objects and zooming in, as well as many other simple, yet imperative to know facets of the program.

Now, having access to this great software and program is one thing, but obviously i needed an authentic purpose for it. A Teaching and Learning plan that would enrich my students some way, shape or form. I had originally designed the unit or discovery (as we call them), an Inquiry based teaching unit focusing on the Humanities area of our Curriculum, these being Geography, Economics and History.

Visiting the Notre' Dame!

Visiting the Notre' Dame!

So, now let me explain what i have done with my students so far…

The first session (lasting 2hrs), involved an in-depth discussion about the need to be extra careful and vigilant when participating online in Virtual Worlds. That there is a very strong possibility that people are not who they say they are and this can lead to all sorts of dramas.

We viewed parts of a documentary titled ‘TallHotBlond’ (i had cut this film down to edit out the parts that were inappropriate as there were a few…). This Doc told the story of a murder that occurred in the US several years ago due to lies online and people pretending to be not who they said they were! This prompted outstanding discussion and dare i say was a wake up call for several of the more ‘that won’t happen to me’ students!

We conducted several mind mapping exercises about being safe online and the respect that needs to be given to the software/program being used as well as the other users.

During week 2 we looked at alternatives to SL, as by this stage we were still having issues accessing the program due the filters in place. Several students suggested RuneScape and World of Warcraft. Both great online Virtual Worlds/MMORPG, but perhaps not designed for the purpose that i was after. The students investigated just how using such online tools could benefit their learning. They discussed and mentioned that it appeared to be an excellent learning tool (if we could get it to work), and something they were keen to try.

Once again we brainstormed and discussed just how we could go about using it for an authentic purpose and lots of great things were discussed, and some… not so great. Towards the end of the session we’d/they (the tech;s) managed to get it up and running and we then pushed out the software to the students ready for the week 3, which was yesterday!

So… yesterday i had developed a mini lesson that i asked my students to complete and then set them off on their first assessment task using SL as a means to engage and assist their learning! I have begun to find several great resources that will compliment what it is i would like to do with my students. These i have attached below.

I wont go in to what yesterday’s session involved, i’ll leave the following two documents to do the talking! I’ll be sure to keep you posted on the SL happening of MLC!

Week 3 Tasks; SL 1Paris 1900

SL Teaching Resources:

http://secondlife.com/destination/paris-1900

http://zoomlab.org/wiki/index.php?title=Kids_Connect_Second_Life_Activities

http://www.simteach.com/wiki/index.php?title=Second_Life_Education_Wiki

http://learningfromsocialworlds.wordpress.com/learning-to-teach-in-second-life/