Thursday, March 27, 2014

An Evolution in Digital Citizenship

Teenagers today are definitely not in the same world that I was a kid in. The fact that their Internet connection does not require disconnecting the home phone, and waiting 10 agonizing minutes, while a collection of the most annoying sounds in the world screech through the modem, is case in point. I still remember sending my first email, and recall just how mind blowing it was at the time. I remember getting my first cell phone, and how amazing it was that I could connect with friends; without worrying about my mother picking up the other phone while I was on it! 

The simple fact is, they live in a different world. One which is so interconnected, that it is almost impossible for them to do anything without it being documented. I know this is not a CNN Breaking Newsflash, but when you step back for a second and think about it, you begin to realize just how 'Live' their lives really are. Just for a moment take a quick look at the list of social media websites available to them! True, not all hold the same popularity as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Vine, and Snapchat, but the options are staggering; and many more are developed every day. This staggering amount of options not only provides them with countless ways to 'connect', but also with countless opportunities to reveal themselves - both good and bad.

Therefore, as educators it has never been so important to impart the lessons and knowledge onto them to show their 'best selves'. Few others have such a unique opportunity to engage with them and show them how to effectively communicate, connect, and share. I know many take this opportunity to teach them about the 'threats' that exist online, or the security issues that exist on many of the social media websites. And although this is beneficial, and definitely needs to be done, I am not sure it connects as effectively as it should with teenagers. I have found with experience that many teenagers are past these lessons; and although they are not experts in connecting with the 'right people', and limiting what they reveal to the world, they are aware of what they should and shouldn't do. 

So I have taken a different approach. I guess it's the marketer in me, but feel that imparting the lessons of digital citizenship needs to build on the idea of 'branding'. What I describe below is the 'evolution' of digital citizenship in students, and how I attempt to build the brand in them, where I eventually have them connect with those influences that will further support their brand.

*Just a note before you begin reading each stage of evolution - Although developing the actual brand is one of the first steps in marketing a product, when it comes to students, they don't actually know their brand until later. Therefore, this step falls after the first step, and although it may feel out of order, I believe it is in the correct place.

Grade 9 - Communicating Positivity

Every brand, whether it's Google or Lego, Coca Cola or Walmart, communicates its messages in a positive way. You rarely see a large corporation ridicule or belittle a potential customer (although mistakes do happen); or share negative information about themselves. This should be no different for our students, and is an approach that is slightly different then "Don't Bully!" or "Be Nice!" Students need to be taught that not only should they not say mean things about others online, they should also attempt to share positive messages - regularly. 

One of the best examples I have witnessed was a Twitter account started by a couple of former students at my school. They were fed up with the negative messages that were being spread around our school. Rather than simply taking to twitter to attack those who spread such messages, they created an account that spread nothing but positivity. The result? Positivity took hold of the school. It even spread to other schools who also took up the effort.

Instead of teaching our students not to say mean things, we need to teach them to share positive messages on a regular basis. I know this seems like the same thing, in reality it is not. It means we teach them what to share, how to share it, and how to ensure it is a positive message. This begins to build their brand, and advertise their positive beliefs. If we begin this effort in grade 9, then I believe we will see this not only shape social media in years to come, but also the culture of the school in real life.

Grade 10 - Brand Development

When students enter grade 10 they begin to shape their futures. They begin to choose their career path, their friends, their influences, their hobbies, their passions, and their lives as a result. Students at this age begin to realize just who they really are and who they want to be known as (which sometimes are not the same thing).  Therefore, it is a great opportunity to support these choices, and help them shape their brand online. 

In order to do this, students need to find out what they are known for. They need to see if their own beliefs, match what others think about them. If they don't, they need to work on improving their brand, and one of the best ways to do this, is to use the social media available to them.

Grade 11 - Choosing the Medium

Once students have a positive voice, and a positive brand, now is the opportunity to identify the best medium to share this. As mentioned there are a 100+ mediums that are available to students to share their lives; however, some are better than others, and some 'fit' better than others. Students see their friends on Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, etc. and simply follow them onto these platforms. However, most don't stop and think about why they are on the mediums they chose; and even more don't stop and think about which one conveys their brand the best. This is no different from companies selecting different media for their own commercials - some are better for their brand then others. 

Therefore, this is where we need to demonstrate the positives and drawbacks to each. Yes it requires a little bit of knowledge on each of them, but imagine the looks on students faces when you start educating them on the social media platforms they use everyday! 

Grade 12 - Connecting & Sharing

The last stage of the evolutionary process is to align their brand with like minded individuals (or other brands). At this point in time, students are beginning to venture off into their careers, higher education, or other paths, and therefore they need to develop a learning network that they can look to for inspiration, information, and support. As a teacher on Twitter, I have developed what I believe to be, a fantastic PLN that I can always rely on for great insight into my profession. Why not teach our students how to develop a similar network? If anyone needs a supportive, insightful, learning network, I have to believe it is most definitely those who are moving out of their comfort zone of high school, and into the big scary 'real' world?!

This is the opportunity for students to connect with the institutions that they hope to attend, the career professionals who they can learn the industry information from, the educators that they will listen to in lectures, the experts they hope to apprentice with, and the many other individuals that will help them progress into fully functioning adults. This is the PLN that they need to use social media for, and the group they want to communicate their brand too.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Mid-Year Report Card

Where to begin? The usual ebb and flow of a school year, has given way to what seems to be rushing white water rapids this year. There have been lots of great things going on, and just too little time to write about them. However, now that one semester is in the books, I thought I'd provide a little bit of an update on the Technasium and how well it's been thus far. And so just like the report cards I write for all of my students, here is the "Technasium's Mid-Year Growing Success Assessment & Evaluation Report Card Thingy" (Report card for short)

So what can we say about the results? Well although they haven't been the results I would have liked to have seen, it certainly hasn't been a failure. There has definitely been some hurdles, that still require great leaps to overcome, but none that are impossible. Answers to some of the problems facing the initiative are also unknown at this time, which can make it frustrating. But even if the room is facilitating greater collaboration and providing support to a small group, that makes it worthwhile. With anything new, there is obviously a period of adjustment and acceptance, and only with time will we see how useful the Technasium may be.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

An Open Letter to All Educational Leaders & Administrators

Dear Fearless Leaders,

You know who you are; those who devote all their time, energy, and expertise to improving education around the world. I'm speaking to you because I need your help. And not just me, but every teacher who is embracing 21st century technologies into their classrooms, and attempting to motivate others to do the same. I know you are busy, and you have 101 different initiatives on the go right now; but you at least need to put those on hold for a second and listen up.

We have entered an era in education, which might be the most significant, game-changing, paradigm shifting, wall-breaking era ever to hit education. It is a fantastic time to be involved in education. There are so many amazing things going on, and so many people sharing their stories about these things. We have teachers who are harnessing the power of YouTube to deliver lectures so that students can be better prepared walking into class; teachers engaging in weekly Twitter chats outside of school hours to better themselves professionally; others who are harnessing every web 2.0 tool imaginable so that they can support their students communicate, collaborate, create, and most importantly, critically think. Educators all over the world are re-imagining what the physical classroom should look like, and creating 21st Century classrooms right before our eyes. The promotion of digital citizenship has never been bigger, and teachers, parents, and students are working together to spread the word. We have 1:1 classrooms, blended learning,gamification, mobile learning, MOOCs, BYOD initiatives, and so much more going on. And yet, the majority of people who are talking about this, sharing their insight, and knowledge are teachers. 

I hear about many teachers who describe themselves as '21st Century Educators/Teachers' but when you look around, you don't see too many administrators, superintendents, or directors who describe themselves in the same way. Why is this? I think because in most cases, teachers are the ones who are leading the charge when it comes to promoting 21st Century initiatives; and are also the ones attempting to assist other teachers who are willing to learn. Administrators are more than willing to support these individuals, and that is fantastic; however, support has to come in more ways than financial, resource, time release, or other ways. And just like these countless educators are willing to support, tutor, and assist other teachers, they're willing to do the same for you! You just need to ask, sacrifice, and be willing to become a student again. No player is willing to play for a coach who is not willing to lead by example, and in just the same way, teachers are looking for similar leadership. 

I realize this does not apply to EVERY administrator out there, but unfortunately, my belief is that there are too many that it does apply to. In the beginning of this post I asked for your help, and so here are my requests that I NEED you to complete by the end of the school year. These are not large requests, they are not leaps; just baby steps. And remember, one foot at a time.

1. Get on Twitter! 

You need to share your expertise and insight, and demonstrate how Twitter is an extremely powerful learning network. PD is no longer restricted to PD days once a semester. It's happening all the time, and has become self directed. Teachers and other educators are developing professional learning networks where they are able to learn best-practices from others all around the world. They are connecting with other educators who share similar beliefs, passions, and characteristics when it comes to teaching. They are conversing regularly with others not only within their building, district, or country, but across borders. They are sharing images of their classrooms so that they can show others the activities that are leading to student success. Show your teachers and community this, and engage with them regularly.

2. Stop Saying "I'm not really good with Technology"! 

That's like saying "I'm not really good with this Math stuff", or "Reading isn't really my thing". Imagine the message you convey to staff and students when you say such things. You are acknowledging that it is acceptable to do poorly in math, or that literacy is irrelevant. In just the same way, you are also acknowledging that it is acceptable to remain in the 20th century, and that you don't need to take time to learn new processes and technologies. If you believe this, then get the typewriters back out and give those to your students; and then wait for their reactions.

3. Encourage Risk Taking. 

I don't mean that you should allow schools to become the Wild West, and anything goes; but encourage teachers to try new things, and that it is OK for them to fall on their face. There are so many options now for students to learn, and so many teachers want to try new things. The problem is however, that many are so afraid to fail; and their reasons are justified - performance appraisals, student & parent outcry, peer judgement, etc. However, developing a culture where teachers are willing to try gamification, the flipped classroom, blended learning, or other pedagogies could lead to amazing results! The very fact that students still fail, illustrates that education is not perfect. I'm not saying that any of the above mentioned pedagogies are perfect, but it may be that embracing one or more of them could lead to greater student achievement. The former General Stanley McChrystal once said "leaders can let you fail and yet, not let you be a failure"; and I think that's a lesson worth remembering.

Jason Richea

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Stop Collaborate and Listen!

This week's conversation is all about collaboration. As Matthew said, "We are collaborating in a 21st C way on defining collaboration". This week I have hosted everyone's contributions below, so take a look, and read some very interesting thoughts regarding Collaboration in Education in the 21st Century.

Here is what the team came up with this week (Again, I've left mine own until the end):

Debbie Axiak

@DebbieAxiak - 

Bloom’s Taxonomy and Maslow’s Hierarchy came to mind when I was thinking about this part of our 6 C’s Project because there are varying levels of collaboration. At a basic level,  teachers and/or students might be working side by side on the same project, or collaborating for the sake of collaborating (when it is mandated) - which is almost an individual pursuit. At the next level, when there is some camaraderie and care, collaborators begin to share ideas, strategies and materials as they work toward a common goal.

Many times, the goal of a collaborative task is to finish the project. Students and parents want to know how we will mark a collaborative project - they want it to be fair, they want the person who did the most work to get the best mark. Our society is still quite individualistic and competitive. We each want our voice to be heard, and some people are better at demanding that their voice is heard, while others prefer to give in to the stronger voice rather than face a confrontation. Many of us want to be congratulated on our strengths & are not very comfortable with critique because we take it personally - unless we have a trusting relationship with that person.

Successful collaboration requires  1) a common goal, 2) trust and support, 3) ongoing communication, 4) a growth mindset (the belief that everyone can learn, change & grow), 5) an openness to give and take feedback and 6) the ability to make it about the learning/task/project rather than about the people involved.

Collaboration = Working Together Toward a Common Goal

Matthew Oldridge

@matthewoldridge - 

The deep dark secret behind many schoolhouse doors is how difficult collaboration is.  We all have strong visions of what, and how, we like to teach, informed by our own biases, beliefs about education, learning styles, and even the things happening in our lives.  

It’s hard to find the time, we might say, and retreat back to our own room.  I’ve been guilty of this many times.  I fall back on the comfortable ways of thinking, comfortable lesson ideas, and assignments.  

When I’m at my best, though, I’m talking, thinking, working with others.  “Isolation is the enemy of improvement,” I once heard.  And it’s true-divided we stand, and together we fall. Technology has been one great force pushing collaboration.  We have examples like this document- several voices uniting in one Google Doc, collaborating on collaboration.  We have Twitter chats, where ideas are batted back and forth, in real time.  Conversations that happen in hallways, before and after school.  Finally, the larger structures like grade or school-wide inquiry work that is starting to take root across school systems.  We begin to speak as one voice, to create a coherent “one” from “many.”

There’s hope, there always is.  The struggles our own students experience in group work are mirrored by our own. Sometimes it just “clicks”, though- and the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.  A project that 4 students that work on that transcends the criteria and learning goals.  A summative task put together by a grade team that comes together like lightning, illuminating the curriculum and all our classroom work.  A conversation with a colleague that spurs a series of activities that really make a math concept fun and engaging.   

With practice, we improve.  It would be fine to say everyone is born able to collaborate in meaningful ways, but when we say that, we probably mean cooperation.  Everyone is born able to cooperate, but collaboration, now that is hard work!

Collaboration = Making One Voice From Many

Tina Zita

@tina_zita - 

I did a collaborative writing activity this week using Office 365 with a grade 7 class. I was pretty excited hoping it would become that piece I was looking for for this post. I used the new iPad air ad from apple as a minds on, collected a variety of ideas about winter through padlet and then on to Word in Office 365 where each class member added a line to our shared poem. Sounds impressive. The activity was ok.

The poem had some powerful sections but my lesson about collaboration came from an individual in the room.

I’m constantly amazed when I take the time to step back and #lookclosely.

We were having some technical difficulties (happens to all of us, even if technology is in your job title) so the teacher and myself were busy trouble shooting around the room when I looked over to see a vision of collaboration. There stood my ‘friend’ peering over a class members’ shoulder discussing word choice in the statement on the screen. We may say she had was the ‘leader type’ but what was amazing was the words I heard. It wasn’t bossy or challenging. There was no judgement. It was two individuals in pursuit of the best work. You heard the back and forth of the conversation, options, ideas. They used each of their strengths to compose the best line, which lead to the best verse and then to a better poem.

Sometimes I think as adults so much gets in the way of true collaboration. Such a wonderful reminder of what I would love to see in all 21st century learners.

Collaboration = A Back And Forth Creating Process

And now my own...

So I worked with some people once in a group; it was a horrible experience. No one knew what to do, some people never completed their parts, and I ended up never talking to those people again. It’s a story told by most, and unfortunately occurs far too often. This is what I call ‘Anti-Collaboration’.

It's easy to define what Collaboration is not, because many of us have found ourselves in groups where everyone is working on their own, and little communication occurs.  We often like to think that when we are in a group, we are a part of a team. However, a team does not automatically suggest that collaboration occurs, as there can be many individual components, all of whom never really interact and share with the rest of the team.

Being part of a team, requires EACH & EVERY individual to contribute, to identify their roles & responsibilities, and support each other; so that as a team we can reach a goal. That in my mind is truly collaboration.

Being a ‘collaborator’ requires greater effort, and commitment, than any 'team-player' can give. It requires you to look at the bigger picture, the team's goals, and sacrifice those individual objectives, so that you can support the team, and allow it to succeed. 

It also requires you to provide feedback and criticism, and in turn receive the same. Only when each individual provides an input, and each group member provide feedback, does collaboration exist. Such feedback, allows 'Collaborators' to revisit their work, and look to improve it, so that the team can achieve a higher level of success.

Therefore, true collaboration occurs when EVERY person contributes something to the group; and EVERY group member provide the necessary feedback, so that as a whole, the group continues to achieve their goals. When we witness such collaboration, the results can be incredible.

Collaboration = Meaningful Contributions From Every Team Player

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Communique on Communication

This week's conversation is all about communication. A new voice has been added to the mix, so I invite you to follow along with the conversation by taking a look at each of the following blogs:

  • Debbie Axiak - @DebbieAxiak - 
  • Matthew Oldridge - @matthewoldridge - 
  • Tina Zita - @tina_zita - 
  • Magdelina Front - @techmagfront -

Here is what the team came up with this week (Again, I've left mine own until the end):

  • Debbie Axiak - Communication = Giving and/or receiving information
  • Matthew Oldridge - Communication = making your voice heard
  •  Tina Zita - Communication = clear message, deep toolbox, understanding audience
  • Magdelina Front - Communication = Conveying relevant messages that inspire others

And my thoughts regarding Communication

Communication, like each of the other 6 C’s, receives a lot of dialogue & discussion amongst academic professionals. We often hear in our staff rooms complaints regarding the delivery of messages by our students through their written and oral work. I find myself in these discussions quite a bit, and am constantly reminded at all the different ways messages are communicated.

These ways may have never been so numerous than they are now. And these messages conveyed in all sorts of different languages - and I’m not talking about foreign languages, but the modifications we’ve made to English/other native languages (U know? lol). I think this is a challenge for many teachers to accept and acknowledge that it’s not about the spelling, but about the message. That’s what communication is really about, is it not? Believe me, I’m not about to say that spelling & grammar does not matter; but does it matter as much as it once did?

In a world where we are bombarded by hundreds of messages each minute, it’s the message that stands out, which receives our attention. When we are in our classrooms, it’s the message that provokes thought, dialogue, discussion, critique, and our collective attention that is effective communication. Whether this is lengthy verbal conversation, or a brief 140 character message conveyed in a Twitter chat, it doesn’t really matter, so long as the results are what was originally intended.

In the 21st century, it is so important that we teach our students how to access the media necessary to convey their message. How to convey their message in a way that grabs others attention. And how to use the conventions of the chosen media to do this effectively.  We live in a world now where social media is King, and the communication that we receive revolves around this media. As Clay Shirky once said, “The Internet is the first medium in history that has native support for groups and conversation at the same time. The Internet gives us the many-to-many pattern. For the first time, media is natively good at supporting these kinds of conversations.”

Therefore, unlike definitions of the past, where communication is all about imparting or exchanging information between a few, 21st century communication is all about conveying your message in a way that captures the attention of hundreds (or thousands if you are Taylor Swift). Because if you want to stand out in today’s age, and have your voice heard, you are going to have to scream it from the top of the Twitter/Snapchat/YouTube/Facebook/Tumblr/etc.  mountain.

Communication = Capturing the Attention of the Masses

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Journey Continues - Critical Thinking

Attempting to define each of the 6 C's of 21st Century Learning has become quite the task. Each C brings with it new questions, insights, and opinions regarding definitions; and how differently we look at it sometimes. This week it was about defining Critical Thinking - a C that for me has become the very large C that fills my classroom everyday. The team has assembled, and the ideas sprung to paper (or computer screens actually).

Instead of providing each person's thoughts regarding the 6 C's, I ask you to take a second and read about theirs on each of their blogs:

  • Debbie Axiak - @DebbieAxiak - 
  • Matthew Oldridge - @matthewoldridge - 
  • Tina Zita - @tina_zita - 

However, as far as definitions go, I thought it best to use the following to illustrate each person's (I've left mine own until the end):

  •  Matthew Oldridge - Critical Thinking = Making sound judgements 
  •  Debbie Axiak - Critical Thinking = not accepting things at face value 
  •  Tina Zita - Critical Thinking = asking questions and responding. 

So here are my thoughts regarding Critical Thinking:

"I have only recently begun to consider what critical thinking really means, and have thus shifted my focus on trying to develop this in my students. Up until this point I never really gave it much scrutiny; as I focused on the Knowledge component of students’ learning. I wanted to ensure students ‘knew’ content and could tell me the terms, concepts, and theories. I wanted students to regurgitate studied information and demonstrate to me that they could remember key curriculum components. Why? Well this was what I was taught to be ‘learning’. Only to realize this to be a very erroneous assumption of learning.

I was always a curious child growing up - yes that annoying child who constantly asked the ‘Why’ about everything. I wanted to figure out how things work, tearing apart old radios and anything else that could be taken apart to understand the inner workings of things (I never figured it out, I just liked the destruction I think). As well, my elementary teachers couldn’t tell me to do things, without providing a reason first; and if I didn’t like their reasoning, I surely wasn’t about to do what they told me (which more often than not, provided me with a reason to visit the principals office on more than one occasion). However, I lost this somewhere. Somewhere along the way, I stopped asking those questions, and just did what I needed to get by. I believe this is an unfortunate part of our education system; or has traditionally been an unfortunate part. However, I believe the focus is now shifting dramatically away from a concentration on Knowledge, to a much greater focus on a true demonstration of learning.

Critical thinking is a much more accurate definition of learning really. The ability to describe ‘Why’ things happen, ‘How’ things happen, and the ‘Impacts’ of world happenings. In the ‘AG’ era (After Google), any student can search terms, concepts, and theories, and define them using their digital devices; but it’s much more difficult for a student to ‘Google’ the ‘How’, ‘Why’, and ‘Impacts’ of world happenings. This is why Critical Thinking is so crucially important.

When students are able to critically think, they are able to truly learn about issues, events, concepts, theories, and people from around the world. When students critically think about their own learning, they begin to realize why they perform such actions, create such assessments, and present in such ways. They begin to realize what THEY DO has an impact on the World around them. That to me, is true learning."

Critical Thinking = Why we Do What we Do

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The 6 C's Project - Creativity

A Little Background:

There has been a lot of chatter about standardized testing, assessment, curricular goals and the 6Cs of 21st Century Education. Opinions are wide ranging, and many. A couple of colleagues, Tina Zita and Matthew Oldridge (see below), heard Annie Kidder at the OISE Early Years Symposium. She made a statement that got them thinking; she said "It isn’t that we measure. It is what we measure that matters". This seemed to strike a chord with them both, and they took to Twitter to ask the question: 

"How do we measure creativity, critical thinking, communication, or any of the 6 C's of 21st Century Learning without a clear understanding of what we are hoping to achieve?"

The interesting part of this was that same week, a number of colleagues, including myself, were having the very same discussion in our attempts to plan our long term goals as a department. In chatting with both Tina & Matthew, and my own department, it became clear that there was a need to attempt to define each of the C's so that we can better our own professional development.

Therefore the motivation was there, the need apparent, and the plan became clear - if a number of us tackled each of the 6 C's, perhaps we could come to a consensus/better understanding moving forward. Therefore, each week we will provide our own insights on each of the C's, and hopefully be able to apply them better in our own classrooms. 

So without further adieu, below is a collection of perspectives and opinions on the first 'C' - Creativity. It should be noted, that I've included each person's twitter contact, as well as a link to their individual blogs. Do check out each of their blogs as they provide their 6 word definition of Creativity (just like I do at the bottom); as well as provide a lot of great insight on a number of different topics.

Matthew Oldridge (@MatthewOldridge)

We are born creative, but do we, like Sir Ken Robinson claims, have creativity educated out of us?

If creativity is something we value, how can we make sure schools do their part in valuing and teaching creativity? We can probably start by coming up with our own simple and workable definition for this surprisingly complicated word (if you don’t believe it’s complicated, take a look at the Wikipedia entry).
Here is mine:  making something new. This is easy enough to understand in arts classrooms, which are used working with creativity. In other 21st century classrooms, what could it look like?
-”doing” and explaining a math problem in a Minecraft environment
-inventing a new and novel metaphor for a scientific phenomenon, and illustrating the metaphor
-using historical big ideas to make an original short film (or heritage minute)
Best of all, let students choose their own methods and ways of showing their learning. Provided we teach from the curricular “big ideas”, encourage divergent versus convergent thinking, allow differentiation, and make our learning goals transparent, there is no limit to the number of ways they could “make things new.”

Debbie Axiak (@DebbieAxiak)

Creativity is the process of combining knowledge, skills and imagination to produce something new that is relevant and has value.

Skills, knowledge and imagination are all fundamental requirements for creativity (whether within one individual or as a collaborative effort). I would also argue that something can’t just be an idea - something has to be produced (a story, a dance, a solution, etc.)

The definition of creativity in a teaching and learning environment also has to include the word relevant, since something can be ‘new or novel or original’ but if it has nothing to do with the assignment then it isn’t really valuable for that situation.. For example, if I assign a big idea assignment (in any subject, but lets say the History of New France) and allow the freedom of choice in presentation formats and I receive a “WOW! Original! Amazing! film with amazing special effects, all about kangaroos - it might be creative but it isn’t relevant to that particular history class. This student might become famous for their CREATIVE films, and decide that my history class wasn’t relevant,  but it would not demonstrate knowledge, understanding, thinking, application, communication of the big ideas for this topic.

Tina Zita (@tina_zita)

Even if creativity is one of the hot buzz words of the moment, I find it completely mesmerizing. For a long time I equated creativity with being artistic and as someone who has two left feet, can’t draw much more than a flower and only sings in the safety of my car I found it hard to see myself as creative. As time progressed, the definition transformed and it almost became a badge of honour: a way to identify as being unique, thinking outside the box. Can everyone be creative? The fascination with creativity has taken over and the questions I have been contemplating abound. What is creativity? Is it nurtured or is it inherent in a child’s nature?  What role does creativity play in success?

So in an effort to better define creativity I thought of the most creative person I know (knew): my grandfather. He definitely broke the artist mold: he was not a painter, writer or artist and if you ever heard him sing ‘Here Comes Peter Cotton Tail’ at Easter in a thick Italian accent you knew his kids got their musical abilities from someone else. My grandfather was a garbage collector for the city of Toronto for over 30 years but his creativity was found in his luscious postage stamp sized Toronto garden. Like many Italian immigrants on the street he maximized every inch of his his space growing enough fruit and vegetables to supply the family for the summer and beyond (tomato sauce stock piled for the year). There were grapes over the walkway, herbs by the garage and beans across the back gate. My grandfather was recycling before it was cool, upcycling finds from the day like broken hockey sticks as plant holders or tool handles. He didn’t take climate as a reason not to have a delicious fig tree, going through the trouble of burying it every year. He did not accept the fact that having trees meant you could only have 2 fruits, grafting several trees together. As I reflect my artistic view of creativity has definitely gone and what remains is a vision of the possibilities. More than anything the creative individuals I have observed create new and amazing things from the ordinary, they maximize everything they have (time, resources, people). They look at a backyard, canvas, screen and see the possibilities.That is the lesson I want for my students.

My Own 

I have no idea what creativity means! But does anyone else? It is something different for every individual, and different across disciplines. I like to look at it from a bit of a marketing perspective however, as I find students have a better understanding from this perspective. Right or wrong, it what allows me to best explain it to students, and allows a framework to be set which can then be used for assessment purposes.
In my mind, creativity is a projection of someone’s work in which it attracts attention, generates interest (makes you go wow!), provides the necessary information in a consistent theme, and achieves stated goals. I liken it to an effective advertisement  & the AIDA formula for marketing – Does it stop what you are doing to watch? Does it convey the necessary information (or interest you enough to go and find info)? Is it consistent in its imagery? Message? Pace? Etc.  Does it make you desire the product? And lastly does it make you at least consider going out and purchase the product? The best, and most creative advertisements, do this.
So for a student’s work:
Does it make you go wow?! – It’s gotta stand out a bit. Creativity does not necessarily equal uniqueness, but uniqueness, I think is creative.
Does it have all the necessary elements/concepts/info? – If information is missing then I don’t believe they’ve been creative enough in conveying information.
Does it have a consistent theme – even something that is abstract, sporadic, or all over the place, can be consistent.
Does it achieve goals? It has to fulfill it’s purpose, and what you want as a teacher.

Creativity: Clear & Purposeful WOW!

"So how do you define creativity? Do you agree with our definitions or disagree? We would love to hear from you."