imagination-mindmap“How can we foster imagination in the classroom? Why is it important for kids to be able to use their imagination in school?”

These are the questions posed by Amanda Brace http://amandabrace.edublogs.org/ for Week #2 of the blogging challenge I’ve taken on to help me get to regular writing.

The  questions immediately made me reflect on a grad class that I took a few years occur facilitated by Dr. Marc Spooner at the University of Regina. The course was focused on creativity in the classroom: how to embrace and foster it within ourselves and our students. To me imagination and creativity are intrinsically tied together.Thinking outside the box, problem solving and being a creative deviant are all strengths of leaders. These leaders can be leaders in their fields, the new thinkers who strike out on their own or the student who asks thoughtful questions.

Teachers who encourage imagination and creativity in their classroom will be rewarded with students who feel their are ideas are welcome and that there isn’t a one size fit all answer to questions posed by their teachers.

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This slide gives some good ideas for fostering creativity in your classroom. Primary teachers can use the PWIM method for brainstorming writing, Makerspace creative spaces allow students to creatively problem solve, inquiry and project based give students opportunities to be creative. In Miriam Clifford’s January, 2013 post (http://www.innovationexcellence.com/blog/2013/01/10/30-ways-to-promote-creativity-in-your-classroom/)  she discusses how the traditional classroom doesn’t invite creativity or imagination and offers 30 ways to promote creativity in your classroom. Here are a few suggestions from her post:

1. Embrace creativity as part of learning. Create a classroom that recognizes creativity.  You may want to design awards or bulletin boards to showcase different ways of solving a problem, or creative solutions to a real world scenario.

2. Use the most effective strategies. Torrance performed an extensive meta-analysis that considered the most effective ways to teach creativity. He found that the most successful approaches used creative arts, media-oriented programs, or relied on the Osborn-Parnes training program. Programs that incorporated cognitive and emotional functioning were the most successful.

3. Think of creativity as a skill. Much like resourcefulness and inventiveness it is less a trait and more a proficiency that can be taught. If we see it this way, our job as educators becomes to find ways to encourage its use and break it down into smaller skill sets. Psychologists tend to think of creativity as Big-C and Little C. Big C drives big societal ideas, like the Civil Rights movement or a new literary style. Little C is more of a working model of creativity that solves everyday problems. Both concepts can be included in our classrooms.

4. Participate in or create a program to develop creative skills. Programs like Odyssey of the Mind and Thinkquest bring together students from around the world to design creative solutions and bring them to competition.

– See more at: http://www.innovationexcellence.com/blog/2013/01/10/30-ways-to-promote-creativity-in-your-classroom/#sthash.ECRNtUuf.dpuf

Sir Kenneth Robinson’s Ted Talk on creativity discusses whether schools kills creativity or not. Sir Robinson states “You can be creative in math, science, music, dance, cuisine, teaching, running a family, or engineering. Because creativity is a process of having original ideas that have value. A big part of being creative is looking for new ways of doing things within whatever activity you’re involved in.” My understanding is that this is the goal of education… to teach students how to think. For more from Sir Robinson read a coversation with Sir Ken Robinson: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept09/vol67/num01/Why-Creativity-Now%C2%A2-A-Conversation-with-Sir-Ken-Robinson.aspx

So back to the original questions posed for week #2 “How can we foster imagination in the classroom? Why is it important for kids to be able to use their imagination in school?”

We foster imagination and creativity by inviting are students to question, wonder and think through a variety of activities that engage them in their learning. The reason that using imagination and creativity is important because we will develop community leaders, creative leaders and creative problem solvers who will contribute to their class, school or environment

Image from: http://image.slidesharecdn.com/whyisitimportanttofosterchildrenscreativity-140511022435-phpapp01/95/why-is-it-important-to-foster-childrens-creativity-5-638.jpg?cb=1399994622

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Great new video from New Brunswick, Canada!

Last week I had my Tweetdeck open when I saw a tweet by Mrs. Durff which mentioned Sharon Peters discussing EBB (Education Beyond Borders) on Thursday night. Right away I became excited because I am going to be working with EBB this summer in Kenya. I had heard about EBB about two years ago when Sharon Peters had been a guest with Alec Couros for my EC&I 831 class and she discussed her interest in global education/collaboration. Then about five weeks ago Sharon had posted information on the Global Education Collaborative about applying to join EBB in Africa this summer. I spoke to my husband about the opportunity, emailed Noble Kelly, sent in my application, had a Skpe interview then found out last weekend that I will joining a team in Kenya.

I rsvp’d for the online interview and discussion then plugged in for my Elluminate session on Thursday night. The forum for the discussion was: The Future of Education: Charting the Course of Teaching and Learning in a Networked World. Welcome to the Future of Education interview series and discussion community.

I joined in to listen to Steve Hargadon talk with Sharon Peters and Noble Kelly about “Education Beyond Borders.”” Education Beyond Borders is a non-profit NGO devoted to closing the education divide through teacher professional development and community education. EBB is focused on advancing and supporting the movement for educators and advocates for education to do our part in supporting our colleagues and their students in disadvantaged regions here at home and around the world.”
I was fascinated to listen to Sharon talk about her experiences traveling to South Africa and Kenya to facilitate teacher workshops. Sharon and Noble both spoke about EBB’s mission of engaging, educating and empowering the educators of the countries that they work in. EBB is a collaborative group that base the workshops on the identified needs of the country. EBB projects are designed to build capacity with the project participants first as teachers then as facilitators. EBB focuses on building self-sustainability over a four-year series of workshops.
As Noble shared
“Education is a collaborative effort lasting a lifetime; our learning model is designed to connect global ‘best practices’ to those at the local level who can build their capacity and in doing so, change their communities and ours.”
In Kenya there is limited computer access and limited resources. One difficulty is that most schools lack electricity which makes it difficult to have computers. The model of instruction is very teacher centered and there is a lack of professional development. EBB works with the Ministry of Education and the local teachers to develop workshops that expand the teaching repertoire, introduce new methodologies and learning theories while working with the Kenyan curricula. EBB also assists the Kenyan teachers in developing their own professional learning communities (PLCs) to share knowledge. Nings have begun to be used for PLC communications. This year it’s expected that during the three weeks we will be in Kenya we work with approximately 190 primary and secondary teachers. We will also be working with 12 Kenyan facilitators and developing their skills.
There were 42 educators attending the Elluminate session. Some of the attendees were former or current team members like me while many other people were interested in the work that EBB is doing in Africa. The evening was a good start in my learning curve. During the presentation I wrote on the chat that I was at the bottom of a very steep learning curve and that is so true. I’ve got so much to learn and get organized in what seems like a short time but I can’t wait to get started!
For an archived recording of the session you can check out the following links:
Full Elluminate: https://sas.elluminate.com/p.jnlp?psid=2010-03-11.1450.M.9E9FE58134BE68C…
Portable Audio: http://audio.edtechlive.com/foe/peterskelly.mp3
Chat Log: http://audio.edtechlive.com/foe/peterskelly.rtf

To filter or not to filter? That appears to be a big question for school divisions. My own opinion is that we don’t filter because I find it an insult that someone in an IT department is going to make teaching decisions for me. I think that my professional judgement and education should allow me some decision making power and the respect to know how to teach my students to be digitally responsible. If I don’t teach them who is going to?

Google Australia posted on their blog concerns about an Australian government proposal to implement filtering in all schools:
“Some limits, like child pornography, are obvious. No Australian wants that to be available – and we agree. Google, like many other Internet companies, has a global, all-product ban against child sexual abuse material and we filter out this content from our search results. But moving to a mandatory ISP filtering regime with a scope that goes well beyond such material is heavy handed and can raise genuine questions about restrictions on access to information. ”

Google Australia goes on to say “Our view is that online safety should focus on user education…” which are exactly my feelings. “The government has committed to important cybersafety education and engagement programs and yesterday announced additional measures that we welcome.”

On ConnectSafely’s blog Anne Collier states “Many young people are using ‘proxy servers’ to get round their schools’ internet security systems, ” the BBC reports, adding that students’ use of these free school-filtering workarounds is on the rise. “It sounds like an obscure, techy area of computing that only geeks would know about. But when we asked pupils in one secondary school classroom who had heard of proxy servers, every hand went up.” I started looking into proxy servers and found blog posts that instructed students how to bypass school filters and for a step by step  directions you only have to look as far as YouTube.

So, our school divisions set up all of these filters and students start a quest to find a way to work around them. It makes me wonder what exactly we’re teaching here. Collier goes on to say “Instead, schools should embrace and teach with these devices (cellphones etc.) and technologies so students can learn and practice wise use…That helps develop the 24/7 cognitive “filter” in their heads that improves with practice and is as flexible as their use of technology is…” And if all else fails you can insert images or graphics on your blogs and wikis to truly express how you feel.

On  Chris Matyszczyk’s blog Technically Incorrect he pokes fun at filters with this blog” School Web Filters Force Beaver into Hibernation.” Matyszczyk goes on to explain that the Canadian Natural History’s magazine “The Beaver” ,established in 1920, has
run into problems with school filters. “… web and spam filters, especially the robust ones employed by schools to keep their students from reading about naked bodies and manual exercise, are rejecting The Beaver’s hardy historical e-mails and other communications.” Now, doesn’t this seem silly?

On the blog Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning, Christine C. poses the question “Are school content filters keeping you and your students from learning and sharing information?” Christine discusses the problems that teachers and students are having when their access to social media is blocked. Christine also introduces ” Buffy Hamilton, a high school librarian in Canton, Ga., who argues that media specialists should try to overcome digital roadblocks by presenting reasoned and well-resourced arguments.” Hamilton shares her thoughts on Strategies for Fighting Internet Filtering on slideshare.

I think Will Richardson sums up my feelings about filtering in schools “It insults the profession to not at the very least provide desktop overrides for teachers when they bump up against a filtered site. Have a policy in place to deal with incidents where teachers make poor choices if that’s what the concern is.”