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

I just finished viewing and reflecting on Steve Wheeler’s slide presentation on New Pedagogies for the Digital age. As Wheeler states “The future of education will be premised on what students need – and that will include creative solutions, flexible, personalisable tools, and device responsiveness that is culturally relevant. It’s going to be exciting and challenging!” It occurred to me that there is much discussion about what type of education students need and what pedagogy is best to prepare students for an unknown future.

In Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing and Delivering E-learning Helen Beethem and Rona Sharpe argue that there is nothing new about using technologies for learning. From the beginning of time every tool that has been introduced to enhance learning and teaching has been a new invention. Beethem and Sharpe continue with “The networked digital computer and its more recent mobile and digital are just the latest outputs of human ingenuity that we have at our disposal.” Beethem and Sharpe contend “that these technologies represent a paradigm shift … on the theory of learning.” Beethem and Sharpe question how digital technologies constitute a new context for learning and explore this in their book.

In his paper How has pedagogy changed in a digital age? Hayat Al-Khatib concludes that “The full potential of ICT support should be explored in learner-centered strategies to shift pedagogic orientation to cater more for the role of the learner in the learning process, taking advantage of the resources and tools made available in the digital age.”

Our goal as educators should be to develope a curious, flexible and creative student who is able to work cooperatively in group situations. Whether that group is within that student’s classroom, school, city or even country depends on the student and teacher’s ability to connect to a learning network outside of the student’s building. The biggest change since I started teaching is that type of tools and technology available to me. I still remember learning how to use a gestetner machine and how exciting a photo copier in the school was. The difference now is that we live in a digital age and as educators, digital tools are what we have to use with our students. In Block 5 for my EC&I 832 class we’ve been exploring various web tools and questioning how they can help us in our teaching practice. If we consider the cartoon sites, movie makers, digital story telling and social networking applications as technological tools we can use them wisely to enhance learning in a digitally relevant way.