INTERVIEWS 3: Cheryl Judd Allen

Creative Interview

Teacher in Jackson County, Cainesboro, Tennessee

Cheryl Judd Allen is a 27-year veteran of the classroom. She earned her B.S. in Education, with an emphasis in English/Language Arts, from the Tennessee Technological University. Allen is the chairman of her English department and loves to incorporate creative assessments into her classroom with hands-on projects.

Allen, for one, firmly believes that creativity has declined in students. "I believe easy access to the internet, gaming, and lack of real, in-depth reading has caused this to happen," she says.

Technology is a good tool, Allen says, if not taken to the extreme. "I feel that students are less creative because it is so easy to access whatever they need or want on the Internet. Old fashioned digging for information is almost a thing of the past when there are so many 'easy' answers available at the touch of a button."

To reverse what she sees as a downward trend, Allen advises fellow educators to promote creativity and innovation by using "more hands-on projects like one sees in the workforce," and not just something that can be put together "too easily" by the click of a computer button.
She would also advise teachers to be flexible in allowing students to indulge their creative impulses, especially when it comes to writing narratives or creative writing.

"I like for my students to imagine being in the time period we are studying to get a feel of what it would have been like to live in an age where one didn't have everything instantly," she says. "It is so hard for young students to imagine a life without computer access, but one can find print materials that can show them what life was like years ago without going to the extreme. I feel that students should use what they know and learn about to be creative in responses to essay questions. The hardest challenge now is to incorporate it in with the Common Core State Standards, which seem to filter creativity out of the picture."

She adds, "Patience, and understanding where the learner is coming from, are two pluses for educators even though lesson planning and individual assessment are almost non-existent in the way teachers teach today. Take time to smell the roses, and don't get so caught up in having to accomplish too much at the expense of a student's understanding and creativity."

When we asked Allen if she thought creativity could be measured, she said, "Creativity is measurable because students either have it or not. It can be cultivated with hands-on learning to the point where students can feel comfortable using the skills they have mastered. I feel it should be a routine part of assessment because sometimes words are not enough to get one's point across."
Allen agrees that teachers have a responsibility when it comes to creativity education, but she also recognizes the influence of a young student's home environment. This can later affect their learning in adulthood.

"Creative parents are a plus but not necessary for a student to be creative," she says. "Parents should foster individuality and creative expression in each student's sphere of understanding."
Academics have downplayed creativity for some time and will also be stifled when the Common Core State Standards come into play, she adds. "Individualized learning should be taken into account instead of making every student proficient at test taking and 'going by the rules."

Daniel Willingham

DanielWillingham.com

Daniel Willingham earned his B.A. from Duke University in 1983 and his Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from Harvard University in 1990. He is currently Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, where he has taught since 1992. Until about 2000, his research focused solely on the brain basis of learning and memory. Today, all of his research concerns the application of cognitive psychology to K-16 education. He writes the "Ask the Cognitive Scientist" column for American Educator magazine, and is an Associate Editor of Mind, Brain, and Education.

He is also the author of Why Don't Students Like School? (Jossey-Bass) and When Can You Trust the Experts? (Jossey-Bass). His writing on education has been translated into eleven languages. You can read his Science and Education blog here.

When we asked Dr Willingham whether he thought creativity had declined in students across the globe, he said, "I don't see any reason to draw that conclusion. I know that there was a recent report saying that students today are less creative, but I think measures of creativity are still pretty rough. I'm not persuaded that we can measure creativity with enough accuracy to make that judgment."

Willingham doesn't believe science will necessarily provide us with the secrets of fostering creativity any more than good teaching programs will, but he does think it's especially crucial to promote "tasks that are open-ended, a spirit of playfulness and curiosity about ideas, and, most important, a sense that failure is normal and part of the learning process."

To teachers he adds, "Make time for it because there are a lot of tasks in learning institutions that don't lend themselves to a lot of creativity. That's probably appropriate. But you'll find more opportunities for creativity than you first think you will, if you're on the lookout!"

But Willingham acknowledges that, in principle, it's very hard for teachers to devote precious class time to indulging their students' creative impulses. "A student's creative impulse might inject a lot of excitement into a lesson, or it might send a lesson off the rails. It's very much up to the judgment of the teacher as to which it's likely to be."

A good influence at home makes a big difference, Willingham says, but he recognizes that not everybody has the time or know-how to help students thrive creatively. "I guess it depends on what one means by 'thrive.' I hate to think that teachers, professors or even parents would feel pressure to be creative or feel that they are failures! Understanding the importance of creative expression in students seems part of a larger attitude I associate with good parenting--namely, supporting the student, showing interest in his or her pursuits."

In 2010, Willingham wrote an article for The Washington Post about new research claiming that creativity is not especially a right-brain function. "In fact," he wrote, "two of three broad classes of creative thought that have been studied seem not to depend on a single set of brain structures."

"What we call 'creativity' is so diverse that it can't be localized in the brain very well," he explains.
"In the usual mythology, the left hemisphere of the brain is logical, ordered, and analytic, and it supports reading, speech, math, and reasoning. The right hemisphere is more oriented towards feelings and emotions, spatial perception, and the arts, and is said to be more creative.

"We have known for at least 30 years that this characterization is incorrect. Thinking that we can identify an array of these tasks--logical thinking, language, math, and others--that all depend mostly on one hemisphere seems a little far-fetched. More to the point, we know it's inaccurate."
But Willingham says a majority of the population still finds the inaccurate, left brain/right brain theory— namely, that the right hemisphere of the brain is more responsible for creative thought than the left—so convenient that they can't let it go. This is especially true for teachers.

"This idea is used in education in two ways," Willingham says. "Sometimes the left brain/right brain distinction is offered as an account of differences in ability, much as in the casual (and harmless) way I described. But when offered as a more scientifically weighty theory, people start to call for university, school or college to be more 'right brain oriented.' Sometimes this call is pitched in terms of fairness; the right-brain students seem to be at unfair disadvantage.

Sometimes it's pitched as common sense: we're ignoring half of
students' brains!

"Other people treat the left brain/right brain distinction not as a distinction of ability (what students are good at) but as a learning style (how students prefer to learn). Left-brain learners will understand a concept best by talking about it, for example, but right brain learners will want to draw a diagram."

This kind of misguided thinking can change not only the way teachers treat individual students but the way they operate entire classes.
"In both cases," Willingham says, "prescriptions are given greater weight because of the apparent neuroscientific basis of the recommendations.

'Students who have trouble with reading, math and science are at a disadvantage at college or university', sounds obvious and unimpressive when compared to 'right brain dominant students are at a disadvantage at college or university'."

Willingham's work suggests that educators need to stop thinking of creativity in terms of a single, isolated part of the brain that some students have and others don't. Otherwise, we may actually have a "creativity crisis" on our hands, and teachers will be the ones to blame.

Darren Kuropatwa

St. James-Assiniboia Division

Darren Kuropatwa is a Curriculum Coordinator for Digital Learning in the St. James-Assiniboia School Division in Winnipeg, Manitoba. For many years he taught mathematics and worked to employ technology into his lessons. Darren's blog, A Difference, documents not only his own keen insights into technology and learning, but also five years of interactive class blogs reflecting his students' views on their own learning experience.

Kuropatwa, for one, believes that creativity is alive and well, and that digital media has only helped it grow.

"No, I wouldn't agree that there is a decline in creativity. Human evolution doesn't happen that fast." He says technology has been key in narrowing the distance between purpose and play. We now live in a world where the same tools we use to create memes and update our friends on what we ate for dinner can also be used to benefit the greater good. "If you actually want to anecdotally look around the world today, you have people who start off with something like LOLCats and end up with Ushahidi. People create through play and then make a contribution."

Ushahidi, which is Swahili for "testimony" or "witness," is a non-profit software company that uses the concept of crowdsourcing for social activism and public accountability purposes. In 2007, in the aftermath of Kenya's disputed presidential election, the organization collected eyewitness reports of violence sent in by text or e-mail and placed them on Google Maps. Ushahidi was also used to benefit victims of the 2010 earthquakes in Haiti and Chile.

True, there are fewer people developing resources like Ushahidi than using them, Kuropatwa says, but at least those people who are making them are creating something. And the same goes for people who create LOLCats.

Obviously, not everything people create is useful, funny, or even trustworthy. But what's less obvious, and what Kuropatwa calls a crucial part of modern literacy, is that, "in order to be critical consumers of media, students need to know how to create it as well."

Kuropatwa told us a story about an email he received a few years back, informing him that, according to an online education database, his blog was among the top 100 education blogs on the web. After a little research, he found out that the claim was only one person's opinion and the database was really a marketing website to try to attract more traffic.

This is the kind of thing students need to protect themselves against, he says. "You have to know how a message is put together and conveyed, how to filter information and read the grammar of the internet." The best way to understand how any tool works, of course, is to use it yourself."
That's why Kuropatwa helps learning institutions implement digital technology into their classrooms and lecture rooms. As new tools are used, creativity can flourish in unforeseen ways.
Creativity had big place in his own classroom when he was teaching math. For one assignment, Kuropatwa had his students use Flickr hotspots to take pictures of everyday objects—window curtains, a slice of pizza, a bouquet of flowers— and chart the trigonometry of the objects' planes and curves.

For another project, Kuropatwa asked his students to create six original math problems over the course of a semester.

The result, he said, was that students recalled their lessons much better once test time rolled around. Creating math helped them retain it.
As far as measuring creativity is concerned, Kuropatwa says, "What we value, we measure. But lots of things we value can't be measured." Creativity may be one of those things. In his own classes, Kuropatwa assigned bonus points for creative projects. His students supported him in this decision, agreeing that, since it can't easily be measured, creativity should only be a small part of overall assessment.

Kuropatwa firmly believes that you can't measure creativity on a black-or-white, have-it-or-don't scale.

"We don't have to foster creativity, we have to allow it," he says, suggesting that perhaps the data showing a decline in creativity is skewed since creativity is difficult to measure in a standardized fashion in the first place.

The "crisis," he says, is the growing acceptance of a paradigm that treats creativity like a skill. "Just because there's an area in which you don't excel doesn't mean you're not creative. We're creative in our own ways."

Measuring creativity accurately is tricky, if not impossible. Surely standardized tests are not the answer. But perhaps we shouldn't worry about measuring it, for now. Creativity is recognizable; we know it when we see it. So how do we "allow" it?

"Every teacher should see their classroom as an excellence incubator," says Kuropatwa. "The job of an educator is to help students get from where they are to where they want to be."
Creativity will follow.

David Warlick

2 Cents

David Warlick blogs on his site 2 Cents, a platform devoted to sharing ideas and new concepts in education. Recently, David said, "Every year, there are fewer teachers who have known the experience of confidently entering their classrooms with creativity, passion and the freedom to replace their textbooks with learning experiences that are unique, personal, powerful and authentic."

Does he believe the classrooms of 2013 are becoming too prohibitive and strict because of the pressures of preparing students for 'high stakes' tests?

David has strong feelings on the matter. "With scattered exceptions, teachers in my country are no longer encouraged to be creative, and in instances creativity is discouraged – and this is largely the result of an accountability system based on high-stakes testing. For years, scientific research-based teaching strategies were coin of the realm, where teachers had to be able to point to research findings that supported the learning activities that their students were engaged in."

So, has this lead to a lack of creativity in the classroom, or less of a focus on creative activities? David mentions that, "There have been teachers who have devised creative ways to improve their students' test performances, but where is the inducement to imaginatively accomplish the goals set by unimaginative people?"
Are some creative teachers being "punished" for thinking outside the square? David believes that this certainly does happen from time to time.

"I know of teachers who have been urged by administrators to scale back their creative practices because other teachers were complaining. That's rare, but it does happen."

David is highly passionate about new technology in the classroom, saying in a recent blog post, "I think that our students have every right to expect that their teachers will teach more from today's information landscape." (You also said) "Current students grew up with computers and the internet. They become so accomplished with these tools because it's play for them." So, what difference does he perceive in the way teachers and students are viewing technology for learning?

David says, "It's a good question. However, I think it would be fairer to characterize the perceptions of a rising education technology industry that seeks to use computers to automate schooling. The primary focus is data, generated by students' performance and used to refine teaching strategies. In and of itself, this is not a bad thing. I mean it's what teachers have been doing for decades. But just because computers can do it faster and more comprehensively, does not mean that it is the best use of the machines.
"Our students use technology to empower themselves, to extend their presence and perception beyond the world that they can see and touch. We've always want that. It's why children pretend. It enables them to form community and empowers them to work playfully. I've watched my children play their video games and to me, it looks like work!"

So is this becoming second-nature for the younger generation? David is really not so sure, quoting a Marc Prensky (an American writer and speaker specializing in learning and education) piece from 2001 called Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives.

David says, "It was a useful observation at the time. But I believe that using the technologies at hand are second-nature to all of us, regardless of age. As adults have had more access to computers and the internet, and especially with the advent of touch-sensitive tech like iPhones and iPads, we have devised incredibly creative ways of using them to accomplish our goals.

"These new technologies have threatened many people of my generation (I'm 61). It is because of the uncertainty that they imply about our future, and there is truth in this. However, what a future of uncertainty brings is a future of opportunity. I am increasingly replacing phrases like 'the 21st century' and 'the digital age' with 'The Age of Opportunities'.

So, should teachers be using technology in more creative and unconventional ways to teach conventional and core subjects? David thinks they should.

"Yes! But (and this may surprise you) part of the problem are the conventional/core subjects. In my years, there is one thing that I am certain about, that we are living in a time of rapid change. When so much around us is changing, what our students are taught becomes less important, because the answers to the test questions are changing. It's 'how' they are taught that has become important – or more to the point, "how they are learning to teach themselves" that is important.

"A time of rapid change necessitates what I call a 'learning lifestyle'. Higher learning should be focused on helping students learn to be tenacious and resourceful learners. In fact, I am also increasingly replacing the term 'literacy' with 'learning-literacies'."

David recently expanded on a concept mentioned by blogger Carla Beard, stating that, "The most important thing to remember about technology in our classrooms is that it's not about the technology". David recently asked teachers to supply the answer to the question, "What is it about?" He received some very interesting replies from his audience of teachers and educators.

He says, "Most frequently I hear that it's about the learning or it's about the students. I would agree with both. But I suspect that when they say that, "It's about the learning," they are referring to what they are learning, not how they are learning.

"I believe that it should be about how they are learning and what they are learning to do with what they are learning. Rigour is an adverb that is used quite often in the U.S. to describe where teaching needs to be going. But what is meant is that our students need to be learning more stuff. To me, rigour is not how much they are learning, but what they can do with what they are learning.

There has been some interest worldwide with making class times less structured and more responsive to creative opportunities. Does David think that class time should be more responsive to those moments when students may get a creative urge?
David agrees that this could be a good idea. He says, "I believe that class time should be more conducive to the 'creative urge', not just responsive to it. Creativity should be an integral part of what makes the class work, not just an unpredictable by-product. Students are rarely shown novelty and even more rarely invited to play with it. Teaching should become more playful."
It's thought that creative people have a tendency to over-react to stimulation. Does David agree? If so, has he noticed this in students of various ages?

"I am not sure what is meant by "over-react" or "over-reactive." Sounds like A.D.H.D. to me," says David. "As an adult who has been clinically diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (not hyperactive), I believe that what many see in me, that looks to them like creativity, is simply the highly random way that my mind works. I come at things from a different direction, because nothing lines up on my brain. Does that make sense?"

How essential is it for students to have creative parents in order to thrive? Or at least parents who understand the importance of
creative expression?

"Wow!" exclaims David, "That's a tough one. Personally, I do not like our reliance on the term, creativity. Too many people think about art and music when they see or hear the term. I prefer to talk about inventive or resourceful strategies for accomplishing a goal."

"That said, I do believe that we come to be creative by being around other creative people. It's why I think it is so important that teachers be given permission to be creative and encouraged to make mistakes. The best teaching might happen when the teacher says, "I made a mistake yesterday and this is what I learned from it."

There has been some reporting that negative early experiences in childhood can stunt creativity. David has a few ideas on how creativity be encouraged in a student that is displaying this sort of impingement. He says, "…we learned to be creative in the sandbox, and that our formal learning environments should come to have the qualities of a sandbox. It should be a place that the learner has a certainly amount of control over, and that control empowers them to do things that are bigger than they are."

A recent statistic indicated that 78 per cent of people say that creativity is very important to their careers, but only 57 per cent thought so when they were in college or university. Does David believe that creativity has been under-valued in the past, with a focus on academic performance over creative achievements?

He says, yes, "Academic performance is considered more highly than creative achievements. But some colleges and universities are starting rethink their purpose and practices. There is a much lauded list of eight hundred colleges and universities (all appear to be US) that no longer require S.A.T. or A.C.T. test scores for admittance. There are schools of design and engineering that are taking on a studio approach to learning in contrast to their old classroom lecture models."

"But much of this comes from our notions of what teaching is and what a teacher does. Teachers believe that they are content experts, and that their job is to effectively convey their expertise to their students. Anything other than that, and they are not doing their jobs. I recently saw a keynote address where the speaker (Superintendent of Philadelphia Public Schools) said that we do not need content specialists today nearly as much as we need context specialists."

David has a very novel way of kicking off his talks. He explains, "I always begin my presentations these days by sharing something that I didn't know yesterday. I try to help teacher come to believe that they should become master learners."

Dawn Hogue

The Polliwog Journal

Dawn Hogue runs The Polliwog Journal, a blog about teaching English and integrating technology into the classroom. She taught English from 1990 to 2011 and instructed students in a nationally recognized web-based English class called CyberEnglish for eleven years. The goal of The Polliwog Journal is to help educators embrace technology in their places of learning.

Based on her teaching experience, Hogue cites a number of factors that she says detract from creative learning in today's learning institutions: standardization, fear of trying new things, budget cuts eliminating talented-and-gifted programs and extracurricular clubs; lack of vision and leadership at the district or institutional level; and poor teacher training. She even goes so far as to suggest there may be a creativity crisis among teachers, not just students, mentioning several teachers she had in the 1970s who were far more creative than her contemporary colleagues.

Also, she says, "there is a tangible malaise in colleges, schools and universities, too. So much angst. It's like everyone has to be there and no one wants to be."

Hogue does not consider technology a hindrance to creativity; in fact, she has spent her career proving otherwise.

"In my classroom, having one-to-one access to the internet and to creation tools (photo editor, web and blog editors, all the Web 2.0 tools) was a big deal," she says. "I tried to engineer projects where students were not only free to explore ideas but also to express their knowledge in creative ways. Not everyone did the same assignment. It was fun for students to realize that what they were learning/creating was going to look different from peers.

"That process creates a sense of ownership that teachers don't often see. If I'm researching something I'm passionate about and using my talents to create something I'll publish on the web for the world to see, I'm going to care a lot more about that than I will care about my answers to ten questions about a story."

During many of her classes, Hogue required students to publish their work online, an unintended result of which, she says, was that they were "providing models of excellence for each other."
"I'd hear things like, 'Wow. That's cool. I didn't know you could do that.' They would get creative ideas from each other in that way. It wasn't my job as the teacher to suggest all the ways they could learn or show their learning."

As for tools like Google, which some educators say stifle curiosity; Hogue says that if an answer can be arrived at so easily, the students are asking the wrong questions.

Hogue is a big believer in trying new things, and believes some level of fearlessness is crucial if educators want to inspire creativity in their students.

"Toss out the textbook!" she says. "Toss out the "one size fits all" standards movement. Allow—no, not allow, expect students to choose the topics for their own learning. What is it you want to know? How will you learn? Not everyone needs to be learning the same thing, reading the same books, or creating the same product or evidence that they have learned. It takes confident teachers secure in their role as coach/facilitator working in environments where administrators are progressive and truly interested in fostering a lively learning environment."

In addition, Hogue says she thinks class time should be more open and less teacher-directed. "If classrooms were more relaxed places where students were engaged in long term project-based learning, there would naturally be time for inspiration to both happen and for students to act on the impulse."

But many of the teachers Hogue knew during her career either didn't share her attitude or couldn't seem to rise above their reservations.
"Too many teachers and administrators are weighed down by the yoke of political influence," she notes. "It takes educational anarchy to push out of the box these days, and it may simply be easier to do what one is told. I have known many teachers who are afraid to try something new. Some feel their jobs are at risk. Others just think trying something new/different will be too much work and they feel overworked as it is."

Even if all teachers did have the confidence, and were prepared to try new things, how would they measure students' creative progress?

"I think you can see creativity in action. When a student (anyone) presents an idea or a point of view so uncommon or new that it turns heads, that's evidence of creative thinking. I imagine there is no accurate rubric or measurement tool for creativity. Plus, what's creative and what's not is somewhat subjective, so I would hate for it to be too entrenched in standard assessment. I've seen rubrics that refer to things like 'uses creative approach' or 'shows divergent thinking,' but I'm not sure those markers are meaningful."

As far as challenges are
concerned, Hogue is aware of many, including the influence of a student's home environment on his or her creative potential.

"We've all known students who seem to defy their genetic material; that is, they seem alien in their own homes. Some people will thrive no matter what. But environment is HUGE, at a place of learning and at home. Parents who allow messy exploration and encourage unstructured play will probably help their children's creative instincts – this later influences adult learners. But students won't thrive alone. Educators might need help with techniques to help their students develop creative thinking and expression. A house with no art or building materials, for example, isn't going to help.

"To encourage students impacted by negative experiences, places of learning should establish safe, positive, playful environments that stimulate native desire. A lot of the work would be in mending broken trust and building self-esteem."
Another challenge lies in society's attitude toward creativity in general.

"Most of the college and university students I've known are overly concerned with earning a grade and subsequently their diploma so they can get a job and make money. That is probably the message they get from their parents, too. In that case, thinking of a place of learning as a primarily creative environment won't happen."

There are few colleges and other institutions where creativity is valued over the acquisition of knowledge, she says, but now, with the Common Core Standards in place, "the scope of what is achievable in a classroom will likely be diminished. It's not a good time for creative students."
Still, Hogue's optimism rises to the top of every issue, especially when it comes to the role of digital platforms in saving creativity.

"In my teaching career, creativity was valued only if the idea could be implemented without adding to the district's budget. Or there were times when we'd get the message to 'create, be risky, explore,' but it ended up being only lip service (a checkmark on a principal's to-do list, perhaps). Without administrative backing, teachers can only go so far."

Despite the constraints imposed by administration, Hogue says, it was the online community she turned to that ultimately renewed her hope.
"When I began blogging about teaching and learning, I realized that what I did in my classroom resonated with other teachers. I started getting comments and other feedback from readers, and I saw that blogging was more than personal reflection. It was a public conversation, an alive thing that helped everyone see what teaching could be."

Teachers could learn from each other. By engaging in online communities, the uninspired or misguided could connect with the energized and creative, and in that way "mitigate the impact of a stifling local environment."
"I'm not sure that it's a creative thing to publish one's writing in a blog, but the process of sharing what we know adds to that public conversation and gives us a foundation for doing creative things."

Creative teaching not only benefits students but rejuvenates educators as well, in turn benefitting students further.

"I have always said that what I love most about teaching is that it allows me to be creative. It's so energizing to invent a new project-based unit that integrates a variety of learning levels and offers students a huge range of choices," says Hogue.

"Not only is it a kind of malpractice to use an old unit over and over again," she adds, "but teachers who fail to re-imagine their lessons and methods from year to year are stifling their own creative faculties."

What Ed Said

Organized Classroom

Edna Sackson is a Teaching and Learning Coordinator at an IB PYP school in Melbourne, Australia. She is an E-mediator for the SOLEs and SOMEs project, interacting with students in disadvantaged settings in India. As well as this, Edna is the co-organizer and initiator of #pypchat, a fortnightly global Twitter discussion for PYP teachers. She is a consultant, workshop facilitator and presenter on inquiry learning, global connectedness, promoting creativity, integrating technology, concept-driven learning as well as learning principles.

Does Edna think that class time should be more responsive to moments when students may get a creative urge? Enda says that she does think so. "I've surveyed students to ask them what conditions encourage their creativity," she says.
"A surprising number said they have creative ideas when they are bored in class! I think the best learning conditions are when students have ownership of the learning. The more students are encouraged to lead their learning, the more opportunities for creativity. I don't see creativity as something teachers should try and control. It's more about giving learners time, space, encouragement, opportunity... and letting them fly."

The video What is Creativity? is uploaded onto Edna's blog What Ed Said. She has written several posts on this topic, including 10 ways to give students control and 10 ways to encourage students to take responsibility for their learning.
Edna also recently posted on the topic of "provoking curiosity".

Does she feel that curiosity feeds a student's learning? Can curiosity be provoked by creative
exercises? For example, creative games as opposed to
book-learning?

"Curiosity feeds everyone's learning," says Edna, "so we need to find exciting and engaging ways to provoke curiosity.

I don't think 'exercises' are the way to do this, rather authentic, real life, complex issues, situations and experiences. I'm a proponent of inquiry learning, where students are encouraged to question, wonder, explore, experiment, find and solve problems. It comes back to student ownership again. I am a fan of Project Zero's Visible Thinking strategies to promoting a culture of thinking in the learning space. Once learners are aware of thinking, what it is, how it works and how to make it visible, it becomes a habit."

Another of Edna's recent posts demonstrated students in Australia connecting with students in India via Skype. The post mentioned that they connected especially via music (in this case, a shared love of international artist Shakira!) Does Edna believe that teachers need to come up with more creative ideas like this to connect their classrooms with the world?

"That was a wonderful interaction and some of the students involved still connect via Facebook several years later. The kids' reflections here say it all! Recently we had a group of younger students Skype with kids in Japan to inquire into inter-connectedness for a geoliteracy unit. When the teacher stepped back, they too connected through music and did a Gangnam dance together!"

Edna continues, "Taking learning beyond the classroom makes it engaging, purposeful and real and provides opportunities for all the so called 21st century skills, for example collaboration, creativity, communication, self direction, problem solving, global awareness."

Does Edna believe that creativity has been under-valued in the past, with a focus on academic performance over creative achievements? More importantly, does she think this attitude is shifting?

"It's definitely undervalued," says Edna.

"My daughter is incredibly
creative, but most of her high school years were less than
pleasurable as she struggled to fit in with the expectations of the school system."

"I don't have recent experience of university, but it doesn't seem to be a context where creativity is encouraged to flourish. Especially in those large undergrad classes where students are expected to largely listen passively, work through excessive amounts of prescribed reading, then sit an exam at the end, with no space for creative thought (or authentic learning.) No matter how much it is shifting in primary and middle schools (and it is!), the higher end still seems to be less about creativity and more about compliance to achieve grades."

She continues, "A teacher I know told me he struggled to get students thinking creatively because they continually worried about what was in the exam. One student complained about this teacher because he tried to engage his class in creative thinking instead of focusing on exam prep!"

What are the top 'technology' tools that Edna could recommend to a teacher who might be unsure of how to integrate more creativity into their classrooms?

"Social media," is Edna's simple answer. She jokes, "Can I say social media three times?"
"I've learned more through blogs, Skype and Twitter (and as a result found more triggers, ideas and opportunities for innovation and creativity) in the last five years than through other means in the preceding 25 as an educator. Why is it not the same for our learners? Here are some students' reflections on the benefits of blogging, for instance."

Recently Edna wrote a post on learning as an adult. Does she believe that adult learners are different from young learners?

"Not in my experience," says Edna. "These days I work more with adults than with kids. Common misconceptions about how kids learn make people think that adults learn differently. In most cases, the old style, conventional model of school does not promote the best learning. (I'm back to more ownership again.) Once you crystallize your beliefs about how real learning takes place, you find there's not much difference between the desired conditions for young and older learners!"

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