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A talk centering around creating an environment of creativity for your students. This presentation focuses on the nessecary elements of a creativity rich classroom, and some strategies to build and enhance this environment.

Robert Fulk Ed.S

on 30 July 2013

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Transcript of Creativity

Creativity: Risk. Environment. Ambition.
The purpose of my presentation is to discuss creativity in education. Some of the things I have seen it is, is not, and some ways I've found to create an environment that builds creative thinkers.

I believe wholeheartedly it is our job to educate the 'whole' student, and that this goes far beyond how they perform on a 'test'.

This presentation is not creative.
What is risk?
Risk is scary. Risk is looking at a problem with a different solution and not knowing how it will be received.

Most people don't want to fail in front of others.

So we need to make it ok, and expected.
Encourage Risk
How do you encourage Risk?

It's not just enough to tell students to be polite, or focus their attention to each other, or applaud nicely.

How do we encourage Risk?
Risk is in our culture, for good or bad.
We either stamp it out, or mildly tolerate it, or embrace a student's intellectual risk as part of our culture.

We can get lucky with this by chance, but I think we win as a profession when our pedagogy sets up this culture.
Prezi is a cool medium, but just because it's different than PowerPoint doesn't make it creative.

I think this is a trap we fall into.

What else falls into the 'not creativity trap?
So what we can do to make it intrinsic?
Here's some ideas. They're not all that's out there. I've used them and they worked. Others have used them and they work.
Refine how you Assess
Let the student pick the assessment.

Scary thought but worth it when you teach them to make it
(a) appropriate to the learning goal, (b) able to illustrate mastery, (c) measurable, and
(d) require that it be varied.
The last part is a key...
(d) require that it be varied.

SHOW them that you are flexible, and model how you want them to be flexible in their demonstration.

Give them choice, but don't let them pigeonhole themselves, or get off only playing to their strengths.
Don't allow the negative
Even the bravest child will clam up if they feel their peers will stomp on a bad idea.

So draw the hard line. Don't allow it. Stress and model what feedback is, even when it's not positive.

Feedback is a gift. Be it a good gift, or that crappy sweater for Christmas. What you don't want is ungrateful gift giving, either way.

Stress that it's always respectful.
Analyze, don't penalize
When your students make mistakes, ask them to analyze and discuss these mistakes.

Often, mistakes or weak ideas contain the seed of correct answers or good ideas.
Decipher vs. complete.
Look at the work you assign. Is it based on completing it, or deciphering it?

Not just homework, but in class.

How much of your work requires intellectual wrestling?
Teach Risk.
Teach your students what
(a) sensible
(b) intellectual

risks look like, and are in practice.
This is difficult.
This requires you to look at what failure means.

Does failure mean more work? If I fail do I get more work? If I succeed do I get more work?

If so, how does that encourage risk?

Or can you build a culture where that does encourage risk?
Model your thinking.
There is no process I have found to teach creativity. What I have found is mindset and preparing your culture.

Keep your kids on their toes about their assumptions/ stereotypes/ bias/ or what they take for granted.

Remember it was not long ago the Earth was flat.
In Japan, teachers spend entire class periods asking children to analyze the mistakes in their mathematical thinking.

If we tell kids to 'Learn from your mistakes' then let's model that.

Know thyself.
It's not just giving your students a learning style inventory.

Spend time coaxing (or forcing) them into understanding
(a) what their creative process is
(b) what pride in their work is
(c) what pride in their peers is
(d) why creativity is important
So why is it important?
If you value it, and see the value of it in education then I can't tell you. You already know.
Assess what you value.
If you want to build a culture of creativity....

Then your tests can't just be MC, ORQ, SA, etc.

Goes back to the first idea of assessment. If you don't make it 'game day' valuable, then they won't see it as a life skill.
We need more time.
How do we allow more time in this KPREP high stakes era?

We just do it because it's important. We structure the time around a problem. We use the problem as a springboard for ideas.

Let's understand why it's important so that we can defend it....

I value it because creativity is innovation. Creativity is looking at the box and knowing where it came from, but also knowing what you can do with it. I value it because creativity builds great things.
First: It's not the medium
I think we get stuck on the medium. A student presents an 'old' or intellectually 'easy' idea in a new way and we reward that more than the student who used an old way to showcase a new idea.

Medium has it's place, but it's place is not first.
My ideas on what its not..
Third: It's not easy
The 'right' answer is easy. Telling a student something is right or wrong is the easy part of our job.

What's hard is helping them figure out right, wrong, and the ambiguities of permeable concepts in between.

That's where we get magic, I think.
Second: It's not the end product (most of the time)
Today I am talking about the process, and the process of creating the environment where creativity is grown.

The end product can certainly be creative, but what we own as educators is the process, for good or bad.
Last: Unintentional
I don't think for a second that creativity is limited to sporadic bursts of insight.

For sure it can be the beauty of the moment, and the spark of imagination at the right time.

However, as educators we can and must make it intentional, insomuch as the environment we create.
So if it's not those things, what is it?
In essence creativity is the ability to generate a new way of thinking. Be it artistically, socially, mathematically, in invention, design, versus complex problems, old puzzles, or new avenues unexplored.

Creativity is why we remember Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Mozart, Maya Lin, Da Vinci, Marie Curie, and so on.

Common Themes I see
The above mentioned people have many things in common, but the three I am interested in as an educator are:

1. They were ambitious (think of the projects they tackled)

2. They took risks (and learned to rewrite conventional wisdom)

3. They had environments that grew their creativity (either around them, or by their own making)
What can we do with these common themes?
Ambition, Risk, Environment.

We can control our classroom environment.

We can control how our students confront risk.

Ambition will floruish when we have a hold of the other two.
Build the culture that rewards risk.

Build the culture that rewards thinking outside, inside, and around the box.

Build a culture that rewards students who use their mind to think of new problems and solutions.

Ambitious Culture.
Learners thrive in a culture that rewards creativity. They thrive and become 'ambitious'.

Ambitious students understand the importance of education. Not only do they understand, they strive to flex their minds.

This is the culture we want.
Why do we teach math as progressing levels of computation? Why do we spend 13 years teaching kids to be calculators?

I ask this because I think the next 'big' idea in education will be when someone revolutionizes how we teach math.
A quick question...
Do we need creativity?
We do. Several studies both anecdotal and qualitative indicate we in fact, do need more creative ventures in education.

I think this is because of the 5-15 days of standardized assessment we subject our students to, and the mindset that comes with it.
Pulled from Ed Week
Thinking inside the box
Is OK and certainly has it's place. I will contend though that we spend the majority of our effort teaching 'inside the box' thinking. While this is necessary, I think we can spend more time outside of the box.
Tedious or Essential?
Error Analysis can be tedious or it can spark growth. You pick how you will present that.

Set the tone for your students on how we look at mistakes.
Show them how you process.
Model ways for your students to attack a problem. Show them your way, and be prepared to show them other ways.

Teach them there is not one 'way' to do things. We're getting a lot better at doing this in math.

'Thinking Strategies' is a good tool for this.
The next Steve Jobs, or Da Vinci isn't going to be sparked by satisfaction in others work. They want to know why things are. They want to understand how things work.
So how do we do it?
1. Anticipate questions about the content and be prepared for divergent thinking.

2.Encourage your students to be intellectually daring.

3. Model attention/ respect/ encouragement.

4. Allow more time to process.

Academic Performance and more time.
Robert Stahl's (and others) research into wait time tells us that more time produces:

1. Longer answers that are more correct.

2. IDK decreases

3. Volunteers increase, negative behaviors decrease.

4. New questions that are more complex arise more frequently.
Surprise, surprise, the more time we allow them to think and process the more rich their learning outcomes.

This is exactly what we want.

It will also produce exactly what we are accountable for: results.
Realize though the ACT, KPREP, GRE will not allow you to do it any other way.

There is value in exposing students to the 'test atmosphere'.

Also realize the 'test atmosphere' fits about 40% of our population.

The rest is either ambivalent, or hostile to the traditional test.

But I'm not creative!
You don't have to be.

This isn't about you being creative, it's about the environment that you create to build your students creativity.

You don't have to be intrinsically creatively gifted but you do have to be willing to do one thing right off the bat.
You have to take a chance.
You have to be willing to take some risks.

I am a former wrestling coach, who likes to work in his yard, watches football, taught EBD, and am in the relatively 'boringly' perceived role of a Principal.
Yet here I am.
I realized a while back it is in no way, shape or form, about me.

For our students to be the successfully engaged, dynamic learners that we want and expect, we have to be willing to get out of our comfort zone.
Thank you
My contact information is Robert.fulk@bullitt.kyschools.us

Or just look me up on our webpage.

Bullitt Lick Middle School -OR-
Bullitt Lick Middle School Facebook
Full transcript