27 February 2012

Urging Global Comments to Promote Creativity in Education!

Today’s post will be the first of two parts and is a guest post by a friend who lives many states away from me in the United States.  I am in Kentucky; Gwyn lives in North Dakota.  We are modeling the promotion of creativity through collaboration, and we urge you to join us by commenting on this blog. 

Part 1 of 2:  Guest post by Gwyn Ridenhour
Recently, Renee posted five simple suggestions to encourage more creativity in the schools. She asked me to choose one and respond to it, but honestly I couldn’t. They are all too intertwined and important to simply discuss one.

As a home educator of two remarkable children, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to pursue these suggestions in the freedom of my own home. However, the longer I do this, the more I wish for the same opportunity for teachers and students in the public schools. We are simply not preparing our children for our rapidly changing future. They lack critical thinking and problem solving skills, largely because we are too scripted in the classroom. It’s beyond time to give teachers more autonomy in the classroom and encourage methods that center on creativity and the individual child.

Here’s what Renee says (with my comments following each item):
 Let students study and explore topics that interest them.  
Letting students choose their own topics does several marvelous things at once.
  •  It validates  (“you mean you care about what I want to learn??”).
  • It empowers, allowing students to become more invested their own success. Suddenly students are learning because it’s something they identified as a goal; they’re no longer just studying for a grade.
  • It prepares students for their own futures. If a child passionate about art studies math, science, history, and literature through an art lens, he will learn the core subjects and enrich his knowledge of art all at the same time. The result? And educated child who is an expert in his field.
  • It motivates students. Take the art student again. Let’s say that this student has a history of hating math. If you can help him see math as relevant to his passion, then the game changes. Intermingle art and geometry. Introduce him to the myriad patterns waiting to be discovered in numbers and shapes. Let him put doodles on his algebra work.  Suddenly, math becomes a bit more interesting.  If you haven’t discovered Vi Hart yet, be sure to check out her videos (and let students check them out too). She’s a model of combining the arts with math.

Let students use their own technology devices to enhance their learning

I can’t speak to the IPad, IPhones, and so forth, because we don’t own these types of devices. However, we do embrace technology in our home to help the kids pursue their interests. In fact, without technology, the success they’ve had in their areas of interest largely wouldn’t have been possible.

My daughter is an 8 year old author and illustrator of two self-published books. She has sold about 150 copies, enough to buy her own laptop and plenty of book stock to sell at future events. She uses Wordpress to support her author website, lulu.com for the self-publishing services, and National Novel Writing Month (another website) to help keep her on track in her writing goals. This fall, we used our household camera and Windows Movie Maker to allow her to create short films explaining the writing process. This has opened up a wealth of public speaking opportunities, including one video-conference (more technology) with a school across the state. And oh yeah, she’s writing her newest book on the laptop she bought herself.

My 11 year old son is a musician and composer. He uses software called Finale to compose, and Wordpress to support his music-based website. Last year, we matched the money he had earned from gigging to allow him to purchase studio recording equipment. He’ll use this to record his original pieces for many years to come. He uses texting as well, mainly to coordinate band practice and science club meetings.

Final note:  Check back tomorrow for post 2 of 2.  Check out Gwyn's blog and the work of her two fabulous kids.  And, please, comment on both of our blogs so we can increase the collaboration and dialogue about creativity and improvements for education.