Creativity In Education 8. Reflection

I have been thinking a lot about the type of reflection we ask our students to do and why we do it. In context of attempting to create an educational culture that’s enables and fosters creativity, reflection is an important tool. At the moment when our students reflect on their learning it is in a journal form, mainly written in a book. This has obvious limitations. The most noticeable one is that the only people that will see this reflection are the child who has written it and (maybe) the teacher.

We are attempting to create an environment where each child is inundated with as many ideas as possible. Creativity is often born from the individual’s ability to take two or three disparate ideas, join them together in a way no one else can see and by doing so create a brand new idea.

If a child is not constantly accessing different ideas then the opportunity to do this is limited. If only using the reflection model of a journal in a book, spoken of previously, as only 2 people will be inputting into the reflection, there is the potential that neither the child nor the teacher has any good ideas what so ever and therefore that creative process becomes limited.

I have been working with Richard Olsen from Ideas Lab on this matter and together we have been experimenting with a reflection template built in a Buddy Press platform.This emulates a social network eg Facebook which allows for a flow of ideas, plus other things such as peer to peer learning.

Reflection Template

At the moment I am using this template in a project I am working on (alongside Kristen Swenson) using the game Minecraft. The students driving question for this project was “can you teach an area of our schools curriculum through the game Minecraft” (yes – they were doing some research for me). When it come time to reflect they login to their template where they have all created their own profile and they fill in a fairly simple form.

The power of this system is that as it operates as a social network each child can go to any other students reflection, read it and leave a comment with some advice, something they had noticed, some encouragement etc. Furthermore all of the groups that are forming up around the project question are listed down the left hand side. Each student can go and look at the other projects reflection and read, comment etc. At any stage a student is able to leave their own project and join another group if they realise that it is more suited to them or they have more to add in that project than their current one. A number of students have done exactly that over the term strengthening the new projects they have joined as well as inspiring their own creative thinking by having an influx of new ideas coming at them all the time.

As the teacher at no stage have I had to limit the students by my own lack of knowledge.

This reflective template also draws ideas from the iterative reflective cycle used by software developers using the Agile Methodology as their base.

Better teaching and learning with blogging

Over the past four years our school has an intensive blogging program. Every child from grade 3 up has a blog. This has been incredibly useful in regrads to us skilling up both students and staff in web 2.0 tools. Skills such as uploading, posting, embedding, dealing with templates and so on are all very effectivly taught through blogging. Our students were mainly using their blogs as digital portfolios. In this format students are uploading content but not really doing much else.

While this skill learning is very important it is really only very basic learning and I was looking for a way to deepen both the learning experience as well as teaching using the blogging platform.

I met Richard Olsen at a recent forum on blogging and he presented a model which does exactly what I was looking for. This is a model that he along with his team at Ideas Lab had constructed along with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach of PLP Network.

The four interlinking circles all show a different phases that a learner would move through while blogging. Each phase offering different skills and learning potentials. I imagine that the phases would be moved through seamlessly. Each phase also has implications for the teacher. For instance the connecting phase would result in the teacher having to teach methods of research as well as critical consumption of information.

The communication stage which has the role of sharing information and repurposing information would lead to the implication of understanding copyright and so on.

The real power of blogging comes when linking into these ideas. Practical examples of things you can do to link into these ideas are
1.Blogs have much more power when they are niche blogs as they allow the blogger to connect to a community, they set up stronger parameters for an audience for the blog, beyond the child’s parents and grandparents making it much more authentic.

2.When the comment box is used effectively it also allows for greater connectivity, it leads to deeper discussion, potential for questions and perhaps even debate. We need to teach our students how to comment effectively in order to create discussion.

3.When tagging and categories are done correctly the same happens. Children should be taught to tag for others not just themselves.

4.Blogs allow us to work collaboratively - there is always more knowledge in the group than the individual.

5. We also need to teach our students how to link effectively – this creates a broader knowledge base.

6. Students should be taught how to subscribe to other blogs, thus deepening their knowledge base and community base.

I presented these ideas to my staff and received overwhelmingly positive response. The model that Richard and his team has come up with is a good one as it provides a language that allows us to talk about blogging relative to our teaching practice, it also gives both pedagogical and practical ideas on how to take the idea of student blogging and transform it  or develop it to a deeper learning experience. It is also a model that I feel can be translated to alot of digital literacy’s. Many teachers are STILL unaware of how to apply ICT into their classrooms and see it as being some sort of nuisance rather than required. Models like this one provide substance to those teachers and are very beneficial.