It seems forever ago, but it was a little over seven month ago that I attended the Adobe Creative Educator Day at the end of February. It was a transformative experience and opened my eyes to the possibilities of creativity. It inspired me to add creative workflow to my process and examined my students’ creative literacy skills. My 3/1/2020 blog post, Adding Creative Workflow, shared my reflections on this day. A week later, I shared my newly started creative venture as my third graders began a creative project called “Make a Collagasaurus” using the Smithsonian’s new resource, Open Access in a post called Beginning a Creative Venture on 3/8/2020.
But less than a week later, all of our worlds changed. Schools closed for COVID-19 and we began emergency remote learning in my district on March 13, 2020. We thought it would be temporary, but we learned otherwise. In the spring, the focus was on survival- troubleshooting and my skills as a tech coach were put to the test. Our new normal challenged me and my colleagues in ways that I could have never imagined. No longer was creativity a focus for me, there wasn’t any time for that.
This fall, as we entered virtual teaching, demands on all of us have been overwhelming. Getting almost 900 students going on their own personal devices from my school was a huge endeavor, followed by troubleshooting all the issues that followed. To add to that, I was asked to teach eight sections of STEAM (something that I had never taught before). The first few weeks of school was truly exhausting, never ending. My body finally fought back two weeks ago and I got sick. I had to take a break and get some rest to recover.
Finally, I am starting to feel better, like my normal self and yesterday, I got the opportunity to participate in ISTE’s Creative Constructor Lab Virtual Conference. This conference started yesterday and will continue through October 10. As I participated in the keynote and my first two sessions, I felt reenergized. I had a feeling of deja-vue. So much of what was shared echoed the Adobe Creative Educator Day, but also took it a step further. Maybe after the past seven months, I collected new nuggets from these inspiring sessions. But for the first time in months, I couldn’t wait to blog, full of creative excitement.
Inspiring Cognitive Flexibility
During the keynote, Joseph South, the CLO of ISTE, shared this quote. “Because they wandered, they were successful.” He described how successful people wander, explore, tinker and how they turn these errors into learning experiences. He called this practice cognitive flexibility. As he explained this practice, I made many connections to having a growth mindset.
This year is truly an exercise in cognitive flexibility. According to the SFU website, “Cognitive flexibility resides at the intersection of awareness, adaptability and confidence.” (https://wiki.its.sfu.ca/permanent/learning/index.php/Cognitive_Flexibility). Indeed, teaching in a virtual environment requires all of these skills. It requires dedication to our students or awareness of what they need. It demands confidence as we try new things outside of our comfort zone. Lastly, we must be adaptable, showing flexibility when things do not go as planned. Through all of these struggles, we learn from any missteps we might make.
I am so proud of how my colleagues at my school have embraced this practice. They have built their awareness through so many professional development opportunities, become very adaptable and are taking more risks. How can I continue to support them in this practice without overwhelming them?
Promoting Creativity in a Remote Learning Environment
Inspiring cognitive flexibility is also important for our students. Allowing them to learn in this way promotes creativity, but how do we do that in a remote setting? As a new STEAM teacher, I am fortunate to be able to collaborate with our school’s amazing STEAM teacher, Mandy Rice. She has been phenomenal in sharing her expertise, while welcoming my feedback. We began the year focusing on creativity, having students select an object and present an alternate use for it. Students then shared their object’s new use on a Flipgrid. It was amazing watching them flex their creativity muscles.
Yesterday, I attended a session by Alicia Johal about robotics and engineering during remote learning. I loved how she described how she promotes creativity with her middle school students. Her goal is to provide her students with low entry and high ceiling prototyping challenges with her students. She shared amazing ideas during her sessions to do so. As she implements her ideas, she promotes projects that not only are empathy-based but center on helping others. She also discussed how in a remote learning environment, she encourages the use of digital tools like Google Drawings and Tinkercad. I can’t wait to see how I can incorporate her ideas as Mandy and I plan STEAM lessons in the future.
Empowering A Designer’s Mindset
The other session I attended yesterday focused on developing a designer’s mindset from a distance. Amanda Haughs began her session sharing this quote from David Kelley, “Wallowing in that state of not knowing is not easy, but it’s necessary.”
She shared eight design abilities(https://www.ideou.com/blogs/inspiration/david-kelley-on-the-8-design-abilities-of-creative-problem-solvers) that creative problem solvers have that she focuses on at her school and ways that she works with her students to develop these abilities. I loved the diverse focus on these design abilities and it made me reflect on which skills have we focused on so far during STEAM classes, and which ones we still need to address. I was also struck how these design abilities connected with many of our Portrait of a Graduate skills in my district.
She shared many ideas for creativity sprints in her presentations. I loved how these were simple ideas where students could use what they had around them to boost creativity. From scavenger hunts to shape drawings and more- these were ideas that could be implemented the next day. I can’t wait to see how I can add these ideas to my practice.
And that is just Day 1! Today starts day 2 and I am excited to see what I learn next. Maybe this will start a blogging sprint for me as I wander further into my creativity journey.