I really like this video from Ethan Hawke about giving yourself permission to be creative. I’ve noticed a few things in student-centered learning when it comes to being creative: students have a hard time figuring out what they really love, students compare themselves to others far too often, and students are afraid of appearing foolish if what they create is not good enough. As Hawke points out, children don’t start out with those inhibitions; our societal “norms” produce them. I believe that is to the detriment of our community. While I don’t think education needs to become a free-for-all, allowing students to do whatever they want, I would like us to spend more time in schools helping students to find out what children truly love instead of focusing on their weaknesses. And, as the late, great Sir Ken Robinson also advocated, we need to stop diminishing the benefits of creativity in our schools.
I’ve written a lot about Makey Makey in the past, including recommending it in my “Gifts for the Gifted” series in 2014. (See all of my past recommendations here.) I recently visited their website, and noticed that there is a now a nice layout of lesson plans to use with this versatile tool. Some other ways I’ve seen people use it are as a Book Tasting tool and an Exit Ticket Data Tracker. My students used it for interactive onomatopoeia in one instance, and as a game controller for their Scratch games in our game design unit. There are plenty of ways to get creative with Makey Makey, and it’s very user-friendly. If you are considering integrating more Design Thinking into your classroom, a Makey Makey is an inexpensive way to encourage innovation and experimentation with your students!
As I was doing some prep work for my Facebook Q&A on Design Thinking next Monday, I came across the term, “Wizard of Oz Prototype.” I realized that we had done prototypes like this in the classroom, but didn’t know there was a term for them. As you know, the Wizard in that famous book and movie uses the art of illusion to appear much larger, louder, and smarter than he really is. When making a Wizard of Oz prototype to test out, you may want to find out if the end experience is going to be worth all of the work needed to create it. For example, you may want to design a robot that dispenses fortunes to people. Before spending time on programming a robot, you might dress up as a robot and present fortunes when someone presses a button to find out if this is a product people will like. So, it’s kind of a twist on “Fake it ’til you make it.” You can read more about it in this handout from Stanford’s d. school.
My good friend and colleague, Donna Lasher, has a wonderful website I’ve spoken about before on this blog, Big Ideas for Little Scholars. In addition, she has a Facebook Group that does book studies and exchanges resources. She has invited me to speak with the members of the group this month in a Facebook Room about Design Thinking. This will be a live Q&A period on June 14th when you can ask (and I can hopefully answer!) questions about using Design Thinking in various environments — GT pull-out as well as regular classrooms from K-12. We would love for you to join us for this event, and participants will also receive a handout of resources following the session. Whether you would like to attend the session, or just be part of an ongoing wonderful group, here is the link to the private group. The date and a few more details are below. Also, if you are interested in having me speak to your school, district, or other group, feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
A couple of weeks ago, I shared some of the activities that I’ve done in the past with my students as the school year comes to a close. I decided to put them in this Wakelet so you don’t have to search for them. On Twitter, Susan Barber (@SusanGbarber) shared a fabulous activity she did with her high school seniors, and I asked for her permission to share. (My post, Blackout Poetry Maker, has been one of the most popular ones this year, so I thought this might be something my readers would enjoy!)
My students had 5 choices for an end of the year activity. One was a college admission essay blackout or whiteout. Love the final products! pic.twitter.com/KTHJj7WgjV— Susan Barber (@susangbarber) May 12, 2021
Of course, once people saw her examples, they wanted to know more about the project. It turned out the students had several choices in addition to the blackout poetry of college essays. She later tweeted this Google Slides presentation so people could see the options and examples. As you know, I am a big fan of choice and open-ended activities that allow students to show their creativity, so I am a big fan of Susan’s idea, and I hope you can use it, too!
My family and I recently took a trip to Colorado. On our way to our VRBO in Colorado Springs, we stopped in the lovely town of Littleton. Walking down Main Street, we saw many fun shops and boutiques, but it was a Monday and several were closed. I was drawn to one sign, “PlayForge,” and peeked in the windows to see a darkened shop that seemed to sell board games. Disappointed the store wasn’t open, I continued walking down the street, but I kept glancing back.
The next morning, I was doing my daily scan of my Twitter feed, and couldn’t believe the second Tweet that I read was about PlayForge. (Knowing the far reach of social media these days, I suppose I should not have been surprised.) The Tweet was from one of the owners, Jesse Stommel (@Jessifer), and I realized I was going to have to return to Littleton to visit this amazing space. PlayForge had only recently opened, and it seems my initial attraction to the spot was more intuitive than I had realized.
You see, Jesse Stommel is an educator. He and his husband opened PlayForge as a retail store, but also a makerspace. With their adorable 4-year-old daughter, Hazel, as inspiration, they created a game store where children are welcome, and they will eventually be offering classes on game design where kids and families can make products using the store’s 3d printers, laser cutters, vinyl cutter, and other tools.
At PlayForge, you can find games for all ages, a classroom area with tables and a giant digital screen, and a room with accordion doors that can open out to the sidewalk so making can happen for everyone to see. Families will absolutely adore this unique business. Jesse, co-author of An Urgency of Teachers, and an experienced educator, is committed to helping children to love playing and making games.
So, yes, we made it back to Littleton on a day the store was open, and I got to meet the family and get a tour. We bought a couple of games that I thought I might be able to fit in my suitcase, and Hazel the Store Manager took a break from her jigsaw puzzle to scan them for us at the checkout.
If you live in Littleton, you should treat yourself by visiting PlayForge at 2420 W Main St. in Old Town Littleton, CO. You can find store hours and contact info here. You can also follow them on Twitter @PlayForgeGames. You can also listen to an 8-minute interview with Jesse and @reddy2go about the store here.
If you live in San Antonio… hey we need a place like this! I don’t have any money to invest, but I would be a great consultant and maker space teacher!