Fans of the fabulous Kid President know that he is part of a dynamic duo. Behind the scenes of all of the Kid President videos is his brother-in-law, Brad Montague. Now Brad has started a YouTube channel, and his first video is just as inspirational as all of the others he has produced. I can’t help but think that Brad’s new dad status might have been a motivating factor for this story. Or maybe he saw Hamilton recently…
Dr. Pauline Dow (@PaulineDow), an Associate Superintendent in our district, shared this recent TED Talk by Steven Johnson, “How Play Leads to Great Inventions,” in a tweet this week. Steven Johnson, you may remember, is an author I’ve mentioned on this blog because I was fascinated by his book, How We Got to Now. Johnson is adept at tracing innovations back through time to discover the (often surprising) building blocks that made them possible.
In this October, 2016, TED Talk, Johnson claims that necessity is not always the mother of invention – and that play may be just as, if not more, important when it comes to generating new ideas. I’m pretty certain that Sir Ken Robinson would approve this message.
I will be adding this video to my Pinterest Board of Inspirational Videos for Teachers. Click here to see more.
Joe Tedesco, the man behind SA Makerspaces for Education, posted about CoSpaces a couple of weeks ago. CoSpaces is available on the web, and as a free iOS or Android app. My students and are still investigating its features, so I may be incorrect about what we’ve discovered so far.
Using CoSpaces on a computer (desktop or laptop), you can register for a free account and then create projects. To experiment, I created one account that my students could also use (if you do this, make sure each student knows how to start a new project or collaborate with someone else on one). There are tools on the web browser version to “build” 3-dimensional scenes, somewhat Minecraft-ish. For those of us who are spatially challenged, it’s good practice for using other 3-d modeling programs like Tinkercad. You can also add your own images as well as audio files.
The scenes can be viewed on mobile devices as 3d by walking around with or moving the device to explore the scenery. If you have a VR headset, you can also experience the scenes this way. The video on this page is the best way to understand how it works. At this time, you can only create CoSpaces projects using a web browser and experience they are best experienced through mobile devices.
CoSpaces shows a great deal of potential for use by students to create – which is one of the main purposes for technology in my point of view. I have a feeling there are going to be some exciting advances made by this company as it evolves, so you should definitely check it out.
Due to a creative schedule we have this year, I have the occasional opportunity to meet with students in different grade levels who are not necessarily identified as Gifted and Talented. When I have a class in K-2 during one of these “enrichment times,” I only have 25 minutes to make an impact. Most of the students in the class have never been in my room before, so lately I have been employing a technique I like to call “Taboo Brainstorming” to elicit some creative thinking in a short period of time.
With Taboo Brainstorming, I give the students a topic and they brainstorm ideas as a class as I record them on the board. Then I deliver the bad news.
“Okay, good job, everyone! Now you can choose a response of your own – but it can’t be any of the ones we just brainstormed.”
I get groans, eyes wide open with disbelief, and a few, “But can’t I just…” which I shut down quickly.
“We don’t have much time, and I know you have even better ideas in those brains that we didn’t get a chance to put on the board. Use one of those!”
The results are always a vast improvement over the average responses I would usually see. For example, the 2nd graders I met with this week brainstormed things they are thankful for that are soft. Normally, I would get 5 or 6 papers with a pillow or a marshmallow on them, despite my pleas to, “think of something no one else will put on their paper.” This time, I got papers with such answers as: a foam pit, a cinnamon roll, and a car seat. None of these students are in my gifted class. The 1st graders, who had to think of something to be thankful for that started with an “s,” were equally as creative: sesame seed, security, and the movie, The Secret Life of Pets. (By the way, both of these topics were taken from this activity on “Minds in Bloom.)
Now you’ve probably already figured out the down side to this idea. It’s a “one-off,” unfortunately. Once you let them know that the ideas on the board are taboo for their independent work, then they are probably going to hold back the next time you try to brainstorm. No worries. There are a few other tricks to get some good ideas:
Tell them you want them to brainstorm the “bad” ideas first
You’ve seen schools compared to factory assembly lines, systems designed to produce a uniform product that can safely pass inspection before being released to the market. It turns out that some people (many, actually) don’t feel that is a great way to educate. We’ve realized that expecting everyone to conform to one set of standards is probably not in the best interest of our children – or their futures. But, just as you can’t shut down a factory and immediately expect the employees to start producing their own individual creations, you can’t put the brakes on an educational system that has thrown all of its resources toward one goal for decades and expect teachers to suddenly shape our students into innovators.
In his book, Originals, Adam Grant, an University of Pennsylvania professor, offers ideas for developing a culture of non-conformity. In this interview that he did with Elissa Nadworny, Grant specifically addresses ways that we can help children to grow to be individuals with unique personalities and strong values. He gives advice on rules, group work, and deadlines. He also describes an interesting project he assigned his students that required them to challenge assumptions.
Many times we champion conformity without even realizing it. Certainly there are situations when it is helpful to us as individuals and even beneficial to society. But innovation needs to be encouraged and celebrated as well, and Grant has some suggestions for how to do just that. As a teacher, I have sadly observed students who have surrendered their uniqueness in order to fit into the system. Sometimes, it is difficult to retrieve those uncommon qualities that make people stand out, but I think it’s our responsibility to help our children to embrace them and view them as strengths. If we want each child in future generations to be one-of-a-kind, we need to change the system designed to expect the same from everyone.
One of the Gurus of Genius Hour, Joy Kirr (@JoyKirr), shared a document of “Videos for Genius Hour” on Twitter recently. There are many videos on there that I haven’t seen, so I truly felt like I came across treasure of immense proportions when I opened the link to Joy’s document. Whether it’s because it’s the month of October and ghouls and goblins haunt most of the yards in my neighborhood, or for other reasons, We’re All Scared was the first title that caught my attention.
We’re All Scared is about creativity and the fear that we all have of sharing our creations because, well, JUDGEMENT! The part that intrigued me the most was when the host, Hank, argues that we all are creators because, at the very least, we spend our lives creating ourselves. The reason we fear judgement is because we don’t want someone to create a wrong or incomplete image of us in their own minds – which pretty much supports my theory that we are not only all scared, but we are also all CONTROL FREAKS and the people who call me a control freak (who shall remain nameless) should not throw stones in glass houses, or at my creations, for that matter.
It’s quite likely that your students will not read quite as much into the video as I did. However, I think We’re All Scared is great to show older students who have a few more inhibitions than the primary kids who proudly exhibit every unidentifiable thing they make with the earnest expectation that you will frame it immediately 😉
I typically post something light on Fridays, (often not connected to education) called my Phun Phriday Post. For today’s edition, I am sharing a cute website I came across called, “Picture This Clothing.” Similar to sites like “Imaginables” and “Doodle Your Toys,” which allow you to upload a drawing that can be turned into a stuffed animal, Picture This Clothing offers dresses that can be made based on your own artwork. All you need to do is download and print the template, color it, send a picture of the design, and order your custom dress.
Dress sizes on Picture This Clothing are children’s sizes 2-12. The dress will cost you $49, and you can also add on identical miniature dresses for dolls. According to the site, it will take 12-15 business days for you to receive your order.
For those of you with budding fashion designers in your household, this could be a fun way to channel their passion before you decide to purchase a sewing machine and let them loose in the fabric store to start creating their own creative wardrobes.