To help encourage conversations about creativity and collaboration in school, our topic/question(s) of the week are: Should we let students learn how to be more creative, and thus adaptable, if it is true that it will prepare them for life beyond the classroom? What should we do if empirical evidence implies that the act of collaborative creativity sometimes means having to try it over and over and over again? Are we obliged to prioritize a culture of collaborative creativity in school, no matter how much time it takes?
Hopefully everyone has enjoyed the three-day weekend with family and friends, possibly finding some time to do something for yourself as well. Despite the on and off rainy weather, we definitely welcomed the warmer temperatures - I have to say that the crocuses in our front garden are a very encouraging sight! We had some nice time together with the kids, mixing down time with errands/etc., and enjoyed celebrating Easter at my parents Sunday afternoon with some of our relatives.
I have shared before that this time of year in schools is always an interesting one, as we begin to delve deeply into the planning for the next school year while we still have plenty of time left in the current one. With two weeks left before April vacation (on my calendar, this week marks the official opening of scheduling season!), our thoughts about the 2015-2016 school year are increasing - curriculum planning, staffing, interviews, professional development, master scheduling, individual schedules, etc. As one who likes to plan and check items off of a 'to do' list, I must admit that there is a part of me that wishes all of those items were ones that I could simply work through, accomplish, and check off. However, they are not 'to do' list elements that can be thought about, planned, or addressed in isolation. On the contrary - they connect, intertwine, and are layered on many levels. You can not talk about one element without talking about another - staffing can not be done without master scheduling, professional development is depending on staffing, interviews and hiring connect to the greater themes and initiatives of the school. And, upon reflection of my growth as an educator, parent, and friend each day I am reminded that this is true of most elements of importance in our lives. Interdependence and relational aspects of our work are at the heart of any efforts that involve people.
This past week I have been thinking a great deal about the elements of two C's that are noted in educational literature, blogs, mission statements, and vision planning for schools - Creativity and Collaboration. How do they connect and what are the factors/contributors that allow them to flourish and grow for students and adults? How they fit into our mission, both formally and informally? How does technology play in? With each of the elements noted above for planning for the 15-16 year, creativity and collaboration are incredibly important. But, what makes those traits come alive? I truly believe that it is not a simple algorithm/formula and is an ongoing effort for creative and collaborative traits to come forward and thrive. It is a messy process and not one that is linear - it is a culture of collaboration and creativity, and as we have explored as a staff, and mindset that must be part of the foundation. As I write this post, trying to make sense of the ideas in my head, I recognize that even the thought process is a messy one.
The two posts below spoke to me this week as I try to make sense of these thoughts, trying to move the concepts of creativity and collaboration from literature and ideas to the day-to-day work at Blake...
Why Creativity in the Classroom Matters More Than Ever
by Kristen Hicks (@atxcopywriter) in Edudemic
Hicks emphasizes the importance of both fostering and teaching creativity in the classroom, referencing Sir Ken Robinson's popular TED talk. Beyond the theory, she outlines five ways to integrate creativity into the classroom: Don't limit assignments to one format; Set time aside for creativity; Use tech to broaden your idea of assignments; Introduce unconventional learning materials into class; Encourage discussion
"Learning a specific skill set doesn’t have the value in today’s world that it once did. Learning how to be more creative (and thus adaptable) – now that’s what prepares students for life beyond the classroom."
Collaboration, from the Wright Brothers to Robots
by Michael Scrage in Harvard Business Review
Schrage highlights successful collaborations throughout history and specifically looks at the role technology has played in regards to progress. I particularly like the notion of a 'shared space' being an essential component for successful collaboration.
"Successful collaborators don’t just work with each other; they work together through a shared space. Shared space — whether physical, virtual or digital — is where collaborators agree to jointly create, manipulate, iterate, capture and critique the representations of the reality they seek to discover or design. This holds true for collaboration around products, processes, services, songs, or the exploration of scientific principles. Shared space is the essential means, medium, and mechanism that makes collaboration possible. No shared space? No real collaboration."
"...the future of better collaboration is better technology … and the future of better technology will be better collaboration. Full circle."
It is important to not look too far ahead, and despite the temptations that may draw me in, and only focus on planning for the future. Staying present and mindful of the needs of our current students and staff the week of April 6-10 is the priority. Coming full circle to the initiatives we are examining as a staff - progress reporting, study skills, the role of homework, standards-based grading, curating the progression of student learning and growth (portfolios), assessments, and motivation - how do we move forward? As with the other elements noted above, they are interdependent and must be looked at as a whole. Time is certainly a key factor, but I do know that cultures of creativity and collaboration are necessary. And, as Schrage points out, the shared space at Blake (for students, staff, parents, and community) will allow these cultures to grow and flourish. We have a shared space, both physical and philosophical, to debate, to discuss, and at the end of the day, to collaborate in a creative fashion. I look forward to the work that lies ahead.
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