Bring Back the Joy: Creative Teaching, Learning, and Librarianship

Article excerpt

"For the first time, research shows that American creativity is declining. What went wrong--and how can we fix it." (Bronson a Merryman, Newsweek, July 19, 2010, p. 44).

A decade of strict standards, serious budget cuts, and sobering statistics has left teachers stressed out and students apathetic. It's time to bring the joy of learning back into our schools.

Humans derive pleasure from constructing, innovating, and building. In addition, a balance of critical and creative thinking is important in learning. Creativity is emerging as a popular theme in the latest round of standards revisions.

"Creativity and Innovation" is the first standard on the International Society of Technology Education's National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS).

The American Association of School Librarian's Standards for the 21st-Century Learner stress the importance of students "creating new knowledge." Students are asked to "create products that express new understandings" and "create products that apply to authentic, real-world contexts".

In this article, we'll explore engaging technology tools that involve students in creative thinking, constructing knowledge, and developing innovative products.

THINK DIFFERENT

Start your quest for creativity by thinking in new ways about reference sources. Use new tools to help you and your students explore, ponder, and contemplate. For instance rather than using a traditional paper thesaurus, think graphically by exploring a visual thesaurus.

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Search for words such as "creativity" and "innovation" using three different online tools: Visual Thesaurus, www.visualthesaurus.com/, VisuWords, www.visuwords.com/, Lightweight Visual Thesaurus awordlike.textdriven.com/. Figure 1 shows an example from the Visual Thesaurus software.

Visual dictionaries are also great tools for thinking in new ways about curriculum content and assignments. Use the Visual Dictionary at visual.merriam-webster.com/. These images can be embedded in student blogs or other web-based projects using their blog tools, visual.merriam-webster.com/tools_blog-tools.php. Simply click the "Blog This" choice in the upper right corner of the page containing the visual, copy their code, and paste it into the HTML of your page.

Use vocabulary websites such as VocabAhead, vocabahead. com, to jumpstart a discussion with students about how they might create their own animated dictionaries using a tool like Go!Animate, goanimate.com/.

PROVIDE OPTIONS

When addressing the needs of today's diverse student population, we need to provide varied opportunities and resources to stimulate creativity. When a child's vision doesn't match their artistic skills, technology can help bridge the gap.

Avatar generators are a great example of engaging tools that can provide a springboard for innovative thinking.

After reading books such as Cock-a-Doodle-Moo: A Mixed Up Menagerie by Keith DuQuette, Scranimals by Jack Prelutsky and Peter Sis, i Wish I Had Duck Feet by Dr. Suess, and The Whingdingdilly by Bill Peet, children go to the Build Your Wild Self, buildyourwildself.com/, web site and design a human character with animal body features. The website provides scientific information about each body part that can be incorporated into a fictional story about animal adaptation.

Web sites such as Grabba Beast, grabbabeast.com/, can be used for doing a project such as Monster Exchange, www.monster-exchange.org/, where one child creates a monster and a written description. Then, a peer tries to recreate the visual based on the description only.

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Use avatar generators to help young authors visualize their characters. Use MyAvatar, www.myavatareditor.com, to create characters for fictional Wii games or use Colonial Dress Me Up, www.pbs.org/wnet/ colonialhouse/history/dress_up_flash. …