Thursday, May 29, 2014

Make Time for Creativity in the Classroom

The message Sir Ken Robinson delivers in his TED Talk, How Schools Kill Creativity
is a call to arms for educators. It is sad, but true, in many cases the emphasis on content and testing has taken up class time that could be used for educational creative pursuits. He challenges us to give creativity the same status as literacy and accuses us of squandering the talents of children. This seems apparent when you compare elementary science students to secondary science students. The younger ones love science and cannot wait for labs. Somewhere between fifth and tenth grade something breaks and many students no longer find joy in science. The courses do become more specific and detailed and less about creating and exploring. The use of technology, including web tools and digital media, can give students the opportunity to find enjoyment in the coursework again. Educators will to take a risk, plan and be patient can save creativity from disappearing.

I have spent last three years working towards a more individual, engaging and yes, creative atmosphere in my physics and scientific research and design (SRD) classes. By flipping both classes, removing lecture from the classroom and making class time work time, I have been given time to add creative activities back into the curriculum. Both classes are science but SRD is an elective and primarily process while physics is required and content heavy.

Even with a great deal of content to cover, physics students have time to create. English Language Learners have been more successful showing me what they have learned in a video or Google presentation than they are on multiple choice tests. Students have used video, instead of pen and paper to submit a lab report. The results have been pleasing, better physics, better learning and real proof of understanding.

Flour Sack by Andrew E.
The most significant changes have happened in SRD. The SRD curriculum is primarily the use of scientific process with the application and extension of prior knowledge.  At the end of a unit on forces of flight, the assessment was to “show me what you learned”. One student who is very creative used the labs and lessons to study how things move when they are in the air. The result was an animated video of a flying flour sack. It perfectly showed what he had learned and how he had created meaning in the learning.  Students are currently completing a unit on conservation of energy and are creating lab reports in the form of movie trailers. They have created comic heroes using Scholastic Comic Maker to show what they understand about physics concepts, build mobiles to explore torque and build roller coasters to examine conservation of energy. I have been impressed with how students go above and beyond to create a wonderful product.
Movie Trailer

This year I have made the biggest leap using techniques and tools I have learned about in my course work. I have also had the luxury of working with students who have embraced the course and always surprise me with their products. Even if the situation was different or more difficult, I would be trying to give students the opportunity to create. As teachers we need to be willing to try and incorporate opportunities for creativity in our classes. We must be take the risk and stretch beyond what we are familiar with in order to better prepare students for a world with jobs that we cannot even imagine.

Robinson, S. K. (2006, February). How Schools Kill Creativity. Retrieved May 26, 2014, from TED Talks:

E, Andrew. (2014) Flour Sack. Retrieved May 28, 2014 from

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Using to Engage and Inform

Much information is delivered to students using presentation programs. Visual aids for lectures are created using PowerPoint , Google Presentation and Keynote. provides another tool for delivering material. For the creator, it is easy to incorporate sounds, videos and images. The variety of media and the unique transitions make it is visually and auditorily interesting for the student .

A non-linear presentation tool can be an interesting format for delivering information to students. Howard Gardner calls the disciplined mind one that can practice and train to perfect a skill. He defines the synthesizing mind as one that pulls information together to create a new understanding (Gardner, 2008, pp. 5-6). Students need opportunities to practice and perfect skills as well as collect information and create their own connections. A carefully crafted Prezi can give students those opportunities.

A disciplined mind is one that practices skills in order to improve. A Prezi can easily include questions for review, re-teach lessons and progress checks for students. There is no penalty for not knowing and admitting it, but there is easy access to the remedy. Students can control the pace at which they move through the information. This gives them time when needed and allows them to skip through the portions they are already understand. Leaving the choice of pace and content up to the student gives the student control and responsibility for learning.

The ease of incorporating multiple types of media and sources of information into a Prezi gives students plenty to synthesize. Embedding videos from different authors allows different voices to deliver lessons. Changing the focus, voice or visual aids can make a difference in how the student understands the material. The ability to ask review questions and fade in answers gives students time to reflect on the material and form an answer on their own before they see the correct response. Asking students to summarize and apply the material challenges them to synthesize the information.

Students could also use to create their own presentation to show their learning. By collecting information and including their own thoughts on the topic they can create a fun and interesting product that shows what they understand. Students will enjoy making the presentation swirl and zoom through the material. When assigned a presentation, students always ask how many slides are required. The Prezi has a few frames, finite and not overwhelming for students. Students can easily add to the templates provided, and probably will as they create with swirls and zooms. The engaging and easy to use format of the Prezi gives students an unusual way to show learning.  is a tool for collecting and presenting information in a manner that offers choice and is engaging. Students and instructors can easily insert, edit and present information from a variety of sources in an editable path. This provides a way to share and show learning that goes beyond standard presentation tools.  

Gardner, H. (2008). 5 Minds for the Future. Boston: Harvard Business Press.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Using eduClipper

Initially, I saw as a way to curate information for students working on projects in my Scientific Research and Design (SRD) class. I have found that providing examples that I deem useful helps the students in their search to find more information on the topic

My students are completing their Six Flags Challenge, where they design and perform a lab on a ride at the local amusement park. I used eduClipper to collect some videos and information on a few of the rides. I was hoping that they could easily use the board as sources or inspiration for their video lab reports that are due at the end of next week. Also, I was looking for an easy way for students to share their videos, pictures and data to assist each other in the challenge.

After some struggle, I was able to figure out how to manipulate the clips and boards. While it was not intuitive, it was not difficult. I embedded the board in our district learning management system with ease, but was disappointed to find out that each student would need to set up an account and log in to see the board.  If the learning management system was not in place, and I wanted a controlled place to set up flipped  lessons for my students, this would be a contender as a useful tool. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Timely Challenge Leads to Creative Opportunity

I am nearly finished with my Master’s degree in Instructional Media. I have found most of the course work to be immediately applicable in my classes. Once again, it has happened. The assignment for this week is to try a digital tool that could be used in the classroom. I chose to make a movie poster with Big Huge Labs.

Here is where the timeliness comes into play. Monday I am taking over 200 students to Physics Day at Six Flags over Texas. My students have been challenged to design an experiment, collect data and create a video lab report. They have an example video to guide and have been working on a plan and collecting supporting videos. As exciting as that is, until now, I did not have a creative way to start the planning. It has been very anticlimactic to just have students write or type their plan and either email or turn in a piece of paper. Students who have not already submitted a plan will be shown the web tool as a choice to submit their experimental plan.  It will be interesting to see if those who have already done submitted their plans will create a poster for their movie.

Group projects can be difficult to manage.  Students can use the Move Poster creator to submit their plan for the experiment. By completing the form for the movie poster creator they are actually assigning the photographer, data collector, music, and other jobs.  Beyond assigning jobs, it will cause them to think about what elements are needed to complete their video lab reports successfully.

I am happy to take any chance to inject an opportunity for choice and creativity in my classroom. As such, I am often rewarded with products that exceed anything I could have imagined. I can see being a tool for creativity once the students have had the chance to give it a try.

Big Huge Labs Move Poster:Star in Your Own Movie! (2014). Retrieved May 10, 2014, from Big Huge Labs:

Thursday, May 8, 2014