Creativity in the Classroom

The following is a blog post for my EDIM 508 grad class.

After watching Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk on “Do schools kill creativity”

We were asked to answer these 2 questions:

1. Do schools kill creativity?

2. How can you use digital media to bring creativity alive in your classroom?

1. As a mother of a 5 and 3 year old, this is a question that keeps me up at night. I fear the day when my sons say school is “boring” and slowly begin the process of losing their natural love of learning. As young children they are not afraid to make mistakes, speak their mind, ask a million questions or try something new. Almost all children start out this way, but as they make their way through k-12 they learn that mistakes are bad, questions are annoying and memorization of large amounts of information is the definition of success. As Robinson says “we are educating people out of their creative capacities”. We are never more creative than when we are children. We must make a conscious effort to nurture creativity as students get older. If you walk into a kindergarden classroom and ask who is an artist, almost every child will raise their hand. If you walk into a 5th grade classroom or a high school classroom, only a few students will raise their hand. Creativity is encouraged only within the confines of strict guidelines and rubrics (create this PowerPoint with this font on this topic with this many pages on this day….). When you look at the track record of incredibly creative individuals (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg) you will see a pattern of disengagement and struggle within formal school environments. Often times teachers are so focused on TEACHING the content to the students they fail to realize that teaching is not always necessary for learning to occur. It no longer makes sense for one individual (the teacher) to impart knowledge to a group (the students). Students now have access to information anywhere, anytime and teachers need to spend more time exciting the students about the content and facilitating the learning process. Memorization and regurgitation of facts is useless unless you plan on playing Jeopardy for a living. Learning is about the transfer of knowledge into your own life. Robinson defines creativity as ” the process of having original ideas that have value”. Do schools kill creativity? I believe they can and have for millions of children. It certainly did for me. I can count on one hand the times I had the opportunity to come up with original ideas (and most of those examples were from being involved in clubs such as Yearbook or Student Council). We have pockets of innovative teachers who are transforming their learning environments throughout the country, however I believe the majority of classrooms look exactly the same as they did in 1900.

2. Digital media can be a catalyst for creative thought IF it is used appropriately. If all you are doing is playing a video, it won’t do much to help foster creativity. When using a video, teachers can use strategies such as:

  • 3 Truths 1 Lie: Have the students watch the video clip and come up with 3 truths and 1 lie. Their peers have to guess the lie
  • Silent Video: Have the students watch a video without the audio so they can create their own voice-over. Explain the water cycle or the three branches of government in their own words
  • Transcripts: Take the transcript of a video (Obama’s Inaugural address for example) and put it in Woordle. Identify the main ideas of his speech and summarize it in their own words

Digital media brings the world to the classroom. Students are now instantly connected with information and experts. Skype with a state senator to learn more about citizenship. Assign a math explanation video on order of operations for homework (Flipping the Classroom) and provide time to practice and discuss in class. Share an image and ask students to write a caption that incorporates a vocabulary word. Provide students access to tools like Prezi, Animodo, Photo Peach or Glogster and let them create something they are passionate about and can share publicly. The more educators can surround themselves with others incorporating digital media in the classroom, the more they will improve their practice and find new, innovative ideas to engage their students.


Robinson, K. (2006, February). Do schools kill creativity? Retrieved August 3, 2008 from TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Web site:


Media Infused Presentation Reflection

The following is a blog post for my EDIM 508 grad class.

As I reflect on this first project I was asked to answer the following question: “In what practical ways can a media-infused presentation like the one you created help foster the development of both the disciplined and synthesizing minds?”

When you integrate various forms of media into a presentation or lesson plan you are instantly appealing to multiple learning styles. This allows the teacher to reach more students and reinforce what they are learning by not only reading it but also hearing it seeing it and interacting with it. Students are growing up in a digital society and are used to interacting with various forms of digital media throughout their day. It is essential leverage these resources to capture their attention and increase engagement. Providing students choices in how they learn the content allows them to take ownership of their learning. It’s not important how they come to learn it, it’s what they carry forward with them (apply the new knowledge) that counts.

An engaging presentation build in Prezi can help to motivate students to develop their disciplined mind. As Gardner states “A disciplined individual continues to learn…not because she has been programmed to spend two hours a night hitting the books. Rather, she continues to learn for 2 other reasons: (1) she realizes she must become a lifelong student; (2) she has come to enjoy the process of learning about the world”. (p. 41)  So many students today have lost their love of learning due to the “drill and kill” in so many classrooms. When teachers use a variety of media to engage students and “hook” them into the learning they realize that learning can be fun. Students start to continue to learn more about the topic because it is interesting and they can connect personally with the information.

Today’s students live in a world of information abundance and it is imperative that they develop their synthesizing mind in order to quickly sift through disparate sources of information to inform their thinking and to help make decisions. A media-infused presentation can provide students with the information they need in a variety of formats so they can see the whole picture and begin to synthesize what they are learning.


Gardner, H. (2007). Five Minds for the Future. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

 Click here for my Prezi Presentation



Synthesizing the Mind

The following is a blog post for my EDIM 508 graduate class.

The ability to synthesize information from a variety of sources is an essential skill to survive in today’s society. Students have access to large amounts of information and need to understand how to make sense of a variety of sources to help guide their decision making.

One tool that is very effective in helping students to synthesize information from disparate sources is the use of a digital compare/contrast chart. Kathy Schrock has a wealth of concept map resources on her website. Here is a specific example of how this can be used:

The ELA common core standard for 6th grade asks students to compare and contrast the experience of reading a story or poem vs. hearing it and/or viewing it. Let’s take Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”. Divide the class into 3 groups. One group reads the poem. One group listens as someone reads the poem. The third group watches a video of someone reading the poem with visual illustrations (which can be found on Discovery Education). The groups then make a T-chart of what they “heard” and what they “saw”.  Once the class comes back together they develop a digital compare/contrast chart that outlines their similarities and differences between the 3 groups. Students can develop this on an interactive whiteboard. A deep, rich discussion can develop as the teacher facilitates the conversation with probing questions such as “What caused the differences? Was it due to our differences as individuals or due to the way in which we experienced the poem?”


Kathy Shrock. (2011). Concept Mapping in the Classroom. Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything. Retrieved September 19th, 2012 from

Falling Back in Love

A few months ago during a hot yoga class our instructor began by telling us a story. At first I was annoyed (this is cutting into my workout time-we only have an hour lady!) but as the story unfolded it became clear it was something I needed to hear. As we sat with our legs crossed and our eyes closed she talked about a friend who had been struggling with his yoga practice. He began to obsess over improving his practice and suddenly yoga had turned into a workout. (Anyone who practices yoga on a regular basis knows that it’s so much more than a workout. It’s a way of life, a mindset, a disposition…it’s no coincidence that I have become a little more “zen” since I began practicing yoga 3 years ago.) Instead of looking forward to it he began to dread it. As my instructor put it, he needed to “fall back in love” with his yoga practice.

As the weeks went by my mind kept going back to this story. I think we can all identify  with the need to “fall back in love” with something. Whatever it is for you-work, motherhood, a habit, your home- it’s easy to relate to the story. We tend to look back at the good old days when enthusiasm, passion and optimism was at an all-time high. And then, slowly, something happens. We get a promotion, a raise, recognition, attention and we like how that feels. It becomes less about what we are doing and more about perfecting our practice. The work starts to feel more like work and less like fun. Then one day we take a hard look in the mirror only to realize we have fallen out of love with what we do.  We begin to complain, point fingers and make up excuses for the reasons why things aren’t what they used to be. So what do we do? Walk away? It was fun while it lasted yoga, but I’m out!!

I certainly don’t have the answers. But I have been in this situation both professionally and personally. As I focused on getting my groove back I followed these steps:

1. I realized that I was in control of my happiness. Instead of moping around after not getting a promotion I badly wanted (which I’m not proud to admit I did for a few months) I focused on what was within my control and wrote a proposal for a project that I was passionate about. This project eventually led to an opportunity to work in Egypt for 10 days, an opportunity to work with all new hires on our team and over time, a promotion.

2. I tried a new approach. Albert Einstein defines insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results”. A few years ago I was burnt out with running. It was my only form of exercise and it got to the point where I was only running 2-3 days a week. I rarely looked forward to the runs and I was frustrated with the lack of regular exercise. I began to incorporate a variety of workouts into my routine. I now work out 5-6 days a week and I look forward to the 2-3 days a week I get to run. As an added side-effect, I improved my speed, strength and endurance.

3. I took time to reflect. Sometimes I feel like I’m moving at the speed of light. Before I’m done with one thing I’m on to another.  I’ve tried to make it a priority to take time and reflect. I ask myself probing questions in order to identify what I really want or how I’m really feeling. Often times my initial reaction is more of a result of caring what people think of me or how others will perceive the situation. It’s amazing what you can reveal when you respect yourself enough to dig deep and let go of your ego.

Whatever it is you need to fall back in love with, I would encourage you to take the time to think it through. If it is something (or someone) that should be a part of your life it deserves nothing less than your undivided attention. You are doing yourself a disservice by spending even one more minute looking back and wishing for the “good old days”. The best days are still ahead if you have the courage to change.

Blog on Digital Media

The following is a blog post for my EDIM 508 graduate class


I am no longer in the classroom however I am a former middle school social studies teacher so the topic I have selected for this blog post is the presidential election.

It’s important for students not only to understand the election process but to also understand the ways in which they can be an active and informed citizen. In Gardner’s book (2007) he talks about the importance of approaching a topic “in a number of ways” to engage students.

Discovery Education has a wonderful resource page for the 2012 presidential election. Each week they have a new video summarizing the week along with corresponding activities. When discussing the presidential election I can share this video resource (link below) with the students to summarize what new developments have happened in the past week. This engages the visual and auditory learners. I can also use the transcript of the video (which is included on the video link) to copy and paste into Woordle. This would help the visual and spatial learners to see what the main points of the video were and help spark classroom discussion. I could also put the transcript up on an interactive whiteboard and have students highlight words and sentences and categorize them. This would appeal to the kinesthetic learners. I could replay the video and have the students hold up “fact” or “opinion” card when they hear Obama and Romney speak.

Leveraging digital content  like this video provides multiple entry points for students to explore a topic. This naturally leads to a higher level engagement and deeper understanding for all students.


Link to DE Resource: 


Gardner. Howard. (2007). Five Minds for the Future. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

MacNeil Lehrer,  (2012). Election 2012: Week 03. [Full Video]. Available from

Intro Blog: 728 Challenge

The following post is for my Grad School class: Digital Media in the Classroom.

  1. Who are you and what do you do? Ginny Washburne- DEN Director for Discovery Education. I help build teacher community in large urban districts across the US.
  2. What is your primary goal for taking this course?  I am taking this course as part of the Master’s of Science in Instructional Media Degree.
  3. What is your philosophy of education? I believe education should develop students passions, expose them to the many possibilities and instil a love of learning that lasts a lifetime.
  4. What do you see as the greatest benefit of using technology and/or digital media in the classroom? Access to information anywhere/anytime and the ability to make learning fun and interactive.
  5. What is your biggest concern or challenge with using technology and/or digital media in the classroom? Using technology just for the sake of using it instead of using it to help transform the learning environment.
  6. Provide an example of how you currently use technology and/or digital media in the classroom. I constantly use videos to introduce a topic/idea, I use PhotoPeach for digital storytelling, and Google Hangout to collaborate with educators.
  7. How does your classroom today differ from when you were the same age as your students? I’m not in a classroom, but when I was teaching it still looked very similar except for the technology (IWB, projector, computer). The curriculum was also still mostly the same.