Tag Archives: collaboration

Looking into Creativity

Would I be right when I think that creativity is easier to see than to measure? In English as a second language classes, this becomes even more problematic because you can see creativity but teachers wonder how much the language influences this, negatively. What I mean is that when using English text, are students able to express themselves creatively as they would in their first language?

I’ve tried to think about this and improve the use of creativity within the tasks, activities and projects that students complete in my class. Not only this, but I have been focusing on assessing it too.

Creativity in Tasks

I’ve found that breaking projects and lessons down into smaller, more manageable tasks of larger workflows better to see creativity in students. To me, creativity includes the process of making something new or original rather than an imitation. I also look at this from an individual basis as I look at the capabilities of the student and to what extent they have been creative.

I often use brainstorming and try to increase a student’s creativity. I try to use English and the student’s first language to promote further thinking of new words they wouldn’t have thought of before. I try to use pair or group work as well as online resources; all to act as stimulus for further thought. This is a launch pad for other tasks so I include this as creative thinking. The iPad’s apps allow for easier communication and brainstorming both in and out of class.

Students are also encouraged to think from different perspectives. It is important for my students, who are a little one-track minded, to broaden their view to promote further knowledge growth and to develop acquisition of language that they may not necessarily come across.  I give students different characters or perspectives of a problem and they need to think as that person. For a unit on interior design, students took photos of rooms or some even did video walkthroughs from their houses and posted them on our learning management system. Stemming from this stimulus, students had to think about interior design aspects from the perspective of, say, their brother or father, their maid (a common person in the house in the Middle East), a teacher, an interior designer etc… Students are using the language we’ve learnt but applying it from a different person. If students are having trouble, I ask them to visit a teacher or a brother and interview them about this interior design photo or video. We owe the iPad as it affords us to bring the outside into the classroom and to document this and interviews all on one device.

Assessing Creativity

So if we look at a project and are trying to assess creativity, I would advocate for the teacher to look at each task of the project. For instance, how much new and original language has been generated within the brainstorm? Often I can see the key unit vocabulary being recycled in a brainstorm, which is obviously good to promote acquisition, but how much was new and created by the activity? When looking at different perspectives, students need to demonstrate using different language and incorporating different ideas from their own into the creation.

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Connecting Learning: iPads and Field Trips

Mosque field trip iPads

I recently had a wonderful field trip with my ESL students. Within the unit of work on Design, we travelled to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque to see the design features of the mosque. I take students twice a year and usually ask them to bring a camera (i.e. phone) with them to document what they see. However this only captures limited amounts of design features. What about notes from the tour guide? What about asking tourists for their impressions? As soon as we had implemented iPads into our classes, I knew what had to be done.

Capturing

Going to the mosque is towards the end of the unit of work so students have already learned about design features. Students have come across videos and readings explaining terms and aspects. We also tie in Islamic aspect to design and features that are found in this region. Specifically, I ask students to take photos around their home, neighborhood or the university to capture what they’re learning and to visualize the term or concept. This can be problematic because female Emirati students may not be allowed away from their home without a male family chaperone.

On the day, students bring their iPad and start documenting the trip from the moment our buses arrive. They know they will be asked to present what they saw at the mosque so they start collecting resources to use. Typically they use photos but some create small videos giving a dynamic 3D perspective instead of the static 2D image. Students often walked around the design feature, like the design of a pillar, to capture all sides and views of it. But while on the tour this time I encouraged students to record (audio only due to tour guide’s rules) certain parts of the commentary. Usually we all just tag along and there is little interaction but since we’re recording, students want to get their voice heard and ask follow up questions. They also took photos and annotated on them in Skitch to remember what design feature they were documenting.

Explaining

As soon as we arrived back to our class, I witnessed girls starting to incorporate their photos, videos and audio commentary into their presentations. They were keen (excited?) to relive that experience and start preparing in their chosen apps. Some chose Keynote to present face-to-face but others chose ExplainEverything or iMovie to make a movie to play for their audience. I was amazed at the connections they were making with the design features we had studied and they demonstrated this visually. They were also quite curious when reviewing the commentary.  The audio quality wasn’t great so I was listening and helping students a lot. But students sought clarification and explanation from me and the internet to understand more about the commentary. If we hadn’t recorded it, the learning opportunities would have been lost at the point of delivery. During our presentation Bazaar (MarketPlace styled presentation), half the class presented in a room at the one time (and then swapped) and other students and teachers went around to hear students present. Students who had movies stood next to their movie and played it on the iPad but others spoke live. This was very successful because at lots of points throughout the process, students interacted with the language and content in different forms and both virtually and in real life.

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Digital Literacies

Digital literacies, to me, are an enormous part of the shift towards digital technology in the classroom. As educators, there’s a number of traditional literacies that need attention as well as various new literacies that need instruction within our classes. For a Masters of Education (ICT) assignment, I surveyed and interviewed a number of teachers at my current institution to examine their beliefs on digital literacies. I wanted to find out what literacies would be needed by students in their classes.

While reviewing the literature, I set out to make a list of skills that reoccurred throughout the literature (see Digital Literacies list below). Of these digital literacies, I wanted to know the ones that should be implemented within our curriculum. In order the most popular ones were:

  1. Collecting
  2. Information literacy
  3. Communicating
  4. Connecting
  5. Critical thinking and doing
  6. Collaborating
  7. Text production

 

Reasons

It was interesting to note that interviewees and survey respondents not only rationalized the skills to be used within their classes but also in socioeconomic terms as they believed these skills would help their students after graduation in the workplace. Some went so far as understanding digital literacies within a socio-cultural context as these would make them better people functioning together for a better society.

Language teachers gave a range of reasons why these should be considered important for their students. A few teachers mentioned that these skills could be utilized by students to become more autonomous in their language learning. To finish that thought, when asked in the survey for examples, teachers said that students might become more independent when they have collected bookmarks and know the right tools to find the information they are looking for.

Content teachers looked at these skills from more of an academic research perspective. One teacher remarked in an open ended survey question that students always lack the information literacy skills to find the right information and work the text appropriately. I can only guess that this teacher was referring to critical or higher order thinking skills when they said ‘work’.

 

Reflections

I would consider the top seven digital literacies chosen by teachers represent active skills. Yes parts might include consuming, or passive, but the skills could be mostly envisioned to create, to produce, and to develop.

Coming up soon is the start of our iPad implementation. I am going to have a pilot class with students completing all work on the iPad instead of their laptops. It would be interesting to survey and interview the same teachers again to see if their opinions have changed. I noticed that text production is in the top 7 of 15. The iPad has great potential to produce many different digital texts and for teachers to move away from the essay written on Word. Would this result in a higher regard for text production? Time will tell.

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