Tag Archives: communication

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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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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A Reappropriation of Twitter

Twitter: Professional Development

Twittybacking in the snow?

Key Features

Teachers are recognizing Twitter, a socio-cultural tool, can be beneficial integrated into their informal professional development (P.D). From mediating conversations and collaborations to status updates, from a repository of links to group collaboration, society interacts and constructs using 140-characters or less. One technique is to follow a line of inquiry through Twittybacking (Yates, 2011, 24 April) and learn more about a particular subject or topic. By clicking through, teachers can understand the chain of thought and develop a deeper understanding. Twittybacking can be conducted with content, clicking hyperlinks, and interaction, following tweeters.

To examine the potential of Twitter, I conducted action research in which I immersed myself and participated in Twitter chat sessions (#langchat and #eltchat) using TweetDeck. Normally Twitter is asynchronous with varied amounts of time between tweets but Twitter chats are quick, chaotic, and synchronous as all participants tweet and essentially compete with each other for the attention span of other users. Hayles (2008) argues that social media sparks our hyper attention instead of deep attention and teachers must be aware of this when implementing. The concept of twittybacking still applies to Twitter chats as a thought-provoking tweet can be built on and developed collaboratively thereby constructing meaning within the Twitter chat context.

Potential & Recommendation

Costello (2009) lightly refers to connectivism in his treatment of Twitter. I observed principles  of connectivism learning through the connection of information sources through diverse opinions (Siemans, 2004). All Tweeters approached the same topic from a different angle and I developed a personal understanding from the connections I made cognitively.

Engagement with online content through Twitter is a conceptual shift in the way teachers view information and knowledge (Alvermann, 2008). It requires a mobility to laterally move through hypertextual content, in often multimodal formats, reading globally and applying locally, or vice-versa (Luke, 2003). In this scope, there is a question of digital fluency, knowledge of the technology, how to consume and produce content with it and maximising its potential (Resnick, 2004). Teachers should assess themselves and seek guidance in the supportive social space of Twitter communities.

Essentially, this is a strong P.D recommendation for those seeking empowerment through investment in their human capital, the benefits stemming from one’s knowledge or abilities (Becker, 2008), to generate socio-economic opportunities and growth. With Twitter, teachers use 140-characters in a powerful way to connect with other teachers around the globe intellectually, cognitively and emotionally (Wheeler, 2010). Connections, collaborations and constructions can be made to build a teacher’s P.D. Within a socio-constructivist setting, teachers must be proactive to turn this tool’s mode from a passive to active to work towards their P.D.

Alvermann, D. E. (2008). Why bother theorizing adolescents’ online literacies for classroom practice and research? Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 52(1), 8-19.

Becker, G. (2008). Human Capital. Retrieved September 12, 2011 from http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/HumanCapital.html

Costello, E. (2009, 27-28 August). Teaching and Participatory Media. Paper presented at the Fifth International Conference of the All-Ireland Society for Higher Education, Maynooth, Ireland.

Hayles, K. (2008, January 17). My article on hyper and deep attention.   Retrieved September 01, 2011, from http://media08.wordpress.com/2008/01/17/my-article-on-hyper-and-deep-attention/

Luke, C. (2003). Pedagogy, Connectivity, Multimodality, and Interdisciplinarity. Reading Research Quarterly, 38(3), 397-403.

Siemans, G. (2004). Connectivism: A Theory of Learning for the Digital Age.   Retrieved April 01, 2011, from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

Wheeler, S. (2010, April 3). Why Twitter is so powerful.   Retrieved September 1,, 2011, from http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.com/2010/04/why-twitter-is-so-powerful.html

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