Tag Archives: digital education

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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Five Changes I’ve Seen in Teaching and Learning with the iPad

autumn leaves5. Changing the Discussion

Within my teaching context, there is a long institutionalized history of photocopying from textbooks and assessing students with essays, reports, and presentations. Of course, many teachers employed student centered pedagogy within their classrooms but you get the picture.

The implementation of the iPad has moved the goal posts so to speak. Instead of asking which textbook might supplement a lesson, we are now questioning why a textbook needs to be used. Instead of photocopying worksheets, we are looking to incorporate apps and use iPad based activities to get students interacting with the language they are learning. The discussion is exciting and all aspects of teaching and learning are student centered.

4. Connectivity

As a department we are learning more about the apps we have at our disposal and we are integrating them to increase students connectivity with the language they are learning. Students use the language and can make personal connections with it. Need a picture for visual support? Students take photos to make connections. Need to learn a grammar point? Students make videos to outline that grammar structure. When students become teachers of other students, there is a stronger desire to learn more about it so that they have all the answers. There is a stronger connection than just discrete grammar worksheets.

Students are connecting interpersonally in both face-to-face and online environments more than in the past. Of course I used learning management systems in the past in a blended approach in or out of class. But the ease in which they can upload and share their work is amazing. I often see iPads exchanged between hands to share something interesting or to show off their work. I admit sometimes it is to give answers as well…

3. Streamlined

But the ease in which students can produce something on their iPad and then upload is far more efficient than before. Before if a student were to write a report and include images, then a student would need a digital camera with a cord to transfer the picture into word document and upload. The iPad streamlines this as students use the one tool for everything.

Workflows are common for iPad activities and tasks. I find that students realize this and go in and out of apps with ease. They write in pages, find research online or ask questions in our Schoology page. Most students know gestures to get around really quickly too.

 2.Variety of Tasks and Assessments

I have already eluded to this a number of times but I am constantly amazed at the creativity and resourcefulness of teachers in designing tasks and workflows for their students. There’s a growing trend for us language teachers to utilize apps that feed into image-based apps like Instagram. This is not to say we use Instagram itself, but apps that allow users to write text and design their photos are being used to provide authentic ways to use the language.

Assessments are being reviewed and as stated before, no longer are we settling for the essay. Teachers are turning to tasks and projects that incorporate student creativity to produce. I’ve seen this many times; when students have an audience beyond the teacher, they work much harder in terms of quality and quantity. Students love sharing with their classmates and their family. These assessments are providing a real audience that increases student motivation.

1. Student Creation

Students are now creating and producing language within real-world contexts. Before it was just words on a worksheet but now they are words on a picture or e-book that can be easily shared with a larger audience. Teachers (and students!) are discovering apps to utilize. They are finding no limit to supplement the teaching of learning objectives. For instance I teach a unit on interior design and before students might make a diorama or a collage cut from magazines to complete design projects. Whilst there is nothing wrong with these, students invest more time on apps where they are designing and modeling 3D rooms. Students have commented that they feel more invested in the task and feel like interior design is their job.


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Flipped Learning & Motivation: The Sequel

Recently I reflected on my integration of flipped learning principles in my English foundations program class. In my earlier action research blog, I noted several remarks by students about their motivation, or lack thereof, towards outside classwork. I avoided using the term homework but it doesn’t necessarily need to be completed at home, right? Mobile technologies will remove “homework” from our vocabulary… 🙂

I have reflected more on this and thought more about the learning design and the my employment of flipped learning. As a language teacher, I always want to incorporate language learning elements within all of my lessons. Firstly when I completed the passive learning task within class, due to more than half the class not completing the passive activity, I tried using communicative activities.

I first observed success during an information gap-esque activity where students watched two different videos on the passive voice. The video content had some overlaps but also some different points. Students were given some general questions to help them take guided notes as well as specific questions for students to answer. After watching their separate video, students started their active learning and came together to complete a number of different tasks specifically related to information from the video. Students then proceeded to actively use the passive voice within appropriate texts.

My teaching context involves teaching IELTS preparation and skills and thus I feel hamstrung because the assessment can, to a certain extent, dictate the types of teaching activities. This is especially the case within the education culture of the Middle East. I first start with specific IELTS language input, both grammar and vocabulary, within a passive learning mode and most was completed outside of class. I informed students of the next day’s activity that we would do only if the flipped task was complete.

by Jonathan Kos-Read

by Jonathan Kos-Read

Based on the language input, I used small tasks to integrate language skills and provide ‘authentic’ tasks in which to practice specific skills related to the IELTS. I say ‘authentic’ because they are skills necessary for the test, which is the students’ real world, as opposed to the outside real world. Students use iPad apps like Explain Everything, iMovie, QuickTap Survey App and Keynote to actively create and produce language necessary for the IELTS. When I asked about these tasks, students didn’t automatically see the connection to IELTS practice.

I also observed students working quite hard throughout these active tasks. The tasks caught their attention and they worked for longer periods of time individually and in pairs. I asked several students afterwards and it came down to their preference for the iPad apps we were using. Explain Everything and iMovie were hits as they produced their own videos. They loved the creative expression afforded to them (my words) and the ability to bling their videos (their words).

The principles of flipped learning could be used in contexts without technology, no doubt about that. But the technology certainly affords many more opportunities and modes of content delivery in both the passive learning before class and active learning during class.

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