Caine’s Arcade

The following video made the rounds this week. It’s the inspiring story of young Caine who builds his own arcade out of cardboard and other spare parts as a way to pass the time. A filmmaker discovers Caine’s arcade and decides to organize a flash mob, filming the whole thing as they go.

What’s interesting is the amount of ingenuity this boy demonstrates in building his arcade. Creativity, problem-solving, persistence, attention to detail, among other skills were developed as Caine realized his vision.

Caine didn’t learn how to build his own arcade in school. He used tools he already had within him to think outside the box, so to speak. We can only hope that his teachers also see the potential in Caine by encouraging and supporting his creativity.

Let this video be an inspiration as you try to find ways to support your own students’ creativity. Maybe they won’t create an arcade, but they may build a model of a city, write a song, or take on some other creative endeavor that allows them to realize their potential and opens the possibility for their dreams to come true.

What message do you pull from this video? How have you allowed your students’ creativity to shine through? When have you had to make due with the materials around you in order to make something great?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

More Picnik Alternatives

I was so sad when I heard Picnik was closing its doors.  Like Brooke Higgins mentioned in her post Wanted: free and easy photo editing, I loved Picnik and used it for photo editing and creating unique gifts and collages.  I even paid for the full membership.   When I heard the news the site was closing I started searching for a new quick, easy tool.  On my iPhone I found a few apps I liked for editing my mobile images- Instagram, Pixloromatic , and Fun Camera, but  I really wanted something I could use to edit photos on my desktop computer.  Something easy, full of great features, and free!  I wanted to add two more options to your toolbox, that may help you replace Picnik (Which is still around until April 19) as a favorite photo editing tool!

Pixlr- The same people who created Pixloromatic have a feature on their website called Pixlr-Express. Pixlr-Express is free!  It does not require a log in.  You just upload a photo, or take a photo using your webcam and you can edit it on the spot!   You have access to your typical photo editing options- cropping, resizing, red-eye, sharpening, and more.  It also gives you a few special color effects, a variety of filter overlays, frames, stickers, and the ability to add text to pictures.  You don’t get a million options, but it is free and easy.  It helps you enhance an image and save it in just a few quick clicks.

The other tool I recently discovered was Pic Monkey. This tool is very “Picnik like.”  I did some research and found out it was actually created by some of the engineers from Picnik!  Yeah for us!!!!  There is no registration required for the basic features. However, to get the advanced features they do ask you to register.  (I would recommend registering because there are tons of amazing advanced features!)  Currently you can get both basic and premium features for free.  The freebie deal will end in a few months and if you sign up now, you will get a coupon for a discounted subscription in the future.

Once you upload your photo, you see a very clean, user-friendly interface.  Along with your basic editing tools of cropping, rotating, auto adjust etc., you get much more. The site offers 25 different special effects from the categories of Basic, Camera Look, Paintbox, Area, and Artsy.   These features help make your snapshots look like masterpieces.  In the touch-up section you can reduce wrinkles, add lip-gloss, change your eye color, and even reduce your weight.  Pic Monkey provides a many, many overlays that help you increase the interest of your photo by adding accessories such at beach objects, comic bubbles, flowers, butterflies, and shapes!  Along with text and frame options, Pic Monkey is an amazing resource for adding a ton of creativity to your digital images!

As I explored these tools, I thought about how students could use these tools to support the NETS-S of creativity and innovation.  “Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.”  How might you use Pixlr-Express or PicMonkey to encourage creativity and innovation in your classroom?

Carmen Marty is an Instructional Specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Beginners and Creativity

Many of you have seen the Sir Ken Robinson TED talk on how education kills creativity. If you haven’t take a moment to watch it. It’s worth the 20 minutes…

I read quotes and interviews all the time about how artists and innovators try to see the world again as a child without the constraints of adult experiences and structured imaginations (via). As Picasso once said, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” What these quotes and ideas all mean is that we start out as inquisitive, creative creatures. So, creativity is within our students’ capabilities. Somehow, it gets “taught” out of us.

Here’s another quote from Ira Glass, host of NPR’s This American Life:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through. (via nefffy)

If we want students to access their creative potentials, we have to encourage and support them. The only way to do that is plan lessons and units that value and promote creativity. We have to give them space to take risks and try things on their own. We have to trust them to pull from these creative beginnings.

Maybe if we do these things, their creativity will blossom and not falter while in our classrooms.

What are you doing to promote creativity with your students? What can we do as eductorsr so as not to limit creativity? How do you encourage students to take risks?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

4ALL: Taking Lessons to Task

Student project

Click for source.

When planning a unit or lesson, maybe the most important decision we make is writing the task. Sure standards and learning outcomes must be met, but a well-conceived task is how students will achieve academic goals. Additionally, a task that is meaningful and interesting is what motivates students to do their best work.

Tasks should be authentic. Students want to learn, but they also want to learn skills and content that have real-world applications. We are long past the days of learning just for the sake of learning. A motivating factor for students is the authenticity of the task. A tasks “realness” encourages students to attend to the content even more than abstract exercises. Particularly in web-based learning activities, such as WebQuests, authenticity can be crucial to motivating students. Not only can an authentic task motivate students to learn, it also helps in showing them the relevance of academic work.

Creativity is another aspect of effective tasks. When we talk about creativity, we are not only talking about the aesthetics of a project or display. No, what we are talking about is the kind of creativity in the form of innovation. When students are given tasks that require them to creatively solve a problem or devise new meanings of their worlds, they are both motivated and highly engaged with the content. Creativity has a place in education despite traditional education’s tendency to squelch innovation among students.

So, where do we find tasks that are authentic and promote creativity? Well, there are actually several approaches that fit this bill.

Problem-based learning (PBL) is an approach that requires students to creatively solve real-world problems. Students might be charged with solving a pollution issue in their community’s streams or in designing a new library that fills a school’s needs. These tasks require collaboration, communication, computation, analysis, and an understanding of their world in order to come up with solutions that may work.

Inquiry is another pedagogical approach that requires authenticity and some creativity. Inquiry-based lessons allow the students’ questions about natural phenomena that lead to further investigations.  Students experiencing inquiry develop experimental and analytic skills while conducting investigations. Inquiries can begin with topics such as the current socio-economic environment in the US or around the world, the power of lessons to be learned from well-crafted literature, or the best computations in figuring out mapping the quickest route to the top of Mt. Everest.

A third tool that features authentic tasks that encourage creativity is the aforementioned WebQuest. The WebQuest prominently features a task as its core element. This is how all WebQuests are judged. In fact, Bernie Dodge’s “Taskonomy” lays out the various kinds of tasks that elicit the best results from a WebQuest. In short, a good WebQuest task pushes students to dig into content beyond rote comprehension in collaboratively creating something that demonstrates a deep understanding of the topic. For the best list of high-quality WebQuests, visit Quest Garden.

If you are looking for standards to justify authenticity and creativity in your task, there are plenty of standards and learning models that support these approaches. Look no further than ISTE’s standards for student learning. Also, if one were to look at a DOK chart, the kinds of tasks littered in levels three and four can easily be correlated with real-world and creative tasks. If your school subscribes to Bloom’s (revised) taxonomy, you’ll find that creativity is at the top and the real-world skills of evaluating, analyzing, and applying are just below.

What other ideas should we keep in-mind when designing student tasks? Which is more difficult to plan in a task: authenticity or creativity? What is the most challenging part of facilitating learning through authentic and creative tasks?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger with the eMINTS National Center.

HD_Links: Five Websites to Inspire Your Students

I’m sharing five of my favorite tools for the classroom to inspire kids to get creative. Check them out!

1. Aviary: This site can really do it all!  Photos can be edited instantly online and saved right back to your hard drive!  You can create music with it.  There is even a design option that allows you to draw!  I think this is one of those sites that could come in handy in almost any project.  Imagine if students are making a digital story and one member of the group is the “Musician” and gets to design the music?  Or, if they are working on a poster for an Earth Day project and they take their own photos outside of your school and edit them in the classroom.  I love Aviary most because it’s one of those sites that is ready to use.  There is not much to read or figure it… it’s just click and get creative! Perfect for the classroom. :)

2.  Wonderopolis This site gives kids LOTS to think about.  There is a brand new “Wonder” posted everyday.  You will learn things here you didn’t even realize you wanted to know.  It’s a great site for kids with writer’s block or kids who just love to learn…and really…what kid doesn’t love to learn?  I would bookmark this one on your classroom website and let kids visit whenever they’d like.  It can inspire them to learn about new things and think more creatively about everything they study!

3.  Cartoonster & Fluxtime:   Cartoonster has several tutorials that take kids step by step through the artistic process of creating a cartoon.  It will teach them about the simple act of making a flip book, adding perspective to drawings, and how to spruce up a cartoon.  Fluxtime is another site that they can use to draw and create their own animation!   Making an animation could be a wonderful way to summarize a book, demonstrate cause and effect, make a public service announcement for a cause that students have researched, or just to create a story!

4. Incredible Art Department: I spent just a few minutes at this site, and with a couple of clicks, there are tons of links to explore.  Beware of Google Ads cleverly placed around the pages, but the content here is wonderful.  I visited a site to make a Jackson Pollock of my own.  When the Pollock page loads, it’s white, click around to throw paint – okay, it’s EVEN fun for the teachers. :) .  I also discovered a Van Gogh project I think I know a few students would love.  There are lots of project ideas organized and I  found a list of tons of creative art sites for kids.

5. Glogster.edu: Glogster is a great tool for getting students in the creative mode. It has tons of fun, flashy moving graphics, colorful designs, and the ability to put music, video, and voice audio right onto your page.  You can create a digital poster that can be published for the world to see or kept private for your classroom only.  Text and links can also be added.  It would be a fun way to make a ‘book report’ or use as a place for gathering research for a collaborative project.

Hope one of these fits right into your classroom…. now I’m going to go finish my Jackson Pollock painting…   Afterall, it is summer.     If you have any favorite tools, please leave a comment, I’d love to hear about them! :)

Post by guest contributor Krissy Venosdale of TeachFactory.com. Veteran eMINTS teacher, gifted education teacher, Tweeter, photographer….. and that’s just her day job. Original post August 2, 2011 on TeachFactory.com.