creativity_1ISTE Student Standard 1: Creativity and Innovation
Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.

Much of my work in the first months of 2016 has been focused on exploring ISTE’s first standard for students and how that should look in an elementary library.  I celebrate the value of creativity every day: when I share stories books with my students; when I introduce them to the work of amazing artists and authors; when I encourage them to think creatively in their search for answers.  But as I have reflected these past weeks, I’ve been reminded of how much more I need to allow for creativity in student work.  

For the past several years our school has followed a morning routine during announcements over the intercom loudspeakers. It is very scripted, and in the past couple of years, most mornings it has also included a student book review. I love that the students are reading and sharing their responses, but I’m hoping to find ways for them to share that aren’t as formulaic and are more memorable. I’m also hoping to involve more 5th graders — there has been little interest on their part with the project as it’s been presented in the past.

Guiding Question:
Using technology, how can fifth grade students create memorable and meaningful book reviews in response to reading and how can these products be shared with a wider audience?

So the question became, what technology could I introduce to the students that would effectively introduce more creativity into the booktalk process?  My goal was guided by Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model.  Augmentation, where tech acts as a direct tool substitute with functional improvement — I really like the book talk process we’ve started and feel like technology could ramp up the fifth graders’ efforts (Puentedura & SAMR).  

With that in mind, I dove in. I read journal articles. I scoured websites. I scrolled through endless pages of Twitter tweets (feel free to follow me: @JustinHaney509).  A deep wade through a plethora (yes, I would definitely say it was a plethora) of outdated and inactive links did finally yield results when I discovered the work of an amazing team of librarians and technology specialists in the School District of West De Pere in De Pere, Wisconsin.  Their “Book Talks on Air” project and their yearly “Read Across America” project are exactly what I had in mind, though I didn’t know it at the time!  

The next afternoon, about twenty minutes before the final bell, and with no warning for the fifth grade teacher or his students, we dove in.  A student volunteered to give an impromptu book talk using a couple of our Chromebooks and Google Hangouts. Within the next five minutes, the fifth grade students had spent more time than they had all year on book talks, both as participants and as an attentive audience!  

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Next Steps

Now that I’ve found a tool that I think will work for sharing students’ work and now that it’s already proven effective in energizing students for the project, I want to explore the book talk process we have in place (written book talk form, with blanks to fill-in, 5-star rating scale) and open up more opportunities for injecting creativity into student products.  P21, or Partnership for 21st Century Learning, highlight the vitalness of creativity and divergence in student learning throughout their student learning framework. Puccio and Figliotti write: “Divergent thinking occurs when we apply the gas pedal to our thinking process and generate lots of options in response to a particular challenge (without taking the time to evaluate them). We race our engine, producing many, varied and original options.” (Puccio & Figliotti, 2014)

I know I am not providing enough opportunities for creativity in my classroom assignments. The ISTE and P21 standards are clear and well-founded in research. So why have I held back on letting go of control? The reasons are many, and the realities can’t be ignored.  As a teacher-librarian, I only see each class once a week, and that’s assuming there are no holidays/field trips/district trainings/etc.  There’s a lot of curriculum to squeeze into the year, and it’s easy for more open-ended projects to quickly extend from weeks into months. And there’s a library system to run and books to shelve…  But the reality is, if we want our students to more fully engage in their learning, it’s time to get creative. Quietly. But not too quietly.

Resources

Hemlock Creek Elementary School Library. (n.d.). Book Talks on Air – Hemlock Creek Library. Retrieved February 7, 2016, from https://sites.google.com/a/wdpsd.com/hc-library/events/book-talks-on-air

International Society for Technology in Education. (n.d.). ISTE Standards for Students. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/ISTE-standards/standards-for-students

Puccio, G. J., & Figliotti, J. (2014, April 21). How to foster creativity in the 21st century classroom? – P21. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/news-events/p21blog/1398-how-to-foster-creativity-in-the-21st-century-classroom

Puentedura, R. (2014, September 24). SAMR and Bloom’s Taxonomy: Assembling the puzzle. Retrieved from https://www.graphite.org/blog/samr-and-blooms-taxonomy-assembling-the-puzzle

Images

Creativity in Progress by Amanda Hirsch; Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0); https://flic.kr/p/5tLtoq  (original image cropped/edited using pixlr.com)

Photos by Justin Haney