In our current climate of education teachers are feeling the push to have students express their learning on digital platforms. In intermediate grades, we get told to have students practice taking their assessments and demonstrate learning online in order to prepare for state testing. With my own students, I often feel as if we spend more time in the digital realm than we do in the “real world”. Thankfully due to my position as a technology lead in my building, I feel competent in teaching my students to express themselves creatively in more ways than just test prep. However, as I was reflecting on ISTE Student Standard 6 – Creative Communicator, I realized I lack knowledge in primary grades and their use of creative digital expression. I decided that for this week my focus would primarily be on grades K-3 and what ways they can use the digital realm to express themselves.

What is ‘creative’?

Before the kids can start being creative online we need to make sure we have an environment that cultivates creativity in our classrooms. I was asked the question “what does it mean to be creative in our classrooms?” I don’t think I have an answer, but I have some thoughts. In an endless internet search of what does it mean to be creative I found a blog with some ideas that resonated with me. The blog mainly focused on creative projects, but I find it can apply to any work that we ask of our students. It listed 5 top hallmarks of a creative project:

  1. Asks, or attempts to answer, the right kind of questions – a project that answers a question with an obvious right answer doesn’t allow for creativity. Questions should be open-ended and require students to think beyond the classroom.
  2. Requires collaboration or cooperation – creativity does not thrive in competition. Allowing students to collaborate or cooperate in groups allows them to hear ideas from many and allows creativity to flow.
  3. Doesn’t need the student’s name on it – if there’s not a difference between students’ work it didn’t leave enough room for them to put themselves in it. Creative work is original and unique.
  4. Includes art or design – students become conditioned over time to do things a certain way and it takes away their creativity. Most people aren’t great at drawing so original artwork may not garnish praise, therefore as we get older we are less likely to do it. Celebrate effort not quality of art with students.
  5. Transfers energy and demonstrates passion – you can easily tell which students have connected with their content and those who have not.

This list by no means takes over every aspect of creativity, but I thought it was a good place to start. Especially with my focus being on younger grades, if we can cultivate this creativity before they get too scared to take risks imagine the type of creativity we could see in older students. As teachers, we can often tell whose work belongs to who from their handwriting. We become adept at sleuthing out who forgot to write their name on their paper. What if instead, we learned the humanness of their work and could figure out what work went to who based on their creativity? That makes me excited to jump in the classroom and get creative. From here, I focused on the digital side of creativity.

Digital Storytelling

In my research, I came across digital storytelling. In an Edutopia article it talked about how storytelling is an essential part of what makes us human. This goes along with what I found about creative projects. People love to tell their stories. If you have worked with younger children before you know they can take first place in the love they have for sharing their stories. Through this train of thought, I saw a way for our younger students to share their learning with a larger audience. They may not be able to write out their learning as older students can, but why should that hold them back? It shouldn’t. What if instead at the end of a learning activity we allow our students to share what they have learned using their own voice? With digital storytelling, they can use their voice and images to take us on a journey of their learning. This can then allow them to express themselves creatively and allow teachers to really find out what their students have learned.

I found some resources that can be used to help students digitally share their stories. They may need to be guided for younger students, but as most kids are competent in using digital devices they should pick up quickly.

Tools

  • Kid in Story Book Maker: a paid for app that allows you to put your own photos into stories to become the main character. This could be a hook to help get students invested.
  • Tell About This – a paid for app that will record students’ thoughts. You can give them prompts or questions to answer. They can then be saved and shared.
  • Storybird – paid for program, but has free trial. Students can create and publish stories to share with other kids online.
  • Youtube – free version and premium version. Students can upload and edit videos online. They can easily be shared in Google suite, which many schools use.
  • iMovie – students can edit/record videos. They can be uploaded/downloaded and shared out. Requires Apple.

Conclusion

Our students all have unique voices and stories to share. Everyone can be creative. We all have a spark inside of us that can be shared with those around us. Giving our students the ability to creatively express themselves will help us get to know them even better and allow us to be better teachers. Digital storytelling is a way that I have really connected with, but that doesn’t mean it’s the answer for everyone. Let me know what you do with your students to get creative, digitally or otherwise.

Resources

5 thoughts on “Creativity in a Digital World

  1. What great digital tools and resources to empower students to share their voices and perspectives. I appreciate the idea you shared where students reflect and tell the story of their own learning–what a great idea! Self-discovery and ownership are important skills to instill in our students and digital storytelling is a tool to help teachers encourage and empower these skills. Thank you for sharing your resources and insights!

  2. Rachel, I love that your branching out and exploring opportunities for K-3 students! I appreciate your starting off with exploring a broader perspective around what it means for students to be creative. Your insights around creativity thriving more through collaboration than competition make a lot of sense. Additionally, I really like what you have to say around transferring energy and demonstrating passion. All of these creativity components are definitely present in digital storytelling. I think it’s such a great medium for exploring both digital learning as well as creative expression. Developing digital literacy from a young age is very important and this is a great way to engage students in K-3 in such a way that they can be very successful while sharing their creative results and learning with an authentic audience. Thanks for sharing!

  3. The part of your blog that really resounded with me was the part about cultivating curiosity in our classrooms. I liked the 5 hallmarks of a creative project, especially that “creativity does not thrive in competition” and that we need to “celebrate effort not quality of art”. How often do students feel like they need to have perfect work before they can turn it in or that there is one right way to do something? Or how often do they look over at their neighbor’s work for comparison? How do we intentionally and actively combat that? Perhaps focusing more on the process of learning and that learning is messy- we all don’t fit in the same box. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Rachel,

    I really resonated with the 5 top hallmarks of a creative project that you referenced from the blog on creativity. I agree I think those 5 elements are a wonderful place to start with helping our students cultivate creativity. I also loved your exploration of digital storytelling. You highlight the beauty of this digital tool so well in your description, and I think this is a fantastic tool to empower creativity in our youngest learners. Lastly, I loved the resources you shared at the end. Storybird is one of my favorite digital writing tools to use with students and its unfortunate that its a paid program now. Thanks so much for sharing your insights on tools to use with K-3. This was a new avenue for me to explore as well!

  5. I love this comment, “if we can cultivate this creativity before they get too scared to take risks imagine the type of creativity we could see in older students.” Such a great take on creativity and how important it is to foster and nurture it in students. I love how you connected digital storytelling with opening up creativity in students. I also really liked what you said about needing to become adept at knowing our students not by their handwriting but instead by their creativity. Such a great blog post, thanks for sharing!

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