“Sympathy for Creativity” A GarageBand Project

Creativity is one of those things that everyone understands, but has a hard time defining. I think art, and especially music emulates the essence of creativity the best. Musical artists seem to tap heaven when coming up with completely new melodies.


Henriksen, Mishra, & Fisser (2016) use three concepts to build a definition of creativity: novelty, effectiveness, and appropriateness. This is perfectly fine, if we are using creativity solely to solve specific problems within the context of an educational environment. In my opinion, the last two concepts flatten creativity into a two-dimensional word that can be explained away in a paper.

I think that you can stop after “novel”. The authors of “Infusing Creativity and Technology in 21st Century Education: A Systemic View for Change” (2016) take the magic of Willy Wonka and stick it into Henry Ford’s assembly line when they push productivity onto creative people. They, like many, seem to be looking for ways to harness creativity in order to power old machinery. Sticking art in the regular-ed classroom won’t transform it. We need to break down the walls!Animated GIF-source

Applying the limiting definition of Henriksen, Mishra, & Fisser (2016) to a problem like making Internet connections faster would make wires carry more and more information, faster and faster. Perhaps there brand of creativity could even think up Wifi. The most creative person might harness the Earth’s Mantle to transport information from one side to the other instantaneously without using energy. This is all super helpful, would benefit society, make money for companies, save money for others, create jobs, foster new research, etc. But, what about the kid who thinks about changing the information from the Internet in general. We praise the kid who builds the most amazing structure with Legos and punish the one who uses the Legos to form a picture. That is not how Legos work. You did not build anything. Another kid makes the Legos dance and sing. They put on a play. Still another builds with the Lego people a structure that the blocks live in. Whoa, that kid is reeeeeaaaally wrong!

Play for play sake. Be creative just to be creative. Come up with new ideas, just cuz.


This past summer I decided this would be the year that I explore a program that has evaded me for a while now: GarageBand. I watched a tutorial video that lit a fire in me to make my own music for the videos that I create. (I produce a lot of movies that I post on Youtube.)

The Rolling Stones
The Stones 1968, the year “Sympathy for the Devil” was recorded

I had a cool idea for how to use GarageBand: My class will take a song and change the lyrics, making a classroom song. I chose “Sympathy for the Devil” by The Rolling Stones. I’m sure that you think this is a crazy choice for a 3rd grade classroom. It is, but let me explain with some A, B, Cs… and a D;)

A

A is for A+. I love the song. The music is catchy, singable, memorable, rhythmic, and fun. Also, it uses tons of different instruments. This would be great for my class, because everyone could have a “part” in its construction. If we were to perform the music live, literally every single kid could be playing a totally different instrument!

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Mr. Peters shows Ss some different instruments available.

B

B is for Beginning. The song is sort of a riddle, asking listeners to “Guess my name”. At the beginning of the year (when I had thought about working on this) we are all getting to know one another. I had my students make “Who Am I Riddle Poems” to share things about themselves that are unique from others. We would take this concept and use it “whole group” to distinguish our class from other classes.

C

IMG_0650C is for simple, yet complex. The song is made up of 4 verses with a repeating chorus. The chord progression is E, D, A, E, with the change on the first beat of each of four measures. Dylan Peters (@DylanPetersedu), the brand new Technology Innovator Specialist hired to East Penn School District this past summer (2018) worked with me from the get go to teach my students (and me) how to use GarageBand. We used the “Autoplay” feature to have the instruments play simple rhythms. After guiding groups through creating the same set of four instruments playing the same four measures of music, we showed them how they could change the instruments, altering percussion styles, and fooling with some really funky disc jockey features.

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Thank you, Mr. Peters for all of your help with this project!

D

And, D. is for “dynamic”. [Dynamic was the theme of a recent #livechat I participated in from #masterychat, @teachbetterteam. I looked up the word, and found that it means “change”.] The original song by The Rolling Stones changes throughout, progressively increasing the tempo, number of sounds, and musical involvement. This is not only fun, but would allow for my entire class to be hooting and howling by the end! (Give the song a listen, and you’ll see.)

So far, the groups have been working on changing the instruments within GarageBand to customize their four measures before we piece them all together. The aim is for four totally different styles of the same music to be joined just like the students of my third grade class came from different 2nd grade teachers, possessing very different styles of teaching, personalities, and methods.

This past week I began teaching poetry, in preparation for the class to write the lyrics that will accompany our music. Dylan Peters plans to bring in a professional-style microphone to record the class’s singing once our composition is complete. Check back with me to see and hear the final product.

I mention this GarageBand project not just to share a pretty creative idea, but because of a question my wife posed: What are the learning outcomes for this? At first, I thought about justifying the time, energy, thought, and work by suggesting ELA, Art, or Math standards. Then I thought about explaining to her the camaraderie-constructing merit of the project. I settled on “We are just doing it for fun.” Why does this seem so wrong in today’s educational climate?   

Sources:

Henriksen, D., Mishra, P., & Fisser, P. (2016). Infusing Creativity and Technology in 21st Century Education: A Systemic View for Change. Educational Technology & Society, 19 (3), 27–37.

[Sanjay C]. (2018, January 20). GarageBand on your iPad Quick -START TO FINISH! . Retrieved from https://youtu.be/ykGRexBtcXQ

Weimann, M. (2018, September 23). Critical Thinking is Classy. Retrieved October 20, 2018, from https://thecaptainofclass.com/2018/09/23/critical-thinking-is-classy/ [This is the first time that I have ever cited my own work.]

[zwwlg]. (2016, March 12). Ken Robinson – Do schools kill creativity/TED Talks. . Retrieved from https://youtu.be/tQzC7ubJriE

Can Tech Tools Stifle Creativity?

Just over a week ago I produced the coolest off-the-cuff formative assessment using Google Slides. Students accessed a slideshow that I threw together right before getting them from recess. There was a picture in it that I wanted them to use to identify arrays.  

My 3rd graders have struggled with learning multiplication at the very beginning of the year, as I have struggled teaching it right out of the gate. See, my district just signed on to use iReady math, and everyone is experiencing some growing pains.

Scarlet
Scarlet plays with some blocks I brought home.

We have been looking at arrays, frontwards and backwards. I had brought some connecting blocks home to take pictures for a quiz I would administer, when an idea hit me. My daughter Scarlet was enjoying constructing shapes with the blocks, and she built a robot. Rather than making nice neat rectangles for my students, I’d have them find the arrays that lay hidden in this robot. I love combining life experiences and teaching moments, so I told my students about the robot’s inception and their assignment. They loved it and jumped right in.

I had taken a picture of the simple combination of blocks and uploaded it to a Google slideshow. Students were to find the slideshow (a copy per student) waiting for them in their Math Google Classroom. They were to identify different arrays by circling them. I also told them to label the arrays appropriately; Putting the number of rows first, and then the number of columns.

sloppy iPadMy classroom has a mishmash of different devices. I literally did not know how they were going to outline their arrays, but I did know that there was more than one way. The iPads are pretty easy. Kids can click on the assigned Google slideshow and immediately start drawing and writing all over the slides, without opening it in the Google Slides App. When students are done they can save/submit the work as a PDF.

On the Chromebooks and Macs, students could put shapes on top of the arrays, but then they would have to adjust the shape to be transparent. Students found a tool called “Scribble” under the “Line” icon within slides that worked the best. They could draw (using two hands) a rectangle around the arrays they found. Then they used the regular “Line” to connect the array to a “Text Box” that they typed the array inside. These lines were very thin and black, so students worked out a way to change the color and thicken up the lines. They also used this experience to find out how to change the font size, color, etc. of text. I witnessed my students teaching themselves the technology, problem-solving in many more ways than one, using creativity for practical reasons, and experiencing tremendous success, both practically and mathematically!

All in all, the lesson was a smashing success. I was very happy with how well my students did identifying the arrays. And I was incredibly impressed with the ingenuity they showed in figuring out the best ways to show their work, using the tools at their disposal.

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Heather Moser Empowers EPSD Teachers w/ Terrific Tech Tools

Now, this is where the title of this blog comes into play. The aforementioned lesson took place on the Thursday before Columbus Day Weekend. On Monday (Columbus day) my school district had a professional development inservice. I attended an incredible session titled “iPads Untethered”, taught by East Penn Tech Instructional Assistant, Heather Moser. She started out the teacher learning time with an app called “Sketches”. Kids can use this app to easily draw all over images that are either shared with them or they generate from taking a picture. The sketches can be saved in organized folders, shared, or submitted. We then moved on to doodling all over images in Notes, another easy to use app that comes preinstalled on iPads. It was as though Heather knew about my lesson and was saying, “Gee, Captain, you could have simply used one of these.”

The catch is that both my students and myself grew threw our productive struggle. Problem-solving ways to show arrays within Google Slides helped us learn all kinds of things. Also, I liked my ability to link comments to student work when it came time for me to provide feedback and grades for this assessment on the fly. In the future, when my students have one iPad/kid I can use the awesome apps that Mrs. Moser showed teachers during professional development. Robot

Those simple-to-use drawing tools would make it much easier and faster to perform an assessment like the one I had planned, but would this rob my students of the opportunity for productive struggle? As digital tools make life easier and easier, we teachers will have to be creative in finding ways to make tasks challenging. 

It’s #Playtime!

For years I’ve let my students bring in a snack, but I usually have them eat it while working. I tried that this year, but quickly realized that this wasn’t going to work.

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These kids missed the classroom #playtime, so they took a brain-break in the hall.

Because of an early lunch, my students and I have a very long afternoon. Our math time is from 11:30 to 12:30. Then I have Language Arts time until 2:25, when Special time begins. So, I have students for about three solid hours!

I never even considered playtime before. I figured, that’s what recess was for. But, a class I am taking from Kutztown U changed my mind. During snack time, I have introduced our classroom makerspace. I am calling it playtime, but the idea is that students will be involved in creative creating or building. 

 

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Learning Social Skills

Mission Statement: 

Students will take a break from formal learning every afternoon post Math time and prior to Language Arts learning (12:30-12:50, approximately), in order to creatively construct things with a variety of toys and tools, while snacking.

Philosophy: Hybrid of “Open Space” (self-driven) and “Workshops” (learning/practice time)

Screen Shot 2018-10-07 at 7.18.01 AMMerriam Webster defines playtime as “a time for play or diversion” (n.d.). The very first time I introduced this idea, I talked all about the concept and went over the parameters or policies prior to math time. Then during math we used connecting blocks to build arrays that  were broken apart, displaying split multiplication problems. When math time was over, I told the students that they could keep using the blocks, but now, they could “Build whatever you want.” They were in heaven. It was like I had taught them the proper way to use the monkey bars, and then told them they could play all over the playground doing anything they wished. Stay within the fence, and follow the general rules, but have a blast and blow off steam. They sure did.

Playtime isn’t relegated to only grade-school pupils; parents and adults can benefit from merriment as well (Chatty Feet Team, 2016). It helps us relax and promotes problem-solving skills. Also, it will help us play with our kids better. Libraries are using playtime to help kids develop literary skills. Parents at a library in Texas get out toy cars, tape, race tracks, and bowls of tiny road signs (Celano, Knapczyk, & Neuman, 2018, p. 68). Playing and building with these road toys helped the kids learn some of the concepts necessary for understanding the read aloud they were about to experience.

Policies

This is NOT a “free-for-all”, nor is it even “free-time”. It is playtime, and it is governed by rules.IMG_6875

  1. No fighting or arguing.
  2. Don’t be too loud.
  3. Share/Play nice
  4. Keep clean; Wash hands first/keep snack away from toys.
  5. Don’t be gross. No licking your fingers and then touching the toys. (I’m not even going to mention picking noses.)IMG_6999

Supplies

I limit the supplies that my students have access to during their playtime. I do this for a variety of reasons. One is that I want this time to be manageable. If there are ten different things out and spread around the room, it will take too long to clean up. Another reason that I limit the supplies is because I want the groups of students to interact. If one group is playing with Legos and another is building with Lincoln Logs, kids will not be as likely to share, collaborate, blend groups, etc. They have to stop playing with Legos in order to work with Lincoln Logs. Eventually, I want to see the class creatively incorporate a variety of building mediums into the same project, but all in good time. I want the kids to have some experience with each one, learning, exploring, and problem-solving with a single medium before branching out and combining.

Here is a list of the mediums that I have so far.

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Abe Lincoln may have carved these, himself. They are from my childhood!
  • Connecting blocks
  • Legos
  • Lincoln Logs
  • Tinker Toys
  • Robotix
  • Thimios (robots)

Potential Future Play Mediums: Video and Music

A future direction of this playtime that I foresee is publishing videos. Students will use the things that they have built to produce films with plots and themes. I imagine these to be silly and fun; Remember this is playtime! I can picture students making Monty Python-esque cartoons, old school Gumby claymation-style movies, and motion-stop videos.

Publishing videos on Youtube is scarily public. Students and kids have no idea what that means. They are lured by the fame of notoriety and the glamour of numbers. The idea of something going “viral” is the new “anyone could be president”. Except that there are serious hurdles to achieving most powerful person in the world, while going viral needs nothing more than a video camera, creativity, and luck… mostly, luck. And, every kid in America is banking on luck, these days. What if one of our videos did go viral? It is important that our movies present an accurate picture of our playtime. 

When kids publish to Youtube or another online video platform, they are taking their play on the road… or information highway. What kids want is for their numbers to rise: They want the number of views to go up. The way to do that is to promote the videos, but more importantly produce something that people want to watch. In the same way that playing the games that others enjoy playing will get more people to join your playtime activity, videos that are attractive will get the views. In the incredibly interesting and informative article on this subject, “Raised by Youtube” author Alexis Madrigal (n.d.) writes about a company that I hadn’t even heard of: Chuchu Tv. This company is dwarfing Disney, Sesame Street, and all the rest of American video producers on Youtube. Their BILLIONS of views make these other companies look like online ants. The Indian-based company uses seemingly lotech imagery–two-dimensional characters to tell traditional nursery rhymes. Madrigal (n.d.) went to the headquarters and interviewed its creators and CEOs. The concept began with an audience of one: The creator’s toddler. The entrepreneur with a background in media began making videos for his young son. They almost instantly took off and went viral. He now employs 200 artists. Compared to Disney’s thousands of employees, this number is infantesmal! The mission of Chuchu Tv is to provide wholesome videos for toddlers that share moral messages. Madrigal spoke with a child development expert who reviewed Chuchu’s videos, Colleen Russo Johnson from UCLA’s Center for Scholars & Storytellers. She told him that the videos were so overly-stimulating that the good message is lost on young kids. Chuchu was born on the concept of seeking the most views. Although its mission is admirable, Chuchu plays to what is going to be viewed the most. Johnson sees this as dangerous, because it will develop viewers who want (need, like an addict) more and more stimulation.

I’ll be blogging about this a lot in the near future, but suffice to say, the app Garageband is a virtual playground of music. We had one lesson with Dylan Peters, and I now have to pry the iPads out of student hands!

Screen Shot 2018-10-07 at 7.17.33 AMMy students and I are super excited for this new #playtime initiative. I haven’t told them about making videos, yet. But, our creative building has completely revolutionized our Language Arts time. Kids are more attentive, well-behaved, and cooperative in centers, after having a brain break. I look forward to sharing more about this time, how it is working out, and what my students are producing throughout the year. Please share with me articles that you have read that either support this idea, add to this concept, or even contradict my thinking. Thank you.

Sources:

Celano, D. C., Knapczyk, J. J., & Neuman, S. B. (2018). Public Libraries Harness the Power of Play. YC: Young Children, 73(3), 68. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.proxy-kutztown.klnpa.org/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=sso&db=edb&AN=130304856&site=eds-live&scope=site&custid=s3915793

Chatty Feet Team. (2016, June 14). Why It’s Important For Adults To Play Too. Retrieved October 7, 2018, from https://www.chattyfeet.com/blogs/chattyfeet-socks-blog/the-importance-of-play-for-adults

Madrigal, A. C. (n.d.). Raised by Youtube. Retrieved October 6, 2018, from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/11/raised-by-youtube/570838/?utm_source=twb  [No publishing date, but available in the November 2018 print edition.]

Merriam Webster. (n.d.). Playtime. Retrieved October 7, 2018, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/playtime

Critical Thinking is Classy

Screen Shot 2018-09-22 at 9.26.39 PMTo be able to critique something, one must have background knowledge. Unfortunately, some teachers focus solely on pouring information into their pupils (Watanabe-Crockett, 2015).

What Does Critical Thinking Look Like?

I tried something new this year to get kids to introduce themselves to each other. The class visited the art room outside of their typical art time. Kids were told that they were going to make a self portrait. The catch was that they could only use scrap paper and glue; no drawing utensils, no scissors, only their hands and glue. They had a blast tearing the paper and sticking it together. Making shapes round was tricky. Some students made their art three-dimensional. Some used nonconventional colors.

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Polite Pirates of Room 207 Make Self Portraits

After making the self portraits, students composed “Who Am I” riddle poems. They had to write down a list of sentences telling information about themselves that makes them unique from others in the class. They wrote their names on the back of the papers. I attached them to the self portraits. The kids got to read each other’s poems, guessing who fit the characteristics listed. The portraits were little more than clues, since they were not very realistic.

The project was not only presented several facets of critical thinking, but it also dressed up my room for Meet The Teacher Night! Parents loved trying to figure out which portrait/poem combination was their offspring:)

How to Foster Critical Thinking: Don’t Settle

When I have students figure out a math problem, I tell them to solve it multiple ways. This forces them to rethink the math. They are required to analyze the problem. My students are asked to not only “show their work”, but also explain how they arrived at their answers. When they share the process with a partner the two of them evaluate each other’s work. Having to find other ways to solve a math problem causes students to be creative, looking for novel ways to think about the numbers.

A way to inspire critical thinking during a writing assignment is through allowing students to view their peers’ written responses within Google Forms. When I administer an assessment through giving a quiz from Google classroom, I instruct my students to click on “See Previous Responses” upon submitting their quizzes. They are to read their classmates’ writing, evaluating the responses and comparing them with what they wrote. They may go back and add information to their own writing, then, adapting new ideas to the answer.

One More Thing: Call it what it is.

Watanabe-Crockett (2016) suggests actually using the term critical thinking. “How to Develop A Critical Thinking Mindset in Elementary Students” supplies a graphic aid from Andrew Churches that shows Bloom’s Taxonomy applied to technology. It has long lists of verbs under each thinking skill. It isn’t a bad idea to make a poster of this and put it on the wall.me

In order to critique something, one must create an opinion. With this end in mind, educators can work to teach students how to think critically in order to complete the task.

Sources:

Watanabe-Crockett, L. (2015, July 24). The Importance of Teaching Critical Thinking. Retrieved September 22, 2018, from https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/the-importance-of-teaching-critical-thinking

Watanabe-Crockett, L. (2016, May 28). How to Develop A Critical Thinking Mindset in Elementary Students. Retrieved September 22, 2018, from https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/critical-thinking-mindset-elementary-students

 

Cloning Creativity Is Classy

Consider Cloning Your Creativity. It’s Classy.Cloning myself

A person is considered creative by others if he comes up with new and novel ideas. To use a cliche that’s been chopped down, chewed up, and spit out a billion times, in the Tree_Falling_Down_-_panoramiosame way a tree does not fall in a forest if no one is there to hear it, a person is only as creative as people recognize it. My suggestion: Cloning your creativity is classy.

This is classy because it helps you and others. It is helpful to you because it will make you feel meaningful and important. The greatest form of flattery is for someone to copy you. Sharing your ideas says, “Flatter me, please;)” Also, others may find ways to improve what you came up with. This shouldn’t make you feel badly. You invented the table. Others are simply lengthening the legs, sanding the rough edges, and polishing the finish. No one would be using it at all, had you never considered cloning your creative contribution to the culinary art! How classy.

Here is an issue: I came up with a lesson years ago that I hadn’t put together until just recently. I thought of having my students make “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories to make narrative writing fun and creative. (They can also explore multiple solutions to IMG_0037problems within plots.) In preparation for teaching a professional development class on using iPads in the classroom, I decided I’d finally try my hand at making one of these adventures. I created a planning paper, made a Google slideshow, hyperlinked slides together, and wrote a silly little story about the teachers that would be attending my iPad course. I even made a movie to show teachers how I did what I did, so that they could reproduce (clone) it.

I haven’t actually mentioned the “issue” yet. All this goes right along with the theme of this blog: Sharing your creativity is classy. Here is the issue: I just… just now, as I am in the middle of typing this blog, googled “Choose your own adventure lesson,” and do you know how many other people had the same idea as me? Well, it took Google half of a second to produce eighteen million hits. So, was my idea a creative one?

Has this kind of thing ever happened to you? Have you ever excitedly told a colleague or friend about a grand idea you had, only to have your audience say, “Oh, (so and so) did that last year”? Talk about taking the wind out of your creative sails!

Here is a classy consolation: How many artists were appreciated during their lifetime? Additionally, do you think Edgar Degas was the only artist who painted ballerinas? Did Michelangelo invent sculpture? As creative as people may seem, they are building upon concepts that already exist. It is what’s done with the creativity that makes it classy. A creative idea that sits in the classroom, confined to 24 students, and never tried by other teachers, isn’t any more useful than a tree falling in the middle of a forest is beneficial to a carpenter. Yeah, people are building tables all over the place. So, your raised wooden platform that people place food on isn’t all that novel in a global market, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make one. Many people had painted portraits of women before the Mona Lisa. What if DaVinci thought, “That’s already been done. I don’t want to look lame, copying others.”IMG_0035

Not classy: Failing to give credit where credit is due. No explanation needed. Also, withholding compliments is not classy. A person can feel jealous when a colleague is getting attention for his creativity. Don’t let corrosive competitive feelings creep into your soul. They will kill your creativity. This is not a war or competition. Be congratulatory. That is classy. An attitude of admiration will boost you forward, usher you into a collection of collaborative creators, and fuel cogitation. A poor attitude will find you lying under a fallen tree in the middle of the forest, trapped, forgotten, and nonexistent.

Here is the lesson that I dreamed up, created, and found out already exists… millions of times over;)  https://tinyurl.com/y8pnpybmIMG_0039

Here is the movie that I made to show off how I did what millions of others have done before me.  https://youtu.be/xzi1Q0nAsBc

Although I am laughing at myself for thinking that I was soooo creative, coming up with this lesson, only to find out lots of others before me have done something similar, I remain please with my product, and encourage you… I would be flattered if you were to check it out and even use it. Let me know what you think, and if there were ways to improve upon it.

Final thought: Where would this lesson fall on the SAMR spectrum? Is the use of technology Substituting, Augmenting, Modifying, or Redefining teaching?