Getting Educated Out of Creativity

According to, as of today, Sir Ken Robinson’s 2006 TED talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”,  has been viewed 37,293,940 times. Sir Ken’s impeccable delivery, combining personal narrative, humor and spirit, is captivating; ultimately however, it’s the urgency of the message, that brings you back.

At a Tedx Youth event in 2010, Priya Ganesan, speaking eloquently, honestly and with conviction, shared a similar message. (I originally shared her talk a few months after it occurred, in a post on this blog, and with students, asking for their thoughts.) Although Priya’s reach is minuscule in comparison to Sir Ken’s, her message is as genuine and her call for change similarly rings clear.

Creativity is not adding a pretty background to a Power Point slide. Ken Robinson defines creativity as “the process of having original ideas that have value.” Howard Gardner, emphasizes Robinson’s value specification, by formulating that a “product is creative if and only if it changes the way others in the relevant field think and act”, (p. xiv). defines creativity as, “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination. No matter how one defines the term, creativity incorporates:  problem solving, divergent thinking, exploration and innovation. Creatives are ultra sensitive to situations; when finding something nonsensical, they ask, “Why?”,  investigate and then ask, “What if?”.  Creatives create change.

Our traditional model for schooling was founded in Industrial Age needs and values: rule and direction following, structured constructs and group norms. Although societal needs and values have dramatically changed, the long established structure of “doing school” has remained.

Yes, testing and teaching for testing impedes creativity, because finding the one right answer does not involve creative thought. However, I think there are other, maybe even greater paradigm shifts which need to occur in order to truly support students creativity and innovation. First, schools need to allow students greater control of their own learning. In most cases, states, districts, administrators and teachers decide what students will learn, how they will learn and what they will do to prove that they learned what they needed to learn. There needs to be a greater emphasis placed on guiding students through various processes for learning, no matter what it is they want to learn. Second, the act of normative grading impedes creativity because, meeting grade requirements stifles students’ desire to think on their own. In addition, creative thought is fostered by intrinsic motivation, (think Genius Hour) and grades are an extrinsic motivators. Third, we need to allow students to “fail forward” and give them the opportunity to keep trying until they figure it out.  Fourth, as Ken Robinson professes, “Our task is to educate the whole being.” Literally, our students have five senses, two hands and two legs; the more we allow students movement, and hands on learning, the better. Less literally, we need to consider fostering other, less academic, experiential learning experiences, for example:: life skills, survival skills, gardening, mechanics, drama,dance, knitting or even meditation.

Technology fosters creativity, because it gives students a means and the incentive for creative thought. For example, students may create a solution, (or prototype for a solution), for a found problem, by using design software and a 3D printer;  they may create local solutions to global problems, through their collaborations with students in another part of the world;  or they may create a video game that teaches younger students a particular concept or understanding or an app to meet an empathized need.

However, if learning experiences include overly restrictive requirements, or lack choice, meaning and purpose, no matter the technology, the opportunity for creative thought will be lost.


Gardner, H. (2008) 5 Minds for the future. Boston: Harvard Business Press.

Exhibiting Synthesis Through the Inquiry Process

PRESENTATION LINK With the exorbitant and continually multiplying amount of even credible information available at our fingertips, synthesizing that information into effective and purposeful formulations, has become a near impossible feat. Appropriately, our society holds synthesizers, those people who can make sense of the vasts amounts of information available, to draw formidable conclusions, with the […]

Design Thinking Board


I’m a huge advocate for all kinds of Inquiry based learning in schools, and I’m especially interested in the potential for Design Thinking to move Inquiry further….to Innovation. I find the empathy piece of Design Thinking to be extremely important and often overlooked in more traditional engineering type processes. This Educlipper Board includes resources to assist and encourage using Design Thinking in education.

Take a Shelfie!

Hi all! I played with Pixlr last night to take my own Shelfie. Now that I feel more confident using this awesome free Photoshop like tool, I would love to have students create their own shelfies, thereby considering their past reading, sharing books they liked for others to consider and learning to use a Photoshop type application! […]

Implementing ISTE Standards for Students

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Following are ideas for incorporating technology tools for implementing ISTE Standards for Students.

Creativity and Innovation

Communication and Collaboration

Research and Information Fluency: 

  • Communication: Students use Flipgrid (video) or Vocaroo (audio) to record reflections throughout the research process
  • Collaboration: Students collaboratively annotate documents and /or create a collaborative resource list using  diigo, Ref Me, or Noodle Tools. Students use a collaborative mind mapping tool such as Lucid Chart to organize questions or found information.
  • Publishing: Students publish evaluated and annotated resources to a public curation site such as: Scoop ItPearltrees or Pinterest.

Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Decision Making:

  • Communication: Students present arguments for possible favored solutions to a challenge or problem via  Voicethread or Flipgrid.
  • Collaboration: Students use a collaborative mind mapping tool such as Lucidchart or shared action list using Trello to manage and organize processes.
  • Publishing: Students publish research results using infographic creation tools such as: Easely, Pictochart or Canva.

Digital Citizenship:

  • Communication: After sharing a questioned digital citizenship incident or situation, students participate in a discussion via  Todays Meet regarding thoughts, reactions and possible solutions.
  • Collaboration: Students use a digital storytelling tool such as Go Animate for Schools to collaboratively demonstrate a possible solution to a shared digital citizenship issue.
  • Publishing: Students locate, upload and cite free use media resources in blog posts or video creations. 

Technology Operations and Concepts:

  • Communication: Students review possible technological tools and share thoughts on ease of use, possibilities for use and recommendations.
  • Collaboration: Students work together to figure out how to use a new tool.
  • Publishing: Students create and publish screencast or video tutorials, using Explain Everything or Screencastify, or Powtoons showing others how to use a particular tool or to explain concepts such as “cloud computing” or “URL protocol”.

International Society for Technology Education, 2007.  ISTE Standards for Students. Retrieved from

Schiano, D. Always Interested Library and Info Center Retrieved from  www.alwasyinterested.nett/free-use-media.html

What Do Empowering PBL Experiences Have in Common?

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Library land is an educational paradigm immersed in Inquiry. Librarians are in a constant state of research and development, caused by a forever changing and growing sea of information and technology and a characteristically innate curiosity, to get Inquiry right. David Loetcher is a library land guru, and know for, amongst other things, a quest to “Ban Those Bird Units”. Bird units are teacher prescribed, cut and paste, low level learning projects “recipes”. (Lehman as cited by McLeod, 2015). PBL experiences look nothing like bird units, and everything like dynamic and meaningful Inquiry.

Although PBL processes, requirements and emphases differ slightly depending on educational organization or proponent (see references); PBL experiences share foundational understandings for empowering student learning. Quality PBL experiences are: student driven, real-world connected, inquiry inspired, technology integrated, interdisciplinary, collaborative and reflective; they allow for student voice and choice, require problem solving and higher order thinking, call for project presentations or solution action taking and accord ongoing and multiple means for assessment. Most often PBL experiences utilize a general process model to guide implementation, embrace expert connections and experiential learning opportunities and students a  means for creating change.  In PBL, teachers allow for student learning by: creating curiosity, ensuring opportunities for skill acquisition, modeling best practice scenarios, defining learning goals, providing ongoing feedback and documenting student learning. Students take on the role of professionals, such as: scientists, historians, designers or community organizers.

Newsome Park Elementary is a science magnet and project based elementary school in Newport News, Virginia. In 2001 they were fifty-eight percent low income and had three years of rising test scores. Each classroom participates in a semester long student initiated collaborative project. Out of concern for one of their classmates, one class chose to study Cystic Fibrosis, while another class chose to study Asthma friendly pets. Another class chose to study the stock market and after buying and selling stocks became stale, they took a different direction and decided to start a company and sell shares. Students learn financial literacy skills through lunch time fund raising in support of their project goals. (Curtis, 2001)

At Mountlake Terrace High School Eeva Reeder’s geometry students participated in an Architectural Challenge to design a high school for students in the year 2050. Students worked in small groups and participated in various facets of the architecture process. A local architecture firm provided guidance and assessment, when students presented their final designs at their offices. (Armstrong, 2002)

Fran Kootz’s students at Rockledge Elementary School participate in Journey North, an Internet project funded by the Annenberg/CPB Project. Students become student scientists, studying, observing and reporting the migration of the Monarchs. They connect with students in Mexico and learn about the states included in the Monarch’s path. (Curtis, 2002)

All three PBL opportunities are interdisciplinary, providing students with a variety of paths for connecting learning. ”Here they can see the concepts or broad themes across the curriculum for deeper learning–for lifelong learning” (Curtis, 2001). All three are real-world learning opportunities; whether students are “being” architects, student scientists,  stock market investors or community helpers, the experience is purposeful, meaningful and intrinsically motivating. All three require collaboration, whether in large or small groups, which not only provides social skills but also gives students an opportunity to identify their strengths. In addition, “If students learn to take responsibility for their own learning, they will form the basis for the way they will work with others in their adult lives.” (Edutopia, 2007).“Children learn how to count on each other for advice and feedback” (Curtis,2001). All three embrace experiential learning experiences; engaging curiosity and multisensory associations and creating disciplinary connections.  All three integrate technology for investigation, participation or collaboration.

Project presentation is more defined at Newsome, which holds a “project night” and by students in the Architecture Challenge, however, the Monarch project and Newsome projects are more participatory in nature, which provides meaning and purpose. Inquiry, specifically with regard to student questioning leading learning, which provides curiosity and student ownership, is also more emphasized at Newsome and through the Architecture Challenge. A PBL process model, which encourages independence, and learning transfer, was only identified as used at Newsome, where students also utilize thinking maps for synthesis. Eeva Reeder’s Architecture Project includes clear guidelines and multiple forms of assessment, in addition to an emphasis on reflection. “We learn by doing and by thinking about what we’ve done. It’s like learning twice when you reflect. It unquestionably deepens understanding, which is always the goal. I want them to keep their learning, after all!” (Armstrong, 2002). Newsome provides a structured means for relationship building, through morning meetings and looping, which encourages respect, trust and care which provides the foundations for PBL. Students participating in the Architecture create a “Team Operating Agreement” for owning their collaboration.,

Newsome Park Elementary offers the greatest opportunity for student choice, voice and authenticity; allowing students the ultimate opportunity for learning ownership, intrinsic motivation and interest finding. Teachers at Newsome work diligently to make sure that their students are learning what they need to learn, butalso are willing to let go of control. “(Students) know that they don’t have all the answers, and it’s okay. They also know that Miss V doesn’t have all the answers, and it doesn’t bother her a bit. And so we sit back and we go, “Okay, well who can we call, who can we ask?”” ( Curtis, 2001).  Because PBL is embraced by the entire learning community, students participate in a never ending cycle of rich and connected life-long learning.



Apple Incorporated (2009). Challenge vased Learning: Take action and make a difference. Retrieved from

Armstrong, S. (2002, February 11). Geometry Students Angle into Architecture Through Project Learning. Edutopia. Retrieved from (2015). Project Based Learning Retrieved from

Curtis, D. (2001, October 1). More Fun Than a Barrel of . . . Worms?! Edutopia. Retrieved from

Curtis, D. (2002, June 6). March of the Monarchs: Students Follow the Butterflies’ Migration. Edutopia. Retrieved from

Edutopia,. (2007, October 19). Why Is Project-Based Learning Important?. Retrieved from

McLeod, S. (2015, January 7). Project-based learning: We can do better than sugar cube pyramids. Dangerously Irrelevant. Retrieved from project-based-learning-we-can-do-better-than-sugar-cube-pyramids.html

Project Foundry.  (2015). Project-based learning. Simplified. Retrieved from

Makerspaces and the Need for Play

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I created this Voicethread for a cognition and technology class I’m taking as part of the Discovery Ed Instructional Media Program at Wilkes University. I argue that tinkering, in and of itself, is a good thing , because play is an essential element for learning and innovation. In addition, play is fostered in environments where people feel secure and inspired to play. You got it…makerspaces provide that necessary environment!

Research Clarity

Hillier, Matthew. Wallace and Gromit. Flickr.
Hillier, Matthew. Wallace and Gromit. Flickr.

This morning we administered PARCC’s ELA Unit 2 Test to 6th grade students. The Unit is entitled “Research Simulation”; the term is used to introduce the test to students and if similar to the practice test, possibly in some of the activities/questions which follow.

PARCC’S use of the term research is causing me once again to question, both how we define the term, and how we commonly use it. No matter one’s definition, it is common practice to use the term research to describe the search process: going somewhere (the internet etc) to find information which meets an information need. Similar to the way we use the expression “Google it”.

If students follow our lead, and define “research” based on the way we most often use the term, its use by PARCC will serve to confuse them. PARCC is not asking students to search for information, in fact, they are providing it for them.

Research is a reiterative learning and thinking process, which requires: asking questions, making connections, searching for and evaluating information, constructing new meaning, expressing learning and continued reflection. See Inquiry, the School Librarian and Common Core Standards . Search and the skills necessary to do so effectively is only part of the process. See also, The Difference Between Search and Inquiry

With the understanding that research is a process, PARCC is not inaccurate in their use of the term; students are being asked to utilize skills which are vital to the research process, however they are not the skills associated with search. In this unit, PARCC is actually emphasizing the Construct (Synthesis) and Express parts of the research process. Students are asked to synthesize and make meaning from the information they are given. When asked to Construct an essay, article etc, they are organizing their thoughts, choosing pertinent points, finding the best evidence to support their arguments, clarifying their reasoning etc., in order to Express their understanding through writing.

Here’s the good part- there’s a solution for fixing this confusion! Teacher librarians are experts when it comes to Inquiry. They instruct students in the use of an inquiry process; necessary for scaffolding research, mastering information literacy skills and transferring learning. If your school has a certified teacher-librarian, take advantage of what she can teach your students; don’t let her expertise go to waste!

Educating Educators: Inquiry, the School Librarian & Common Core Standards

Stuart, David. "Highest Frequency Words in the CCSS for ELA and Literacy". Teaching the Core.
Stuart, David. “Highest Frequency Words in the CCSS for ELA and Literacy”. Teaching the Core.
What is Inquiry? 

Inquiry is a processes of knowledge seeking for knowledge building. Inquiry is characterized by curiosity, observation, questioning, hypothesizing, investigation, evaluation, discovery, evidence seeking, making connections, collaboration, argument building, synthesis, meaning making, problem solving, expression and reflection. Inquiry is messy, and often involves periods of uncertainty and confusion. Inquiry requires persistence, flexibility, independence, risk taking and open mindedness. Inquiry often results with more questions than actual answers.

Inquiry & Research 

These terms are often used interchangeably. Research tends to have a more formal connotation and  is often characterized  by the investigation, writing, documentation and publishing parts of the process. Inquiry is characterized by questioning, based on the understanding that questioning leads to deeper connections, meaning making and/or innovation. Inquiry is often used to identify a more hands on kind of learning experience, while the term research is often used to identify qualitative outcomes, such as “the research proves.” Maybe because research is a more commonly used terminology and definitely because inquiry is essential for original research, librarians often use the term “inquiry based research”. It’s important to note that fact finding alone is neither inquiry nor research.

Inquiry & Information Literacy
Information literacy/fluency skills, disposition and responsibilities are integral to Inquiry. In general, Information literacy is the ability to utilize the skills, tools and dispositions necessary to effectively identify, find, evaluate, analyze, synthesize, express and share information in an ethical and effective manner. The American Association for School Librarians (AASL) Standards for 21st Century Learners outlines the information based competencies necessary for inquiry and independent learning.
Purposes for Inquiry include, but are not limited to:  solving a problem, forming an evidence based argument,  making an informed purchasing decision,  pursuing an area of interest, deepening personal understandings,  and/or creating change and innovation.Expressions of Inquiry include, but are not limited to: a sales pitch, debate participation, an informed purchasing decision, an investment,  a paper, a blog post, a book, a video, a plan, a speech and/or an interview.

Student Learning & Inquiry 

Inquiry is a student driven learning experience in which teachers act as guides. Inquiry learning experiences not only allow students to construct knowledge related to the particular area of Inquiry, but more importantly to develop the skills and dispositions necessary to construct knowledge independently for future inquires. Through the Inquiry Process, students learn how to learn.

School Librarians & Inquiry

School librarians (teacher librarians, library media specialists) teach the skills and dispositions necessary for effective Inquiry.  Standard 1.1.1 of  AASL’s Standards for 21st Century Learners, reads:  Learners use skills resources and tools to: “Follow an Inquiry-based process in seeking knowledge in curricular subjects, and make the real-world connection for using this process in own life”School librarians live and breathe Inquiry!

The Inquiry Process
Librarian developed Inquiry Learning Processes/models scaffold and clarify the thinking skills and dispositions necessary for Inquiry learning.
Recognized Inquiry Processes are similar with a difference in terminology and emphasis.
  • Stripling’s Inquiry Model: (emphasizes questioning): Connect, Wonder, Investigate, Construct, Express, Reflect
  • Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process (emphasizes feelings and thoughts in addition to actions): Initiation, Selection, Exploration, Formulation, Collection, Presentation, Assessment
  • Eisenberg’s Big 6: Task Definition, Information Seeking Strategies, Location and Access, Use of Information, Synthesis, Evaluation

Although these models may appear step like, they are not meant to be linear. For example,  the more someone learns about something the more questions they tend to have.

Inquiry and Common Core State Standards

Although Common Core State Standard developers chose to not use the term Inquiry, the skills and dispositions necessary for Inquiry are those that the Common Core emphasizes.

For example, the following  statements appear within Common Core State Standards introductory materials:
  • “Students need the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, and report on information and ideas.”
  • Students need to “conduct original research in order to answer questions and solve problems”
  • Students need to “analyze and create high volume and extensive range of print and nonprint texts in media forms old and new”
  • “The students need to produce and consume media is embedded into every aspect of today’s curriculum”
  • “Research and media skills and understandings are embedded throughout the standards rather than treated in a separate section”

Inquiry learning fosters the critical thinking, perseverance, evidence seeking  and deep learning understandings associated with the Common Core.An  analysis of  the Crosswalk, between Common Core Standards and AASL’s Standards for 21st Century Learners, details and highlights how the skills and dispositions associated with Inquiry learning are vital for meeting Common Core Standards.

In Note…

My impetus for writing this post, which became an Inquiry in and of itself, was our school district’s purchase of a “Research Report Writing Unit”.  My concerns about the unit allowed me to dig deeper in order to clarify Inquiry for a general education audience.

Writing Unit Concerns:

  • By referring to this unit as a Writing Unit, students do not have the opportunity to create the understanding that an Inquiry process is an effective means for knowledge seeking no matter the purpose or expression of for Inquiry.  Writing is just one of many ways learners express their constructed knowledge.  See Research: A Thinking Process Expressed in Writing
  • We’ve been working towards utilizing an Inquiry model, in our school and district, in order that students have a greater opportunity for skill transfer. Although there is something to be said for sharing with students that no matter the terminology, the understandings are the same or similar, the terminology and skills chosen for this unit may work to confuse students.  In addition, because this unit is, at this point, the only complete inquiry based research learning experience our students will experience while attending our school,  it would be most beneficial if students have the opportunity to utilize a researched and proven Inquiry process.

Because this unit was purchased,  it needs to be utilized.  In retrospect, during planning, I should have suggested framing the unit with Stripling’s Inquiry Model and pulling scope and sequence sections  out from the purchased unit as they fit into this well established Inquiry process. This would have been beneficial not only because we’d be starting with a proven model, but also because we would have more effectively been able to identify missing skills and understandings.


CCSS: A Limited Definition of Literacy


Kurtxio, Web, Flickr Creative Commons
Kurtxio, Web, Flickr Creative Commons










The fact that the Common Core State Standards reference to literacy is limited, and so, problematic, has been bothering me for a while now. However, with a brief search of various organizational, cultural and crowd sourced understandings related to to the meaning of Literacy, I now realize that it’s going to take a lot more time for me to make sense of this issue than I have at the moment! So…I’ve decided , (at this very moment!), that this blog post will serve as the very basic start for an ongoing Inquiry.


  • Most adults in the US and in general dictionary definitions, define literacy  as the ability to read and write; that is, a literate person can read and write.
  • The definition/understanding of literacy has changed with time.
  • The definition/understanding of literacy differs amongst cultures.
  • Transliteracy is a term that refers to multiple literacies.
  • A librarian’s area of expertise is Information Literacy
  • Information Literacy is often synonymous with Media Literacy which is often synonymous with 21st Century Literacies
  • Other Literacies commonly referenced: digital, financial, visual, cultural, media
  • My current definitions of literacy: an understanding; the ability to learn and communicate utilizing a shared means for communication.


Probable Hypothesis:   The Common Core State Standards are limited due to a limited understanding of the meaning of literacy.


  • Did the creators of the Common Core State Standards offer a formal definition of literacy as it relates to the standards they wrote?
  • Is the CCSS definition limited due to testable skills? (I know, this could be an I think I know!)


  • How much of literacy is knowledge/understanding as opposed to the skills necessary or ability to create knowledge?
  • How do other cultures define literacy?
  • Who is/what are the organizations that matter when it comes to the issue of literacy?
  • What are the biases that might exist with this issue?


  • What is the history of  literacy’s relationship with education in the United States?
  • Does literacy within content areas define student learning objectives in nations that we associate with advanced education systems? (Finland etc)=

Investigation Plan/Thoughts:

  • Be aware of my personal biases, (that a broader definition is necessary!), during my  investigation; do not discount explanations that I don’t agree with!
  • Start by collecting resources in diigo

Express Plan:

Other than a future blog post, I am unsure how far to take the results of this Inquiry. Possibilities include offering written findings to NJASL, AASL, Knowledge Quest, SLJ, Library Media Connection.

Note: If I find that someone else has already compiled complete and up to date findings with regard to my Inquiry, I may not take this any more further than sharing the conclusions that they’ve already come to!

That’s it for now!