I came across this TED talk from Priya Ganesan yesterday on the Tech & Learning blog. Bob Sprankle's post is about play time, using the Sandbox Mode. As it happened yesterday afternoon I was helping one of our teachers who was subbing in Middle School for another teacher who was away. She was doing Grade 6 IT and asked me to pop by to help with a lesson on Photoshop. I was interested to read her sub notes and to find the teacher had asked the students to "play in the sandbox" - to discover how to move things from a layer on one image into another image. It was great to see the enthusiasm of the students, how they problem-solved and how they were able to help each other out. Actually I learned a couple of new things about Photoshop during this session too!
Bob Sprankle posted the above TED talk after he met Priya Ganesan at the TEDxRedmond conference. This is what he says about her talk on creativity in schools:
You'll hear her talk about her experiences in school where "half of the work" has been done for students, as in her example about writing a poem. She questions why schools don't trust students of being "capable" to create the entire poem themselves.
This is a profound question. Does it actually have to do with trust, or are students provided half of the poem to speed things along in order to get through the curriculum? Or is it a matter of control... making sure that all students reach the desired (successful) outcome? No matter what the reason, Priya brings to light that students aren't being allowed to fumble on their own; aren't given the time to create an entire piece independently; are restricted by strong routines set in place.As anyone who reads my blog regularly will know, I'm all for choice, for allowing students to use different tools to express their understanding. But yesterday I caught myself out too. I was teaching a group of Pre-Kindergarten students and I wanted them to be able to draw closed shapes with the pencil tool and fill them in with the bucket. I thought it would be a good reinforcement of the work they'd done in maths on different shapes and at the same time give them practice in the different tools in the Pixie drawing programme we were using - the pencil tool, how to change the colour of the line, how to change the thickness of the line, how to use the bucket. So I tended to give them very specific instructions. I asked them to name different shapes that they could draw, I asked them to choose a different colour for each shape, and a different colour for filling in each shape. I asked them not to use the "textured" fill patterns. I even told one student to change the colours he was using when I noticed that he was just copying the work of the student on the next computer.
Are we as teachers ---unwittingly, and with the best intentions--- doing too much of the work for the students?
So now I'm reflecting on this. Did the students' final drawings look a bit "samey"? Did I do too much of the work, or too much of the thinking for these students yesterday? Did I limit their creativity? Did I have an idea of what "good" looked like and try to steer them in this direction? Should I do it differently when I have anothert class of PK students next week?