Creativity and making

What is the connection between creativity and making? Is all “making” creative? Is creativity expressed solely through these types of experiences? Do maker experiences give kids the chance to be creative and a structure to be creative within? Are we just parsing words?

I don’t want to spend time with dictionary definitions, suffice it to say that in everyday English, while creating is a synonym for making, they aren’t the same. Creativity is about imagination and ideas, the ability to make and think about new things in new ways.

Interest in the maker movement by educators is about creativity, yes, but also about honoring how people really learn. We can look to giants of education like Piaget who said, “knowledge is a consequence of experience” or Maria Montessori, who honored the child’s intellect expressed through play, or hundreds of other really smart people from John Dewey to Mr. Rogers. We can make schools places where these powerful ideas come to life.

In recent years, we’ve ignored a lot of this simply because it’s more efficient and cheaper to ask kids to sit quietly while a teacher lectures. The problem is that’s not how people learn. And in a blind pursuit of the false goal of “rigor”, we’ve pushed this nonsense on younger and younger students, and then complain that kids aren’t creative!

I think the interest in the maker movement is hopefully a return to our senses that children learn best by doing, by diving deeply into ideas that interest them, exploring interesting things, and being surrounded by people who care about them and want to explore interesting ideas with them. Creativity and making are deeply intertwined. But simply having children touch things other than pencils is not what “making” should mean. When we talk about making in schools, hopefully creativity and learning are coming along for the ride.

Connecting creativity with making has multiple benefits for schools:

  • Rejecting the idea that creativity is something that happens after the “real work” is done, like decoration.
  • The ideal of “openness” is powerful and modern. Students can share designs, code, and ideas and remix into their own inventions. Modern creativity means understanding how to share things with the world.
  • The inexpensive yet futuristic tools and materials can be easily learned and used by students to make subjects come alive. The ease-of-use creates new opportunities for project-based learning and iterative design. Creativity can be expressed in lower risk, lower stakes ways.
  • The “get it done” ethos of the maker movement is extremely valuable for all students in all subjects. Constraints are not impediments to creativity, in fact the opposite is true. Creativity comes in making do, making it up, and making it happen.
  • The focus on “making” rather than planning or reporting is a breath of fresh air for students who are increasingly getting fewer opportunities for hands-on experiences. Students who are worried that they are not creative or artistic need more opportunities to show what they know.
  • The wealth of projects can invigorate classrooms, and also capture the imagination of teachers who are looking for real things for their students to do. Creativity is enhanced when the whole community is excited and engaged. Enthusiasm is contagious!

Creativity is about creating things, of course, but also about developing the mindset and confidence to trust yourself in the act of creation. We do kids a tremendous disservice when we overplan every bit of work that they do. I think the message of the maker movement is a reminder for teachers to allow for more student agency, including more time. We need to give students time to step back and look at their work (work that they care about) and think about what to do next, just like a painter steps back and looks at their painting. This is not celebrating “failure” – a painter is not fixing the painting, or failing and correcting, but absorbing, reflecting, and continuing on.

So if this connection between creativity, making, and learning isn’t new, why all the fuss?
Part of this is human nature. We love new things and new ideas. It’s a terrific instinct to keep things fresh and enthusiastically embrace the future. However, that falls apart when the focus jumps from one shiny object to the next. Educators are rightly skeptical of the latest fad that comes and goes with the wind. A few meetings, plans that never get implemented, boxes of cool stuff that go directly from the loading dock to the supply closet… and then some other initiative careens into view and the process starts over again.

With the maker movement being seen as the “new new” thing in education, it’s a worry to think that this is simply part of the hype and hide cycle. I do see signs of this—teachers being told to “do maker” without any changes to schedules, materials, resources, or even time to collaborate with their colleagues about what this actually means. It’s human nature to believe that there is a magic wand out there that will make hard work unnecessary. One only has to look at the diet or beauty product industry to understand how desperately people want fast and easy change. Unfortunately, this is a shortcut to nowhere that will never result in real change.

In any implementation of new practices to make schools better, there are always a wide range of results. When you’ve been around a while, you’ve seen it all – every extreme and combination of intention, implementation, context, logistics, and luck. But the patterns often remain the same.

In the best of all worlds, students are doing challenging and creative work on authentic problems with lots of materials, time, and guidance from engaged and empowered educators. However, this requires time and trust that teachers can learn to create these experiences, and trust that students are learners with good ideas of their own.

The most important part of creativity is trust in the creative process and the creative instincts of humans of all ages. That should be a fundamental part of making as well.

ISTE sessions – Chicago in June

I’ll be speaking at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) June 24-27, 2018.

STEAM to the Future: 50 Years in 50 Minutes
Tuesday, June 26, 10:15–11:15 am
Location: Available in May

Let’s time travel 50 years forward to see what science, technology, engineering and math will be like, and the prominent role that the arts, design and creativity will play. This session will provide entertaining and thought-provoking insight into the challenges of adapting today’s classroom and curriculum for the future.

STEAM: The TEA Stands for CrEATivity
Tuesday, June 26, 11:45 am–12:45 pm
Location: Available in May

Creativity is not just being artistic or having new ideas. As many schools are working to incorporate STEM and STEAM into the classroom, design and creativity are the keys to real and relevant experiences in the classroom.

Video – Maker Movement in Education: Keynote from INTED

This video is a keynote from the INTED conference in Valencia Spain on the topic of “A Global Revolution Goes to School: The Maker Movement”

This 30 minute keynote covers why the maker movement is something schools should pay attention to, and how to get started using the maker mindset and tools to revolutionize all subjects. The power of design as a way for students to learn is just beginning to be recognized in schools around the world. As innovative schools develop makerspaces and more hands-on curriculum, students benefit from real and relevant exploration of STEM and other subjects.

Swift – do you learn to program by solving logic puzzles?

I spent some time working through the first bunch of “coding” tutorials in Swift Playground from Apple. It’s slow, wordy, and arbitrary about how it introduces concepts. Just one example – the tutorial lets you turn left, but not right, because it wants you to make a “right turn” function out of three left turns. That’s weird and bossy. It’s immediately annoying that it takes 3 times as long to turn right as to turn left. What if I didn’t want to do it that way? Do they think I can’t handle a right? Oh, they just want to force me to realize that you can group multiple commands. And if I don’t get it, they over-explain it with lots of words. LOTS. OF. WORDS. Thanks Swift – coding is all about doing what you are told instead of figuring things out with flexible tools!

There are a lot of quirks in how you add and edit the commands–clunky is a kind description.

It reminded me of Lightbot, a cute puzzle app. Except Lightbot is more fun and is at least 10 years old. They couldn’t do better than that? LightBot says it’s “a puzzle game based on coding” and “teaches you programming logic.” At least they are honest!

We don’t pretend that solving crossword puzzles teaches writing. (Well hopefully not.) The same applies to coding.

The way to learn to code is by coding, not doing logic puzzles.

Video – Design & Innovation in Schools Keynote (TECH 2017)

I keynoted the TECH 2017 UNESCO Conference in Visakhapatnam, India in December 2017. At this interesting conference, they had 15 minute keynotes, then a response panel and audience questions for maximum interactivity. They asked me to be as provocative as possible.

This is a video of just my 15 minute keynote.

Sylvia Martinez keynote Design & Innovation in Schools TECH2017  on Vimeo.

If you liked that – watch the whole thing (about an hour)! Panelists: Mila Thomas Fuller President, Board of Directors, ISTE; Olivier Hamant Research Director, Lyon; Gautam Khetrapal Founder, LifePlugin.com and Head of Product Marketing, Mindvalley

And if you liked that – check out the other videos from this conference, including Sugata Mitra’s keynote, which was very provocative and caused a lot of good conversation throughout.

Two weeks – ICE, then Spain and Italy

I’m heading out for a string of presentations and workshops – hope to see old friends and new!

ICE 2018 – Feb 26 (Chicago) I’m part of an “All-Star” lineup of presenters who are participating in the Illinois Computing Educators conference. Instead of one keynote they are bringing back keynotes from previous years to do panels and featured presentations. It’s a bit embarrassing to call yourself an “All-Star” but that’s their term, not mine! Check out the whole list and join us!

Then I’m flying straight to Italy where Gary Stager and I will keynote a School Innovation conference in Modena and lead a workshop in Bologna on March 2 & 3. Then we hit the road (by train) for lectures at Universities in Padua, Vicenza, Venice, and Pistoia. Finally a roundtable at the U.S. Embassy in Rome with an innovation policy advocacy working group.

Oh, and in between I’m flying to Valencia, Spain to keynote a conference there! INTED 2018 will be March 5-7 and I’ll be keynoting on March 5.

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Sir Ken Robinson + New workshops at FETC + Bonus book signing!

Come see Sir Ken Robinson at the Future of Educational Technology Conference  January 2018 in Orlando, Florida. The fine folks at FETC have supplied a code for you to get a super discount to this conference — 10% off by using the Promo Code MARTINEZ18.

I’m a featured speaker with lots of new stuff to share!

1/24/18 workshops:

  • PBL Gets a “Make”-Over: Prompts and Assessments for Maker Classrooms
  • STEAM You Can Wear!

1/25/18 sessions:

  • Invent to Learn: Remaking School for the Future
  • Book signing – Main Concourse
  • Making and Makerspaces: The Four Keys to Success

Use this link to go directly to the discounted registration.

My 10% discount code is good until Jan 22, 2018. See you there!

See you in Hong Kong at 21CKHK

Sylvia Martinez will keynote and lead workshops at the 10th annual 21CKHK in Hong Kong Jan 17-20 , 2018.

  • Full day workshop (Jan 18) – Learning Learning: Makers, Designers, and Problem Solvers
  • Half-day workshop (Jan 19) – PBL Gets A “Make”-Over: Prompts, Scaffolding, & Assessment For The Modern Classroom
  • Keynote (Jan 19) – Making, Design, and the Future of Learning

The 21st Century Learning Conference is an annual event in Hong Kong where teachers, staff, and school leaders come together to learn, share and discuss current & emerging topics in education with thought leaders, technology, and learning experts, and their peers. With over 700 attendees from 35 countries, it is the event of choice for a diverse international audience. The event blends together inspirational keynotes, practitioner-led workshop sessions, and fun networking opportunities.

CONFERENCE

19 & 20 January 2018

PRE-CONFERENCE

17-18 January 2018

Global education meets maker education – free webinar

Why is “making” in education taking off globally? It’s because the whole world wants children to become competent and capable citizens.

Last week I had the honor and privilege of speaking to a global audience of educators at the eighth annual Global Education Conference, an online conference that supports global collaboration and connected education. The conference is unique in that it is a free, online event that takes place around the clock during International Education Week.

The sessions are now available online – mine is embedded here, but be sure to check out all the keynotes and sessions. There are inspiring collaborative project ideas, sessions on encouraging student voice, global education case studies, and more – both for K-12 and Higher Education.

The Global Education Conference organizers, Lucy Gray and Steve Hargadon, are experts at facilitating online conferences and face to face events. They will be hosting events at TCEA, ASCD, COSN, and ISTE, so be sure to sign up to be notified of these and other future opportunities.

Don’t see the embedded video? Click the image below to watch on YouTube.

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PBL Gets a “Make”over – ISACS Learning Bridge Webinar

The Independent Schools Association of Central States (ISACS) offers Learning Bridge webinars live and recorded for professional development. (Register here)

Sylvia will be presenting:

PBL Gets a Make-Over: Prompts, Scaffolding & Assessment for the Maker Classroom
Presenter: Sylvia Martinez
Thursday, November 30, 2017
3:00 pm – 4:00 pm (central)
Audience: Faculty and Administrators, grades 3-12

Of course students should have powerful hands-on project-based experiences in the classroom—but does that happen? Explore how to design engaging prompts with helpful scaffolding and how to manage the project process when students are using cutting edge technology integrated with iterative design. Learn about new research on assessment for projects and real classroom practices using modern technology and materials.

Sylvia Martinez is the co-author of Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering the Classroom helping teachers bring the exciting tools and technology of the modern world to classrooms. She advocates for student-centered project-based learning with an emphasis on STEAM for all. Sylvia is the principal advisor to the Stanford University FabLearn Fellows, a group of global educators researching and developing hands-on, minds-on projects and curriculum. She also ran educational non-profits and headed product development for consumer software, video games, and educational games at several software publishing companies. Martinez started her career designing high frequency receiver systems and software for GPS navigational satellites. She holds a masters in educational technology and a bachelor’s in electrical engineering. For more information, visit sylviamartinez.com

Price:
$75.00

Discounts of up to $15.00 per seminar are available if you register for multiple seminars.

(Register here)

 

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