Goals Reflection 2015-2016

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This year my Tankyuu (personal teacher inquiry) goal research question was:

How can I foster creativity at Canadian Academy?

It’s a big question.

And maybe a little too unfocused.

I definitely feel like I have made some forward strides with fostering creativity at Canadian Academy, but because my question was so broad, I think I was a little all over the place, rather than focusing on one area of our community.

My Action Plan was to:

  • Increase creativity in my classroom
  • Improve Creativity for the ICT PD
  • Offer Creativity Workshops for the Community
  • Facilitate a Hack-a-thon
  • Host a Collaborative Art 7 Design Profesionnal evelopment Forum
  • MakerSpace in the Library

I will reflect on all of these areas below:

1 . Increase creativity in my classroom

Did I increase creativity in my classroom?  This is hard to measure.  If I compare my projects this year compared to last year, I would say overall they are more creative, but I didn’t create a rubric to quantify this. The kids are different then the classes last year, even though most of my units are the same. I will say that the number one thing that helped improve creativity in student projects was really simple.  When I met with kids and conferenced with them and gave them formative feedback, especially in criterion B when they are deciding and justifying their designs, I asked them,

“How is this creative?”

That sparked interesting discussions and often led students to revise their ideas or go a little deeper with their thinking and create more interesting, creative, original designs.

2. Improve Creativity for the ICT PD

I proposed this to the tech department and our director of learning.  In February, we started to run Tech PD sessions on Mondays after school in the library alongside of the Tech Talks – Tech Help for our Community.

There were some great sessions:

Graphic Designing for Teacher led by our HS Art teacher, Laura Dortmans

Digital Attribution was co-led by Team Lemley, as we discussed the difference in digital attribution and expectations we have as teachers which also sparked more questions to bring to the whole secondary faculty

Google Classroom was led by Kieran Burgess our Theater teacher.

There were more sessions.  I think it was great to see teachers teaching teachers.

However, I feel like these sessions were not well attended.  Many of the same teachers/staff attended while a lot of these sessions would have been appropriate for the whole faculty.

3. Offer Creativity Workshops for the Community


Choreograph Your Own Dance Creativity Session

Liz Durkin and I organized creativity workshops for students on December 11th and February 10th. Both sessions were really successful. Each day, there were over ten sessions that middle school and high school students could sign up for a session they were interested in.

Teachers created time and space and offered interesting creative topics through a wide range of disciplines. In my readings this year, one of the most important factors in fostering creativity is time and space to create.  I also feel after my own experiences in the Design classroom and also supported by The Secret to Creativity Ted Talk by Mike Dillon, that by offering specific tasks that someone can be creative with the outcome or solution is much better than a completely open-ended project.

4. Facilitate a Hack-a-thon

After attending John Burns’ Hack Your School session at Learning 2.0 in the Fall and hearing about all the great things they do at SIS (#sisrocks).  Laura and I were inspired to bring this to our school.  We made a little proposal for Leadership.  I created a video asking people what they would “hack” if given the opportunity, but it fell flat.  It was a busy year for me with my two jobs, recruiting and after speaking to the Headmaster about making time for it… it didn’t happen.  If I hadn’t had so many things going on, I would have pushed back more.  So this action was a fail.  But, one I would like to facilitate some place, some time, because I think it’s a great concept for grassroots change at a school that supports learning and gives anyone at school a voice and platform to be heard.

5. Host a Collaborative Art 7 Design Professional Development Forum

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Creative Connections was my pride and joy this year. Laura (Head of Arts) and I really wanted to merge our departments this year.  Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that well.  But in one of our (many) discussions about art and design being together we started to talk about PD.  We had both been to a TON of pedagogy based PD and IB training, but very little hands-on workshops in art and design.  At Learning 2.0 this year, I went to an Build-Your-Own Arduino Bot session and I got to sit and create with other teachers and it was fantastic.  Laura and I successfully planned and pulled off Creative Connections.  It was exactly what we wanted it to be.  I plan to reflect on Creative Connections in another blog post, hopefully coming soon.DSC_0159

6. MakerSpace in the Library


The MakerSpace at CA Library didn’t come to fruition.  I had two really good conversations with the librarians about this.  MakerSpaces in libraries are all over the place.  There are many resources on what people do and why they are so awesome.  The first conversation I was super gung-ho about getting things in the library.  I’m all for piloting and starting off small.  We discussed changing the themes each month for materials.

Then I read more and thought about it more and considered the logistics.  I can barely keep up with the materials in my own two classroom/labs and I don’t want to be making a mess in someone else’s space.

Without direction, will the kids create good quality things?

Our library doesn’t have spaces that one can get really messy and create or have a sound proof recording studio, which I think would be great, so I decided to abandon this idea for this year.

Again, something I’d like to look into again somewhere, someday, but this just wasn’t the year.

So, I now go back to my original inquiry question for my goal for the year: How can I foster creativity at Canadian Academy?

I think I thought of some pretty good ideas to bring more creativity to the classroom, professional development and to activities at CA this year.  Again, I was a little all over the place with many things going at once.  I’d like to do a few things well rather than do a lot of things just okay.  In the future, I would like to work with a team of teachers/staff (and/or the Arts & Design Department) to develop a better plan to work on this at a school. There is a lot of good creativity at CA in pockets, but it is something that can continue to improve.

I know for my own personal creativity, I just need more time.  I hope in all the actions I worked on this year that I provided a time and place for people to learn, play, solve problems and collaborate.  As a design teacher, I need to find more time in my own life to be more creative, to be a better example for my own students and children.

So next year, I’ll be off to a new school with new goals.  I’m not sure how annual goals will be developed at my new school, but I do hope that I can help develop my own goals out of my own interests and passions and I continue to foster my own creativity.


So Much to Say, So Much to Say, So Much to Say…

Creative Commons Image by WarzauWynn
“32::3 – A messy room”

Today I finished the last section of the report, Living and Learning with New Media by the MacArthur Foundation, which summarizes findings from a three-year study of teenagers and how they use media.  Over the past few weeks, this article has really made me think and reflect on what my students are learning and how they are using their laptops and other devices, both in and out of school.

It states that, “contemporary social media are becoming one of the primary “institutions” of peer culture for U.S. teens, occupying the role that was previously dominated by the informal hanging out spaces of the school, mall, home and street.”

This is maybe obvious, but I hadn’t thought of it like that before and it is so true.  This mall metaphor brought me back to my middle school and early high school days with my braces and horribly permed hair.  My mother would drop me off at the mall for a few hours to hang with my friends.  Even though she wasn’t there to monitor my behavior, there were rules I was expected to abide by for this privelege – not running around, yelling or being otherwise disrespectful or rude to other shoppers.  There was also the obvious expectation of not stealing or participating in any other sort of illegal activity.  While, I pretty much followed these rules, I’m sure in a group with six other teenaged girls with equal amounts of Aqua Net in their hair sporting pegged Guess jeans, that we were at times loud and took up the whole walkway trolling for cute boys.

I totally looked like this back
in my “mall” days

Have our students explicitly been told expectations for social media/screen time at home or in school?  

I wish I could say “YES!” as the MS Tech teacher and curriculum integrator at our school, but I can’t.  I think sometimes I feel those skills and rules are obvious, but they are not to most young adults.  Most of their parents and teachers do not participate in social media, but they allowed to sign up and then need to figure it all out on their own.

What I’m finding now in my classroom is that while kids use social media A LOT, no one has ever taught them how to use it.  Most teens figure out the general rules and learn what is expected in these “hangouts”, but many don’t and then many are brought to the attention of the school because of inappropriate use or their inability to manage their time well.

I was doing a lesson in my class this week on “Keeping Our Computers Happy”.  I spent a whole hour class on giving my seventh graders some general guidelines and then just giving them TIME to – do a software update, clean off their desktop, clean out their emails, organize their Drive and even physically clean their screen and keyboard.  I have to say it was one of the most valuable lessons I think I’ve taught recently.

As I moved around the room, I was shocked at what little my seventh graders knew about basic maintenance of their laptop and the systems/software we use.  For example, when I was moving around, I noticed THOUSANDS of emails in their inboxes.  Many of them had twenty-plus email notifications from Facebook per day.  They had no idea how easy it was to turn those off and unsubscribe from other mailing lists.  They were almost in awe by this and were generally relieved to know that their inboxes weren’t going to get full as quickly.  These little nuggets of information are something very easily I can pass on to my students.  I’m also thinking that I will provide PD time for the faculty and staff to do the same sort of activity.

While I found the report interesting and it overall gave me a lot of examples and everyday metaphors to use when explaining today’s media to faculty and parents, I didn’t agree with everything that was written.

I don’t agree with the part of the article that states:

” we don’t believe that educators and parents need to bear down on kids with complicated rules and restrictions… about how they should engage on line.  Simple prohibitions, technical barriers, or time limits are perceived as ill-informed exercises in power.”

I’m not sure what they mean by “complicated rules”, but our kids need rules, they need boundaries on their tech use. I see so many kids floundering because they can’t get organized, they try to multi-task too much and they are online into the wee hours of the night.  As educators, this is maybe where a big shift should be happening.  We all know that content acquisition is shifting, we aren’t the beacons of knowledge in our classroom anymore, but we do need to model and teach our kids how we manage our content and our resources, so they successfully can do the same.

In our advisory/middle school block time, there is frequently time carved out for study skills and organization, but only recently has it started to include digital organization, in combination with locker and agenda checks.  Even though many educators don’t have the knowledge or comfort level to teach these skills (YET!), I hope we start to teach these crucial learning 2.0 productivity and balance skills to our students, as they may be the most crucial.

Image Courtesy: KarenSaraGaches on Flickr
“Organize Me Please”