My ideas, thoughts, and experiences

Author: msemilymiller (Page 3 of 10)

Creativity and Innovation – MakerSpaces

Course Reading:

Resnick, M. (2007). All I really need to know (about creative thinking) I learned (by studying how children learn) in kindergarten. In Proceedings of the 6th ACM SIGCHI conference on Creativity & Cognition (pp. 1–6). New York, NY, USA: ACM. (This link is updated from the course outline.)

  • in a society characterized by uncertainty and rapid change, the ability to think creatively is becoming the key to success and satisfaction (learning to come up with innovative solutions to unexpected situations)
  • kindergarten approach to learning should be applied to all other levels (spiralling cycle of Imagine, Create, Play, Share, Reflect)
    • children imagine what they want to do, create a project based on their ideas, play with their creations, share their ideas and creations with others, reflect on their experiences – all of which lead them to imagine new ideas and new projects
  • as students get older, their materials need to change (digital technologies can play a transformative role here)
    • materials need to be multipurpose and not too specific that it directs how kids are supposed to engage with it
    • provide kids with more opportunities
    • more open ended materials where kids have to be creative
  • PLAY
    • plan and learning CAN and SHOULD be intimately linked
    • focus should be on ‘play’ and ‘learning’ (things you do – active learning) rather than ‘entertainment’ and ‘education’ (things that other provide for you – learner is passive)
    • generally received less emphasis in later years of schooling
    • focus in Reggio Emilia, Italy is the way their encourage children to reflect on their design process  and thinking process (shown in drawings and pictures on the walls)

My Experiences:

How do I engage students in this process in my context?

For the past 5 years I have taught some combination of grades 1, 2, and 3. Ever since the beginning, I have strongly believed in the inclusion of play in the classroom. Early on in my career I was doing a lot of free play once a week – and kids viewed it as an opportunity for ‘free time’. As I have gained experience and understanding, I have included it into my practice daily, as well as integrated it into as much of our academic content teaching as well.

This year I teach grade two and I decided to alter our morning routine. It used to be a worksheet activity last year, but this year I wanted to provide students an opportunity for a gently entry in the morning as well as an opportunity to connect with their peers. So each morning this year I have set out activities for the students to engage in. These materials I have been collecting over the years and throughout the year I have added new ones and taken out other ones that don’t seem to capture their attention.

For literacy, I have started engaging students in creative thinking and story ideation with loose parts. This is a tactic in which you provide students with a variety of materials with the hopes that it will help them create a visual of their story, so they remember it, and gain creative ideas for new stories. I started this by modeling my own and having them recreate a story. Then we transitioned into creating visuals a part of their weekend, and then finally have been moving into more creative stories of their own.

For our Units of Inquiry (Social Studies and Science curriculum) I have also worked in some form of creation for them to show their understanding of the concept. In the past I have done:

  • using materials provided, move a LEGO man 1 meter and explain the forces that are helping him move (Content: Force in Motion)
  • create a story of a water droplet moving through the different parts of the water cycle (Content: Water Cycle)
  • create a way to share tourism information about a province of your choice – using  low tech or high tech materials  (Content: Regions of Canada)

For math, I have found that students really need to manipulate materials in order to develop a concrete understanding of number sense. A routine that I continually come back to is called Counting Collections. It has students gather a collection of the same materials (# is dependent on the level of understanding). Students then use their understanding of number to find ways to skip count and reach the total number in the collection. They complete this routine in partners. This way, it ensures students are discussing their mathematical thinking and collaborating on ways to solve the problem (how they are going to count, who is going to do the counting, who is going to do the grouping, etc.).

I am by no means and expert in this, and I am always inspired by my primary colleagues at my school and across districts!

I strongly believe that in order for students to develop a solid foundational understanding of concepts, they need to move through the process of imagine, create, play, share, and reflect.

What materials do I use?

  • LEGO
  • blocks
  • Keva Planks
  • Magnatiles
  • Geometric shapes
  • Marble Run
  • Kinetic Sand
  • Water beads
  • Paper and Paint
  • Loose Parts (popsicle sticks, buttons, feathers, sea glass, small blocks, leaves, tile, corks, mirrors, peg people, felt mats, etc.)

My Perspectives:

How could maker-spaces support creativity and innovation in my learning context and/or project?

As you can tell from my answers above, I think the use of maker-space activities can help support the development and acquisition of creativity and innovation in all learners. As mentioned by one of our guest speakers this week, we have so much content to get through in a week – especially in intermediate grades – so it’s important to integrate play and exploration into already existing content acquisition across the subjects.

What kinds of digital tools encourage creativity and innovation?

I do not have much experience with using digital tools to encourage creativity and innovation other than platforms to show their understanding of a concept – where they can create a presentation of some sort (e.g. Adobe Spark Video, Book Creator, etc.).

The article mentioned the use of Scratch as a way for students to create a story using code.

I would LOVE to hear any other suggestions of digital tools to engage students in the creation and innovation realm of learning!

Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making Reflection

Below are some of the learnings that I took away from the course readings, activities and class conversation this week:

Galileo (2019). Designing Learning. Retrieved from (Inquiry and Design Thinking)

  • Teachers as designers
    • improving curriculum and pedagogy (long before the term became popular)
    • an opportunity to really change what teaching and learning looks like in the classroom (Dr. Doug Clark)
    • Its hard to change when you have seen 20+ years of examples around you (13 years of K-12, few years of undergrad, few years of graduate, and a few years of teaching)
    • what is the problem you are trying to solve and how you can go about doing that? (important to reflect on the needs of students during the learning process and then adjusting teaching to better meet those needs)
  • Students as designers
    • in the past it has been more of a passive role
    • now there is a lot more information and ways to access it
    • design thinking provides them the skills (what are the problems that we want to solve? how can I go about find the answer?

Hans Rosling: The Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen

  • Until you see statistics shown in a visual way and actually moving over time, you don’t really understand what the data means (visuals make it easier to understand)
  • Great way to visually show data and the change over time (would be a great resource for students to use to make meaning from the data they are finding)


What kinds of digital tools promote and encourage critical thinking?

Google Trends (TOTALLY NEW TO ME)

  • Students/teachers can explore trends by term or topic to find out more information


  • Allows students to visual map their thinking (groups of students can be working on it at the same time) and its FREE!


  • sharing data and code behind some of their articles and graphics (students can visually see results of polls and where the information has come from and how dependable it is)


  • data sets that are open to the public

Canadian Open Data

  • Open data collected and approved by government


How does critical thinking influence narratives and perspectives?

People (kids most definitely) are extremely influenced by the adults around them and often take on their internal and external narratives. Kids often hold the same perspectives that their parents do. And parents hold the same perspectives that they grew up with and/or have interacted with in their lives. It is important to get well rounded information and data from a variety of sources before taking on a narrative or perspective. Especially in the digital age, there is so much information found on the internet. And a lot of it is misguiding and misinforming people. It is important to develop skills in students to think critically about what they are reading, seeing, and hearing.

Credible Resource Reflection – Crap Detection

Information from the article that got me thinking:

Through reading the article provided by this weeks topic, I am learning the importance of thinking critically when searching for information online. When searching for information, it is important to not just look at the first thing that comes up as the answer. But delve deeper to determine the validity of the site(s). When assessing credibility of sources, here are some things to consider, based on Rheingold’s (2012) article:

  • Who is the author?
  • What are the authors sources – triangulate by checking three different credible sources
  • Popularity of site
  • Professional reputation/offline reputation
  • Previous experiences with the site
  • Proof of neutral affiliation
  • Tone of the writing
  • Elements of style used

Our ‘infotention’ is often pulled in a variety of directions. It’s important, as a generation that is online for a large portion of their daily lives, to manage their attention on information. And to make sure that the information that they are paying attention to is easily accessible and accurate.

The filter bubble – search engines use precise information about your interests and search history to customize your searches (e.g. liberal vs. conservative viewpoints on current event articles). This is something that I vaguely knew about, but have not paid too much attention to.

How do digital filter bubbles affect the information that we consume about the Global Covid-19 pandemic?

During this time of uncertainty and almost constant stream of information, I am realizing that the information that I am being fed has already been predetermined for me. Ben, one of my Masters course classmates, posted a screenshot of the results when he searched ‘Coronavirus’ using a Google search engine. Cheryl then posted hers and it was so interesting to see there was a difference. My sister and I then just did the same thing and I was amazed to see the difference.

Ben’s Screen                                                                                        

Cheryl’s Screen (same day but later)

My Screen (a few days later)                                                                           

My Sisters Screen (on the same day as me)

Doing this little experiment really showed me how little I know about the information I am consuming and how it is pre-directed to me. As this crisis evolves, I look forward to searching out my own information using the suggestions from the article above.

Reflection Questions:

How can our digital bubble as educators filter the stories we hear and believe?

It depends on how we are engaging with the digital world. Most educators now a-days are using platforms such as Twitter to engage with teachers around the world and get inspiration from other teachers around them. However, the information that they are receiving is only determined by who they are following and who those people are following. It is important to build the collection of who you follow around what you value and want to see on a day to day basis.

Digital platforms such as Twitter can be a great place to connect people and collect inspiration from others. However, it can also be a place where people share their personal opinions and views that do not necessarily align with yours. During particularly difficult times (e.g. pandemics, global tragedies, political unrest, union negotiating) it can become a particularly negative place (depending on who you are following).

What kinds of digital tools expand filter bubbles in your learning context?

  • Variety of search engines/resources – allows for me to collect a variety of information on a topic of interest
  • Twitter – help me engage with teachers around the world
  • Instagram – helps me engage with teachers around the world (I have a personal private account where I can limit what I see and a public teaching account where I am open to seeing and sharing more information)
  • Facebook – help provide ideas and learning prompts for structured play opportunities
  • Conversation with people – help to provide opportunities and information that I have not heard through my usual searches

What are you doing to ensure students are using a wide variety of digital resources ?

In my context, I have conversations with students about digital resources and reliable information. In term two, I looked up some information about Canadian provinces and territories with my Grade 2’s. Together we looked at sites and their authors to determine which would be good sources.


“Every (wo)man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him (them).” —Ernest Hemingway, 1965



Rheingold, H. (2012). Chapter 2 Crap Detection 101: How to Find What you Need to Know, and Decide if It’s True. In Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. (pp. 77-111). Cambridge, Mass. MIT Press.

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