This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, Tasia King.
I bet when Randall Munson created International Creativity Month, he had no idea of how this would impact the minds of students at my elementary school in South Carolina. During the month of January, I wanted to make it clear that our students can, and are ready to be creative geniuses this month and beyond. I’d have to say that many times, schools across our country are the very places to stifle students’ creativity. There are so many mundane tasks to get done, standards to meet, assessments to administer, and meetings to be had. In the midst of all of this, it takes one person to step out of the box, take something old, revise it, and try something new!
Teachers are some of the most creative people that exist, and I’m fortunate to work with many of them every day. During my recent grade level professional development, I asked teachers what were some of their fears about allowing students to be creative in untraditional ways. Some of the responses, as I expected, were fear of losing control of the class, and losing time from the instructional pacing as outlined. For many of us, it may bring thoughts of chaos and a loud noise levels. This, however, doesn’t always mean that you’ve lost control. It may be a sign that students are in tune with their most creative selves and the products they’re creating will prove it.
As with any professional development on a technology tool, I started my January session with second through fifth grade teachers (in teams) by having teachers create a list of verbs that we see commonly in standards and indicators. Our lists included words like communicate, create, illustrate, and demonstrate. We wondered, how can we allow our students to master those standards all while being creative in their learning? At this point, it was appropriate to introduce the tool that would guide students to the desired learning outcomes. VoiceThread is easy enough for all students in kindergarten through fifth grade to access since our district has purchased a subscription which allows for single sign on options. Based on their initial feedback, there were already some grade levels that have found the value in using VoiceThread to give assessments to students who may need oral administration on assessments. What a time saver! However, my focus this month was more on student creation.
As a technology and learning coach, my hope is that teachers can always leave with something that they feel they can implement immediately. I was pleased to see that within the next hour, a teacher asked me to come to help her with sharing her very first VoiceThread link on Google Classroom. As you can imagine, I was more than thrilled to assist! Since then, teachers have allowed their students to create slides mainly with the use of Google Apps (Drawings and Slides). The feature that allows for students to add media straight from their Google Drive appeared to be an easy way to upload their work.
(Students were to share what they knew about the battles in the American Revolution)
Now that our second through fifth graders have had an opportunity to create using VoiceThread, my focus is on sharing those same learning experiences to the lower grade levels. The beautiful thing about our school is that each class has an assigned “Book Buddy.” This is where an upper grade class is paired with a lower grade class and they meet monthly to read and share learning experiences. During their “buddy time,” teachers can empower the older students by having them work alongside the younger students to show them how to create their own VoiceThread slide. The possibilities are endless, and the students immediately became the teachers! As Albert Einstein said, “if you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” This is a sure way to see how well students can create and communicate using VoiceThread. Our usage of VoiceThread, and all of the remarkable opportunities for learning that it allows for our students, is going to evolve as the year goes on. Many teachers have embarked on creating groups and having students add to a class deck while others are App Smashing VoiceThread with some of their other favorite tools. I’m proud of these teachers for taking a leap and trying something new through the use of VoiceThread. In the end, both teachers and students are learning to tap into their most creative selves during the month of January and beyond!
Mrs. Tasia King is a Technology and Learning Coach in Columbia, South Carolina. She has taught both second and third grade over her 10 years in education. Tasia has presented on many topics such as integrating technology to address content standards. She is currently Google Certified Level I and a Seesaw Ambassador. Her passions include graphic creation, social media marketing, and developing attractive presentations. You can follow her work on Twitter at @techytasia.