How to Remediate Creativity

By Blair Fitzsimons | October 24th, 2019 | No Comments

We’d like to thank Blair for sharing these fantastic insights ahead of his session at EdmodoCon. If you’re interested in more from Blair and Dana, register for EdmodoCon today to see them speak live about redefining student leadership.

Looking for quick resources to engage your students? Check out this collection of Halloween-themed classroom resources.

The lack of imagination is the source of all adversity in our world.  Now more than ever, we must empower our students to tap into the awesome creative potential that rests within the imagination.  So how do we explicitly remediate creativity?

All students have the ability to create, yet if left undeveloped, rigor mortis of the imagination sets in and becomes a distant memory of happier, more childish times. When taken seriously, imagination offers infinite possibilities, not necessarily bound by the rules of logic, the world or political views.  Too often, students fail to explore their own imagination— especially when it comes to dreaming up solutions to the problems of the day. As the child progresses through the education system, students perceive their own ideas as foolish and are taught to always appeal to the “experts.” Gradually, the notion of “until I am taught or told what to do…I am wrong” creeps in, turning potential Spielbergs into passive consumers of content and wikis.

As educators, we must turn this limiting way of thinking on its head and challenge students to dive into themselves for the answer, to dream big and to find the ways their own solution can work.

The starting point of any inquiry should begin with the assumption that the solutions we have are correct, have value, and may potentially transform the world.  Experts can undoubtedly shed light on our journey of discovery and help us to form feasible solutions. However, any creative journey must start with a belief in our own wellspring of ideas and awesome solutions that have been amassed over the years.

So, as educators, we must first reorient or question the role of the imagination from idle daydreaming of no consequence to a realm of incredible value where we can find real solutions to complex problems.  As the imagination offers infinite possibilities, it allows us to consider solutions or perspectives that may be far outside the realm of possibility. Yet, in doing so, we tap into a creative space where the impossible can become possible.  Whether it be equality for all, manned space travel, or ecological sustainability, these dreams begin in the imagination and are only made manifest when the creative spirit brings it into existence.

Two students holding a lego construction

The joy of creating!

If we want our students to become the problem solvers of tomorrow, we must recognize the overwhelming value of the imagination.  Second, we must understand that, like a muscle, if the imagination is not used or developed, it is lost. When facing the problems of today, do we not want our students to consider an infinite number of possibilities before choosing a solution?  Third, the act of creating brings the ideas of our imagination into being. Creativity (like any other skill set) must be practiced, rehearsed, and refined to improve its own efficiency and ability to capture the full potential of any solution. More often than not, students are often criticized for “not thinking,” yet if the imagination is undervalued and creative expression is not practiced, are they truly able to think for themselves or do they simply default to popular opinion and canned responses?

So how do we teach students to value their own imagination and provide them with creative opportunities?  In short, how do we remediate creativity?

I believe that it begins in small ways:

Designate Time for Imagination:  When designing classroom tasks, mandate a portion of the learning sequence to include brainstorming a variety of solutions for a single problem.  In my classroom, this happens in all subject areas and this process is carefully documented. Students will often rush to their first idea without taking the time to reflect on other possible solutions.  At first, the students are frustrated with this, but as this skill is practiced and reinforced, it quickly becomes second nature. It also allows for better ideas and solutions. Specifically, it calls on students to imagine different perspectives and contexts, leading to a wide range of solutions that ultimately cross-pollinate into a unique, feasible solution.

Students brainstorm a variety of solutions facing fairy tale characters.

LEGO Metaphor Speak:  In my opinion, LEGO® Serious Play® and Build to Express® are some of the most powerful learning solutions I have ever used.  The technique assumes that the participants have many rich answers that need to be expressed concretely through the medium of LEGO®.  I have used it in a variety of contexts at all grade levels for many years now with outstanding results.  I’ve discovered that it can be one of the best ways to engage and channel the imagination.  LEGO® metaphor speak is a creative boot camp for the brain, training participants to regularly engage in the imaginative process.  Take a look at this video to learn the basics of what it can do.

A student using the metaphor speak technique to represent the concept of service.

Maker Space:  While this movement is sweeping the education system, I believe that by enshrining the imagination as the primary source of the creative mind, Maker Space moves from crafting to a space where the creative process can be systematized, practiced, and refined.  While individuals all have different ways of going through the creative process, Dana MacDonald and I have developed concrete methodologies and protocols that help to guide the student through it. As students learn and strengthen their creative skills, students will be better able to choose the strategies that work best for them. Check out some of my blog posts that feature how we have done this with our students.

Dana MacDonald discussing the documentation of possible solutions.

Challenge-Based Learning:  Like Maker Space, Challenged-Based Learning provides students to engage in problems where there are no obvious solutions.  For many of my challenges, there is no pre-existing solution on the Web because each challenge forces the students to create their own answers using creativity.  Incidentally, plagiarism has never been an issue for me. Whether it’s creating the culture of a newly discovered tribe or building security solutions for fictional characters, students are challenged to dive into their own imaginations to create both unique problems to solve and new, original solutions.

Protecting the Crown Jewels

Before this blog post quickly expands into a treatise, readers are encouraged to check out some of my other blogs that dive deeper into these topics through case studies, happy failures, and student outcomes!

Thanks again to Blair for sharing this inspiring article. If you’re interested in more from Blair and Dana, register for EdmodoCon today to see them speak live about redefining student leadership.

Looking for quick resources to engage your students? Check out this collection of Halloween-themed classroom resources.

About the Author: Blair Fitzsimons