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July 3, 2012

Creativity in the Classroom: Mission In Progress

Special thanks to our Smithsonian Affiliations summer interns Lisa Hung (University of California, Irvine) and Neema Amadala (University of Calgary) for participating in the Smithsonian’s EdLab Teacher workshops in order to share their experiences with us. This is the second of four guest posts in their “Teaching in a 21st Century Classroom” series.   

Creativity in the Classroom: Mission In Progress
By Neema Amadala

We may have been running into the museum on Tuesday but do students? What does a typical field trip to the museum look like? Perhaps there are students clustered in groups around a painting listening to the docent tell them about the artifact attentively but can’t seem to bridge the gap between the artifact and themselves.  Or maybe they’re running around room to room disengaged and bored or possibly, upon hearing the word museum, felt sick that day. Why is it that a field trip to the museum doesn’t seem as engaging as a trip to the science center? 

On Tuesday, June 19, mission control was headquartered in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. To unleash our creativity the group started with writing six word stories; it’s remarkable what can be said in six words. In this case, we studied Frank Romero’s Death of Rubén Salazar and let our words tell a story. This was only the beginning of the immersion into art.   

Examining the power behind what six words can say. Photo courtesy Smithsonian EdLab.

Tuesday’s mission was to take a piece of artwork and create a story with two alternative endings, to tell a tale in which the ending reflected the complexity and ambiguity of conflict and resolution. Given that this mission is broad, if you were to assign this to a group of high school students, you could witness their creativity and excitement skyrocket. This would become evident as you observe them analyzing the painting, building a moral behind their story and capturing the complexity of the piece in a short story. This is what happened in my team of educators. We immersed ourselves in the painting and abandoned all fear of technology (and had fun doing it!) to create a comic we aptly named Benton’s Midwestern Fable.  

Finding the words to interpret the story of Achelous and Hercules. Photo courtesy Smithsonian EdLab.

What educators may forget is that students have grown up with this technology. Many have no fear of jumping into a new tool if it means they get a chance to play and learn. Therefore why are lesson plans made with only the teacher’s evaluation goals in mind? Why not create plans that will engage students and be enjoyable to evaluate?  

The first page of our creation, Benton’s Midwestern Fable, based on Thomas Hart Benton’s painting, Achelous and Hercules.

 Stay tuned for Part 3 in our EdLab series! And for more information, contact the EdLab team at npm.mobilelearning@si.edu .

July 2, 2012

Teaching in a 21st-Century Classroom: Mission Impossible?

Special thanks to our Smithsonian Affiliations summer interns Lisa Hung (University of California, Irvine) and Neema Amadala (University of Calgary) for participating in the Smithsonian’s EdLab Teacher workshops in order to share their experiences with us. This is the first of four guest posts in their “Teaching in a 21st Century Classroom” series.   

Teaching in a 21st-Century Classroom: Mission Impossible?
By: Lisa Hung

Head tilted, eyes down, arms under the desk, occasionally glancing to see if anyone else can tell what she’s up to. Sweat drips down her brow as she struggles to fix the series of ‘autocorrects’ that can’t help but get her chuckling – the sound of the footsteps draw near and her heart is racing, she looks up in the nick of time and exhales in relief. As the teacher walks away, she picks right back up where she left off. We’ve seen it before, kids on their phones getting pulled away from the classroom. Technology in the hands of a student in a formal classroom environment has become a stigma, something that many feel are taking the students away from their learning. But why turn the other way when you can face the issue, why allow technology to take away from learning when we can use it to enhance it?

Smithsonian’s EdLab Teaching in the 21st Century workshop is aimed to allow educators to explore and launch new media practices for their classrooms providing a safe environment for the educators to come together and work in teams to develop tools and skills that can be applied in their classrooms. On Monday, I was able to partake in this experience. Kim Skerritt and Jeff Meade led the workshops and assigned a warm up by having us write what we thought a 21st-century classroom looked like. Going around you could see words like “classroom without walls”, “interactive”, and “technologic”.  Upon discussion, many of the participants raised some good points and we ultimately asked – are our kids running into school with the same excitement they have running out?

Educators sharing what they felt a 21st-century classroom looks like. Photo courtesy Smithsonian EdLab.

The mission for the week was to ask how you can solve real conflict, whether that’s in or beyond the classroom. Today’s particular mission was to use objects to inspire activism, so we were split into groups and asked to explore the Smithsonian Castle and search for that piece of artwork and apply it to our weekly theme of “conflict”. Each group member took on a role, and altogether partook in a mission to interview, research and put together a final product. In the Smithsonian Castle, there are cases that represent the 19 different Smithsonian museums and each group chose a different one to represent their cause. For example, the group I was in chose Seed Catalogues in order to represent the issue of eating healthy non-processed foods.  At the end of the day, we were able to immerse ourselves in an environment in which all the participants were able to connect with each other and we left the classroom enthusiastically knowing that we will be running in the same way on Tuesday.

Interested in more information about EdLab? Contact the EdLab team at npm.mobilelearning@si.edu

At the Smithsonian Castle finding an object to inspire activism. Photo courtesy Smithsonian EdLab.

 

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