In his TCEA 2014 presentation, “Failure to Innovate,” Randy Rodgers stated the above quote, and I realized that it really says a lot about the problems in education today. Our students are far too reliant on following directions, and so many are afraid to deviate in order to do some creative thinking. I remember my daughter being the same with an old Lite-Brite we had inherited from a friend. She loved it as long as there were papers she could stick on it to make the designs. But as soon as we ran out of the papers, she didn’t know what to do. When I suggested she make up her own designs, she looked at me like I was crazy. As parents and teachers, we need to find ways to encourage creation, rather than only rewarding products that basically just prove our students know how to follow directions.
Even though I feel this in my heart, I still catch myself squelching innovation sometimes. In our new Maker Studio, the students have a Little Bits station. I downloaded task cards from the site that give suggestions for exploring the different parts. Ten minutes after one group started with the task cards, I walked by the table to find the cards strewn about and various “Little Bits” being connected in the spirit of complete exploration. I had to bite my logical, sequential tongue to stop from saying, “Wait! But you didn’t do the task cards in order! You didn’t even do the task cards!” One of the few times my students didn’t consult me to find out what they were supposed to be doing, but dove in without fear, and I almost blew it!
If you’re looking for tools for innovation, check out Randy Rogers’ presentation, as well as his website. He has a great list of all kinds of fabulous resources for those of us looking to bring more creativity into our classrooms. A couple that I am hoping to add soon are: MakeyMakey and Hummingbird. (Watch the MakeyMakey video that shows bananas being played like a piano, and you’ll be sold, too!)
Whether it’s high-tech or low-tech, try to resist telling your students what to do with everything. Sure, they need to know how to follow directions in certain situations. But they also need to know how to lose them.