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  • Writer's pictureAmy Burvall

Make du Jour: Daily Diet of Creativity

One of my favorite quotes on my classroom’s massive white glossy “inspiration wall” is from John Cage:

“There is no win, there is no fail, there is only make”


My personal goal this year is to get students involved in the creative process as much as possible, shifting away from consuming and stressing the importance of producing, contributing, making, and sharing on a daily basis. In addition to their regular steady diet of project-based assessments, I’m trying to have several “back-burner” ongoing, crowd-sourced projects with relatively low entry points as well as some extra-curricular “pet” projects of my own that I share with students and encourage their participation.  For example…


We’re trying a Twitter Question of the Week (my course is called “Theory of Knowledge” and I teach in Kailua, Hawaii so the hashtag is #tokkailuaQ). All students in 2 grade levels are introduced to the question on Monday and have until Sunday night, 11pm Pacific Time to respond with at least one tweet. To be honest, it’s not something I really want to “grade” but I do want to encourage active participation and since Twitter is new to most of them, I assign participation points, at least for now. At the close of the week I archive the tweets using Storify and post to our course blog as reference notes.  A wonderful thing happened during our first week – some of my PLN from Twitter chimed in (quite actively) on our discussion and I was able to thus demonstrate the power of this platform, and of networked learning (thanks @Braddo and @clonghb !). We were truly able to break out of the brick and mortar boundaries of the classroom. As I state on our wall,


I’ve also made a big push to include Instagram, Vine, and tweeted photography because it’s simple and says so much. One of our first “Instagram challenges” was based on a social experiment by Sports Illustrated journalist Richard Dietsch. He asked folks to tweet a photo from their “best moment” in life  – a “bestagram” – and explain why that moment was so special. I figured this was a great way for all of us to get to know each other at the beginning of the year, but it was also relevant to the content we were studying – Memory as a Way of Knowing.  I know I’m going to have fun developing photo challenges and stressing the significance of the hashtag as metadata. I wrote more about that in this post.


I believe it’s important to be transparent about one’s creative process, and for students to see that a teacher can (and should) be a fellow creator and learner. I recently painted my kitschy faux wood closet doors in back of my desk with black chalkboard paint (nostalgia- swoon!) and am using that space to keep track of ongoing projects and obligations. I have an “Irons in the Fire” section for things I’m working on outside of school, though most are connected to education or technology in some way.


The “creative” area highlights ideas that are in the works, or projects that are more artistic in nature.


I’ve invited my students to be a part of two pet projects I started this summer –  VoxBoxED21 and L3 (Learning, Listening, Loving). For a while I wanted to start a Reddit-esque “Today I Learned” school-wide community, but after rethinking it a bit I’ve made that a category in my course’s G+ Community. Finally, I always share the awesomeness that is #ds106. (They’ve just started a G+ community as well). I’m thinking about starting a school club this year that would be primarily managed by students and would have a similar feel as #ds106. Since I’ll be working with Mozilla to test some of their tools, I’d like students to play around with those as well. The club will be called #cr808 (808 is our area code here in Hawaii). Students would explore remix, mashup, gifs, creative uses of social media tools like Instagram and Vine, and all realms of digital storytelling, of course. I’m envisioning film challenges and a student-run film festival in the spring.


1. I posted a giant white piece of paper with post-its and sharpies available for students to jot down interesting apps or web tools to use for creating content. One student took it to the next level and suggested also posting great creators to follow – such as “Vine-famous” people. Perhaps we can even get some professional creators to do a G+ Hangout with us!


2. It’s a good idea to start a troubleshooting/ tips Google doc either for each project or each app. I find that I learn so much from the students, who in turn learn so much from just mucking around with the tool.

3. My life changed when I made a “CREATE” folder on my desktop and in my Diigo account. You can view it here. Basically, whenever I find something that would be a handy tool, or great idea, or even philosophical take on creativity itself, I save it to the folder. I can then make that available to students when they are searching for inspiration.

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One more thing…

The “Writer who draws”, Austin Kleon (“Steal Like an Artist”, and “Newspaper Blackout”) often tweets with the hashtag #showyourwork. I really love this stress on articulating the creative process and openly sharing about the tools that got you there and the tricks you needed to troubleshoot issues. Maybe those 4th grade math teachers were on to something after all?

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#ideas #austinkleon #webmaker #creativity #Mozilla #making #socialmedia #tips #twitter #ds106

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