The classroom is where students start their never-ending learning journey. And as we all know, it's also the place where students come together to learn and explore possibilities.
But the most beneficial classroom environment is one where there's room for creativity and creative thinking.
In this episode of the EdTech Heroes podcast, host Nef Dukes welcomes Al Thomas, a filmmaker, photographer, and former educator. They talk about the value of creativity, how to introduce it into the classroom, and why it's more important than ever to teach students creative thinking.
👋 Name: Al Thomas
📽 What he does: He's a filmmaker, photographer, and former educator.
🛩 Company: EDUcopilot
✍️ Noteworthy: Al is an educational leader with more than 18 years in education. His passion is to develop and curate innovative solutions that improve the quality of the learning experience and to inspire educators by telling stories through cinematic, documentary-style films.
Let's give students a chance to grow and expand their horizons. Creative thinking is one of the critical skills that students should bring with them after they leave school. So it's essential to introduce creativity into the classroom early on — that's where technology can help.
Al says, "I think it ultimately comes down to the opportunities that we're creating for students. I think, for me, it's always been that the classroom is a safe space for us to try things and to learn things that we may not have other opportunities for. The amazing gift that a teacher gives to students is pulling the veil back and letting them see the possibilities that they may not know about — to pull back the layers so that they can see what's in them."
There are tremendous benefits of bringing creativity into the classroom. Teaching creativity is more important than ever. Not only does it help students grow, but it also helps them explore the endless possibilities they have at their disposal.
Al explains, "The thing I love about creativity is the exploration, the discovery, those 'aha' moments of you winning with this goal to do this thing, and you find yourself in such a different space, and it's a good place to be.
Then when you come back to do this another time, you have all of that knowledge that you can draw on. So you're constantly giving students this opportunity to grow, to evolve, and to have new skill sets that they can apply in a variety of learning situations. So much of that are benefits that teachers can gain as they bring creativity into classes."
You don't have to reinvent the wheel. Despite some teachers' beliefs, you don't have to be a tech expert to bring tech into the classroom. Start small and lean on the communities of educators for support.
Al says, "When you're bringing video or creativity into the classroom, it's not about hitting a home run every time you come up to bat. It's really about the small steps that you can take to introduce [tech], gain traction, and gain ground. I think one of the first things I would say is, 'Consider all the things you're already doing and the places where students could have a choice and be able to bring, create, and do videos in the classrooms.
You don't have to reinvent the wheel, but you can give some of that ownership to the students and some of that ability to choose what lane they want to go in and share what they know.'"
How can you introduce video in classroom? Start small 💻
"It's not necessary that students have to record and share. But simply giving feedback to students in the video format adds an additional element, and then allowing them to also do that at times can really get this comfort or ability for you to feel like it's not a major burden when you're starting to introduce video into the classroom."
We live in a world of opportunities 🌏
"One of the things I love about the day and age that we live in is that it's very easy to jump in and find a community that is focused around a specific area that a student may want to pursue and look for local opportunities for them to get connected — whether it's student filmmaking clubs or competitions, whatever those may be — getting your students those opportunities and putting them in."
You don't have to do everything on your own 🙋
"I am constantly amazed at the willingness to provide those tools. Even if it's at a discounted rate or whether it's free for a period, don't feel like you can't access [tools] because maybe there's a paywall or something that's there, but ask, reach out, and lean on communities because you never know what may be available."
How do you explain the value of creativity to admins? 🎬
"Being able to understand and go beyond the data of looking at the score a student got, but it's the genuine stories that can be shared of the impact of bringing creativity in the classroom.
And my argument is uncovering those stories, showing the stories, and making it tangible for them to see the impact, the increased engagement, the empathy that is developed from your students telling someone else's story or even telling their own story — that goes so far and moves the ball forward. So I would say it's really identifying those stories."
[10:19] "The thing that educators get is the long-term success of their students. It's being able to recognize that you may be giving a very small moment for a student to try or do something, but you never know what that may spark in that student."
[21:27] "One of my favorite activities is steps — you simply give students a certain number of steps, have them go, and wherever they land, they have to take a unique photo. And it really forces students to think through not taking the same photo over and over again but starting to look above and below them and really be able to process what's around them."
[32:36] "I would encourage you, as an administrator, to pop in and observe with the lens of wanting to understand and seeing the value and the importance of creating those opportunities for students. Give them support."