Mar 31 2021

How To Teach Creativity in 2020: An English Teacher’s Journey

by Dana Giesen

There are many misconceptions about creativity. For example the assumption that creativity is a trait you possess. Either you’re a creative person, or you’re not. If we think we’re “just not a creative person”, it feels like fact. That there’s nothing we can do and thus might not try at all. This results in our creativity remaining buried, suppressed, and untouched.

Another common misconception is that creativity appears out of the blue, as if by magic. But creativity is a skill that we can harness and develop. We can use technology as a tool to enhance creativity – both within ourselves, and externally. 

David Hoffman would know. Hoffman, who currently teaches English and Creative Writing in VA, has a long-time passion for creativity. With a Master’s degree in Creative Studies, he uses his skills to equip students with new tools to navigate the world. In December 2019, he launched Raising Innovation to promote creative problem-solving training. Then, COVID-19 hit.

Technology As a Tool For Teaching Creativity 

As schools were forced to turn to remote learning, teachers and students alike struggled. Some teachers were pushed out of their field, as they didn’t have the training and skillset to keep up. Many teachers reported that they were working a lot more hours with the switch to online teaching. They were forced to fend for themselves, as they tried to master a new skill in uncertain times. 

Meanwhile, students had to deal with one Zoom lecture after another, staring at their screen for hours. An environment not initially built for learning. Suddenly missing one lecture meant missing vital information,  without any notes from a friend to catch up. 

When his school closed down it was obvious to Hoffman that it wouldn’t open back up again any time soon. So he dove in and looked for ways to make remote learning more effective. He realized that the educational system still uses the same education models from 90 years ago. He came across studies proving that American minority students score the same as white students when homeschooled. Reading scores for homeschooled minority students is at the 87th percentile, the same as for homeschooled whites and 37 percentile points higher than the national average for all students. Similar effects were found for math scores. That only strengthened his belief in the power of technology in remote learning.

Hoffman started using emaze, along with other technology, to engage his students. He saw the potential of technology as a tool to enable students to take an active part in the learning process. It also offered an opportunity to focus on project-based learning. He found that emaze offered advantages that took other programs too long to create. Emaze offered opportunities to listen to students, get feedback from them, and to get them more involved in the learning process.

Rather than just recording lessons or creating text-filled presentations, the ability to embed videos created asynchronous learning opportunities. Through the power of creativity, Hoffman was able to use emaze as a tool to create formative activities, and enable his own students’ creativity.

For example, an English class assignment on Frankenstein. Instead of writing essay after essay, the students recorded video journals. The videos were added to a gallery that was synced between emaze and Google Sheets. The students could browse the gallery, view the videos, and comment anonymously. Students could evaluate their fellow students’ work, anonymously, which as previous research discovered – taking an active role in the evaluation process helped students better understand their own evaluations.

Their work was then linked and shared from a bigger blog or website. The “create your own website” feature offered an easy way to learn media literacy and soft skills. Students were also able to use the template like a chat room in another creative alternative to regular essay writing. 

Mr. Hoffman found that one of the most beneficial tools Emaze offered teachers is the ability to open several slides up for editing or collaboration by students while leaving other pages locked. In this way, teachers can offer students to share their feedback, without having to worry that their hard work would be at risk. 

How Does Technology Help Teach Creativity? 

Hoffman isn’t alone. Many teachers had to take matters into their own hands and find tools to promote better remote learning and creativity. 

Forbes listed several ways in which technology can increase creativity. One way is by reducing barriers through automation. This means, that by automating redundant, low-skill, repetitive tasks, the brain has more time and energy to focus on creative tasks. 

Hoffman discovered that through emaze he was able to create more unique presentations in less time than with other programs. This gave him more time to think about how to step out of the box with his teaching methods and offer a fresh perspective. The automation of building websites, photo galleries, and blogs offered a similar advantage. 

As technology develops, so does our ability to use it for creative problem-solving. The emergence of new tools offers endless opportunities. After all, there is no end to human imagination, should why should our tools have? 

Ready to teach creativity to your students too? Start Here