When Innovation Loses It’s Spark, What Do You Do?
Is there evidence that arts infused teaching, specifically, Arts Based Skills and Strategies (ABSS) would generate the need for a tech enhanced multi-modal learning environment that supports and engages students in 21st Century Learning experiences?
BACKGROUND AND NEED
Pursuing innovative thinking, cultivation of global minded citizens, and creative thought in an attempt to construct multi-modal instructional design in classrooms evokes the need to agree upon an understanding of creativity. In an attempt to break through the linguistic veil of vagueness, Mishra and Henriksen (2013) identified and broke down components of creativity into a working definition, “Creative solutions are NEW: Novel, Effective, and Whole. Creative products, be they artifacts or ideas, are not just new or interesting, they are useful, and they have a certain aesthetic sensibility, which is connected to and evaluated within specific content [the whole]” (p. ) Robinson (2006), internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources in education and in business, contends we need to treat creativity as importantly as we treat literacy. He passionately states that we, global societies, need to prepare for the unknown and that children are particularly skilled at this because they have not yet developed a fear of being wrong. Kids are not instinctively afraid to take a chance. He defines creativity as “a process of having original ideas that have value.” (p.151) In addition, Turak (2011), a contributing writer in Forbes business and financial magazine, notes IBM’s Executive school was built on 6 insights about success, all of which relate to creative thought and actions. One of these 6 insights is as simple as, “hang around creative people.” In this paper we will use the definition and matrix for creativity that Mishra and Henriksen (2013, p.12) developed.
A small northern California elementary school stirred together an interfusion of Novel, Effective, and Whole (NEW) creative instructional practices and program design to powerfully connect to the practical world of classroom teaching. Robinson, (2006) rails, “Reform in education is no use anymore - we are only improving a broken model. We need not an evolution but a REVOLUTION in education...we need to transform ourselves” (p.6) Brain-based instructional practices such as Arts Based Skills and Strategies (ABSS) combined with program reform models like Artful Learning (Brothman, 2013), “that promotes higher order thinking and rigorous instructional unit design” (p. 5), while partnering with guest teaching artists using technology were sewn together to create a virtual suit of 21st Century armor for students.
In the Introduction to this paper, a challenge between two opportunities for learning were presented to the reader that offered a choice between rote tasks taken from a textbook or the converse choice of designing a project taken from a 5th grade “Artful Learning” Unit on LIMITS. This study argues that the learner facing the Artful Learning project would naturally, almost effortlessly, find their path to solution through Mishra and Henriksen’s, (2013) description of creativity. In turn, s/he would develop metacognitive skills and grow through a multidimensional and a multi-modal learning experience. The project design challenge establishes a path to novel thought and argument, effective logical reasoning, and the emergence of a whole well crafted product. The project not only embeds the use of technology but it triggers the need to use it for a deeper, more interesting experience.
The teacher-created unit described in the introduction explores “Limits” as a specifically broad concept with the Enduring Understanding that “limits” serve to protect us or may be a catalyst for change. This concept is then followed by a Significant Question which overarches the entire inquiry, i.e. How do limits influence life?, consequently empowering students to connect concepts through a creative process, partnered with encouragement to be critical thinkers. This ability to create a conceptual grid from which to work becomes prior knowledge and allows the learner greater intellectual buoyancy. Erickson & Tomlinson (2007) emphasized that learner construction of knowledge increases the ability to remember, retain, and make room for new thinking. Wiggins and McTighe (1998) coined the term enduring understanding, in other words, the big idea, while Erickson (2007) used the term essential understanding, to capture the ever elusive grand idea(s) that hold society and thought together. She asserted, “When curriculum and instruction require students to process factual information through the conceptual levels of thinking, the students demonstrate greater retention of factual information, deeper levels of understanding, and increased motivation for learning.” (Erickson & Tomlinson, 2007, p. 2)
In California, Artful Learning (AL), the project based school improvement model noted earlier, is thriving at the Elementary School in this study. The unique and potentially revolutionary methodology blossomed from the insights of Leonard Bernstein, the great American composer and conductor. AL employs an interdisciplinary approach to the 21st Century classroom, allowing educators to facilitate learning across a broad spectrum of rigorous academic content through high levels of student engagement and empowerment. (Brothman, 2013) Arts based, and by the same token, brain based, instructional practices empower teachers throughout their design process and classroom facilitation as they meet and interact with professional teaching artists or Arts Partners (AP’s.) The students move through an interconnected process of experiencing, inquiring, creating, and reflecting in depth on the centralizing unit concept. The culminating student work at the end of each unit is an original creation in which students move their understanding of unit concept to metaphor representing this knowledge and furthering the concept through the arts. In many of the grades, teachers and expert arts partners are using tech programs and tools throughout the entire AL process to research, design, collaborate and create; as journaled by AP’s who participated in this study. Using iMovie, these artisans worked with the 5th and 1st grade teachers to give the viewer a taste of successful vertical articulation at this elementary school. See the Youtube link above or https://youtu.be/HKoJAtKCi4g
This approach to 21st Century learning is intentionally and strategically bringing the NEW aspect of creativity to our learners; therefore, bringing it to the system of education and potentially establishing critical evidence of what 21st Century learning can look like. To better understand the school’s evolution and potentially revolutionizing approach to a blended learning classroom; looking through a brain based research lens at creative learning instructional practices and how technology relates to the process is essential. Subsequently, an overview of literature will be presented providing theoretical underpinnings necessary to propel the research further.
Support and Next Steps