Creativity is the Literacy of Life

These are not the only tools of creativity. To limit creative thinking to artistic endeavors sells everyone short.

Hello again! It’s time for another post in the world of 21st-Century skills. We’ve already looked at personal financial literacy and career readiness–now it’s time for life literacies and key skills, which sounds like a cop-out if ever I’ve heard one! (Just kidding. Kind of.) The thing that cracks me up is that this category has a fairly non-illustrative name, but it is comprised of, arguably, the most important skills for anyone trying to navigate a world as unpredictable as ours.

9.4.12.CI.1: Demonstrate the ability to reflect, analyze, and use creative skills and ideas

This first one can be difficult for teachers, but it is oh-so-crucial. The best way to encourage this is to remove as many unnecessary parameters from your projects as possible. If what you need is for your students to talk for three minutes and include a visual, does it matter how they choose to get there? My students are currently finishing up presentational speaking projects about their ideal city. One learner decided to pitch his idea as an urban developer to a city council. Another is a vlogger filming her favorite locations in a city she lives in. A third is pitching his city as the next spot for the Olympic Games. The projects are SO COOL and they all meet the requirements; best of all, my students weren’t bored doing them and I’m so excited grading them!

9.4.12.CT.1: Identify problem-solving strategies used in the development of an innovative product or practice

Sometimes we look at standards, get intimidated by the linguistic sophistication necessary to discuss them in our first language and run away. Something like this doesn’t have to be a complete examination of the scientific method. There are so many people doing amazing things with minimal resources and we can talk about those amazing things with rudimentary language. I envision a series of stations where my students read texts or watch videos about innovative technology or inventions. I give them five phrases for strategies ahead of time–things like “beta testing”, “trial and error”, and “crowdsourcing”–and they choose which phrases are applicable to each text. It can be done by novice-intermediate learners, and it fully addresses the standard.

9.4.12.CT.3: Enlist input from a variety of stakeholders (e.g., community members, experts in the field) to design a service learning activity that addresses a local or global issue (e.g., environmental justice).

Sometimes we forget that we can have our students solicit information in their first language and present it in the target language. Perhaps they examine five movements–environmental, social, economic–and survey community members about which of the movements they would most like to see replicated in their community. Then they put it into practice and solicit feedback both from native speakers and community members. The more eyes, the better!

9.4.12.DC.4: Explain the privacy concerns related to the collection of data (e.g., cookies) and generation of data through automated processes that may not be evident to users.

BORRRRRRRING. But it doesn’t have to be! Are privacy concerns the same in other countries? Do French users hold American companies responsible for selling their data? Do Chinese or Russian websites use cookies? How do suggestive ads work in other countries? We can examine this concept through a cultural lens with relative ease.

9.4.12.DC.7: Evaluate the influence of digital communities on the nature, content and responsibilities of careers, and other aspects of society.

This one has some excellent potential. What does it mean to be an influencer in other parts of the world? Do American influencers have a global reach? How do the Instagram posts of a Portugese artist or Colombian sports star compare with their American or Canadian counterparts? How does social media positively impact society? (Hint: crowdsourcing fundraisers, more light shed on societal injustices in other parts of the world, and new viewpoints shared through platforms of self-expression, to name a few.)

9.4.12.GCA.1: Collaborate with individuals to analyze a variety of potential solutions to climate change effects and determine why some solutions (e.g., political. economic, cultural) may work better than others.

Examine solutions to a societal problem from around the world. Place that same problem and solution in a different context: is the problem still a problem? Do you think the solution would still work? Why or why not? (This is a great exercise for some conditional and if/then practice!)

9.4.12.IML.2: Evaluate digital sources for timeliness, accuracy, perspective, credibility of the source, and relevance of information, in media, data, or other resources.


9.4.12.IML.8: Evaluate media sources for point of view, bias, and motivations.

French newspapers don’t try to hide their biases. In fact, French journalists find it disingenuous that American news sources *claim* to be unbiased. How do three French newspapers report differently on the same event? What kind of sentences would you expect to see in an American newspaper about the same topic? What words would you never expect to see in an American news story? (This is really fun with highlighters and it’s a great twist on the “keeping up with French current events” thing that we all try to do but that gets boring awfully fast.)

9.4.12.TL.4: Collaborate in online learning communities or social networks or virtual worlds to analyze and propose a resolution to a real-world problem.

I know that our hackles tend to rise when we think about plopping our learners into an online community, but it can be done with training wheels. Maybe I choose a hashtag that relates to a current social issue or concern. We start by educating ourselves. Then we craft tweets and post them from a class Twitter handle and monitor the responses we get. Maybe we email a French government official or nonprofit to follow up and ask clarifying questions. Maybe we have a guest speaker weigh in on the issue, or we write to pen pals in francophone countries. There are ways to create “learning communities” that are less intimidating than sending our cherubs out into the Big Bad World.

Of course, you could give bonus points for anyone who speaks French with a group in an online gaming session.

How do you encourage creative thinking in your classroom? How could you encourage it?

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