To me, creation has always been a bit like magic. Whether I am making an afghan for my daughter, an online poster, a web page, or an ebook – I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile. I’m conjuring something purposeful and sometimes beautiful from nothing. As a learner, I thrive on creation and as a teacher, I value it no less! I try to give my Master’s students many many opportunities to create something new and potentially magical from their understanding.
Having a lot of content to cover is no excuse to forego opportunities for creation in our classes. I have found over the years that requiring creation actually furthers content knowledge development. So these are some of the ways that my students create representation of their content knowledge to share throughout my classes:
1. Weekly blog postings
I know – on the surface this sounds like it can be boring; however, I provide several core readings, and then ask students to integrate their own research into the posting. This way, students can delve deeply into some aspect of the reading they find engaging – and they can craft their understanding using their interests as a scaffold. I have students make their blogs using the platform of their choice – and for me it’s important that this in the open – so the audience for the blog is authentic!
I had no idea what a high level task infographic creation was until I tried to make one. It rivals writing a term paper! Using tools like Pictochart and Easel.ly students can remix and remake their understanding into something new that they can certainly take pride in!
3. Online Modules and Learning Experiences
They say you never know something until you teach it to someone else. I challenge my students to make short (2 or 3 day) online modules using Weebly or WordPress to teach concepts or skills to others. Having students go through three of these modules is far more effective than having them listen to three presentations by their peers. Students get to create materials and engaging activities that 1) demonstrate their own understanding and 2) reinforce that understanding in others – I call that a double-positive!
Even though we have to work hard to avoid the talking head syndrome, my students almost unanimously love using Vodcasting to present their work. They can use Screencastomatic to share their understanding – and there is always a challenge in doing this in an engaging way.
I admit it – I bought a subscription to Pixton. But you can use the free version of this as well. When I use cartoons in concert with blog postings my writing-hesitatant students have reported it being far easier to write their posting because through the cartoon they already had worked out the idea they wanted to share.
6. Concept Maps
Yes it’s an old standby – but seeing representation of student understanding through concept maps is a great way to pinpoint gaps in knowledge, and know where we may need to go next. Bubbl.us and Mindmeister are easy to use and share – and also provide great pre-writing help for students.
Being a college professor doesn’t mean we can’t let students be creative! In fact it likely means we demand more of that creativity. Whatever we let our students make, we can be sure that it will strengthen their understanding, and show us very distinctly what they really understand!