Monday, August 26, 2013

Teacher Creativity Skill: Brainstorm and Plan Digitally

Part of being creative as a teacher is coming up with creative learning experiences for students. Over the years, I've learned that my best lessons and units came about as a result of a lot of collaborative pre-planning. No lesson plan I wrote by myself was ever as good as the plans I wrote in a collaborative setting with my colleagues, and in many cases, my students.

Creativity and Collaboration

As with any creative process, we began with brainstorming ways that we could achieve our goals. This allowed us to see the many possible ways that the learning could be approached and assessed. Because I was looking at this through many lenses, I was often pushed outside of my own repertoire of go-to learning strategies. This meant that I was learning new ways to approach learning that would ultimately benefit future students. It also meant that I had an opportunity to influence the way others approached the topic.

After brainstorming, we often settled on an approach that would suit our collective needs. At this point, we would begin constructing the lesson plans and resources that would support the learning as well as imagining the assessments that would check for understanding and growth. This is where each of the collaborator's toolboxes could be put to use. Some of us are better at big picture thinking; others are better at the details. I loved constructing Anticipation Guides, so that task might fall to me. Other folks might be great at creating screencasts that could serve as flipped learning resources. The value of collaborating with others in planning often meant that I could have a more complete learning experience for my students, and it meant that I would have more resources in place to help me differentiate for my students.

As we worked together to plan, we often had to find ways to share the vision. A few years ago, that meant a lot of face to face meetings and a lot of revisions of documents going back and forth via email. It wasn't a perfect solution given how limited a teacher's time can be, but it was necessary in order to ensure some consistency across the team in terms of the vitality of the plan, and to ensure that all team members were comfortable putting the plan into action.

Digitally Enhanced

Today, we have all kinds of tools to enhance team brainstorming and team planning. Not only that, but we have amazing resources to help us connect and plan beyond our school walls. There are amazing communities of educators who are sharing their resources online, which allows even the most isolated of teachers to find inspiration and collaborators. Teachers can build their personal learning networks to include passionate colleagues from all over the world thanks to social media and communication tools like Skype and Google+ hangouts.

Learning to collaborate and plan online is a skill set that not only adds efficiency to a teacher's work, it ramps up that teacher's professional learning, gives that teacher an outlet for sharing his or her own expertise and talents, challenges that teacher with a wider array of perspectives from which to approach the work, and provides that teacher with a nearly endless bucket of resources to help enhance learning.

Here are a few resources to get you started:

Brainstorming Tools: Brainstorm online with Easily create colorful mindmaps to print or share with others. Almost no learning curve.

Creaza Mindomo- Mindomo is an online mind mapping tool for visual learning, improving creativity and problem solving. Visual Collaboration for Creative People. Thousands of creative people from all over the world are using to grow ideas.

Padlet- We give you a blank wall. You put anything you want on it, anywhere. Simple, yet powerful.

StormBoard- Add ideas, photos and videos to a shared ‘storm’. Organize, vote and comment in real time.

Planning Tools:

Evernote- The Evernote family of products help you remember and act upon ideas, projects and experiences across all the computers, phones and tablets you use.

Google Docs- Create and share your work online and access your documents from anywhere. Manage documents, spreadsheets, presentations, surveys, and more- all with real-time collaboration.

mentormob- Join a worldwide community that’s organizing the best of the web into Learning Playlists.

Planboard- Planboard helps teachers streamline lesson plans, find resources, and collaborate with others.

PlanbookEdu- is an online lesson planner that makes it easy for teachers of all grade levels to create, share and print their lesson plans.

Resource Curation Tools:

Diigo- Diigo is a powerful research tool and a knowledge-sharing community.

eduClipper- eduClipper is your educational digital clipboard. Clip Everything. Share Anything.

LiveBinders- With our online binders you can combine all of your cloud documents, website links and upload your desktop documents – to then easily access, share, and update your binders from anywhere.

Sqworl- Sqworl is a web application that provides a clean and simple way to visually bookmark multiple URLs.

Symbaloo- Visual curation tool. Create webmixes of online content.

Lesson Plan Repositories:

BetterLesson- Browse thousands of documents, presentations, full lessons — even complete units and courses. Share your curriculum and connect with fellow educators around the world.

Educade- Empower your classroom with the best games, apps, and maker kits, including engaging lesson plans aligned to core standards.

Learnzillion- Find thousands of high-quality Common Core resources created by a national community of top teachers.

My Big Campus- My Big Campus is a web-based social learning network developed for K-12 school districts. Check out the Library and Bundles!

NuSkool- Find compelling lesson plans that use popular culture to enhance learning.

Thinkfinity- Offers free K-12 standards-based lesson plans across many disciplines including art, economics, humanities, mathematics, science and geography.

Other Planning Resources:

Curriculum 21 Clearinghouse- The Curriculum 21 Clearinghouse showcases selected resources for all subject areas, grade levels, Common Core State Standards(CCSS), global education, professional development, and many more categories.

Curriki- Open Educational Resources – Free Learning Resources for the World.

Edshelf- Find the right educational tools for your needs.

eduTecher- eduTecher is the complete reference and resource for educational technology web tools.

Edutopia- Empowering and connecting teachers, administrators, and parents with innovative solutions and resources to better education.

Watch Know Learn- Tens of thousands of excellent, educational videos in a huge, intuitive directory.

Resources to Build Your Personal Learning Network:

My PLN LiveBinder

My Google+ LiveBinder

My Twitter LiveBinder

My Skype LiveBinder

Your Task

As educators, we need to develop this skill set, but more importantly, we need to help our students develop the same skills. The ability to brainstorm and plan collaboratively is essential to learning and working in the Digital Age. The work we assign should invite and support collaborative work to solve problems and see projects through from start to finish. Fortunately, the digital tools that we have available to us make this type of work easier and more rewarding. I hope you will try out some of the suggestions above with your colleagues and students, and feel free to share the results with me in the comments below.

photo credit: seniwati via photopin cc
photo credit: Krissy.Venosdale via photopin cc
photo credit: jonny goldstein via photopin cc
photo credit: mrsdkrebs via photopin cc
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