Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Teacher Creativity Skill: Go Somewhere You've Never Been

In the same way that meeting new people is a good catalyst for creativity, experiencing new places can change your perspective, can inspire wonder, and can lead to new ideas. Think back to the times in your childhood when you had the opportunity to visit a new place. It could have been local, like a museum or zoo, or it could have been somewhere else, perhaps a new city or even country. There is no doubt that there is value in giving kids the gift of new experiences.

Unfortunately, in our current environment of high-stakes testing, shrinking budgets, and standardized curricula, the field trip is a rare occurrence, despite its obvious benefits. Even worse, when these types of experiences are forced into the extra-curricular arena, it is often the students who are least likely to be able to have these types of learning journeys at home who are also least likely to be able to take advantage of them at school.

Because of that, if we want to encourage creativity in all of our learners, we need to find ways to give them new experiences in the classroom. Thankfully, technology makes this much easier than it was in the past. I've already shared ways that you can bring new voices into the classroom in an earlier post. In addition to that, technology gives us all sorts of windows through which we can experience the world, even when a field trip is financially or logistically out of reach.

Connecting to the World

One option is the virtual field trip. All sorts of organizations and locations from national parks to museums to historical landmarks have online virtual tours that emulate the experiences that are available to their visitors for free. While no one could argue that visiting virtually is the same as visiting in person, many virtual tours are engaging, and even interactive. What's more, the variety of virtual tours means that any teacher can find relevant tours to share with their learners. Also, Google+ offers offers amazing field trips through its Connected Classrooms program.

Google Earth is another great way to explore the world from inside the classroom. Google Earth has tons of great places to explore, you can even create your own narrated tours. In addition, there are some great experiences from Google Lit Trips, W.W. Norton US History Tours, and the Google Earth Blog.

Another option for virtually going to places you've never been is to use a live online webcam feed. There are hundreds of live webcams around the world that can be accessed for free on the Internet. Many zoos, aquariums, cities, and parks have live feeds that are fun to watch. You can even watch the goings on at the International Space Station. You can also find some fun featured shows on USTREAM.

I'd also recommend using Skype to access folks from all over the world. Taking the time to connect with people from different places can add a face and a voice to those places. There are a lot of ways to find people to Skype with in the classroom, but I would recommend beginning with Skype in the Classroom. There you can find other educators who are interested in connecting to expand their own classrooms.

I'm sure that there are other ways that you can visit new places from inside the classroom. I would love to hear from you about resources you have found that allow your students to see new sites and experience the world.

Our Task

Ultimately, our task is to help students grow creatively by expanding their horizons. We can do this in lots of ways because of technology. Doing so, will not only inspire curiosity and raise questions to think about, it will also prepare our students for a world that is increasingly connected. To develop the skills that they need to function in a global society, we must first develop those skills in ourselves, and we can begin by seeking ways to bring the world into our classrooms everyday.

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