Dissolving the Lines that Stifle Creativity


Consider this quote that I came across on Twitter;

My 5 yr-old RE:coloring book.”Why are there all these lines everywhere? They just get in my way.” @tom8williams

I had never thought of the lines getting in the way, but instead serving as a guide to make an unfinished product complete.  But, even when it’s complete with all the right colors in the right places, within the lines, isn’t the  creativity limited to the design of the creator?

Now, replace “RE: coloring book” with RE: worksheets, or RE: textbooks.  In a lot of ways these things are very much similar to the idea of a coloring book in the eyes of the five year old. Merely filling in the blank on a worksheet gets in the way of allowing challenging  a student to think beyond that line, to explain their understanding and form their own opinions.  It keeps them within the lines of the creator’s thinking.  Restricting students to only textbooks to acquire information gets in the way of letting them explore a variety of perspectives and form questions and initiate the exploration of additional resources.  Aren’t we in the 21st century?  Don’t we need to be creating critical thinkers?  Why are we giving students resources and tools that create lines that get in their way?

Think a little deeper and consider the lines that are drawn within the four walls of classrooms.  What lines do teachers draw in their classrooms that get in the way of a student learning?  One way is by limiting the way students are allowed to demonstrate their understanding and learning.  We also know that humans are social creatures.  Peer interactions are a powerful way for students to learn from and teach each other within their own lines.  Do they need structure?  Yes!  But, not rigid lines that keep them within the boundaries of someone else’s thinking.

Dissolving the lines

What would the quote sound like from that 5 year if he had been given a sketch pad, or access to a computer drawing application?  Better yet, an online interactive drawing application!  Let’s say his father then said create something that represents what you hope to learn today.  The completed product truly becomes his own and often times will reveal much more than what was expected – misconceptions, understandings beyond the intended learning, prior experience and knowledge.  In turn, this product can serve as a powerful learning tool and feedback for the facilitator.

Replace worksheets with authentic assessments, use textbooks as supplements instead of the primary source of information, cooperative learning instead of lecture, inquiry based lesson plans instead of traditional teacher directed lesson plans. There are a multitude of simple adjustments that can be made to dissolve the lines, but it’s up to the facilitator to let it happen.

The following exert was taken from a post on The Edurati Review; Learning?  Diving Required written by By Kevin D. Washburn, Ed.D.  (To read the full article, click here.)

As teachers, we often organize material as we prepare to present it to students. However, the research claims that the students must label and sort new material themselves to increase the likelihood of retaining it…………Learning is somewhat like medicine. If the teacher takes the medicine, it does the student little good. But when the student takes the medicine, when the student thinks deeply about new material, the medicine can work as intended.

Who’s taking the medicine and creating the lines in your classroom?


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