Home' Teacher : November 2010 Contents 22 TEACHER NOVEMBER 2010
Observing the authoring of articles in
action, students get a glimpse of what is in
a sense low-level historiography, they gain
an understanding of the complexities of the
topic they're investigating and are less likely
to engage uncritically with Wikipedia pages
in the future.
In you r school, who is responsible for
teaching students to explore large volumes
of information critically? Perhaps you
might say that it's the responsibility of your
teacher librarians or maybe even your his-
When I ask this question of a whole
school staff, there's always one teacher
who'll say that it's the responsibility of all
of us. In many ways this is the right response
and without fail the previously anxious
principal will at this point start nodding
happily in agreement.
The problem with responsibilities that
fall to all of us, however, is that the burden
of responsibility can often end up being car-
ried by none of us. As staff acknowledge
that this is true for them, the principal's
happiness subsides and the nodding stops.
Yet progress has been made. The way is now
clear for an honest conversation about how
in a particular school the teachers are going
to ensure that students' ability to explore
large volumes of information critically will
occu r strategically. You could be the one to
lead this conversation in your school.
We need to nurture our students' ability to
express creative ideas creatively. Both the
nature of our students' ideas and the way
they communicate these ideas need to be
marked by creativity. Not only is creativity
vital to economic productivity and personal
employability, the world needs a new gen-
eration of people with the creative capac-
ity to find solutions to some of the complex
global problems we face.
To suggest that a history teacher has a
responsibility to develop a student's creative
capacity may initially seem somewhat out
of place. In the minds of many, creativity
remains a gift that only a few individual stu-
dents possess and its development typically
remains the responsibility of music, art or
drama teachers, with the occasional English
teacher thrown in.
As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi notes, the
trouble is that we can no longer think of crea-
tivity as 'a luxury for the few. . .(as) by now it
is a necessity for all.' We need to think about
all students as having a creative capacity that
is developed across the entire curriculum.
For our students to grow in their abil-
ity to express creative ideas we need to be
teachers who think creatively about our
We need to be teachers who delight as
much in good questions as we do in good
answers. The learning tasks we create need
to present students with possibilities rather
We need to be teachers who create a cli-
mate of risk-taking by modelling it ourselves
as we passionately seek to develop original
ideas or new ways of viewing the content or
technique or skill, or combination of these,
that is being explored.
Once our students have a creative idea to
express, a host of tools await them as they
seek to com municate their idea creatively.
A few years ago, most of the tools came
from software loaded on student computers.
Students made photo essays about histori-
cal events using Windows Movie Maker or
Apple's iMovie. They could produce ver-
sions of radio shows from the period they
were studying by using open source soft-
ware like Audacity or Apple's GarageBand,
or record new narrations over old newsreels
to incorporate perspectives not present in
the original version.
More recently, students are turning to
online tools. They're creating animations
using GoAnimate. They're bringing histori-
cal models to life using Google SketchUp.
They're designing comics with Comic Life
developed by plasq. They're able to create
historical characters giving speeches using
Voki software developed by Oddcast. These
are just some of the ever-expanding set of
tools available to help us enable our students
to express creative ideas.
Our students need to be encouraged and
equipped to exchange ideas using a variety
of media. Not only is the exchange of ideas
beneficial for student learning, it's also of
benefit to the world in which they live. The
complex problems the world is facing are
unlikely to be solved without teams of peo -
ple exchanging ideas with each other.
An exchange involves giving and receiv-
ing, and while most students are very happy
to receive creative ideas from others, fewer
students are willing to share their best ideas.
It can often be the most able students who
are most resistant to an exchange as they
fear that by doing so they'll lose the edge
they have over other students in the class.
Some students view learning as a solo
rather than a com munity activity. They
learn to benefit themselves instead of the
world in which they live. Sadly, though,
their efforts to safeguard their ideas only
serve to stunt the growth of those ideas.
Instead of having their ideas nourished by
the reflections and thoughts of fellow learn-
ers, their ideas remain unnourished and fail
The read/write web provides students
with many opportunities to give and receive,
not only to give to and receive from students
in their own classroom but also to and from
learners across the globe. VoiceThread is a
new tool which allows students to talk about
and share images, videos and documents.
Earlier this year students in two elec-
tive history classes used VoiceThread to
exchange what they were learning about
terrorist groups as part of their investiga-
tion into the history of terrorism. Later this
year these same students will use it again
to exchange with students around the
world the discoveries they have made about
instances of slavery in their nation's history.
Learning that involves the exchange of
ideas using a variety of media can be very
motivating for students. They are used to
writing for their teacher alone but when
they write an article on, say, an aspect of
Australian history and have the opportu-
nity to add it to Wikipedia, they experience
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