Creating… With a Purpose

You have undoubtedly heard that instructional practice must shift from student consumption of information to student creation. And for good reason.  Creation, yes, but for what purpose?

In the digital learning space, I have seen students create incredible things that were simply not possible even just a few years ago.  But before we start claiming victory since students are coding, 3D printing, and “green screening,” we need to ask ourselves, for what purpose?

There could be several answers to this.

  • Make their thought process visible at various points in a learning cycle.
  • Create an artifact of their learning to demonstrate understanding.
  • Design and prototype a solution to a complex problem.
  • And countless more….

My point here is not that students should be creating less. Instead, a reminder that we need to think hard about how their creating enhances the learning experience.  If not, then why? We must also clearly explain to our students what skills and competencies they are developing throughout the creation process.  

On a related note, this week I had the pleasure of conducting workshops with educators from two districts (in Vermont and Texas) that featured elements of design thinking.  What I enjoyed most about the experience was how each group engaged in deep conversations regarding skills needed in a rapidly shifting knowledge economy, and how we can design learning environments conducive to the development of those skills.  Design thinking is not the only solution, but is certainly one promising approach.   And yes, the process requires a lot of creating. The key here is that throughout each phase, there is a clear purpose to the creating. For example, it can be:

  • Creating an interview podcast to understand a user perspective.
  • Mind mapping to identify the root causes of a complex problem.
  • Prototyping a design solution.
  • Creating a video reflection based upon results of the testing phase.
  • Artifact creation and curation that documents student thinking throughout the learning process.

Keep creating and encouraging your students to do the same. Just don't create for the sake of it, there will be so much learning left on the table.