QA Creativity

QA Creativity is a web site, with embedded blog and forum, to inform and encourage teachers to explore student learning in participatory culture. Built using weebly.com, the site introduces a three-step framework for acknowledging creativity through online collectives as part of the core Creativity-Action-Service (CAS1 ) Program of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program. Primarily developed for my teaching colleagues, feedback from the trial has validated the resource has broad relevance for non-IB teachers also.

A link to the resource is available here: http://qacreativity.weebly.com/

Introduction

The key aspect of digital culture the resource focuses on is learning in participatory culture, namely interest-driven collectives. The resource’s ‘hook’ for teachers at my workplace is using this aspect of digital culture productively to meet the needs of both the CAS Supervising teacher and the student who has to engage with the eight CAS learning outcomes as a core component of their IB studies. Anecdotally, some students have indicated that they already play and tinker in online collectives, however are not currently encouraged to recognise this as creativity learning outcomes for CAS.

The framework is designed to encourage recognition of students' rich generation of new ideas and knowledge, the “messing around and geeking out”, as participants in online collectives2 . It is a resource-unintensive way to count as CAS what many students already do and seeks to bridge the digital divide between in-school and out-of-school creative communities.

The resource is themed using a magical doorway analogy to engage teachers in thinking about the affordances presented by digital culture.

Rationale

Various obstacles impede our progress. The Department of Education and Training’s firewall protection that blocks many networked collective sites, teacher perceptions that question the legitimacy of learning in online collectives and the lack of widespread collegial savviness in exploring digital culture as sites of student learning. The resource seeks to inform teachers about the possibilities, serves them a model to encourage a fresh perspective and persuades them to explore collectives as an aspect of digital culture worthy of CAS recognition.

Students are the driving imperative. The practical realities reflect the research literature in that students will go around us and the system to further a cavernous digital divide if we don’t embrace better, more motivating 21st century ways to engage their thinking (Thomas and Brown3 ). I was keen to tinker, self-teach and play so chose to develop my skills in new forms of media. I am pragmatic though and, hence, this resource is cognisant of the limited time and competing priorities of teachers for building their capacities to play in the digital culture space. This, in turn, drove the choice of a web site with blog and forum as the resource format:
• Easy to navigate and choose the aspects a teaching professional wishes to engage with;
• Capacity to embed a visually clear graphic of the model for creativity in participatory culture, and
• A resource and information dense ‘one stop shop’ achieved by linking key words/images/videos to web sites for further reading or retrieval of information.

Resource Trial

Almost as if to prove my point, the website building interface (weebly.com) required an unblocking request to be logged by my Principal to view the finished product. I deliberately sought feedback from colleagues regarded as innovators and found that by positioning them as critical friends, it pushed my first timer self-learning in web design and coding further:
• the Head of Contemporary Teaching and Learning
• The Project Officer State Schools – Performance (our school’s Marketing Coordinator and innovative driver in the use of social media platforms to engage communities)
• the Principal.

Feedback was both validating and clarifying.
• On my newfound web design skills where I had sought to be responsive to the course readings around design principles: “Great stuff, I would never have known you haven’t made a website before! Approachable and friendly language, formatted with a clean and easy to read design.”
• On the clarity of the message: “Yes – Having an online resource about CAS Creativity is useful, as well as aligning to Core Values.4
Clever use of analogies and diagrams that really clarify the text. Although IB specific, any teacher outside of the IB could see how it can be used in their context with links to creativity and how students engage outside of school.”
• On building excitement about the possibilities in participatory culture presented in the resource: “It more sets up a need for some people to acknowledge the role of creativity. It demonstrates a thoughtful engagement with the contemporary interests of teachers through the use of personal examples and sets the author as a learner. Great examples to support the introduction for teachers to run this idea.”
I love the idea of the QAHS Big Question – I think that could be a great ongoing event for QA and an opportunity for collaboration outside of the campus, talking to experts, other schools and the ability to really showcase the creativity and cleverness of our staff & students. Sorry I’m going off on a tangent here… this could be the stimulus for a great annual event” (acknowledgement must go to Chris Bigum for bringing Edge.org to my attention).

Constructive points that were then used to further refine the resource included clarifying the meaning of ‘digital culture’.

I presented the research findings and proposal for influencing the future direction of creativity in CAS through digital culture, to the school’s broader leadership team on the scheduled meeting date just one day prior to submission of the resource. The ideas presented in the resource generated much discussion and sharing of suggestions to build upon with a view to implementing QA Creativity as part of the CAS program in 2016.