4 ways to grow creativity by embracing Maker culture

I want to talk about creativity.  It is one of those terms that gets thrown around a lot and at the risk of losing what it means in essence – and how important it is to teach.  It’s quite a nebulous term as it can mean both the creation of something tangible, whether worthwhile or not and also the creation of the intangible – an idea or solution.

Many people believe that it is an innate talent that people either have or don’t have, but this just is not the case.  It’s a skill and one that develops over time and with multiple experiences.

When I think of someone that is creative it isn’t because they can sketch a realistic portrait but rather the way in which they think about problems, navigating the world in a way that sees connections between things.  Someone that is able to perceive the world in new ways to generate solutions, whether tangible or not.

Coming from a corporate background into the classroom I was surprised how difficult many students found it to be creative.  I found time after time that students were so used to copying something – an exemplar, picture or idea – that the act of merely creating the thing for themselves, a replica of what the teacher had made, was enough.  And this just never sits well with me.  I see my role as a facilitator in the room, to give context but then shift to a supporting role alongside.

I spent countless hours thinking, mapping and experimenting with ways to foster creativity in the room and support their creative confidence; the confidence to tinker and experiment, try things to get closer to a possible solution.

This is where Maker culture and the act of making came to the fore, a way for students to get hands on quickly and use the physical act of making to support their creative thinking and problem solving.

4 ways to grow creativity by embracing Maker Ed in your classroom

1. Foster a creative culture

IMG_0059This starts with you and I don’t mean setting aside a Friday afternoon slot in your timetable.  It starts with language and discussion that happens all week long. Talking about the process of being creative – whether in writing, art or science.  Emphasising the need to tinker and try things out.

This is key and this is more important that the tools, toys or gadgets you can have in your room.  If the classroom culture doesn’t match than those things will just collect dust!

Being creative is about trying new things and with that failing, help to change the aura around the word fail to be something that is a natural part of the process.


2. Have stuff to tinker with

IMG_0317-2Most classroom teachers already have a steady supply of art and craft materials – I challenge you to add some unusual extras to this stash.

What about old technology?  Computers or phones students can pull apart.  The act of un-making can be a great trigger to questioning and curiosity that is self driven.

Recycled or used equipment? Students can start to look at familiar objects with new eyes and upcycle to something completely unique.

Tech and toys – while it is not important to have the latest maker toys (3d printers, robotics etc) they do help to take things up a notch once you have the classroom culture in place.

3. Make time to tinker

IMG_0263-2Give your students freedom and autonomy to play, experiment and tinker with their ideas.

Often our timetables are so squished with the urgent stuff that we can miss the opportunities to support the important stuff.

Make yourself accountable to make time in the day for wonderment, discussion and individual tinkering. This comes with practice in class and allow it to be the norm not the exception at the end of the school term.

If they are struggling with a math exercise or scientific concept encourage them to tinker with physical stuff to support their internal dialogue.

4. Focus on the process not product

IMG_0308Now..I know this is a hard one for some people BUT please focus on the process of being creative and not what the final outcome looks like.

Creativity is a process from spark and curiosity to formulation of a prototype.  There are opportunities for massive wins along the way that should be celebrated.  This is where creativity needs to be focused on as a skill that can  be stretched and built upon.

Stop and get students to reflect at multiple points throughout the process and see these as an opportunity to extend and refine their ideas.  Feedback from others, not just you, is vital to support their growing creative confidence.