Creativity & Critical Thinking

Oakes, Constance

Topic: Inquiry and Design (ID)

Bibliographic Citation:  Richardson, J. (2014, October 17). How to think, not what to think [Video file]. Retrieved from

Summary:  This is a TEDxBrisbane talk with Jesse Richardson, the founder of  In his talk, he discusses the need to stop teaching students information and to start teaching them how to think.  His thinking is that we need to teach children how to think creatively. By doing so we will be teaching students not only how to think, but how to be adaptive and how to innovate in order to solve problems.  Along with this, we need to teach critical thinking skills to teach students to be able to change their thinking and be able to be wrong which then leads to growth.

Evaluation/Opinion:  I found this TEDx to be engaging and I liked his view that thinking creatively and critical thinking skills are two sides of the same coin.  The School of Innovation is intriguing as is and I agree that this is what we need to be teaching our youth so they will be ready for the world we are leaving them.

Kidding Around with Design Thinking

Butler, Vienna


Fouché, J. & Crowley, J. (2017). Kidding around with design thinking. Educational Leadership. Retrieved from

SUMMARY: This is an interesting account of a 2nd grade class working on Next Generation Science Standards and are engaging in the design thinking process. They were given a real-life problem to solve – goats escaping from their pens. Students designed what the pen should look like on paper, then built 3D prototypes using PCV piping, dry fit connectors and orange construction netting. A GoPro camera was placed on a baby goat so that students could see what it was like to be one inside one of the pens, and how the goat’s actions may affect the structure’s design. Ultimately the structure could hold the baby goals for a maximum of 72 hours before they were able to escape. This sparked more ideas and discussion for improvement of the design, even though time did not permit them to keep going.

EVALUATION: It is apparent that even young children are capable of designing things for the purpose of problem-solving.  Being taken through the process of drawing a design of the goat pen, to creating a prototype, and even being able to see from the perspective of a goat what it was like trying to escape from the pen was very empowering.  They were critical thinkers, problem-solvers, innovators, experimenters of design.  The process of inquiry and design allows students to be active thinkers, learners, and doers.  Learning experiences are not hypothetical, or contrived. They are real, meaningful, and powerful.

Creative Constraints, Passion Projects, and those “Bird Reports”

James, Colleen
ID-Creative Thinking & Critical Thinking
Resource Citation:  Williams, C. (2017, October 16). Creative constraints, passion projects, and those “bird reports” [blog post]. Retrieved from

In the article Creative Constraints, Passion Projects, and those “Bird Reports”, teacher librarian Connie Williams provides teachers and librarians with some practical ideas on how to bring inquiry and design thinking into the classroom by allowing students to explore but providing some creative constraints that keep students from floundering.  Williams details her experience going through a simulated design process in which certain limits were imposed to help keep participants focused. When taking part in the inquiry process, useful questions include “Why?”, “How?”, and “What if?”. Although it seems counterintuitive to provide students with constraints, these should not be seen as limiting but instead require students to consider alternate possibilities and in the real world, problem solvers regularly must work with limitations.  In wrapping up the article, Williams provides three great suggestions/exercises for providing students with constraints that cause them to think in creative and innovative ways.

We have spent a great deal of time this term discussing how to make the change from “bird units” to lessons that are inquiry and design based and encourage deep learning and understanding.  As a teacher, it is sometimes difficult to know how to go about planning these learning experiences so that they are authentic but also provide students with some form of structure. Williams suggestions of creativity with constraints is a practical way teachers can go about structuring inquiry and design thinking activities so that students don’t become overwhelmed by the range of possibilities.  As the students, and the teacher, become more comfortable with the process, then I think it is easier to slowly remove constraints and give students more freedom to explore possibilities because they have had some scaffolding in how to go about exploring, designing, and creating.

Bring on the Learning Revolution!

James, Colleen
ID-Creative Thinking
Resource citation:  TED. (2010, February). Bring on the learning revolution . Retrieved from

In this TED talk, Bring on the Learning Revolution!, Sir Ken Robinson discusses the role of education in distancing people from their talents and simply reforming the education system is not enough to make change.  Instead, Robinson believes that rather than attempting to fix a broken system through reform what we need is an education revolution in which the entire system is transformed. Making this kind of change requires us to let go of our tightly held beliefs that we must do things a certain way simply because this is how they have always been done.  Robinson notes that innovation is difficult and often uncomfortable because it forces us out of our comfort zone, but innovation is what is needed. We are living in a society that supports the concept of “linearity” where we hold onto the idea that if we follow a designated path and do all of the right things, we will be successful. Robinson observes that this path typically points young people toward college, however, this one size fits all plan simply isn’t right for everyone and discourages exploration.  He likens our education system to the standardized model used in fast food where nothing is customized. In trying to educate a population of diverse learners with varying talents and interests, standardized systems aren’t the best way for students to learn. How, then, should the education system be structured to better meet the needs of today’s learners? Robinson suggests that transitioning our education system from an industrial model with one-size fits all mentality to an agricultural model in which learning takes place organically might be the answer.

Having taught in both public and private schools in which the importance of getting through the material often took precedence over providing personalized education, I find myself agreeing with Robinson; providing students with enriching opportunities to grow and develop their talents should be the focus of education.  The challenge today’s educators are presented with is how to make this happen.  There are schools that are successfully combining academic learning with the pursuit of student passions in which design thinking principles are being used to deepen students’ curiosity and ingenuity.  A shift in thinking is absolutely necessary for this to happen; as Robinson says, it will take more than reform but I think our students are worth the investment.

Sir Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Kira Koop

IL – Creativity

Robinson, K. (February 2006). Ken robinson: Do schools kill creativity? [Video] TED2006.
(but also here:

Sir Ken Robinson delivered this TEDtalk more than ten years ago, and in it, he very cleverly mixes story and ideas to illustrate his points and connect to his audience. He addresses the notions of creativity, of failing, of the hierarchy within schools of subjects and values, as well as multiple intelligences.

I quite enjoyed this talk, in part because it’s always immensely satisfying to listen to English accents, but the content was also very interesting. I personally disagree with his emphasis on “originality” – after all, the quotation “good artists borrow, great artists steal” – Picasso, probably – is generally understood to mean that most creative content references other ideas – but he did say one thing that has resonated with me specifically: to be creative, you must be prepared to be wrong, to fail.

I was thinking about this within the context of my fine art background through high school, before my BFA. My high school art teacher built “idea pages” into his assignments for us. We weren’t allowed to start a project until we had shown that we had sat down to think about and work through the process, come up with three separate plans (complete with symbolism, colour theory, media, and style) and chosen the one that worked best. It was still a high school class, and grades were still very much the method of receiving feedback, which meant that “failing” was tied into assessment, rather than the thing you created, but this process allowed us to figure out a few failures (to communicate? to create? to idealize?) before we even started. Furthermore, it removed the fear from the process: if you didn’t show through your idea page that you had grappled with failure as part of the creative process, you didn’t do it right, and you wouldn’t receive the marks for it.  

Nevertheless, his talk goes far beyond this one idea, and I hope you enjoy it.

The SAMR Model as a Framework for Evaluating mLearning.

Frey, Jennifer


Romrell, D., Kidder, L. C., & Wood, E. (2014). The SAMR Model as a Framework for Evaluating              mLearning. Journal Of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 18(2), 79-93.


This article uses the SAMR model as a framework for learning via a mobile device. It states that substitution is made without functional change, Augmentation is made with functional improvements, Modification occurs since learning activities are redesigned and redefinition occurs since it allows for the creation of tasks that could not have been done without this technology. The SAMR model can be used to assist with decisions regarding how to use mobile devices in education.


I initially read this article because I had never heard of mLearning and wanted to know what it was. This article not only defined it but gave a great example of how one of the learning models is used to help educators. I liked this article since it went into depth about the use of mobile devices and how the SAMR model relates.

Teaching Students to Learn and to Work Well with 21st Century Skills: Unpacking the Career and Life Skills Domain of the New Learning Paradigm

Horton, Melissa


Kivunjal, C. (2015). Teaching students to learn and to work well with 21st century skills: unpacking the career and life skills domain of the new learning paradigm. International Journal of Higher Education, 4 (1), 1­-11.

This research article gives an in-depth overview and analysis of the Career and Life Skills domain which helps make up the framework by Partnership for Teaching 21st Century Skills (P21).  The author explains which skills fall under the CLS strand and offers ideas on how to teach students to work effectively and cooperatively in the real world.  The article focuses on the need for educators to go beyond simply teaching content because there is greater competition than ever for higher education and career positions that require self-directed, independent and flexible young adults who are equipped to thrive in any environment.
This author really delves into the rationale behind the Career and Life Skills set from P21 and breaks down each strand and expands on each skill.  The conclusion summed it up best with the explanation that although these skills are not new, they have never been integrated directly into the curriculum at most schools.  However, that is quickly changing.

It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens

Posted by Karen Kotchka


Boyd, Danah. (2014) It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. Yale University Press: New Haven, CT.


This full-length book is a well-written study that compiles and analyzes the results of on-the-ground research into how teenagers use social media.  It talks about the reasons and the ways that teens communicate and the platforms they use as well as addressing some of the dangers and problems that are real or that adults think are a problem with teens and social media.  Boyd also addresses the importance of digital literacy and how some teens are device savvy without being necessarily able to critically examine what is being put out there.


I thought this book was an excellent resource for any adult working with teenagers today.  It contained origianl thought as well as honest research and would be helpful to gain insight into how social media can be understood and exploited for learning.

Information Literacy and Twenty-First Century Skills

Reece, Madison


Robin, B. R. (2008). Digital storytelling: A powerful technology tool for the 21st century classroom. Theory into Practice, 47(3), 220-228. doi: 10.1080/00405840802153916

Robin (2008) defines information literacy as “the ability to find, evaluate, and synthesize information” (p. 224). Information literacy requires a specific set of abilities to effectively locate, evaluate, and utilize information. The author addresses digital storytelling and it’s place in the world of twenty-first century technologies. 

The author provides an interesting perspective on twenty-first century skills and information literacy. Twenty-first century skills can be obtained when students learn to conduct research on their own, ask critical questions, think critically, and organize ideas in meaningful ways. Librarians and educators should exhibit strong leadership in the fields of technology in order to provide meaningful learning experiences for students. 

A Collaborative Approach to Implementing 21st Century Skills In A High School Senior Research Class

Bullard, Sherrie

O’Sullivan, M. K., & Dallas, K. B. (2010). A Collaborative approach to implementing 21st Century skills in a High school senior research class. Education Libraries, 33(1), 3-9.

In this article the authors discuss that businesses and higher education leaders are looking for students with the ability to evaluate and analyze information and to use this information to solve real-world problems. These are the information literacy skills students need for the 21st century. However, several recent studies on the ability of college freshmen to handle the rigor of college courses and research indicate that high school students are not being adequately prepared to apply these skills. The authors provide a case study of a collaborative effort between an English teacher and the high school librarian to better prepare high school seniors on how to locate reliable information, analyze the information and then determine how it can be applied to solving a real world issue or problem.
This article focuses on how a high school research paper class, as an example, can be designed and structured to give high school seniors an opportunity to experience what college level research and writing involves.
High school students need to be taught these sophisticated “higher-order” skills, such as the ability to locate and analyze complex information in order to solve real world problems.


This class is not just about writing a longer research paper (10 to 15 pages). The intent of this class is to introduce high school seniors to what it is like to search a subject in depth, to formulate research questions and develop curiosities that go beyond the basic facts of a topic. By breaking the research paper process into a series of steps with individual, specific due dates, the teacher has been able to stress the importance of time management and developing effective work habits. These skill, in addition to the research skills involved, are critical for seniors as they prepare to make the transition to college. They also use the teacher librarian to help teach these skills. It’s like they took a “Bird Unit” and turned it into a “Big Think”!