Enhancing the Creative Process in Young Children with iPad

Recently, I was chatting with a colleague who teaches first grade. She indicated some of her students are reluctant to tap into their creative sides for fear of “not doing it right”.  Too often, school can “teach” the creativity right out of our students by either consciously or unconsciously reinforcing the need to be “right”. I’m sure you’ve heard your students say, “I don’t like to draw” or even, “I can’t draw”.  Often the root of this is the fear of not doing it correctly or the lack of opportunities to explore and try new things.

In an Edutopia interview titled Mo Willems on the Lost Art of Being Silly, the idea of helping children explore their own imaginative creativity is discussed.  Mo Willems shares he intentionally designs his characters so that children can easily copy them. This gives the child a sense of accomplishment and a starting point for exploring creativity. Taking a well-known character and creating a new scenario for the character  can be a “stepping stone” for the child. I do believe in nurturing children’s creative selves and encouraging them to create original works; however, some children need guidance and support to jumpstart their imaginations. When we tell a child not to “copy” the example, we can inadvertently stimulate that “fear of being wrong” mindset.

Research from the Big Ideas, Little Learners: Early Childhood Trends report showed that “99% of kindergarteners score as creative geniuses, while only 3% of people remain in that category by age 25…Torrance Creativity Scores decrease the most among kids in kindergarten to third grade” (2019, p 20). This was an eye-opening statistic for me.

So, taking the idea from the Edutopia interview, I sat with a class and had them tell me their favorite book characters. We then talked about ways these characters could engage in something either similar or quite different from the books they were in. We created an anchor chart and then the students used the iPad to sketch out an idea. Here are a few examples. Pete the Cat had a new adventure playing soccer and when he didn’t score a goal, did Pete cry? Goodness no! Naughty David finally did something that his teacher approved of and read a book; and lastly, the Pigeon gets a taco and didn’t want to share it. Next steps could involve the children using Book Creator to create their own short story with these characters, using Flipgrid or Explain Everything to tell about their stories, creating a Clips video using their drawings, or using GarageBand to add sound effects and/or voice over. This activity can also stand alone if desired. The idea is to get children to brainstorm and extend their ideas to ignite their creativity. (Just like I got the idea to have the children use familiar characters to innovate an idea…even adults need a jumpstart once in a while.)

Early Childhood educators are masters at creativity. I would love to see how some of you are innovating content and stimulating creativity in your classroom! If you need a resource, try the Everyone Can Create Teacher Guide for Early Learners. It provides sequenced activities for young children to practice, and learn new ways to creatively demonstrate learning on the iPad. As I wrote the activities for this guide, I used actual activities from my own days in the kindergarten classroom.

I’d love to hear your ideas!

Pete the Cat is the creation of Eric Litwin
No David is the creation of David Shannon
The Pigeon books are the creation of Mo Willems


A Balancing Act

Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.- Mitchell Kapor

I’ve just returned from 2 weeks of vacation.  While away, I experienced 2 extremes of technology.  Part of my vacation was on beautiful Lake Champlain in Vermont.  Verdant pastures, mountains and cooler temperatures certainly made it a welcome change from the 100 plus degrees and oppressive humidity of Charleston.  With the beauty of this place, came absolutely no Verizon coverage.  No phone and very spotty wireless internet made it sometimes frustrating for my embarrassing need to connect.  After the first day of trying, I just turned my iPhone off and put it away.  The Vermonters like it that way I’m told…

In contrast, we spent a long layover in New York’s La Guardia airport.  Delta has recently installed 2,500 Ipads in the very small D terminal. Booths and bars were set up all over the terminal replacing the regular seats at the airline gates.  Ipads were everywhere.  Free to use.  Well, free limited use that is.  Certain apps were available for free. A convenient credit card swipe device was attached to each iPad if you wanted to go beyond the free apps.  I sat and watched as kids ran immediately to the devices and navigated their way easily to the games apps.  The adults were a little more apprehensive. A few even admonishing their children to “be careful” as they touched the iPads.  Many of the kids had never used one before based on the conversations going on around me.  The kids were engaged and busy and quiet. That was a welcome change from most airport experiences I’ve had lately.

So what’s the take away here?  I think it’s a good reminder of balance.  Being “off the grid” in Vermont was a little unsettling for me for the first 24 hours but it forced me to do other things.  In some ways, it was very freeing.  I couldn’t check email or voicemail or Facebook or text messages so I didn’t think about it.  The airport was as far removed from the quiet, pastoral lake setting as east is from west.  Everyone was connecting in some way with electronic devices, adults and kids alike.  Debate continues in my city about the need and value of iPads in the classroom.  Most are concerned about the financial commitment but many are concerned that students won’t experience hands on learning and interactivity with others if iPads are used.  Balance is the answer.  I’ve stated before that my kindergarten students still play in centers with blocks, paint, puzzles, games and even dress up.  We also use iPads as a tool for enhancing our learning in all subjects.  Any technology has the potential to be used inappropriately by teachers and by students.  It requires careful planning and teacher facilitation to be successful.

As I am wallowing in summer vacation and seldom know what day it is, my recent trip was a good reminder that we all need to unplug, go off the grid, and do other things from time to time.  School starts back for me in 5 weeks.  I think I will be like Scarlett O’Hara and “think about that tomorrow.”

How do you create balance in your fast-paced life?

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