Technology & Education | Spotlight

Permission To Innovate: Reigniting the Passion To Teach

“Creativity!” According to teacher and education consultant Rushton Hurley, creativity, coupled with an intense passion for the classroom, has gone missing among many of the teachers he encounters throughout the year. “You’ve got students who desperately need you to be creative,” he said, but — for whatever reason — we have been disconnected with that piece of ourselves; the piece “that brought us into the classroom in the first place.”

“There is a need to get in touch with who we really are down deep,” said Hurley, addressing an audience of educators at the FETC 2014 conference in Orlando in January. Hurley is founder and executive director of Next Vista for Learning. “I do believe that we can reconnect to those passions, and I believe we can do it through all kinds of opportunities technology gives us because it offers us the chance to explore.” After all, he added, “we don’t spend nearly enough time on the pedagogical value of ‘cool’ and ‘fun.’”

To illustrate his point, Hurley shared a list of “fun and cool” technology tools that can help reignite the creative spark.

“We know kids can be intimidated by what they read,” Hurley said. There is a new tool called Newsela that provides students multiple lexile levels for each article on the site, allowing them to build confidence as they read.

Google Docs
“Why do kids do poorly in school?” Hurley asked. “One reason is they take really bad notes! Why? Why would they know how to take good notes if they’ve never been taught.”

“[Google Docs] isn’t new,” Hurley admitted, but I am always finding new ways to use it. “One way,” he went on, “is to give all your students access to a document for class notes and then assign a primary and secondary note taker.” The primary takes the lead for the class and the secondary cleans up behind them. Then, at the end of the lecture, the entire class reviews the notes together. “That way,” he said, “everyone’s learning how to take notes” while they’re actually taking them.
“This is really cool,” said Hurley. Photopin allows you to find high-quality Creative Commons licensed images that you can use in presentations, lectures and class projects.
“Once you’ve taken your images from Photopin,” he said, “Narrable allows you to record a narration for each individual picture. The Web-based tool also lets you to send audio to the platform in multiple ways including a computer’s built-in mic, an uploaded audio file and even phone.

According to Hurley, “[These] technologies are exciting because they allow us to do things more easily than we’ve been able to do them in the past,” which is great for student engagement. Because, he added, ”kids actually like school.” When kids say school’s boring, he insisted, they are unwittingly using the wrong word to describe what they really mean. “When they say they find school ‘boring,’ what they mean is ‘predictable.’”

For Hurley, being creative and taking risks is the most effective way to combat that predictability. Sure, Hurley admitted, it takes time and most certainly involves effort. And I know what you’re going to say next: “It’s just ‘one more thing I have to do,’ and ‘I don’t have time.’ … Time for what?” he asked. “Time to be creative, time to have kids build their confidence and find meaning? Time to increase the quality of their work?” Hurley paused. “What you really mean is that you don’t have time to [do these things] given the way you teach now.”

“We all have ideas for classes, “ he said, “and so often we’re like, ‘Yeah, that’s a lot of work,’ but the message is that we really can do great things, even with all the rules that are inflicted upon us.” When we make the time to implement new things and to explore our own creativity, “we are more effective; the kids learn more; and it’s more fun for us.”

According to Rushton Hurley, it’s a great time to be a teacher. “As we end,” he said, “I want to leave you with some ideas:”

  • It’s okay to explore; the students need our creativity.
  • It’s okay not to ask for the right answer; you may end up with great answers.
  • It’s okay to get feedback; that’s how we get better.
  • It’s okay to succeed and to fail and to talk about it because that’s what professionals do with each other.
  • It’s okay to talk about how you see the world because in doing so you are much more likely to touch someone‘s heart.
  • It’s okay to envision what’s possible and to hope for the future.

“And as for me,” said Hurley, “I hope you dance.”

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