Day-dreaming is discouraged in most classrooms. If a student focuses on anything except the assignment or the teacher, it is a problem that needs to be fixed. Enter discipline. Exit imagination. There was, traditionally, a peripheral home for imagination in our schools in the ancillary arts instruction that has now fallen to the budget axe in so many schools. How can educators teach imagination and nurture innovators?
In recent times, there has been a shift towards the increased acceptance of valuing creativity for all learners. The current school systems suppress creativity and leave little room for divergent thinking.
Imagination needs fuel, and the best fuel comes from bridging between apparently diverse or unrelated ideas, skill-sets, or objects. In fact, most inventions are innovative combinations. To make such innovations, the inventor must know about more than one domain. In fact, it is believed that all leading innovators share one interesting characteristic: they gained, early in life, a fair amount of mastery in at least two separate domains or fields. This dual focus gave them rich opportunities for creative combinations and fueled them to imagine outside of the two boxes in which they were trained. We need to stimulate imagination by encouraging students to master, say, an instrument plus a science, or any other such combination of skills.
How Can Teachers Nurture Innovators?
So, here’s the deal innovative students are everywhere, but they often get trapped in uninspiring learning environments. It is, however, important that classrooms into innovation factories! How do we do that? A few ideas.
1) Encourage kids to be inquisitive and curious to continually try to discover the “why” or “how” behind things.
2) Let kids follow their passions and interests. Embrace their “off the wall” ideas and solutions for problems. Encourage them to connect the dots in new ways.
3) Provide open-ended time. Students need unstructured time to reflect and imagine new possibilities and to let their ideas incubate.
4) Create environments where it’s okay to take risks. Allow plenty of trial and error. Kids need time to discover, to explore, to experiment, to learn from failure, and to adjust and realign their ideas.
5) Encourage kids to actively seek input from others. Promote collaborative teamwork as a way to discover, improve, and change.
Ensuring the necessary accessibility and flexibility can be a challenge for both teachers and schools due to current models of resources, timetables, curriculum, and assessment requirements, which can inhibit learners’ engagement with creative processes and lead to a superficial or fragmented focus on the product. Innovativeness of different pedagogical practices only emerges when teachers use ICT in their efforts to organize newer and improved forms of open-ended, collaborative, and extended learning activities, rather than simply to enhance traditional pedagogies, such as expository lessons and task-based learning.
Think Project-Based Learning (PBL). Think STEM
Imagine that your school, or classroom, is alive with project-based learning (PBL). It features real-life challenges, collaborative spaces, plentiful light, and access to digital and physical resources. This well-research inquiry-based approach to learning allows your students actually exploring real-world challenges and interests that matter to them. To help kids overcome bumps in the road when they are working to solve problems, STEM teachers generally use an engineering design process a set of structured strategies that guide kids through the steps of gathering information, generating possible solutions, refining their ideas, testing solutions, and analyzing and improving results.