“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” ~Albert Einstein
Recently I wrote about how a good History education should offer students the opportunity to find their “voice”. I want students to be empowered to make their own conclusions about what they study. I want them to be able to reflect on course material and explain what they’ve learned in ways that make sense to them. In my experience, when students are given the chance to show the world what they know in ways they choose, engagement and learning skyrocket.
In addition to letting students design their own work products, one of my goals this year for my Modern World History students has been to push them to be more creative. Most of my students have spent their whole academic lives in very traditional “high-achievement” classes where there is a great deal of content coverage via lectures followed by high-stakes exams. They are all too well prepared to take what they’re told, organize and memorize, and give it back on tests. Of course, they’ve also had some excellent Fine Arts courses where they have been able to express themselves with fewer constraints. But their core academic courses and the Arts are rarely brought together, and the students have come to see them as wholly separate endeavors, and as the saying goes, ne’er the two should mix. I disagree. I want to show students that creativity, as Einstein said, is at least as important than knowledge.
Recently I gave my students 90 minutes to explore a new online video creation tool called Animoto. Animoto automatically produces beautifully orchestrated, completely unique video pieces from photos, video clips and music. As the website says, it is “Fast, free and shockingly easy.” Without any preparation, I told them they’d have an hour and a half (a double class period) to use Animoto to create a piece of art that expresses their opinion about the consequences of the Industrial Revolution. Here’s one of the videos they created:
For this video, Sarah and Rachel chose the images and the music, and were able to use Animoto to mix all of it together many different ways until they found a version they liked. The assignment also required that they write a short blurb introducing the piece as if it were showing in a museum. In this way they were able to both reflect on what they had created and on what they had learned about the social consequences of the Industrial Revolution. Though not the only assessment I’ll use for this unit, I’m convinced that these girls can answer the Essential Question that is focusing our study.
I have created a page on my public Google Site with other videos from our class, which you can see here. My students and I would love if you would comment on their videos.
Animoto may be a great tool for you to use with your students to kick-start some creativity. Animoto offers an Education account for teachers that allows for the creation of class accounts with multiple users, and includes a few premium features you may find useful. I encourage you to try it! I think you’ll find that setting your students free to find their voice will both engage them and help them learn.
Click on the image for more information about Animoto for Education: