Last year, while teaching students profiled in my Ask a Student series, I was frustrated with the lack of quality work being put forward. Not necessarily by those I’ve interviewed for this blog… but students in general. I didn’t know what I could do to encourage my students to focus on their coursework – it certainly wasn’t another Snapchat lecture (though my “I’m about to Snap!” chats were fantastic). No – I was looking everywhere I could for work engagement lessons – when I stumbled upon this video which George Couros tweeted out – and it was exactly what I was looking for:

This is a quick activity, a visual way of demonstrating the quality of last-minute, weak work as compared with the work that my students are capable of submitting. Students are given a blank page with the beginnings of a clock printed out. They’re told that they have ten seconds to complete the drawing… most do… and most do according to expectations. Then, students are given the same template and asked to work on the picture for ten minutes – the only rule is that they can’t stop adding content.

What happens is that this extra time allows amazing creative expression and differentiation. Rushed work may get the job done, but it doesn’t do the job well.

When work is done “just to get it done” – it’s boring, weak, and not indicative of the student’s potential. I grade it as such. When work is done with effort and energy – it’s authentic, consistent, and indicative of a student’s potential. I grade it as such.

So, all 85 of my grade 8 students did this activity last year – and it was awesome – they “got it.” I could say “is this your ten minute work?” and they had the picture of this activity fresh in their minds. I would beg my students to leave the ten second work at home… “if you’re going to submit that, don’t submit it at all – it tells me nothing.” And a number of students took this activity to heart. Not all… but enough.

And this year – 25 of my grades 5 and 6 students did the same activity (some of their work is shown in the image above this post). It has worked just as well.

So what’s the message here in relation to creativity in education?

I think the message is two-fold:
1. Students need time in class to really understand and explore ideas and topics for their learning to go beneath the surface.
2. When completing work, we can’t rush through something “just to get it done.” Instead, everyone needs to take their time – really make sure that the homework, essay, blog post, lesson plan, etc is indicative of our best work.

Screenshot 2017-03-14 22.38.13A special thanks to George, whom I tweeted while writing this blog post… and he answered in two minutes with the source video above.

His book, The Innovator’s Mindset looks at what is required of ourselves in order to meet the needs of our students and communities. Schools need to change – but how do we disrupt tradition to gain the best results? Each chapter concludes with interested discussion questions for your professional learning community needs.