Professor, Department of Management
University Distinguished Teaching Scholar
Kansas State University
Teaching is the process of encouraging our students to become engaged, lifelong learners. Whew, that sounds like a statement from the first paragraph in an academic’s teaching philosophy statement. And, in fact, it is! So from a practical perspective, how does a teacher operationalize this process?
In my own practice, I attempt to encourage students to become engaged in their current class material and then carry new knowledge and tools beyond the classroom as the first step in lifelong learning. In my opinion, transforming students from consumers to creators is an important component of this process. For many classes this transformation is obvious. For instance, while learning to become a computer programmer, writing code can become a highly creative endeavor. For landscape architecture students, developing a comprehensive site plan fits the bill. In other classes, the process is less intuitive and this may require a teacher to become imaginative!
Incorporating a consumer to creator mindset is consistent with both constructivist learning theory and with trends reflected in the emerging new media environment. Added to this, the current generation of student is fortunate to have an amazing, unprecedented array of tools available. As teachers, we can gently guide them into using these tools for learning. To become a creator, students require several key elements. Among these are time, tools, inspiration, and the ability to transmit their work (McHaney, 2011, p. 45). If we stop to think about these elements for a moment, it becomes apparent a creative mindset is very possible among today’s students.
First, many tasks take less time to complete. The ability to use today’s new tools can significantly reduce the time it takes to create something. Think back for a moment to the days when papers and assignments had to be typed, corrected, and retyped on a clunky typewriter. Likewise, recall how long it used to take to find a reference article using manual bibliography searches! Time-consuming tasks have been streamlined with new technologies.
Second, consider the tools themselves. Thousands of creative development tools and techniques running on a wide range of platforms are now available. Many are low cost or free! Writing, drawing, audio and video recording, animating cartoons, storytelling, curating, e-book creating, and so many others are out there waiting to be used on PCs, Macs, or mobile devices. There is no end to the possibilities, many of which combine functionality with fun!
Third, consider inspiration. Ideas for new expression and creativity abound! Websites such as deviantArt.com provide access to top forms of artistic expression in multiple venues. These growing communities inspire, excite, and provide instruction on how to access, create, and view a nearly infinite set of material. Examples are readily available and students are able to discuss and receive feedback on their ideas, prototypes, and finished products.
Finally, the created artifacts can be digitally stored, posted on various social media and web platforms, or directly sent to someone. New connections to like-minded people can be discovered and formed. This makes it possible to share and interact in ways not possible a few years ago.
You can see some concrete examples of student’s creative responses to assignments:
- A Tongue-in-cheek look at differences between accountants and engineers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tY8M7HR_VJg)
- Student Technology Overview of Spotify (http://elatewiki.org/index.php/Spotify)
- Student Prezi Compilation of Videos (not my students but a good example) (http://prezi.com/qpa5synov6m2/history-of-social-media-v2/)
Encouraging our students to become engaged with new material within the context of their classes, and then carry created knowledge and skills using tools into the future is a practical teaching method consistent with constructivist learning. In this way, “Teaching becomes the process of encouraging our students to become engaged, lifelong learners,” and a dusty statement from a teaching philosophy is brought to life in a way that couldn’t be imagined just a few short years ago!
McHaney, R. (2011). The new digital shoreline: How web 2.0 and millennials are revolutionizing higher education. Stylus Publishing, LLC.