="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" viewBox="0 0 512 512">

7 Chapter 5 Supporting Student Creativity


It is curious how often people assume that creativity is relegated to subjects such as art and drama and overlook its importance in areas such as science, math, and social studies. People often ignore the fact that creative thinkers have established essential breakthroughs in knowledge in all areas—although their ideas may have been considered crazy at first. Of course, K–12 students are not expected to discover a new virus or found a new school of art, but they should be able to think creatively and to understand why it is important to do so. Naturally, the standards for the fine arts mention creativity very clearly and often. In English students are also expected to create texts of different kinds. But how can math be creative? As explained in this chapter, creativity can be characterized as involving the ability to think

Flexibly, or able to use many points of view

Fluently, or able to generate many ideas

Originally, or able to generate new ideas

Elaboratively, or able to add details (Guilford, 1986; Torrance, 1974)

These abilities come into play in many ways in the subject areas. In math, for example, students are expected to work flexibly with different types of numbers to solve problems, and even PE/Health standards require that physical education support student self- expression. In this age of high-stakes testing, creativity is often seen as a curricular “extra,” but there are many compelling reasons, noted throughout this chapter, why it should be central. Clearly, thinking creatively is an important goal for teachers and students.



Employing a learning focus to support creativity means that before decisions are made about technology use, the whys and hows of creativity are understood.


What Is Creativity?

There are many definitions of creativity. Which one is relevant depends on whether you are looking at the process, the outcome, or the goal, and which cultural and philosophic views you are taking. Generally, creativity can be defined as the creation of original ideas, processes, experiences, or objects. For example, inventions such as the computer and the printing press and paintings such as the Mona Lisa are creative endeavors. Creativity can also be described as the ability to see ordinary things differently. An often-cited example of this kind of creative thinking is the creation of Velcro, which arose from the observation of cockleburs clinging to clothes. The inventor, George deMestral, clearly was able to see a common item in a different and original way and was able to generate a clear, detailed idea that resulted in his million-dollar product. The developers of the iPod, the cell phone, and the YouTube Web site all employed creative thinking in the creation of their products.

Creativity, or creative thinking differs from critical thinking (chapter 4) in that critical thinking involves the evaluation of whatever is created through the creative thinking process. In real life it is often difficult to separate creative thinking from critical thinking because they are closely related. For example, Rusbult (n.d.) suggests that putting a creative idea into practice without first evaluating it (i.e., thinking critically about it) could result in new problems, and therefore these two processes must go hand in hand. However, it is clear that critical and creative thinking should not happen at the exact same time for most people because criticism can create a barrier to creativity.

Research on creativity goes back a long way—the first formal study was conducted in 1869—and creativity was a topic of discussion and interest long before. In different cultures and disciplines creativity is described and investigated somewhat differently. However, many of the same findings hold true. Paul Torrance, considered a pioneer in creativity research, in his seminal book on creativity (published in 1962) noted as most important that stifling creativity (as many school curricula do) is dangerous both to the mental health and the educational and vocational achievement of children. Other researchers have found that teachers do tend to stifle creativity and focus more on solving close-ended problems that have only one correct answer. However, researchers believe that when teacher involvement in creativity is high (e.g., when they encourage students to see themselves as creative), the creative achievement of students will also be greater (Shepard & Runco, 2016). Research also shows that when appropriate creativity-enhancing processes are valued and supported by a “mentor,” the results are markedly greater. This process can be supported beneficially by technology in ways outlined later in this chapter.

Fasko (2000–2001) reports the following findings in his review of the creativity research that teachers might consider:

Some students are assimilators, or those who prefer to use known understandings to solve problems, and others are explorers, who like to find new solutions. A match between cognitive type and task leads to good problem solving. The variety of resources that the Internet provides can help teachers to create different types of tasks for different types of learners.

Students find tasks more meaningful and so are more motivated when they choose their own tasks. This also applies to the products or outcomes of the tasks. For example, the teacher can provide a variety of WebQuests on the same topic from the WebQuest matrix at webquest.org and allow students to choose their specific topic, task, and creative outcome.

A focus on problem finding, or being able to discern what a real problem is, is as important as one on creative problem-solving. Technology can support problem finding in many ways, including by being used as a resource for world news and views, as an instrument to record survey information, or as a communication tool for brainstorming about problems.

Research also shows that creativity skills do not always transfer from one subject to another. This is because creativity can take on different looks in different subject areas, depending on the goals and values of that discipline. Therefore, creative thinking needs to be taught across disciplinary genres. In other words, creativity is not just a set of technical skills, but rather involves feelings, beliefs, knowledge, motivations, and disciplinary understanding. In addition, a creative idea can arrive in a “Eureka!” moment or be developed over time. It can be completely innovative, or it can be an incremental, original change to something that exists.

Although most creativity researchers believe that all humans have natural creative abilities, they also note that these abilities are rarely fully developed. This could be, as Plsek (1997) noted, because people have certain patterns in their minds that help them to recognize how certain problems can be solved. For example, if a person knows that electric devices do not work unless they are plugged in, when confronted with a device that is not working the person will probably first check whether the device is, in fact, plugged in. This use of previous knowledge will work until the person confronts a situation in which plugging in the device, or seeing that the device is already plugged in but does not work, does not lead to the desired outcome. Plsek suggests that people must break free from the habits of mind that are stored in memory in order to establish new (creative) patterns Teaching creativity can help this to happen.


Characteristics of effective creativity tasks

Figure 5.1 presents characteristics of an effective creativity task. There is no specific checklist for what a creativity task should contain. More important is what the task does. It should:

Focus on content. Although creative thinking can be taught and supported through lesson content or as lesson content, effective creative tasks are based on students’ understanding of subject-area concepts. Like critical thinking and problem solving, creative thinking cannot occur without some content knowledge (Baer, 2016; Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). Therefore, a clear focus on content is the most important characteristic of effective tasks. Technology can support content learning in ways described in chapter 2, including supporting endless practice and helping students to connect ideas.

Emphasize divergent thinking. The task should encourage thinking that is out of the norm and goes in many different ways, rather than the typical convergent thinking, which emphasizes working quickly to get to the right answer and is typically used for information learning. In other words, tasks that encourage creativity are open-ended and have many possible solutions or outcomes. Four features of creativity, are often used to teach and measure divergent thinking: flexibility, fluency, originality, and elaboration. Some teachers want their students to converge and do not support divergent thinking. The result could be that students would be careful not to diverge in the future.

Incorporate creativity strategies. Although first published in 1953, the book Applied Imagination, by Alex Osborn (1963), is still one of the most useful books for understanding what creativity is, why it is important, and how it can be nurtured. Osborn’s list of more than 70 strategies to promote creative (divergent) thinking has been simplified throughout the creativity literature into eight categories. Tasks that ask students to be creative can include one or more of these strategies:

Combine. Blend two things that do not usually go together.

Try different sequences or layouts. Change parts with other things. Sort it differently.

Adapt. Look at other ways this can be used.

Reverse. Turn it upside down, inside out, front-side back. Change black to white and white to black. Choose the opposite.

Substitute. Find something else that could be a part of this or could do what this does.

Modify. Change the meaning, purpose, color, movement, sound, smell, form, or shape.

Magnify. Enlarge the size, the duration, the frequency; make smaller pieces into bigger segments.

Minimize. Decrease the size or strength; break it down into smaller pieces.

These strategies can be used individually or with each other; they form the basis of the creative thinking techniques mentioned later in this chapter.

Engage students. Student engagement is also essential for tasks in which students are expected to think creatively. Typically, teachers can facilitate student engagement by using authentic content that students understand applies to their lives. The Internet is full of authentic content posted by and for students of the same age and with similar interests as yours.

Employ informational rather than controlling feedback. Informational feedback helps students to understand how their audience understands their work and what the strengths and weaknesses of their work are so that they can continue to assess themselves. Controlling feedback, which evaluates only how well students did compared to other students or to their previous work, can be threatening and disengaging for students (Hattie & Timperley, 2007).


Student benefits from creativity

Students who can think creatively can determine alternatives, solve problems (see chapter 6 for more information on problem-solving), and avoid being what Lutus (2005) calls “lifelong idea consumers” who must consult others rather than working out problems themselves. Creative thinkers can also learn to make “original contributions to the store of human knowledge” (Lutus, 2005, p. 2) and can propose innovations that change their world. Creative students also tend to stay on task longer and therefore achieve more. In addition, creative thinkers can participate in mature risk taking, be flexible and adaptable, and read with greater engagement. Most important, students who can think creatively can have richer and more fulfilled lives.



Although the creativity literature focuses more on creative thinking strategies than on a specific process, there is some general agreement on the processes that help students become better creative thinkers. Keller-Mathers and Murdock (2002) suggest the following three-stage process for teachers to use in presenting lessons, based on Torrance’s (1962) and other approaches:

Stage 1: Warm up. The purpose is to help students get excited about the activity, access prior knowledge, and understand what to expect. This stage is based on what students already know so that they can generate ideas rather than search for knowledge upon which to base ideas. This is particularly important for ELLs and other students who will be better prepared with the appropriate vocabulary and expectations when these connections are made.

Stage 2: Deepen expectations. During this stage, teachers lead students to become more aware of the challenge that they are facing and apply skills and strategies to deal with the challenge.

Stage 3: Extend the learning. Teachers help students to connect information to their lives, to experiment, and to diverge.

During the three lesson stages, students might employ some variation of the following steps, adapted from Plsek (1997):

Clarify the focus, concept, or problem that requires new ways of thinking.

Review the facts. Student prior knowledge is activated as they lay out the problem or idea in detail.

Identify elements that could be modified. Content knowledge is called on as students apply new ideas to old.

Restate the focus by suggesting modifications. Osborn’s strategies (listed previously) are useful here, as are creativity techniques that fit the context.

Develop the idea further to meet practical constraints; this requires critical thinking skills.

Test it. Say it, create it, try it, and look at the results.

Black (1990a) provided a fun example using the idea that 1 + 1 does not always equal 2. He shows how, through the creative thinking process, students can come to understand that two insects of different genders, left alone, may come to equal many more than two; one dollop of blue paint added to one dollop of yellow will equal a new color entirely; one person’s ideas added to another person’s ideas can equal many new ideas; and one computer and one person together can equal all kinds of things. This example also demonstrates clear divergent thinking. Keller-Mathers and Murdock (2002) provide useful lessons that apply the stages of the creative thinking process. One of these lessons is reproduced in Figure 5.1.

FIGURE 5.1 Creative Thinking Process Lesson Example
Look At It Another Way Lesson

Content AND Creativity Objective

to identify and practice the key characteristics of Look At It Another Way by examining different perspectives

to promote incubation through the deliberate use of three stages and strategies.


Materials: kaleidoscopes, multiple examples of half of eight, pictures that can be viewed in more than one way (e.g., two faces/vase, old woman/young woman).


Warming Up

To get attention and heighten anticipation, have the room arranged in a different way before students come in (e.g., reverse back to front). To arouse curiosity about what is going to happen, have small kaleidoscopes out on every desk.

To provide focus and motivation, use the kaleidoscopes to encourage playfulness, and then begin a discussion about the characteristics and results of looking at things differently. Have students view the room through a kaleidoscope and describe what they see. Ask them How do things look different? What do you notice that you didn’t see before? Discuss how familiar things begin to look different through the kaleidoscope.

Continue the warming up practice by showing a picture that can be viewed in more than one way (for example, the old woman/young woman perception drawing). Ask students: What do you see? What else do you see? Who sees something different? How were you able to switch from one view to another? Was it easy or hard?


Deepening Expectations

To make the transition into deepening expectations while sustaining motivation, begin a discussion on the various responses that are common when asked What is half of eight? Then ask students to dig deeper into this question and consider answers that require a different perspective. If you were playing a game of pool, for example, half of eight might represent half of the number eight ball. If you considered fractions, you might answer 4/8th. If you examined the question from the perspectives of the months of the year, the answer might be April. Have students draw, write, or state many perspectives to answer this question. Encourage surprising angles and uncommon views. Discuss how in viewing this differently you’ve taken something that’s familiar (half of eight is four) and made it strange by considering the various ways one might answer this question.


Extending the Learning

To facilitate incubation and continued thinking, encourage students to keep their kaleidoscopes with them for the rest of the day and to take them out at least three times to look around and remind themselves to look at things differently. Ask students to stop and consider a different perspective to situations or concerns that arise throughout the day. Continue students’ thinking through a journaling activity where they observe, discuss, or reflect on looking at things differently by “making the strange familiar and making the familiar strange.”



Teachers and Creativity

The teacher’s role

Teachers may inadvertently stifle creativity in the push to complete the assigned curriculum, but there is no reason why creativity cannot be an integral part of the curriculum. As with the other instructional goals and strategies described in this text, to truly support student creativity the teacher should structure activities according to curricular goals, standards, and students’ knowledge and needs, and then provide relevant support as students work toward their own understandings.

In structuring creative activities, teachers can follow some general guidelines that apply to developing technology-supported critical and creative capacities in students of all ages. These include:

Choose real objects and experiences over workbooks and textbooks in developing under- standing whenever possible. For example, instead of a drawing of the inside of a frog, use a Web site that shows actual dissection photos, such as NetFrog (http://frog.edschool.virginia.edu//) or the Virtual Lab at http://www.mhhe.com/biosci/genbio/virtual_labs/BL_16/BL_16.html. Or, rather than using templates, used open-ended software such as a word processor for presentations, brochures, cards, and other products.

Consistently allow for students’ input into establishing the criteria for the evaluation of classroom activities, assignments, and behaviors. Let students describe the ways in which they should be evaluated, whether by computer-based test or multimedia-supported presentation.

Choose to display students’ work over commercially prepared displays. Allow students to decorate the classroom with important concepts and information presented in creative ways through the use of computer technologies.

Consistently offer and encourage students to seek alternative ways of responding to structured art activities, fulfilling learning requirements, or completing a craft, project, or assignment. Make all kinds of technologies available so that students have choices in their responses. (Adapted from Saskatchewan Education, n.d., n.p.)

Creativity tasks are great for avoiding plagiarism (described in chapter 6) because individual responses are expected to be original and there is not one “right” way to complete such a task.

In addition, teachers need to ask good questions, as they do to reach many instructional goals. For creative thinking, teachers need to ask students questions that encourage them to be flexible, to think of more ideas, to expand on their ideas, and to think “out of the box.”

Another role for teachers is to model creative thinking. To do so, teachers should:

Be open-minded, encouraging students to follow their own thinking and not simply repeat what the teacher has said.

Change their own position when the evidence warrants, being willing to admit a mistake.

Consistently provide opportunities for students to select activities and assignments from a range of appropriate choices.

Exhibit genuine interest, curiosity, and commitment to learning.

Undertake the organization and preparation required to achieve learning goals.

Seek imaginative, appropriate, and ethical solutions to problems.

Be sensitive to others’ feelings, level of knowledge, and degree of sophistication.

Show sensitivity to the physical elements that contribute to a stimulating learning environment through the physical arrangements and displays they provide or facilitate.

Allow for student participation in rule setting and decision making related to all aspects of learning, including assessment and evaluation. (Saskatchewan Education, n.d., p. 5)

Most important is that teachers learn how to teach playfully, which means working on creativity tasks right along with the students, suggesting “crazy” ideas, taking risks, using humor, and modeling their own creative thinking process. This helps all students to understand both the process and the outcomes of creativity.


Challenges for Teachers in Creating Technology-Supported Opportunities for Creativity

Teachers can be challenged by any part of the creative thinking process, whether in developing their own abilities or working with students. However, two central barriers exist. First, school is often a place where creativity is not supported, having an individual thought is not encouraged by peers, and conformity is expected. It would be difficult to teach in a classroom without any rules or norms, but there can be different ways to conform that also allow creativity to flourish. The challenge for teachers is to find these ways.

A second challenge, mentioned at the end of the previous section, is for teachers to model creativity. This includes learning and using strategies and techniques, developing and using tasks that call for creative thinking, and exhibiting enjoyment and achievement in creativity. All teachers are creative in some ways; teachers need to discover these ways and build on them. The guidelines in the next section of this chapter provide some basic suggestions for how teachers might address both challenges.



The description of the teacher’s role, task characteristics, and benefits of creative thinking presented in this chapter help teachers to understand the basics of creativity in classrooms. The following guidelines, while more practical, also present more in-depth information.


Designing Creativity Opportunities

Many classrooms are physically sterile, with commercially made visuals posted just so, rows of desks that do not move, and everything in its “correct” place. Such classrooms are often also psychologically sterile, with rules about cleanliness, orderliness, and what must get done rather than what can be done. According to Black (1990b) and to those who study brain-based learning (e.g.,NEA, 2014), positive psychological factors in the environment are some of the most important elements in encouraging creativity. Black notes that people need their environments to be fun, honest, caring, sincere, flexible, supportive, encouraging, challenging, growth-oriented, free of politics, focused on learning, open to nonsuccess, free of manipulation, and free of “backstabbing” (1990b, p. 2). Other researchers agree, noting that learners need to be in an environment where they feel free to take risks; have opportunities to play with materials, information, and ideas; and have the time and feedback they need, whether individually or in groups. The following guidelines suggest ways to deal with these issues.


Guideline #1: Create an enriched environment.

Features of the environment that can smother creativity include rewards, time pressures, over-monitoring, competition, restricted choice, and high-stakes evaluation. Environments that support creativity are those that create alternatives to these features and allow students to explore, cooperate, and pace themselves. An environment that supports creativity is also one that is rich with examples and opportunities; technology is particularly useful for providing a wide range of resources and choices. Moving desks around, taking a playful attitude, having students share their work with local and online peers, providing both quiet and group areas, and posting new ideas are some ways to enrich both the physical and psychological spaces in the classroom.

In addition, a creative environment must “feed the senses” by including visual, aural, kinesthetic, and other stimulation. Students can decorate, bring in something that smells different, play a variety of music, and use different group and physical arrangements to incite creativity. An environment that supports creativity in these ways also allows students with diverse abilities, language and cultural backgrounds, and content and language skills not only to access more easily what is happening in the classroom but perhaps also to participate more in creative tasks.


Guideline #2: Teach techniques.

During the creative thinking process, an amazing number of specific techniques can be taught and used, many of which are based on Osborn’s strategies discussed in the process section



  • Backwards Forwards Planning
  • Boundary Examination
  • Boundary Relaxation
  • BrainSketching
  • Brainstorming
  • Brainwriting
  • Browsing
  • Brutethink
  • Bug Listing
  • BulletProofing
  • Bunches of Bananas

FIGURE 5.2 Creativity Techniques Starting with “B” from mycoted.com

of this chapter. More than 200 techniques are described at www.mycoted.com/creativity/techniques/index.php (Mycoted, n.d).

Figure 5.2 presents just the “B” portion of the creativity techniques from mycoted.com. Most teachers will be familiar with brainstorming and browsing, but may be surprised to read about all of the other possible ways to teach creative thinking techniques. For example, “bug listing” is described as:

simply a list of things that bug you! It should be personal and illuminate specific areas of need. Adams recommends keeping it fluent and flexible, remembering humorous and far-out bugs as well as common ones. He suggests that if you run out of bugs in under ten minutes, you are either suffering from a perceptual or emotional block or have life unusually under control! It may well be the most specific thinking you have ever done about precisely what small details in life bother you; if properly done, your bug list should spark ideas in your mind for inventions, ideas, possible changes, etc. (http://www.mycoted.com/Bug_Listing)

If students feel comfortable sharing, they could word-process and share their lists with peers, possibly sparking ideas in their minds, too.

Brainstorming is without doubt the most important technique for encouraging creative thinking, but it has to be done correctly in order to maximize its benefits. Rules for classic brain- storming include:

Do not criticize any ideas during the brainstorming process. There will be time for this later.

Generate as many ideas as possible. Do not worry whether they are practical or possible at this point.

Do not stop to discuss the ideas—keep generating them for as long as possible.

Try to piggyback on other ideas, generating still more ideas. Do not worry if they are only incrementally different.

Since Osborn proposed it in 1963, research has shown repeatedly that the more ideas a person generates, the better the chance that one of them will be new and useful.

Fogler and LeBlanc (2005) provide a funny and useful list that shows the results of brain- storming. Some of their “suggested uses of old cars as equipment for a children’s playground” include:

Get on the roof and use the car as a slide.

Take the seats out and use them as a bed to rest between activities.

Teenagers could take the engine apart and try to put it back together.

Make a garden by planting flowers inside.

Use the tires to crawl through as an obstacle course.

Take off the doors and use as a goal for hockey. (n.p)

Guideline #3: Let students show what they can do, rather than what they cannot.

The high-stakes testing that is prevalent nationwide lets teachers know what their students cannot do; standardized tests cannot easily do more. Although tests can provide teachers with important information, they do not provide a whole picture of students’ abilities. Allowing students to produce creatively builds on student successes and helps students to understand that they can think differently and still “pass.” This idea is discussed further in the assessment section later in this chapter.

Guideline #4: Teach respect for ideas and people.

When students fear criticism or are worried about competition, they may find it difficult to take risks and to be creative. This does not mean that classroom activities always have to be cooperative or that students should be taught to always agree with others, but teachers and their students can reflect on the reasons for treating people and ideas with respect and how this can be done. Working on respect also supports the team-building skills mentioned in other chapters in this book.



Criticism can have a negative effect on creativity. Do computer tools also suppress creativity? Lutus (2005) suggests that they may when the user is “reduced to following a single behavioral pattern built into the program by its designers” (p. 3). Microsoft PowerPoint, in particular, has been criticized fairly often for allowing users to apply only pre-specified formats (however, there are also benefits of using this software).

Some educators suggest that computers are taking away creativity in music and art, just as calculators might de-skill students in math, because they take away opportunities for students to work with other tools. However, creative learners and teachers can use these tools in ways that support and inspire creativity if they understand the options that the tools afford. That tools might work against creativity—for example, by providing preset formats and inserts that students cannot change or limiting what can be included on a page—means that teachers must ensure that the tools used enable students to do what they need to and want to do. It also calls attention to the idea that students need to develop skills and then use technology, not use technology as a replacement or shortcut. Cameron (2000) explains,

in those fields where creativity is to be fostered, we must teach students that the ideas and content of their work must precede and supercede the implementation of the work. Technology helps them implement. Only their own creativity and thoughts can make their work original and worthwhile. (p. 6)

There are electronic tools that can support different strategies and parts of the creativity process. For example, videos that stretch the boundaries of what can happen can provide fodder for imagination. In addition, communication tools such as those described in chapter 3 allow students to exchange ideas and build on each other’s creativity. Productivity tools (chapter 7) allow learners to put their ideas into practice and explain them to others. Critical thinking tools (chapter 4) help students to evaluate their creative process and products. Most important for the use of technology to support creativity is that teachers and students choose the one(s) that best help them express themselves. However, teachers who are daunted by the range of tools that can support creative thinking can invest in learning about one or two tools (for example, Inspiration and a good word processor) that can facilitate a large range of ideas and products.

Of course, as Cameron notes, being creative does not require electronic technologies. However, if technology can stir creative ideas, support their expression, facilitate and/or pro- vide opportunities for creativity, and encourage the use of strategies and techniques, it can benefit the creative thinking process. The following creativity tools can be used effectively during one or more parts of the creative process. They are listed by type of tool and include a brief description of what it does followed by some possible classroom uses and specific examples.


Puzzles/Puzzle makers

Description and uses

There are many kinds of puzzles, from jigsaws to math equations, and most require creative thinking to put together or solve. Jigsaw puzzles with content arranged in specific ways can be used as a fun warm-up activity or as a visual to assess student understanding. Puzzles are useful to promote interaction during group work, and creativity is definitely required to develop puzzles for others.


Creative Java Puzzles, http://www.enchantedmind.com/

Jigsaws at http://www.shockwave.com/

Jigsaw maker or bigjig, http://www.lenagames.com/bigjig.htm

Primary Power Pack (Puzzle Power, Jigsaw Power) from Centron Software

There are also many crossword puzzle makers that encourage students to work creatively with language.


Authoring Environments

Description and uses

These tools allow users to design and create software, Web sites, documents, and other products such as book reports and projects that include sound, graphics, animation, and video. A wide variety of classroom uses is possible, from designing a classroom Web site for parents to access to developing a system for interacting with peers around the world.


PowerPoint (www.microsoft.com) or other presentation software (e.g., Powtoon, Prezi)

Free web sites at wix.com or weebly.com

Code.org and other sites that provide support for coding

There are many more tools for course, Web, multimedia, and MOO development, some of which are aimed at K–12 classrooms, and some of which require more technical skills. However, they all require creativity and allow users to determine the look and feel of their electronic environment.


Video Editing Software

Description and uses

Video editing software can allow students the freedom to create amazing products. For example, students can create their own brief videos from photos or graphics, interpret a story or poem that they have written, or edit a performance.


iMovie, bundled with the Mac operating system and also available through http://www.apple.com

MovieMaker, bundled with some of the Microsoft operating systems and available free elsewhere on the Web, www.microsoft.com

Adobe Premier Elements, http://www.adobe.com

Software is available for novice users who want to make videos for MP4 players or to post to Web logs (blogs).


Thought Exercises

Description and uses

Thought exercises are problems from any field that usually require minimal content knowledge. They can be used to show transfer of creative thinking from one domain to another, as warm-up exercises, as free-time tasks, or to apply newly learned creative thinking techniques. Students could also use them as models to build their own exercises.


Robert Black’s creativity challenges, www.cre8ng.com/CC/index.shtml

Creative & critical Thinking Activities for the Middle or High School Classroom from teachers.net Gazette: https://www.teachers.net/gazette/FEB08/critical_thinking_activities/




Collaborative Idea Databases

Description and uses

A creativity pool is a database that gathers innovative ideas. Students can search for an idea under a specific topic or they can contribute their own.

Example: The Creativity Pool, http://www.creativitypool.com/


Idea/Object Generators

Description and uses

A generator, typically, randomly generates an idea or an object in some topic area. Using a generator can help students get an idea going, figure out what questions to ask, get their mind off a problem for a while, or relate to content in some creative way.


There is a fairly comprehensive list of generators at http://generatorblog.blogspot.com/, but many of the generators are not appropriate for K–12 classrooms. Some of the more fun or interesting generators that may be used with K–12 students include:

Make-a-Flake (make your own snowflake), http://snowflakes.barkleyus.com/

What animal are you? http://www.2on.com/

The What-if inator by seventh sanctum generates all kinds of interesting and often wacky ideas, at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/generate.php?Genname=whatif

Good Idea Generator software by http://chaoticshiny.com/goodideagen.php (high school and above).

Kids can create and dress the snowman at http://www.abcya.com/snowman.htm in many ways.

Graphics/Concept Mapping

Description and uses

Graphic organizer software is useful for all the goals mentioned in this book. During the creativity process, students can use it to generate and connect ideas, design, plan, and even evaluate.


The most popular are Inspiration and Kidspiration (http://www.inspiration.com/); also useful are apps like Popplet and the web site Creatley at https://creately.com/.


Description and uses

Most computers come preloaded with some type of paint program (on your PC, look under Programs—Accessories), and other more powerful programs are available commercially. Still others can be downloaded free from the Web (search, for example, http://www.freedownloads center.com/). Students can use paint software to create original art or to reconfigure photos and other graphics files.


Microsoft Paint, bundled with the Microsoft operating system.

Tux Paint (younger kids), a free download from http://www.tuxpaint.org/

Adobe Illustrator/Adobe Photoshop (high school), http://www.adobe.com

Other software packages such as KidPix and Microsoft Word include painting and drawing tools as do most social media apps.


Story Starters/Bookmaking/Publishing Software

Description and uses

These software types allow students to create stories and books, produce pamphlets and posters, and develop cards for all occasions. Although structured in some ways, most of these software packages are content-free. They include audio, choices of graphics, and even a variety of languages, so English language learners can use them effectively, too. Students can create new holidays and cards to go with them, develop an ad campaign for a new invention, or write a book that presents history in a new way.


Any word processor

Story Starters by Scholastic makes hilarious combinations of people, places, and things for students to write about at www.scholastic.com/teachers/story-starters/.

Writing Exercises’ Random First Line Prompts at http://writingexercises.co.uk/firstlinegenerator.php.

StoryJumper is a very popular site for creating books at www.storyjumper.com

Search on the Internet for any of these types of software and there will be choices for all ages.

Brainstorming Software

Description and uses

There are many brainstorming tools that support user idea generation. Students can use them to generate story starters, gather ideas to solve problems, discover names for the class pet, or any number of other tasks.


Kidspiration/Inspiration, versatile software that can be used in many of these categories, http://www.inspiration.com

See the Educational Technology and Mobile Learning site at http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2014/03/the-best-mind-mapping-tools-and-apps.html for a list of tools.

Check the Teacher Toolbox that supplements this text for more creativity apps and web sites.

Students can use many of these tools merely by clicking, but there are also assistive tools for students who cannot type on a regular keyboard or who need graphics to understand key functions. Overlay keyboards, also known as concept keyboards, are flat input devices connected to a computer. An overlay is laid on the board to show what will happen when parts of the board are pressed (or, for students who cannot press, when they are touched lightly). Overlay keyboards can be used for foreign languages, for simple keyboard layouts, for larger keys, for graphical representations of the input, and for tactile or other assistance for students with visual impairments.

It is how the tool is used, not necessarily what it contains, that makes it a creativity tool. Students can build with Legos or make art with 3D pens as a creativity exercise. Other creativity tools are listed in the learning activities section.



Many of the learning activities described in other chapters of this book require students to think in creative ways, but they do not have a specific focus on creativity. For example, the activity in chapter 4 during which students develop an invention combines production, communication, and creativity. However, no specific creative strategies or techniques were mentioned. The activities in this section are examples of different ways to model, practice, and/or use creative thinking during technology-enhanced tasks. Each content area example includes a goal and describes a specific creative thinking strategy or technique (although others may be included) and an appropriate tool. These examples can be modified for a variety of classrooms.


Math Example: What Would Pythagoras Say?

Goal: To show flexibility in mathematical understanding.

Technique: Analogical thinking. This technique asks students to transfer an idea from one context to another. For example, in learning addition, students might make an analogy such as, “It’s like when you have a cookie and you really, really want two, and since you already have one you need to ask your mom for another one. You are adding one and one to have two cookies.”

Activity and Tool: Students come up with analogies that Pythagoras might have used to explain his theory. They then use Crazy Talk software (from reallusion) to animate Pythagoras’ photo and make him explain the analogy. This activity also can be done in most other content areas.


Vocational/Life Skills Example: Who Will You Be?

Goal: Use humor to understand college and career possibilities and to think about these options in different ways.

Technique: Rearrange/combine. Students use these strategies, described previously in the process section, to come up with innovative college programs.

Activity and Tool: Students use online college catalogs and put together courses that could lead to a degree in a profession not generally taught. For example, a job as a mermaid might require courses in oceanography, physical education (diving), botany, veterinary medicine, and organic nutrition, among others. Students can use tools such as Washington State University’s online catalog at http://catalog.wsu.edu/. They can produce pamphlets for their programs using desktop publishing software.


English Example: Everything Old Is New Again

Goal: Conceptualize a modern version of a classic novel.

Technique: Storyboarding. This technique requires students to post their ideas in text or other visuals so that they can clearly reflect on what they have said and add to the ideas.

Activity and Tool: Students study a piece of classic literature and specify its attributes (plot, characters, etc.). They use a variety of strategies while brainstorming to change/adapt the attributes and write a modern version of the story. Students can brainstorm using a text chat program (see chapter 3 for more information on chatting) or a free site like Voicethread (voicethread.com). See the list of interactive whiteboard apps at common sense education (https://www.commonsense.org/education/top-picks/top-interactive-whiteboard-apps) for additional tools.


Social Studies Example: Alternative Pasts

Goal: To understand how events interact and how history is made.

Technique: Assumption dropping. Students list the assumptions associated with the events, and then explore what happens as they delete each of these assumptions individually or in combination. They would ask, for example, what if Paul Revere couldn’t ride his horse? What if Japan hadn’t bombed Pearl Harbor?

Activity and Tool: Students must come up with a plausible series of past events that would have changed history in some way and then carry forward the historical stream to the present. As they create their alternative history, they document and compare it to the actual events using timeline software (search “timeline software for kids”).


Language Arts Example: Break the Code

Goal: Help students to understand patterns in language.

Technique: Modify. As mentioned previously, students use this strategy to change an item or idea by modifying the meaning, purpose, color, movement, sound, smell, form, or shape.

Activity and Tool: Students type a message using a word processor and then change it to a symbol font and see if others can “break” their code (adapted from James & Kerr, 1997, p. 28).


Music Example: What Is Music?

Goal: Demonstrate understanding of characteristics of musical genres by creating a parody. Technique: Exploratory browsing. Students look through a series or collection of ideas or things looking for inspiration.

Activity and Tool: Students search one of the many online lyric databases (e.g., A-Z Lyrics Universe [azlyrics.com] or SoundTrack Lyrics [stlyrics.com]) to analyze songs from one or more musical genres. They define the attributes of that genre and then create their own parody using a popular song from the chosen genre. Different kinds of song parodies can be found in many places on the Web, including http://www.amiright.com/ and many YouTube channels Students must be aware, however, that parodies are satire, not fact.


Science Example: Home Sweet Home

Goal: Recognize the contributions to physical, social, and cultural environments made by residential buildings and work to enhance beneficial aspects.

Technique: Attribute listing. This technique requires students to identify the key features of something and then think of modifications.

Activity and Tool: Students create an ideal community based on balancing the needs of the environment with residents’ social and cultural needs. They can use any of the many town-building apps available or the old standard, SimCity (Maxis; http://www.maxis.com) to demonstrate their plans. The SimCity simulation will also provide feedback on whether the plan is viable or not.


Physical Education Example: Let’s Pretend

Goal: To invent a new game.

Technique: Random input. Among a list of words, choose one randomly and try to use it.

Activity and Tool: Students write random words on index cards and mix them into a pile. Stu- dents take one (or more) card(s) from the pile and use the word(s) as a basis for developing

a new game. They must lay out the rules in a word processor clearly enough so that other students can actually play the game. Students try it, then the creators revise it and submit it to an online forum for others to try.


There is really no end to the ways that creative thinking can be supported in classrooms and in the ways that technology can support and enhance creativity.



More than 200 standardized instruments exist that measure creativity, but most are not useful for everyday assessment. This is because they often need to be evaluated by experts, there is some cost attached, and they can require expertise to administer. However, there are ways for teachers to assess creativity. Most of the literature on assessing creativity suggests three types of assessment: (1) tests of knowledge and skills, (2) performance assessments to evaluate the process, and (3) personal communication and observation to understand both process and product.

First, because content knowledge is essential for creativity, assessing students’ knowledge base is crucial for understanding why and how they use creative thinking skills. Content assessments are discussed in chapter 2.

Second, in order to use performance assessments that are authentic tasks, clear assessment criteria are necessary. Guilford (1986) and Torrance (1974) propose as criteria the four aspects of divergent thinking mentioned several times in this chapter:

Fluency (number of ideas)

Flexibility (variety of ideas)

Originality (new or unusual ideas)

Elaboration (adding detail to ideas)

Quantity can also be an elements of creativity assessment since the generation of a lot of ideas is ideal. These aspects of creativity can form the basis of a rating scale. Teachers can, for example, provide a rubric that asks students to generate a certain number of ideas, explain how they came to their ideas, and provide a rationale for their final choices. Students can respond in reflective journals.

Checklists, in which teachers or students check off criteria when they are met, can also help students to move through the process. Students can self-evaluate according to their performance on the checklist items.

Miller (2013) notes that, although teachers may not think so, creativity can be assessed. Teachers can use observation and data records to determine what is creative for each child. Personal communication between students can also be valuable for assessment and for creativity; students who assess another’s creative process and product may benefit from looking at the ideas of their peers. Electronic portfolios, discussed in chapter 8, may also be an effective way of assessing creativity because they allow students to store and reflect on a variety of artifacts and show progress and change over time.

However, teachers choose to assess creativity and creative tasks, the assessment needs to take place across disciplines to account for the disciplinary bases of creativity that may not transfer across subject areas.



Technology and Assessment

I also can see the benefit of using the computer to support assessment, as well as to prepare it. Performing assessment is a bit troublesome for me as well. I think that for certain things, such as the state driver’s license exam, the computer tests are probably a lot more efficient because they get so many more people tested in the same amount of time, with little preparation for the people administering the test . . . I do question the ability of the computer to accurately assess or measure, as it can only do what it is programmed to do. Students and kids are way more creative and spontaneous than any software program! Also, we have to ask the question if using the computer to perform the assessment would be an authentic measurement. Was instruction and content similar to the form of the assessment? I’m also concerned that some teachers might use computers to perform assessments without taking into consideration the importance to adapt or accommodate the diverse needs of their students. Perhaps some students are ELLs, or others have a learning disability. How will the computer treat them? (Jennie, first-grade teacher).

The use of the computer as an assessment tool has revealed many limitations so far. But the major benefit of a computer assessment tool might be that it can provide students expanded opportunities to represent their abilities. For example, students can freely express their abilities by using audio/video tools if they are well trained in the use of technology. In addition, once a certain assessment tool is made, it can be semi-permanently used. And the performance information of students can be easily stored. (Keun, teacher educator).



Key Points

Define creativity.

This chapter defined creativity as the creation of original ideas, processes, experiences, or objects, or the ability to see ordinary things differently. However, these are relatively simplistic explanations of a complex phenomenon. Researchers are just beginning to understand the biological, social, cultural, and environmental foundations of creativity.

Understand the importance and benefits of creativity to life and learning.

There are both psychological and more practical reasons for students to be creative thinkers. From helping students to find meaning in their learning to meeting standards to making students highly employable, creative thinking skills are in demand in almost every arena. More important, they are needed for quality of life before, during, and outside of school.

Discuss guidelines and technological tools for encouraging student creativity.

Although humans may be biologically predisposed to creativity, most people have not developed their creative potential. Teachers can help their students in this process by creating an enriched environment, direct teaching of creative thinking techniques, letting learners show what they can do, and teaching students respect for ideas and people. Tools that can enhance creative thinking and the development of creative thinking skills range from the word processor to brainstorming programs. Most important is that teachers use tools that are appropriate for what students are expected to do. Teachers also can be creative in the selection of such tools.

Create effective technology-enhanced tasks to support creativity.

Effective creativity tasks consider students’ content knowledge, use convergent but emphasize divergent thinking, incorporate creative thinking strategies, engage students in tasks that have meaning for them, and provide informational feedback so that students under- stand their progress.

Assess creativity and technology-enhanced creative tasks.

Creativity and creative tasks should be assessed in at least three ways–through content testing, performance assessment, and personal communication. The format of these assessments can vary, but specific criteria should be used and formative feedback should be one outcome.


Ai-girl, T., & Lai-chong, L. (2004). Creativity for teachers. New York: Marshall Cavendish Academic.


Black, R. (1990a). But we can’t allow 25 different answers to the same question in our classrooms! Cre8v Thoughts Newsletter #12. Available: http://www.cre8ng.com/newsletter/news12.shtml.


Baer, J. (2016, Spring).  Creativity doesn’t develop in a vacuum. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 151, 9–20.


Black, R. (1990b). Establishing environments for creativity. Cre8v Thoughts Newsletter #14. Available: http://www.cre8ng.com/newsletter/news14.shtml.


Cameron, S. (2000). Technology in the creative classroom. ED441260.


Clemons, S. (2005, January). Encouraging creativity in online courses. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1). http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Jan_05/ article05.htm.


Craft, A. (2001). An analysis of research and literature on creativity and education. Report prepared for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, UK. Available: http://www.ncaction.org.uk/ creativity/creativity_report.pdf.


Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York: HarperCollins.


Egan, K. (2005). An imaginative approach to teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


Fasko, D. (2000–2001). Education and creativity. Creativity Research Journal, 13(3–4), 317–327.


Fogler, H., & LeBlanc, S. (2005). Suggested uses of old cars as equipment for a children’s playground. Available: http://www.engin.umich.edu/~cre/probsolv/strategy/mag-minify.htm.


Guilford, J. (1986). Creative talents: Their nature, use and development. Buffalo, NY: Bearly.


Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), pp. 61-112.


James, F., & Kerr, A. (1997). Creative computing: Essential and imaginative activities using information technology with children from five to eleven years. Dunstable, UK: Belair.


Keller-Mathers, S., & Murdock, M. (2002). Teaching the content of creativity using the Torrance Incubation Model: Eyes wide open to the possibilities of learning. Celebrating Creativity Newsletter (National Association for Gifted Children), 13(2), 3–4, 7–9 (electronic version: www.buffalostate.edu/orgs/cbir/readingroom/html/TIMc-02.html.


Khatena, & E. P. Torrance (Eds.), Creativity: Its educational implications (2nd ed.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.


Lutus, P. (2005). Creative problem solving. Available: http://www.arachnoid.com/lutusp/ crashcourse.html.


Mau, R. (1997, December). The role of assessment in developing creativity. REACT, 2(7). Available from http://eduweb.nie.edu.sg/REACTOld/1997/2.7.html.


Miller, A. (2013, March 7). Yes, you can teach and assess creativity! Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/you-can-teach-assess-creativity-andrew-miller


Mycoted. (2004). Classic brainstorming. Available: http://www.mycoted.com/creativity/techniques/classic.php.


National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) (2014). How creativity works in the brain. Washington DC: Author. Available: https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/how-creativity-works-in-the-brain-report.pdf


Osborn, A. (1963). Applied imagination: Principles and procedures of creative problem-solving (3rd ed.).New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.


Paton, B. (2002). Children and creativity resources. Available: members.optusnet.com.au/%7Echarles57/ Creative/Children/index.html.


Plsek, P. (1997). Creativity, innovation, and quality. Chicago: Irwin.


Renzulli, J., & Callahan, C. (1981). Developing creativity training exercises. In J. Gowan, J.

Rusbult, C. (n.d.). Creating thinking. ASA Science Education. Available: www.asa3.org/ASA/ education/think/creative.htm.


Saskatchewan Education. (n.d). Understanding the common essential learnings. Regina, SK: Author. Starko, A. (1995). Creativity in the classroom: Schools of curious delight. White Plains, NY: Longman.


Shepard, A., & Runco, M. (2016). Recent research on creativity and education. Ricercazione (Learning Research and Innovation in Education), 8(2), p. 21-38.


Torrance, E. P. (1962). Guiding creative talent. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.


Torrance, E. P. (1974). Torrance tests of creative thinking. Lexington, MA: Ginn.





Creative Commons License
Chapter 5 Supporting Student Creativity by jegbert is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *