Exploring Creativity in Young Learners: An Analysis Within

       *Sagun Shrestha

sagunshrestha4@gmail.com

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. Steve Jobs

Creativity is all about connecting and synthesizing. Maybe the process that takes place needs a little more of innovation. Put simply, it is a way challenging oneself by transforming and unleashing the forces and ideas within. When you do it, you think of going beyond the state of mediocrity. The pleasure comes within you and you feel your presence in pleasure. A ‘wow’ word resounds in your heart and memory.

Creativity in ELT

It is so awkward to see the practice of the same archaic methods being used in English Language Teaching in Nepal. A ‘chalk and talk method’ has been a common cliché to make criticism on present ELT situation in Nepal. The interception of modern technology is challenging our voyage to the academic world. What if we do not mingle technology with our teaching and learning and find a way-out to make them live and interesting? What if we do not change ourselves and our teaching practices to bring change in our academic world? We would be the losers? In this regard, Prof. Bhattarai speaks: ‘Doubt your beliefs and works, stop and question your practices, may be you were wrong so far, may be you can discover new unexplored areas which can open up new vistas in teaching.  Philosophies keep changing and so do teaching principles. You put a question: Is my method of teaching appropriate? Are we following appropriate curriculum, or do we need to stop and rethink over it?  All our socio-political values and norms have changed; they are changing so fast, so should not our system of education follow such changes endlessly?

This is in fact seeking and unleashing creativity within. Unless and until we become creative we cannot get, let alone imagine our students being creative. Again Prof. Bhattarai puts his words:

‘What happens if a farmer does not know about the new breed of animals or seeds and manures and continues with old practice? He will spoil everything and ruin himself. So we traders of truth should also be aware of the new brands of education on sale in the world market.’

Novelty, a paradigm shift, learner or learning centered instruction, multiplicity in methodologies are all the features that we gain in creative instruction, and needless to say these are the postmodern trends in ELT. By postmodern I mean going beyond what we have now or the modernity has brought, and seeking innovation, creativity and criticality to find the unexplored world is the postmodern trend.

Are we supposed to be stuck with a unitary method or do we need to integrate different methods to yield better instruction? The question is of multiplicity here. Multiplicity in thought, multiplicity in interpretation and multiplicity in methods and techniques. We need to mingle all from Georgi Lozanov idea of suggestopedia to communicative language teaching in all dimensions. Focusing on a single method may mean inviting a failure to a large extent. Similarly, the incorporation of modern technology demands us to bring cyber world in language instruction. Can we ever think that our language instruction can be complete without using the multimedia in our classroom in this flat world? NO! A big No! In fact, I have been learning these days how some young teachers (not in terms of age but as regards ideas) are different from  the teachers with traditional mind-set. They handle their classrooms bringing technology via blogging, virtual classes, webinars and multimedia instruction. Since they comprise audio-visual instruction, the young learners find them gripping and this is how these teachers win the young hearts through their instruction.

A giant shift in our thought or methodology is a paradigm shift: a shift from our traditional way of instruction. In these days our job is not simply to teach the students but to make them largely creative by inspiring and leading them to explore their own world so as to be professionally sound in future.

Different publications like the leading dailies of Nepal inspire our young learners for their write-ups. Once a week, they have allocated the supplements entitled ‘Classroom’ in The Kathmandu Post, ‘The School Times’ in The Himalayan Times, and ‘Kid’s Corner’ in The Republica. It is to explore their written creativity via different publications. Similarly, for other skills, elocution, extempore, a webinar can be the options. Why don’t we practice them? Why have we teachers remained detached from this sphere? How many of us have helped the children to publish their write-ups or just inspired them to write? Probably many of us have been stuck with the fixed and rigid curriculum and killed the creative power of the children. Writing needs reading, and reading can enable the students to unleash something new but we assume we are unaware of it for long. This is high time we analyzed and knew this fact to have a giant shift in our instruction.

Learner or learning-centered instruction

For so long, we advocated for the learner-centered instruction treating learner as its focal point. I personally believe that it is faulty to focus merely on learners. We maintained the teacher as a facilitator, guide, mediator and any more terms added while opting for learner-centered but in the meantime, we did not deal ‘how’ and ‘why’ aspects to a large extent which is subtly dealing with learning-centered instruction. Learning-centered means focusing on process and product both. The process leads to the product; therefore, the process has to be taken on board. How can learning be bettered? Why has it to be bettered? These have to be considered.

The learner is just a shape that gets molded as per the content that is exposed to him. It’s all learning that has a big role in him to get molded. For this the teacher too has to think more seriously with a kind of novelty. Again here comes creativity.

Creativity in instructors

George Bernard Shaw comes with these words: “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not’?” It’s sure the instructor should come the with ‘why-not?’ factor to explore much and bring newness. The ‘why’ factor makes us seek the things that they are in existence and it is simply knowing, and the ‘why-not’ factor makes us explore the things beyond knowing the things in existence. It means walking past knowing to the world of exploration.

In language teaching we can explore the new world and make our students explore much. More practically, it can be assisted with the different cyber means.

a. Online Virtual Classroom

Online virtual classrooms break away from the narrow confinement of formal classroom setting and invite both teacher and students for the discussion of the issues that is raised there. The discussion chain in the virtual classroom demands the learners to be more creative and critical which ultimately makes the learners and their writing adopt reformation.

There are so many online virtual classrooms, out of which to me the best ever I have used is http://www.nicenet.org. Once the account is opened, we receive a class key which is to be distributed to our students. With a help of class key they enter their class and take part in conferencing. This conferencing is basically used to get a discussion thread on any issue. The instructor posts a question and the learners comment or answer the particular question. They also comment on their friends’ answers along with their feedback which demands their critical voyage. The instructor is always with them, and he comments upon students’ answers if needed. This ultimately teaches students to have a feeling of respect as they are required to make some positive remarks on their friends’ writing in a discussion thread.

Conferencing, link sharing, having a class schedule and a list of students are the features of an online virtual class. It’s effective for all the levels from teen to adult learners.

b. Blogging

A blog is an electronic platform where we can post any document that can be reached out to anyone. It is more a free and mini-website with a fixed template. Depending upon the instructor’s need, you can create either a class blog, project blog, teacher’s blog or student’s blog which are for different purposes. To me, class blog and teacher’s blog are so much useful in the field of ELT as the class blog helps us to post our issues of the entire class and similarly, the teacher’s blog supports the teachers to provide notes, slides and hand-outs to his students.

Project blogs at times, can be useful to engage learners in developing projects on some sites . It will be more like getting discussion threads as done in Nicenet but for a different purpose. We can also appoint students themselves as editors and subeditors to post their friends’ issues and ask other non-editors to make their comments. www.eblogger.com, www.wordpress.com and www.weebly.com are the best blogging sites used so far.

c. Academic Project: A webquest

Academic project can be assigned online using some tools like www.zunal.com and www.questgarden.com which has its fixed format called webquests. They comprises introduction at the very beginning followed by tasks, process, and evaluation. Since webquest is a well-arranged set, it seems a perfect tool for assigning some project works to our  students. The rubric will help them get the right instruction that can be placed on evaluation obtaining from www.rubistar4teachers.com.

d. Academic Search Engines and Social Bookmarking
Search Engines, the generic are Google, Bing, etc. but the more academic that I use for language instruction is www.twurdy.com which shows the readability of each link. We can simply share the link checking the readability level. It is shown with the symbol of color, like the deep orange is a link having a complex text whereas faint orange is a link having a simple text. Moreover, it shows the age-level too.

The social bookmarking site helps us to have a record of each link. It can be termed as our online library since we have a tag to every site, and make a stack. Even other users can have access to our bookmarking if we have made it public. The private sites cannot be browsed by others besides the owner. The best social bookmarking site is www.delcious.com.

These all are the sites that I have been using in my classroom. At times I myself feel that the classroom setting has entirely been changed due to its intervention. Now the classroom’s formal setting has been distorted and everything needs redefining and regeneration, a feature of postmodernism. A Creative voyage indeed!

*Sagun Shrestha is an English Faculty at St. Lawrence College. He is currently working in capacity of Program Assistant in English Access Microscholarship Program, Nepal implemented by NELTA in support of American Embassy.

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5 Responses to Exploring Creativity in Young Learners: An Analysis Within

  1. Jeevan Karki says:

    The article of Sagun jee is thought-provoking and informative. His ideas and sharing of using the World Wide Wave for promoting students’ creativity is great. However, one can induce the assumption that teachers are not doing anything for promoting students’ creativity after reading these lines, “…why have we teachers remained detached from this sphere? How many of us have helped the children to publish their write-ups or just inspired them to write?…”

    There could be teachers who are working in their own way to promote the creativity of their students (Of course I’m not talking about myself). So we cannot say the teachers are detached from the platform to promote students’ creativity or they haven’t helped their students publish their writings.

    He could have thought of such teachers too.
    Anyway never mind!

  2. Sameer Bomdzon says:

    Very interesting n thought provoking too… I feel, with your approach to creativity comes the question of easy access to web for teachers and the taught, for all in fact! Even the 3rd stakeholders, parents n guardians… Though not impossible, for general mass, 95 % of which is middle class learners in Nepal, virtual class is a huge responsibility for education authority. M glad u with NELTA is railed in the right direction. GOOD LUCK!!

  3. sagun shrestha says:

    Jeevan-ji Thanks a lot for your good words. In fact, I mean many of us are one way or the other, overlooking this fact. So I have put forward a question that begins with “How many of us…” which would make the reader analyze if he belongs to this group. It is a bitter fact that many of us are still unaware or overlooking technology despite knowing we are dealing techno-native generation. Sorry if my statements are ambiguous but I certainly respect those who have addressed students’ creativity one way or the other in ELT classes. Personally, I am happy with the people like you who have brought a kind of innovation in ESL/EFL teaching.

  4. sagun shrestha says:

    Sameer Sir. Thanks a lot for your kind words. You r right to state that being inclined with the web resources to proliferate students’ creativity often comes with a big question but it is also true that it is possible and moreover, time demands the same which makes us realize sooner or later we need to go for it. Now comes the question again ‘Are we ready?’.An answer is within us to be unleashed.

  5. Suresh Shrestha says:

    Let me first thank NELTA CHOUTARI for all those thought-generating go-aheads.

    Now I feel like sharing some ideas on what I have understood in the blog article in particular. We feel excited to talk about the technological systems we are equipped with in a very limited portion of ELT practice in our so-called ‘poor’ country. It is good to draw attention of those who are able, as well as ‘willing’, to upgrade themselves with ‘systems’ that we badly need to have running in a broader scale, so that we can be updated regularly. Anyway, frankly, we don’t have to feel humiliated with ‘chalk and talk’ technique which is still the most viable and favorable one in most of the parts of our country. That’s why I personally feel proud of having regular access to those basic requirements so as to play with whatever I teach no matter what way, for methods and techniques are subordinate and learners’ gaining ability to use language is of prime concern. There is a common argument, “I don’t care how you do, but I want a desired result in time”. Now zeroing in on the desired result, most of us act utilizing countless techniques, which we may change whenever needed. So, techniques, though valuable, are secondary as compared with our clear target, i.e. learners. It is just a view of mine. I am sharing it hoping it will at least be a good cause of healthy arguments with further explorations. Thank you!

    Suresh Shrestha

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