Having a nationwide evidence-based set of educational standards may sound good on paper, but most teachers agree that the Common Core is a very flawed system that doesn't consider all types of learners and leaves little room for creativity in the classroom. Not to mention the inflexible amount of concepts teachers need to fit into a single year. And what's most unsettling is that all people who are directly affected by the Common Core – teachers, students, and parents – have been left out of the discussion and simply given a set of standards to reach without much instruction as to how to get there.
Getting Creative with Technology
So how do you possibly get creative when your students' learning goals are designed in such a standardized nature? Well, technology has proven to be an excellent teaching tool that allows for much creativity in an easy-to-use way. If you have access to a computer and a projector, as well as a good internet connection, there are many things you can do to enhance your Common Core lessons. Initially, they require extra time and effort from teachers, but the wonderful thing about digital lessons is that they can be saved and used again and again each year.
A good place to start getting creative is with video. Finding videos on Youtube that demonstrate the subject matter in a tangible way can help students immensely. If you have the time, you can even create your own videos for further explanation and have students make their own for homework or projects. The same goes for podcasts, which students can listen to individually for homework and share their opinions in class the next day. Videos and podcasts are great methods for generating discussion.
Having Meaningful Discussions
Discussion is important when it comes to the Common Core because the idea is for students to grasp a greater understanding of the concepts, rather than just find shortcuts to the right answer. While class discussion is a necessary part of learning, creating a discussion board online can be a good way for students to write down and organize their ideas. Social media is a great platform for discussion, especially for young people who are already quite attached to it in their personal lives. They can even use it to bounce project ideas off of each other and critique each other's work.
Sharing Through Blogging
Another way to incorporate peer review is through blogging. A teacher can create a class blog and have students post essays and other writing projects there, allowing the whole class to view and critique their peers' work, again fostering discussion and deeper understanding, as well as tackling the anxiety of sharing their work with everyone. A step further would be to have students design their own blogs or websites, using the free blog and web builders such as WordPress or Wix, respectively – this way they practice the subject matter and use their creativity while learning an important digital skill for their future.
Collaboration is the Key
All of these digital projects can be done individually or in groups. Collaboration is a key method to achieving the Common Core standards. Through collaboration, students can be challenged to solve real-world problems together, a skill that will most definitely serve them well in college and in the workforce.
Because of this generation's shortening attention spans, microlearning is a big player on the new scene. Microlearning (which requires tablets) provides material in short bursts, rather than long lectures, through digital media. And while it's typically being used in employee training, it can most certainly be a supplement in the classroom, providing students with small challenges, video explanations, and scenarios for problem-solving.
And if you have access to the latest tablets, then you may also have access to augmented reality (AR), which is becoming a big hit in the classroom. Unlike virtual reality, which creates a completely artificial environment, AR integrates digital aspects into the user's environment in real-time. Pokemon Go, an app that people of all ages love, is a perfect example of AR; one that has inspired educators to explore the educational potential of AR. Some AR technologies already being used in the classroom are interactive books and puzzles, science-based coloring pages, and apps that allow users to design their own AR projects.
Where do we go . . .
If your school doesn't have the means to support these technological methods, there are still many non-digital creative methods to explore. Puzzles and real-life scenarios can be helpful when it comes to mathematics, allowing students to see problems in ways that make more sense to them. You can tackle language arts goals through performance, having students create their own plays or scenes to better understand character motivations and experiences. And personalizing the subject matter to fit their lives can always help too.
Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in multiple industries including health and wellness, wearable technology, nursing, and education. When she's not watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga and reading a good book on the beach.