Who is a creator? Who is a maker? Who is a changemaker?

Creative expression through technology is how learning comes alive in my classroom. I design vibrant, media-rich learning experiences where undergraduate and graduate students are supported as instructional designers, curriculum developers, and content producers working together on personally or socially meaningful projects. Creativity and technology go hand in hand as classmates work together to design and deconstruct learning artifacts including mobile apps, websites, media study guides, infographics, podcasts, screencasts, simulations, educational toolkits, interactive eBooks, eLearning videos, learning games, eTextiles (wearable technology), vizzes (interactive data visualizations), and immersive experiences with XR (extended reality).

Paula MacDowell Addressing the gap between using and designing, I am motivated to empower my team’s critical and creative engagement with all facets of technology, from the practical to the political. We draw inspiration and ingenuity from the weekly course readings, as well as critical understanding. Course assignments are based on constructionism (Kafai, 2006), an approach to learning that maximizes student agency and emphasizes creating, designing, building, and inventing as ways of knowing. Knowledge is actively constructed by learners experimenting with diverse ideas, tools, materials, and perspectives— and further developed through reflections and interactions with others. How fortunate I am to be one of the learners.

Meaningful integration of technology can be a powerful enabler of creative problem solving and digital knowledge construction. In a dynamic and evolving technological world, people need to have the innovative capacity and problem-solving mindset for addressing humanity’s challenges and opportunities like the rise of disinformation, task automation, climate change, clean energy production, and quality education for all. For example, high school girls connecting their design skills with their communities to make apps for pro-social and environmental change (see MacDowell, Ralph & Ng, 2017) and middle school girls making Public Service Announcements (PSAs) that critique how girls and girlhood are mis/represented by the media (see MacDowell, 2017). Paula MacDowell

Foundational to my teaching philosophy is the perspective that learners of all ages, from K-12 to graduate studies, benefit from opportunities to be the (co-)designers, coders, makers, and changemakers of the media and technologies in our everyday lives and learning practices. This view is not about a specific tool or technique; rather it involves an understanding of how technologies are designed and that they are capable of being redesigned. It is about the opportunity and responsibility that we have to create and innovate our evolving socio-technical futures, including their knowledge, systems, processes, values, and “the world of ideas that rules over the material world, the dreams we dream and inhabit together” (Solnit, 2013, p. 33).

I am fascinated by the study of how we learn in-interaction-with media and technology. I believe that the new digital era we live in is not inevitable but shaped in a real and tangible way by our capacity to wonder and break new ground, our courage to ask the hard questions, and our willingness to put forth unexpected answers and new ideas. Hence, I look forward to provoking critical conversations and challenging the students I am privileged to teach with questions like, “Can you see another way to interpret, imagine, read, or represent what we have just learned?” For example, I modified a traditional keyword assignment. Instead of defining the course terms with mere text, students create unique augmented reality (AR) codes that overlay digital information (e.g., photos, videos, animations, games, and quizzes) on top of real-world images and the course keywords, thereby augmenting their learning with personalized experiences that interact with place and space in both physical and virtual environments.

Creativity needs champions. Igniting creative thinking in diverse classroom contexts helps students become better problem solvers who are prepared to thrive in the global digital economy and tackle the unexpected developments they will encounter as technological innovation continues to confront the norms of everyday life (Henriksen, Mishra, & Fisser, 2016). In Canada, the past two decades have seen the emergence of a significant body of literature focusing on a national vision for improving the value and relevance of our educational systems. This framework is called 21st Century Learning and includes the curriculum and pedagogy required to develop specific skills and competencies (e.g., creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, media literacy, and global awareness).

SFU is designated as a Changemaker Campus. With the goal of contributing to SFU’s university-wide vision for changemaking, social innovation, and community engagement, I challenge my classes to research and design open education resources (OER) that are freely accessible learning materials for anyone to use. For example, Educational Issues & Controversy, Traditions, Education, Technology and Innovation, Education & Hope are three interactive multi-touch eBooks authoured by my students to illuminate the origins, implications, and trajectory of technological change across diverse educational contexts. Evocative and provocative, these eBooks broaden the discussion around the complex issues and influences of media and technology in our classrooms, schools, communities, and worlds.

Paula MacDowell Paula MacDowell

Creativity is a noted skill for success in the new digital era; what are your students creating? How are they using media to construct, represent, and communicate knowledge in novel and productive ways? Technology is a powerful tool for designing exceptional learning environments and fostering innovative pedagogical models. How does your ideal learning environment respond to the shifting demands for education in an age of globalization and rapid technological development? As emerging technologies are becoming more intelligent and pervasive, we need to strengthen human participation and inclusivity in co-creating the technological solutions that shape and transform our world. What is your vision to promote lifelong learning opportunities for the next generation of world builders and changemakers?


References & Recommended Readings

Couros, G. (2015). The innovator’s mindset: Empower learning, unleash talent, and lead a culture of creativity. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting.

Fullan, M. & Donnelly, K. (2013). Alive in the swamp: Assessing digital innovations in education. London, England: Nesta. Retrieved online: https://michaelfullan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/13_Alive_in_the_Swamp.pdf

Henriksen, D., Mishra, P., & Fisser, P. (2016). Infusing creativity and technology in 21st century education: A systemic view for change. Educational Technology & Society, 19(3), 27–37.

Kafai, Y. (2006). Constructionism. In K. Sawyer (Ed.), Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (pp. 35–46). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

MacDowell, P. (2017). Girls’ perspectives on (mis)representations of girlhood in hegemonic media texts. Special issue on “The Girl in the Text.” Girlhood Studies, 10(3), 201–216.

MacDowell, P., Ralph, R. & Ng. D. (2017). App making for pro-social and environmental change atan equity-oriented Makeathon. Proceedings of FabLearn17, 8 pages. The ACM Digital Library.

Milton, P. (2015). Shifting minds 3.0: Redefining the learning landscape in Canada. C21 Canada. Retrieved online: http://www.c21canada.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/C21-ShiftingMinds-3.pdf

Solnit, R. (2013). The faraway nearby. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

World Economic Forum & Boston Consulting Group. (2015). New vision for education: Unlocking the potential of technology. Geneva, Switzerland: World Economic Forum. Retrieved online: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEFUSA_NewVisionforEducation_Report2015.pdf