Through the Lens of Classroom Creativity

Through the Lens of Classroom Creativity

Teaching creativity sounds like a tall order. Especially when there’s ever more pressure to be this magical creative unicorn who can make anything and everything under the sun. But it’s not about perfection. It’s about giving students an outlet to express themselves. Nicole Dalesio is a full-time educator and digital artist who does just that – she gives both teachers and students the skills to explore, discover and make.

Nicole was a grade school teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 15 years before recently moving into her role of training teachers to use technology in the classroom. One of the major ways to teach creativity is to use what is readily available: whether we like it or not, almost all kids have a smartphone in grade school. Instead of trying to banish these devices, Nicole embraces them: “I often remind people that their mobile device is a creative tool and not just for consumption. There’s so much you can do with it. A lot of people diffuse the concept, but if you teach them how to use it, then it’s really powerful.”

Ever since Nicole obtained her first iPhone, she became more attuned to the world around her and took every opportunity to snap photos. It’s the magic of editing that allows you to fully express your vision, and Nicole frequently does this in her spare time when she’s not teaching others to do the same.

Mobile and web-based apps are a big part of why Nicole finds this need for education transformation. The sheer number of creative apps out there is astounding – just search for “creation” in any app store and you’ll likely encounter an infinite scroll. Apps like Snapseed, Animation & Drawing by Do Ink, Photoshop Sketch, Formulas, Photoshop Mix, Adobe Spark and many more have permeated Nicole’s classrooms

“Mobile apps are such a great way to introduce complex topics to kids. When they eventually go into professional tools, they at least have some background or foundation in those key concepts. A lot of these apps like Photoshop Mix are great for introducing concepts in the desktop version of Photoshop, like layers, blend modes, and making selections. This provides a solid foundation for students to more easily visualize and learn more advanced tools.”

Creative exercise is essentially a supplement to any learning curriculum. Nicole believes in the power of making digital media projects a priority. And more often than not, these exercises are turning more and more into a game of balancing different forms of expression. For example, Nicole frequently brought her students on short photo walks with their camera phones in hand, with the goal of shooting specific objects for inspiration.

“The way we communicate is changing. If you can communicate with pictures or video, it’s more powerful. We have immediate access to media, so it’s good to teach these skills to students in any subject area.”

Cultivating young people’s innate creativity is Nicole’s passion, and she sees an amazing opportunity in today’s education systems around the world to do this in new ways.

“We’re essentially flipping the status quo of teachers being the only ones talking in the classroom to students becoming equally engaged, with more creative and collaborative activities.” And, when it really comes down to it, learning is central to the education experience from both the teacher and student perspectives. Nicole shared in her recent TEDx talk, “It’s not just me teaching them. Through creative expression, I can learn from them too.”

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