9 Innovative Tips That Will Elevate Your School's Creative Programs
Classrooms all over the world are filled with eager students ready to learn and thrive as creators, artists and designers. As an instructor, you're always fighting the villain of quarterly repetition and monotony out of your classroom while trying to instill the values your students need to become more valuable, productive artists ready for real-world creative careers. How will you make sure that this year is better than the last?
For more than 10 years we've been helping fellow educators teach creative software and subjects, and in this article we’ll dive into some tested and proven tips to making this a successful school term for you and your students.
Theme Each Semester to Inspire Creativity
There are many ways to make the classroom a more fun and exciting place for your students, and it has the added benefit of helping the creativity flow freely in each one of them. Start your new semester off with a theme to inspire that creativity that can be so hard to find. Give your students the ability to create teams and have an overarching goal to achieve as that team. This will help students be able to form closer relationships while experiencing healthy competition and gaining new skills along the way. Most importantly, they'll have a lot of fun while they do it and get experience working as a team like in the real world (more on this later).
Start Gamifying Your Classroom
Before we dive in, what is Gamification? Gamification is the use of game design elements in non-game contexts. Now let's breakdown what that actually means. Gamification is all about taking concepts used in video game design outside of a video game context, such as levels, skill points and rewards. It follows the idea that when people have a visual system to gauge their progress in life, complete with rewards, then they'll instantly have more drive and desire to see how far they can go.
Gamifying the classroom has really started to pick up the pace in the past few years. The website Knewton has a great infographic on the subject, that provides a great overview of what video game elements to harness in the classroom, as well as a history of educational games.
With great free tools available such as ClassCraft, you can drastically affect the learning environment in your program - for the better. Even something as simple as adding badges or rewards for completed assignments is a step in the right direction. Your imagination is your only barrier for this tip!
Teach Students to Work in a Team
In many creative classrooms, you'll have students focusing and learning one aspect of the larger creative pipeline. It's important that while they're learning the skills needed to fulfill their role as an animator or lighting artist, they still see themselves as part of the overall pipeline. The easiest way to teach students to understand that role in the pipeline is to give them experience and show them how to work well in that system with others.
When you implement projects into your class that require collaboration and creates a "mini-pipeline", then you can give students a fun experience while teaching them to hand off work correctly. Those skills are highly valued in any creative job where a student will be required to deliver assets in a specific way, and your students will appreciate getting that experience early in their education.
Competitive Creative Challenges
Another way you add fun to the classroom is with creative challenges. Get your students excited and competitive with monthly challenges, where they all create the same thing and compete to make the best version. Focus each month on a skill such as modeling a pair of headphones, creating a site design or producing an animated greeting card.
Get their creative juices flowing and they'll learn to create something they may not have otherwise challenged themselves to make. As outlined in the Gamification section, this is a perfect opportunity to reward students with badges, trophies or other prizes for winning the challenge which will further inspire them to work harder and improve overall.
Help Students Build Their Portfolio
With amazing free tools like Behance, it's easier than ever to start helping students set up a portfolio and have pride in their work. Plus, you can receive emails when students publish new work to their Behance page, which will help you keep track of their progress in your class. At the end of your class, students will have a central location where they can access everything you helped them learn and create. Not only that, they'll be able to share that page with fellow students and any future employers.
Ask for Status Reports
One of the most important ways to improve your class (and yourself as a teacher) is to listen to what your students have to say about the program, you and their fellow students. Setting up a structured, easy-to-follow feedback system is vital to examining overall class health as well as individual issues students are having.
Have them focus on sending you answers to a few key questions every week: Ask them to give a self-evaluation as well as a reflection of how the week went — celebrations, achievements and frustrations they are experiencing. Also ask them what they're enjoying about the class, what they would change and their overall morale. The students will get the chance to be honest and share their feelings privately with you, and you'll be surprised how much you'll learn about them and how you can easily make the class better.
Don't Grade Everything
Sure, grading a student's work is important for deciding where they stand, and how far they have left to go in their creative education. However, practice makes perfect, and if you can help your students embrace failure and emphasize practice - you'll teach them a valuable lesson. Giving students assignments with the expectation that there will be no grade allows them to take risks they may not have tried if they knew it would affect their grade if they failed.
That's where the value of not grading everything comes in. Through taking risks and challenging themselves, your students will really begin to understand their true creative potential. That knowledge will open doors and turn them into fearless creative artists.
Focus on Competency, Not Curriculum
Here at Digital-Tutors, we have new creative training content every day. If you're utilizing us in your core curriculum for students, that's a lot to try and keep up with. Instead of forcing students to watch all the same tutorials year after year, you can try letting them discover a tutorial in our library that they're excited about and want to learn.
You can have the final say in what they watch, of course, but as long as the creative skills they'll learn from the tutorial they pick are the same as the competencies you want them to learn, then there's no real difference! At the end of the day, they're still learning what you want them to learn, but they're more excited to watch the training and command their own online education.
Teach the Power of Good Feedback
If you haven't already taught your students the value of both getting and giving great feedback in their projects, now is the time to start. An artist who can't take constructive critique on their work is only hurting themselves and their potential. Conversely, and artist that can't communicate a critique in a constructive way isn't helping anybody. It's one of the most important skills a creative artist can master. So how do you start?
Encourage peer feedback on every project. If you're using a tool like Behance to help them share their projects, you can have students post 3 positive comments and 3 suggestions for improvement. That encourages a positive discussion while still pushing them to critique and help each other improve. Offer bonus points to those who critique more or take their own time to help others while improving as reviewers themselves. They'll thank you when they've started working in the industry and understand the true value of what they learned in your classroom.
Hopefully these tips provided your own creative spark for how to make this semester the best one yet. It isn't about trying to do everything all at once, but starting somewhere. Try an idea or two and see how they work, and most importantly adapt them to fit the structure of your own program. Only you will be able to accurately judge how successful any of these tips are for you and your students.
We all know how powerful a teacher or program can be in helping a student realize or reach their creative dreams. Keep learning, keep pushing your students as well as yourself and keep helping tomorrow’s creative talent make their future happen!