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Use technology to spark creativity

One of the slides technology guru Steve Dembo presented during the Education Technology Luncheon on Sunday at NSBA’s Annual Conference in Denver showed school board candidacy lawn signs.

His observation: These are probably the last direct communication that the community ever gets from the school board members.

The next slide featured Lin-Manuel Miranda from the Broadway hit “Hamilton.” Out of his mouth was a word balloon: “Who tells your story?”

Self-marketing is what’s missing, top to bottom, in school districts, said Dembo, a technology consultant who started as a kindergarten teacher.

The teachers he admires challenge kids to be creative, and the kids he admires are the ones who not only invent something but find a way to publicize and market their ideas. For instance, one teenager invented a lightweight sandbag that swells when exposed to water and can be reused after it dries up. He ended up on the “Ellen DeGeneres show.” 

Too many children have been acculturated to a paint-by-numbers approach to education, he said. It’s not what employers want; they want people who can think and create something new. He thinks teaching is only effective if it inspires children to be creative.

It doesn’t matter if the student’s product isn’t terrific. There is a big difference between “doing something and doing nothing,” he said.

And don’t underestimate the value of game-based learning, he said.

“The worst thing a kid can say about homework is it’s too hard. The worst thing a kid can say about a game is it’s too easy,” he said. “They want to be challenged. They want to dig deeper.”

He recommended the book “Deeper Learning” by Monica Martinez, which describes schools where teachers are “learning designers” and students are “active learners.”

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