Teaching Students to Think Creatively

I am trying to incorporate creative thinking throughout the training program I am developing for my tutors. With constant cuts to school budgets, classes in the arts are usually the first to go. And while I think that is another problem in itself, it does leave students without the ability to really brainstorm and problem solve. This presents a problem when you are tutoring someone and the method you are teaching them just isn’t clicking. You have to be able to look at all sides of the problem and come up with alternative ways to get to the same point.

Here’s an example: when I was younger, I tutored a child in math who simply could not get the concept of odd and even numbers. I tried to explain that they never change, that any number that ends in 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 are odd and numbers that end with 0, 2, 4, 6, and 8 were even. For some reason, he just couldn’t grasp the concept no matter which way I explained it.Out of complete desperation, I looked around his room to see if I could find something to explain it better. I found a ball that was half red and half blue. I had him hold the ball in his hands and rotate it halfway as we counted. The blue side was odd numbers and the red side was even. Sure enough, with that simple visual, he caught on a lot faster! It was hard for me at first to try and find a way around his comprehension problem – numbers are either odd or even, there is no deeper concept or tricks involved. But once I saw that ball, I knew I had something.

I know a solution like that won’t work for every kid, and that is the whole point. One size fits all teaching is the way most classrooms have to operate – by necessity, please don’t think I am saying teachers are ineffective or lazy – and their methods tend to be tried and true. While I understand these strategies works for a good majority of students (otherwise they wouldn’t teach in that way), it does leave out some children. If everyone learned the same way, we wouldn’t need tutors!

I want my tutors to be able to relate to the students they are working with and figure out the most effective approach to teach concepts to their peers. It will only be through creative thinking that they will be able to come up with alternative teaching methods that may work, and have the confidence enough to give them a try. It is my job to make sure that my tutors have the ability to identify learning deficits and try to find ways around those issues. Once they’ve done so, they’ll be able to effectively tutor students who need help in the most effective ways possible. I’m trying to come up with different exercises and methods to emphasize these skills. It has definitely been a challenge.

But just like that little boy’s face when he finally understood the concept of odds and evens, it will be so very worth it!

Learning Everywhere

I am currently involved in high school peer tutoring groups which gives me great fulfillment. For those of us in this adjunct to education, we know we are helping change lives of students who are having individual difficulties. The customization of tutoring is what makes it work in the great majority of cases. If it is done in a haphazard and general manner, it may not work as planned. I spend time speaking with others in the field and devising new and effective strategies. For the committed few, we may mean the difference between going to college or having to stall one’s chosen career.

Today I want to talk about something my students are considering: the use of Bluetooth or wired speakers to listen to TED talks, podcasts, and/or audiobooks. They want to access them when they are not at school or home. I always tell them that learning can take place most anywhere and they have taken my words to heart. To show my approval, I researched a bit about the pros and cons of both here. Bluetooth is a wireless system and an excellent choice for most in terms of convenience and practicality. If it is compatible with your various devices, then go for it. It is all about how a wireless speaker communicates with a laptop or tablet for example. If you don’t find compatibility, you will have to use Wi-Fi or a wired speaker. I doubt if it won’t work because Bluetooth was designed to be universal. You simply have to know how to enable the feature on your device.

The only real con I can see with Bluetooth is that the transmissions have a limited range of maybe fifteen feet which might not be enough for the best Outdoor Light and Sound experience. You might have to limit where you use it. It would not cover an entire house. You also must know the hardware and the kind of chips utilized as some are more or less sensitive to interference (which could come from microwaves, cordless phones, baby monitors and the like). There are various versions in any case so you need one that supports the transmission of stereo music if that is your goal. Some types permit streaming of stereo audio and some do not. The quality of the audio sound may or may not be to your standards (called audiophile status). There is a need for data compression in many cases to reduce the bit rate of the audio signal.

I am getting rather technical and hope I have not lost many readers. I just wanted to make a point about digital material used in studying and for entertainment. While Bluetooth is easy to use, you may go for old-fashioned wiring or at least Wi-Fi because of the limited range and restricted sound quality. Other than this basic issue, try out different options and see what serves your needs. I am all for using the vast resources available online and encourage students to learn to research well.