Innovative teacher Lucy Bate, of Delamere Academy in Tarporley, Cheshire, found a creative way of teaching her students their times tables. As a Key Stage 2 teacher she has been taking her classes outside and using a drone “to capture the imagination of her maths pupils.” The pupils learnt their times tables by arranging themselves into different number formations while the drone captured the scene from the air.
Bate told the Manchester Evening News: “It’s important to have a creative approach to teaching and make lessons as fun as possible, as these are likely some of the most memorable moments of school life for children. Using technology is a really easy way to capture children’s interest, because they can relate to it. The drone is a useful tool for learning because it instantly engages all of the children.”
“As soon as I mentioned we would go outside and use the drone their faces absolutely lit up. “I’ve used the drone once before during a trip up Eddisbury Hill for a history topic in which we were studying hill forts from the Bronze Age and that was a big success too. I’ll use it again, and always be looking for more creative and engaging ways I can incorporate technology into my teaching.”
Speaking to Teach Now, Bate says creativity and innovation play a role in teaching because children learn in all different ways, and she claims there are times when a different angle is required for certain individuals to click it all into place into place. “Therefore, a creative and varied approach to the curriculum is so important to ensure that all children are accessing the information that is being taught”, she comments before adding that it’s vital to have an innovative pedagogy because it demonstrates that learning can be really fun.
Fun leads to learning
Sally Lanni, the executive headteacher at Pheasey Park Farm Primary School adds: “Finding creative ways to engage children in learning is essential; if children are enjoying their learning, then they are more likely to remember what they have been taught. School should be places of joy and creative approaches in the classroom go hand-in-hand with this. Children should be encouraged to innovate; real-world problem solving is a 21st Century skill and something that is essential for children to be able to do effectively to be successful in our modern world.”
With this goal in mind, at Delamere C of E Academy, Bate says there is a weekly practical maths lesson, which focuses on hands on and explorative maths concepts. She finds that these lessons encourage teachers to think inventively and in kinetic ways to teach maths. “Before the drone lesson we had been exploring multiplications using counters to make arrays, and I just thought that it could be done physically using the children!”, she exclaims.
“The drone made it a really memorable maths lesson for the children and helped them embed vital vocabulary such as “arrays” and “factor pairs” as they associate the vocabulary with the fun drone lesson. It also helped them better understand that there are many factor pairs for the same number and also helped them explore the commutative properties of multiplications.”
Meanwhile, at Pheasey Park Farm, Lanni explains there is a pilot for the use of 1:1 Microsoft Surface Go devices in the classroom. This provides children with access to opportunities to use technology to design websites, or to record audio books for a particular audience. She says this approach can be applied across all subjects: “Children could study a particular aspect of geography and use devices to create a digital product, such as a map, or solve a real-world problem, for example using digital mapping to locate where to install a new safe crossing place in a community.”
“Through the use of 1:1 devices, we are ultimately aiming to upskill the children to select the right device for the job at hand. Children have a voice about how and when devices are used to support learning in the classroom. When they leave Year 6, they will then be best equipped to choose the correct tool for a piece of work.”
Eddisbury Hill Fort project
Bate concords that it’s not just about maths. Creativity and innovation in teaching at Delamere was also used for a history project. This came in the shape of a visit to an ancient local hill fort – Eddisbury Hill Fort. The drone played a role here too. Bate brought her drone to get a video of the pupils along the ancient rampart, about which she comments:
“They were all so excited and were watching with such curiosity as I set up the drone and sent it off into the sky. They absolutely loved seeing how high and far it could go! It was a few months later when I next brought it in for our maths lesson and when I explained that we would be making factor pairs outside with the drone their faces lit up again and they were all so excited! Both projects received lots of positive attention from parents on our school’s twitter feed.”
This project permitted the children to visualise the rampart of the hill fort, allowing them to see how far it stretched. This can’t be done from the ground, and by flying the drone the children were able to imagine what the hill fort would have been like in its day. In contrast, the maths project was more hands on for the children. “They got to move around and actually be the maths equipment, so it was great for them to play a role in making the video”, she explains. Still, she says, both projects provided a different perspective that they – teachers and children – are used to.
Collaboration for creativity
Collaboration with other schools can also be part of being creative and innovative in teaching. Lanni reveals: “At Pheasey Park Farm, we have collaborated with The Rivers C of E Multi Academy Trust and Cheam Common Junior School (Surrey) as part of a collaborative and creative approach to our Digital Leader programme. We have shared what creativity looks like in our own schools and how we can implement innovative approaches going forwards. This has definitely sparked new ideas that we are excited to try out in the classroom.”
She adds that parents appreciated the benefits of using devices in a purposeful way. The children at her school, she claims, have loved using the devices in their learning. They don’t just learn, they discover too. “I have noticed that children are more engaged in lessons and there are less hands up because they can use the built-in accessibility tools independently, for example, using immersive readers to support their comprehension skills”, she explains.
School leadership support
To achieve creativity and innovation in teaching they both say that it’s important to have the support of school leaders. It gives teachers the chance to be creative by trying out new ideas. Without the support of her school’s head, Bate thinks her drone projects may never have happened.
Lanni adds that that it’s also important for headteachers to believe in any new technology that can be used to develop a creative and innovative approach to teaching and learning. Essentially, they need to be the driving force of each school, and this should involve allowing staff to take risk by permitting them to try out new things. “Having the freedom to implement something that hasn’t been done before helps to spark creative ideas”, Lanni remarks.
Bate would also like to see more modern technology being used in schools. She comments: “The drone market (and modern technology market in general) is becoming a lot more accessible as more products are being produced at cheaper prices, so hopefully as technology continued to advance, we can see more drones in schools. Children are naturally technologically inclined; it is such a huge part of their world growing up. They take to it really well and are instantly enthusiastic towards it.”
Her advice to other schools is: “Go for it!” Looking back at the experiences creativity and innovation presents leaves behind fond memories. “We remember the fun, exciting and unique lessons that we had and it’s our chance to make those memories for the children in our care”, she reveals.
5 tips for creative and innovative teaching ideas
Lanni concludes with her your top 5 tips about the tools for producing new creative and innovative teaching ideas:
- Involve the children in the planning process – I am continually amazed by the ideas that children that I teach come up with. Also, if children can have a say in the creative process, then they are more likely to take ownership of their learning. Involving children in decision-making supports the 21st Century skills that they need to become critical, independent thinkers.
- Trial any new tools or devices with a group of children first to see what works well in practise and to help to eliminate any obstacles. Once the tools have been trialled, they can then be rolled out to other groups. This will support their successful implementation. The less hiccups there are at the beginning of the process, the smoother the transition will be.
- Link up with other schools to share ideas. In today’s virtual world, there are so many opportunities to connect with colleagues in other settings to share ideas and to build upon these. Meeting to discuss what has been trialled in another school can help to spark creativity and support innovative approaches. It can also be useful to discuss how to overcome any barriers or obstacles that might exist.
- Research any new tool, product, or device thoroughly and seek advice about the pros and cons of using that particular tool or device. Consider the price, but also ensure that the tool is high quality and supports effective teaching and learning.
- Strike a balance between using EdTech and more traditional approaches. It is important to use technology in a purposeful way that supports creativity and high-quality teaching and learning. Limiting screen time is also an important consideration when using devices.
She concludes by encouraging other teachers and schools to have the courage to take risks. This includes trying out new tools or approaches with a small group first. This can permit you to identify new obstacles before rolling it out to other children. In her view collaboration on regular basis is an invaluable way to spark ideas and to share achievements. After all, the role of creativity and innovation in teaching is to ultimately create better learning experiences and better educational results.