Creativity and the Internet


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The information age has brought profound change to the delivery and volume of communication. Since the invention of the World Wide Web in 1990, the ways that we source information have radically changed. More than 3.7 billion people now use the internet. Every second, approximately 40,000 Google searches are conducted to easily and rapidly access information. Every minute, 156 million emails and 16 million text messages are sent.  On Facebook, 1.5 billion people are active every day. The amount of data produced and consumed every day is truly mind-boggling!

How does the radical transformation in the processes and amount of information gathering impact creativity? It the impact positive or negative? The answer is both.

How does the internet positively impact creative growth?

The internet gives people more direct, constant, and wide-ranging access to information which can inspire creative projects and solutions. Access to abundant ideas can be inspirational to the creative process.

Unlike any other time in history, we can now learn and share with people around the globe in seconds. Creative collaboration is powerful, and the internet allows us the opportunity to collaborate with 1.5 billion people.

The internet gives individuals access to tools to develop and share creativity. YouTube, Brainsparker, Loop and Trello are just a few of the applications that encourage creativity and are free and accessible to all through the internet.


How does the internet negatively impact creative growth?

The rapid pace of stimulation and the influx of information are distracting to the human brain. We are wired to attend to novel experiences. The constant flow of stimuli present in the information age encourages people to live in a zone of continuous partial attention. Attention to creative problem solving is at risk when focus is constantly interrupted and overwhelmed.

Creative problem solving requires utilizing known information to build solutions. Increasingly, people are storing information online instead of in their brains. We need stored information to connect the dots as we devise and innovate (and it can’t be stored in the cloud).

We don’t try to innovate solutions. Due to the availability of solutions to thousands of problems online, we don’t give ourselves room or time to problem-solve on our own. Necessity is called the mother of invention, and we don’t need to invent original solutions in a world where they are so readily available. But if we don’t use our creative and innovative skills regularly, we might lose them.

Of course, the internet is not responsible for its impact. People need to thoughtfully consider the impact of the internet on their own creative processes and act accordingly. And unplug when needed.


Promoting Public Service



Our communities depend on individuals that believe in public service. How can we inspire and nurture public service with elementary students?

First, have a discussion about the meaning of public service.

  • Discuss different ways that public employees help the community.
  • Brainstorm services provided by public servants. (firefighters, lawmakers, military personnel, postal delivery, teachers, and many more)
  • Ask about the characteristics of a strong public servant.
  • Discuss ways that students could make a difference in their world.

Then, learn about public servants from yesterday and today. History is FULL of examples of public servants. Mind Missions provides dozens of lessons that illustrate wonderful examples of public servants. Just a few include Murphy’s Medals, Marshall’s Mallet, Lincoln’s Legacy, and Soup Saver. History texts are also rich with lessons about those who have served for the greater good.

As a culminating activity, plan a Public Service learning project. A few ideas include:

  • Create a PSA (public service announcements) as a group project that highlights the work of a public works organization
  • Honor community public servants by writing thank you notes
  • Create a class project that serves your school or local community
  • Research public servants in pairs and present your information to the class in a variety of ways (gallery walk of posters or collages, museum exhibit, brochure, newscasts, scrapbook page)
  • More lessons and ideas can be found here:


We need students to embrace the tradition of public service. Expose them to the many stories and ways that they can serve!


Basics of Creative Problem Solving


What is Creative Problem Solving?

Creative Problem Solving is a process of breaking down a problem, generating multiple solutions, and evaluating ideas for the most effective result. The process was first formalized by Alex Osborne and Sidney Parnes in the 1950s. It has been taught in a variety of programs since that time to encourage critical and creative solution finding.

Mind Missions lessons incorporate a creative problem-solving challenge in every lesson. The challenge may be the construction of a bridge or the development of a public service announcement. Mind Missions challenges are as varied as the historical and geographical problems examined in our lessons.

Why Creative Problem Solving?

Students need creative problem-solving to prepare for the 21stcentury. Adobe recently surveyed 2,000 educators and policymakers from around the world. Three quarters of respondents predicted that careers which require creative problem solving skills are less likely to be adversely impacted by automation and machine learning. Students need to be taught these critical skills in school to be competitive in a changing world workforce

What skills are taught through Creative Problem Solving?

Creative problem-solving opportunities encourage students to develop critical thinking strategies and learn design processes. Students learn to carefully evaluate the challenge, brainstorm possible answers, create innovative solutions, and test for redesign. The use of these methods improves problem-solving skills for a lifetime.

Mind Missions creative problem solving lessons also emphasize effective communication and teamwork habits to empower students to work effectively and collaboratively. In each team, students have the opportunity to apply their unique gifts and talents cooperatively and respectfully. They build relationships as they recognize and validate individual strengths. They learn to place team needs ahead of individual accomplishment.

Finally, lessons incorporating creative problem solving encourage creativity in the classroom. In a world of standardized tests asking for a single, correct answer, Mind Missions lessons encourage students to solve open-ended challenges in unique ways. When they experience design flaws, they learn to persevere and redesign for future success.

In all of these ways, creative problem solving lessons promote critical skills for the future. Critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity- skills that are uniquely human and are the skills of the future workforce.

Creative Problem Solving Strategies

Students need to experience creative problem-solving opportunities to prepare for the 21stcentury. Adobe recently surveyed 2,000 educators and policymakers from around the world. Three quarters of respondents predicted that careers which require creative problem-solving skills are less likely to be adversely impacted by automation and machine learning. Students need to be taught these critical skills in school to be competitive in a changing world workforce.

But how can you bring creative problem solving in to your classroom effectively? Use these guidelines to support creative problem solving with your students.

  • You don’t have to ignore content.

Remember that problem solving activities are integral to every core content area. There are problems to be solved in history, geography, science, math, and language arts. It is a question of framing the experience. Rather than offering students a question with a single answer, provide open-ended questions that encourage the same content understanding. For example, instead of asking for the result of 5+5, ask students for factors that result in 10. Instead of memorizing and reciting historical events, encourage students to develop and analyze potential solutions and outcomes. Creative problem solving is a habit of thinking that encourages students to consider the multiple options and potential outcomes that are found in every content field.

  • Take time to reflect, redesign, and grow.

Using a framework that allows students to reflect on their solution, redesign, and grow is essential. In the real world, effective solutions are rarely achieved using the first prototype. Strategies for testing and analyze solutions and making changes give students experience in design processes found in virtually every career. Be sure to build time in to problem solving activities to take a break, evaluate, and make appropriate changes. Have students record these experiences to instill the importance of analysis, evaluation, and redesign for better solutions.

  • Make it safe.

Students need to feel safe to take risks. Therefore, be careful about tying student grades to creative problem-solving outcomes. This will encourage students to pursue easy, safe solutions. Instead, evaluate evidence of work and learning. When students aren’t worried about a fail-safe solution, they will pursue more creative, interesting possibilities that encourage growth and critical thinking.

  • Get comfortable without the answers.

When encouraging students to pursue their own creative solutions, teachers must reevaluate their role in the classroom. In traditional instruction, teachers are the providers of knowledge and hold all of the answers. In classroom creative problem-solving activities, teachers provide options for students to pursue their own solutions. Stand ready to offer options for research, team strategies, and encouragement—instead of THE answer.

A changing world requires classroom teachers to embrace new paradigms for instruction. I have used these guidelines in the development of our entire line of social studies and language arts products, but they can be used in the development of lessons across core curriculum areas. I hope these strategies help you to bring creative problem solving to your classroom.


More Facts than Fiction Please!

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State and national standards are changing to emphasize the reading of more informational texts in elementary grades. In fact, Common Core standards require that 50% of reading in elementary grades should focus on reading non-fiction, informational text. Why?

  • Reading informational text in elementary school prepares students for high school and college. Most of the text read in later grades focuses on informational text. When students have learned strategies for comprehension of non-fiction, the transition to academic reading in high school and college will be smoother.
  • Reading informational text builds prior knowledge and academic vocabulary for later learning. One of the strongest predictors for academic success is academic vocabulary. Informational text is dense with new, content-specific words that build a foundation for knowledge in fields such as science and history. The Common Core standards reflect this goal when they state, “By reading texts in history/social studies, science, and other disciplines, students build a foundation of knowledge in these areas that will also give them background to be better readers in all content areas.”
  • Informational text helps English language learners. Non-fiction books usually contain realistic pictures that support the words in the text. With locally contextualized content, students learning to read in a second language can connect familiar images with words from their new language.
  • Non-fiction texts teach children about the real world, and they love it! Children love to learn about the world around them. Social studies informational texts share stories about people and places around the world. They highlight the challenges and accomplishments of real people from the past. Science non-fiction informs students of the amazing natural world that surrounds them. Children are naturally curious, and they love to learn about “real” things.

Unfortunately, studies show that elementary classrooms are primarily focused on fiction texts. According a recent study, students in primary grades spend 25 minutes each day reading. But less than four minutes of that time is spent reading non-fiction. (Rideout, Foehr, & Roberts)

So how can we encourage reading informational texts in elementary classrooms?

  • Use informational text during read-alouds. The read-aloud (or shared reading) time is essential to modeling strategies for successful comprehension. And learning to read informational text is more difficult. Students need to learn the pacing and strategies specific to this kind of text. However, 98% of teachers acknowledge that they didn’t do enough read-alouds of informational text. Teachers need to bring non-fiction stories into this essential instructional period.
  • Place informational texts in classroom libraries. Look for texts that appeal to student interest areas and that are visually appealing. For independent reading, lots of pictures and enticing text features encourage students. Fill your little library with books that hook students on non-fiction.
  • Pair non-fiction and fiction books. When you are planning to read a fiction story, pair it with a related non-fiction book. For example, read the fiction book, George and Martha Round and Round, and the non-fiction text, Owen & Mzee: The Language of Friendship. This approach bridges the gap between fiction and non-fiction and creates opportunities for discussion similarities and differences when studying different types of texts.
  • Make real-life connections with informational text. Give students the opportunity to share ways that informational texts connect to their lives. Students will learn that non-fiction reading covers every topic in the world around them which encourages students to engage with more informational texts in the future!