– FFOEinsubjects.pdf

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10 Learning #038; Leading with Technology | May 2011

By Candace Hackett Shively

Focusing on fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration skills gives teachers and students an effective shortcut to developing creativity together.

Grow Creativity!

Creativity matters. The world needs creative thinkers, scien-tists, engineers, leaders, and

contributing workers. Yet research repeatedly shows that creativity is schooled out of us.

A shared vocabulary and lens for creativity helps teachers and students know what it means to “be creative” and where to start. J. P. Guilford’s FFOE model of divergent thinking from the 1950s offers four dimensions to describe creativity:


If you think you don’t have time to incorporate creativity development into your curriculum, consider that FFOE makes time spent on projects worthwhile because creativity is sup-ported, deliberate, and meaningful while still connected to the cur-riculum. Promoting and analyzing

creativity becomes a simpler matter of using the terms and involving the stu-dents, not teaching separate lessons or developing new materials. In fact, your student projects may already be building creativity but may just not have a vocabulary to talk about it.

Though imagined long before Web 2.0, this model is evergreen, and I have used it for decades with students and teachers. The terms are simple enough to use with students from kindergarten to AP, as well as with parents to publicly value and promote creativity across the curriculum.










Copyright © 2011, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), 1.800.336.5191 (U.S. #038; Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Int’l), [email protected], www.iste.org. All rights reserved.

The first step to problem solving or any creative endeavor is having as many ideas as possible to choose from, play with, research, or evaluate. Fluency is the ability to generate lots of ideas, which loosens up the creative wheels.

Brainstorming builds fluency. There’s just one rule: Make sure everyone accepts all responses during brainstorming without argu-ment. “Yeah, but” kills fluency and risk-taking.

Brainstorm together as a class or in groups to build fluency by mak-ing ongoing lists or concept maps. Talk about creative fluency as you brainstorm. Brainstorming on a “flu-ency wall,” which could reside on an

interactive whiteboard (IWB), a wiki page, or a piece of butcher paper taped to the actual classroom wall, promotes longer-term fluency because it allows students to add more ideas as they come to them.

Kathy Hrabik of St. Mary’s Catholic School in Berea, Ohio, suggests us-ing Wordle word clouds, as her fifth graders do, to develop fluency while learning character analysis. Students first work together to brainstorm the characteristics of Santa Claus (or another character) and create a Wordle as a class, repeating the most important characteristics in the list so they appear larger in the word cloud. The students then create their own character-analysis word clouds, allow-ing them to master a literary concept while building creativity skills.

FluencyHere are some fluency prompts to

get the juices flowing in the different curriculum areas:

Math. Describe ways to see the num-ber 24 (number sense).

Science. List things that require energy.

Social studies. List things that can affect an election or the “costs” of human rights violations.

Reading or language arts. List word choice options, alternatives to “said,” or words to describe anguish.

Some technology tools that help build fluency are Bubbl.us, Dabble-board, Edistorm, Scribblar, Webspira-tion, and word cloud tools, such as Tagul, Tagxedo, or Worditout. (See “Creativity Tools” on page 14.)

May 2011 | Learning #038; Leading with Technology 11

Copyright © 2011, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), 1.800.336.5191 (U.S. #038; Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Int’l), [email protected], www.iste.org. All rights reserved.

12 Learning #038; Leading with Technology | May 2011

Flexibility is the ability to look at a question or topic from a different angle. You can do this by shifting to an oppos-ing viewpoint, angle, direction, time, place, or modality, or by putting your-self in someone else’s shoes.

Flexibility generates a variety of ideas. Limiting one’s point of view to a sole perspective limits possibilities. Flexible thinkers discover whole new areas of possibility, including different inter-pretations of scientific data. Flexibility also promotes interpersonal and cross-cultural understanding. Flexibility may also lead to originality, the most elusive aspect of creativity.

Library Media Specialist Diane Darrow at Bel Aire School in Tiburon, California, often uses technology tools to build creativity skills. One activity promotes problem solving as third, fourth, and fifth graders use fluency and flexibility to list ways to “stop a squirrel from eating my peaches.” They brainstorm varied approaches to the problem on Wallwisher and then sort the options. (See the results at www.wallwisher.com/wall/squirrelypeaches.) 

Build flexibility through unexpected juxtapositions, such as combining dif-ferent senses, time periods, people, or places. Try one of these prompts or generate unusual angles to fit your curriculum:

Science. List beneficial things about fossil fuels, how the British view U.S. reactions to the BP oil spill, or alternate hypotheses for lab inquiry.

Social studies. Describe how the Boston Tea Party would sound or how a tea barrel would retell it.

Language arts. Retell tales from a different character’s point of view, debate/advocate from a position you firmly disagree with, or guess the key word behind a set of images or terms to “think backward.”

Art. Look at objects the way a Cubist would.

Pose a question or situation to prompt a new angle or position, then have students take on that point of view using Blabberize; Bubblr; blogs and microblogs, such as Twitter or Edmodo; or chat tools, such as Todays- meet, comic makers, GlogsterEDU, or VoiceThread. Stretch mental flex-ibility with challenges such as Guess the Google or fastr by Flickr.

Originality is the quality that gener-ates unique or unusual products, un-expected ideas, or the first of a kind. Originality requires the greatest risk-taking and is the crux of innovation, yet it is the most fragile dimension of creativity in school settings oriented to correct “answers.” Originality is of-ten disruptive in a school setting, but disruptive ideas often generate benefi-cial changes in the wider world.

Donna Benson, a teacher for gifted high school students, builds


originality into career exploration projects. Students first analyze their strengths and talent areas and then create a technology-based magazine cover from 25–40 years in the fu-ture, featuring themselves in the cover photo. Their accompanying original magazine article builds on their goals and career paths and explains the cov-er photo. “Placing” the students’ ca-reer thoughts in another time prompts originality amid serious goal-setting.

Keep in mind that originality is one facet of creativity that cannot be forced, only reinforced and publicly valued in our classrooms. Take time to say, “Wow! I never thought of that!” out loud, even if the idea is off the wall.

Originality may emerge from un-likely juxtapositions, similar to flexibil-ity prompts. Try shifts in time, place, role, capabilities, and other senses:

Math. Show 24 as a shape.

Science. Create an illustrated lab re-port from the point of view of one of the chemicals or a Glog of the sights and sounds of a cell’s life.

Social studies. Film a video of the Boston Tea Party on British YouTube circa 1773 or a colonist’s “American Idol” audition in 1763.

Language arts. Make a visual poem about any topic that angers you, such as racism, pollution, or cruelty to animals, for exle.

Creating products from scratch builds originality. Some favorite tools for this include Blabberize, Bubblr, comic mak-ers, Dabbleboard, DoInk, GlogsterEDU, GoAnimate, Queeky, Scrapblog, Scrib-blar, Tagxedo, Voicethread, Vuvox, Wallwisher, and Xtranormal.

Build flexibility through unexpected juxtapositions, such as combining different senses, time periods, people, or places.


Copyright © 2011, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), 1.800.336.5191 (U.S. #038; Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Int’l), [email protected], www.iste.org. All rights reserved.

May 2011 | Learning #038; Leading with Technology 13

Elaboration involves adding details, filling in the gaps, embellishing, and completing a creative idea. It fleshes out the ideas of working collabora-tors, carries an idea to fruition, or adds contextual detail needed to make something real, understand-able, or aesthetically pleasing. With-out elaboration, others would not see the full potential of a creative inspiration.

Elaboration is the easiest creative skill for teacher pleasers who are comfortable with school reward sys-tems. Think about it: er or story with the most details (even if it’s “fluff ”) often earns the highest grade. In contrast, very bright student “sponges” who learn for private enjoy-ment often do not elaborate to oth-ers unless prompted. In cooperative groups, elaborators play a process role worth underscoring: doing the leg-work to be sure projects are complete.

Use interactive or online white-boards with student-generated “start-ers” so students can take turns adding the next details. Adding detail to a graphic organizer or variations to a poetry pattern builds elaboration skill, as does turning basic drawings and shapes into detailed works of art.


Other ideas for building elaboration include:

Math. Explain steps on a poster or Glog. Decorate 3D shapes to show their dimensions and characteristics.

Science. Annotate a diagram or im-age of an insect, plant, cell, etc.

Social studies. Make caign post-ers of colonial quotes or Civil War slo-gans, a poster of community helpers and their roles, or an annotated map of a “green” city.

Language arts/reading. Write a pass-along story or paragraph using a required list of words. Add figures of speech to an existing passage.

Music/art. Complete a drawing or musical phrase. Manipulate “filters” on digital images.

Any technology tool can elaborate with detail, depending on the demands of the project. Some of my favorites are Blabberize, Bubblr, Bubbl.us, Caption-er, Comic makers, online whiteboards such as Dabbleboard, Fine Tuna, Glog-sterEDU, Mr Picassohead, Pixlr, Prezi, Queeky, Scrapblog, Scribblar, Spell with Flickr, Stained Glass Collage, Voi-ceThread, Vuvox, or Webspiration.

CREATIVITY RESOURCESCreative Leadership: Skills that Drive Change by Gerard J. puccio, mary murdock, marie

mance: http://tinyurl.com/478zrcs

Dimensions of creativity: A model to Analyze student projects (rubrics, idea sharing for use of FFoE, and more): www.teachersfirst.com/istecre8/index.cfm

“Do You have these 11 traits of highly creative people?” by Dean Rieck, copyblogger (creativity as a learned behavior): www.copyblogger.com/highly-creative-people

Thinking, the Expanding Frontier by William maxwell and John christopher Bishop (Guilford’s model): http://tinyurl.com/4j947uv

“Why creativity Now? A conversation with sir ken Robinson” by Amy Azzam, Educational Leadership (september 2009): http://tinyurl.com/4dh87h6

Copyright © 2011, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), 1.800.336.5191 (U.S. #038; Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Int’l), [email protected], www.iste.org. All rights reserved.

14 Learning #038; Leading with Technology | May 2011

How to Use FFOEWhen you first begin using this model, ask yourself which FFOE skills you are promoting in each project assigned. Take the time to reflect on your own FFOE strengths to know why you chose certain activities. You might be surprised what emerges.

Louise Maine, a high school biology teacher in Punxsutawney, Pennsylva-nia, first reacted to my question about how she develops creativity skills in her biology classes by saying, “I am not sure I use creativity in my classroom. Biology, unfortunately, is so packed

CREATIVITY TOOLShere are some Web-based tools for developing fluency (FL), flexibility (FLX), originality (o), and elaboration (E):

Blabberize (http://blabberize.com/make) FLX o E

Blog tools FLX

Bubblr (www.pimpum.net/bubblr) o E

Bubbl.us (http://bubbl.us) FL FLX E

Captioner (http://bighugelabs.com/captioner.php) E

Comic makers (www.teachersfirst.com/spectopics/comics.cfm) FLX o

Dabbleboard (www.dabbleboard.com) FL o E

DoInk (www.doink.com) o E

Edistorm (www.edistorm.com) FL

fastr by Flickr (http://randomchaos.com/games/fastr) FLX

Fine Tuna (www.finetuna.com) E

GlogsterEDU (http://edu.glogster.com) FLX o E

GoAnimate (http://domo.goanimate.com) o E

Guess the Google (http://grant.robinson.name/projects/guess-the-google) FLX

Montage a Google (http://grant.robinson.name/projects/montage-a-google) FLX

Mr Picassohead (www.mrpicassohead.com) E

Pixlr (www.pixlr.com) E

Queeky (www.queeky.com) o E

Scrapblog (www.scrapblog.com) o E

Scribblar (www.scribblar.com) FL o E

Tagul (http://tagul.com/#) FL FLX

Tagxedo (www.tagxedo.com) FL FLX o

Todaysmeet (http://todaysmeet.com) FLX

Twitter (http://twitter.com) FLX

Voicethread (http://ed.voicethread.com) FLX o E

Vuvox (www.vuvox.com) o E

Webspiration (www.mywebspiration.com) FL E

Wordle (www.wordle.net) FL FLX

Worditout (http://worditout.com) FL FLX

that it is just content.” But a glance at her class wiki shows that FFOE is pres-ent in the many projects her students create and share, such as one that dem-onstrates understanding of classifica-tion by designing an organism using Scratch. (See the assignment at http://tinyurl.com/4z4opn6.) By completing the required steps, almost as a tem-plate, students plan (by brainstorming for fluency) and create (originality), in-cluding required details (elaboration).

How would Maine’s students benefit from using the FFOE terms? If certain students repeatedly get “stuck” with

such projects, taking the metacogni-tive step of realizing that they need to exercise more fluency would help give them somewhere to start. For instance, a small group could brainstorm.

Plans and projects to support classroom creativity will vary from elementary to middle to high school. At all levels, you want to:

• Use the FFOE terms aloud• Involve the kids• Differentiate

It’s easy to use the terms, even in content-packed secondary classrooms, such as Maine’s biology class. Use the words out loud as you and students build FFOE skills and go about your usual curriculum. For instance, you could say, “We’ll brainstorm what we know and build fluency at the same time,” “How else could we look at it? Try some flexible thinking,” “Can you elaborate on that?” or “Zack, that was a really original interpretation.”

But you should not be the only one to use the words. Students will pick up the terms with some help from you. Ask them (individually or informally) what is hardest for them when they must write a story or essay and what comes most easily. Try prompting beyond identical, safe responses to open-ended questions such as: “Let’s try to look at this with some flexibility. What would the Confederates say were the reasons?”

Most important, stop to welcome any original idea that pops up by saying something such as: “I never thought of that possibility. Did any of you? That’s an original one. Let’s talk about it.”

Eventually, the students will pick up the terms and the concepts behind them and—at their developmental level—use social interaction and meta-cognition to help themselves when they get stuck. For instance, Maine’s biology students could say, “I like your story, but you need to elaborate on the details in this part,” or “I can’t think of an idea for my poster. Can we brain-storm to help my fluency?”

Copyright © 2011, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), 1.800.336.5191 (U.S. #038; Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Int’l), [email protected], www.iste.org. All rights reserved.

May 2011 | Learning #038; Leading with Technology 15

Once the students understand and use the terms, it is time to include FFOE in project assignments and ru-brics, but not necessarily for a grade. As you plan, stop to analyze which FFOE skills upcoming class projects and assignments require. No task uses one FFOE skill in isolation, and the emphasis for each project can differ based on student or class needs.

If students understand the terms, you can involve them in differentiat-ing. Find out which skills students struggle with. Ask them what the

hardest and easiest part of a project was for them. Including FFOE on ru-brics will help you notice progress and help students notice their own creativ-ity. Be sure to demystify for parents by explaining FFOE and a rationale for creativity at back-to-school night and on your class webpage so they will not be surprised by the rubrics. Share some creativity resources with more involved parents.

When you include FFOE in rubrics, focus only on certain criteria for that student—such as one strength and one need—and ignore others on the rubric. An elementary project rubric for a plant/animal timeline could include a flexibility criterion for one child (a timeline to tell the story from the point of view of the animal or plant) and elaboration for another (a timeline with extra details in both words and pictures and details to fit in with the rest of the information). At the middle school level, students can negotiate which FFOE areas to include as a creative strength or need and self-evaluate these FFOE focus areas.

Individual students can stop and think about their FFOE skills as part of self-evaluations on project rubrics. Including FFOE elements as optional, ungraded rubric elements is a way for them to “grow” their creativity skills and understand that creativity is val-ued and explainable.

Together, you and your students can use FFOE to embed creativity in any subject and any grade. Using Guil-ford’s model gives both teachers and students a focused approach to “being creative” and building skills that last far beyond a 42-minute class period.

Candace Hackett Shively has explored creativity and technol-ogy during many years teaching in Ohio and Pennsylvania. She is currently director of K–12 Initiatives at the nonprofit TeachersFirst.com/The Source

for Learning. She blogs about creativity and teaching at http://blog.teachersfirst.com/thinkteach and will offer a new creativity presentation at ISTE 2011.

FFOE IN PRACTICE here are a few more ideas for using the FFoE model to promote creativity in your classroom: talk to the students about where your own creative ideas come from. provide a real or electronic fluency wall leading up to projects and a “What if” graffiti wall for students to pose curriculum-related questions. Give “originality points” or salute creative victories on a class wiki page. Build gradually to open projects for those who need support, using templates, starters, or idea banks, but only for those who need them. prompt teacher pleasers and “safe” thinkers with unusual juxtapositions. include FFoE terms in rubrics and in parent conferences for the upper elementary level and beyond. At the middle and high school levels, help kids figure out where and how they get their best creative ideas. have them design an ideal creative environment, perhaps using a tool such as a Glog.

i n n o v a t i o n i s

“Discovering and using

a new pattern of thought

and action to address one

or more existing situations. 

it’s important to realize

that the situations, the

questions, the problem

areas, are not what is

innovative. it’s the use

of a new approach and

perspective leading to

a different action or

assessment that is


—Linda Ballas Avant Assessment


For more on innovative

learning technologies,

visit the siGiLt wiki at


Copyright © 2011, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), 1.800.336.5191 (U.S. #038; Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Int’l), [email protected], www.iste.org. All rights reserved.

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