Creative Spaces in Distance Learning

5 ideas to inspire creativity in at-home teaching and online learning.

Desk for doing work and being creative.

by Clara Galán

posted on 04-15-2020

In distance learning, it is difficult to organize the learning environment the same way we would a physical classroom. In a physical classroom, educators can take seating and classroom space design into consideration and optimize it for creative learning. Although schools have moved to distance learning in light of COVID-19, there are still ways educators can inspire creativity in their at-home teaching spaces and online classrooms.

In her book, The Space: A Guide for Educators, Rebecca Hare, an art educator and designer, explores how learning spaces can support collaboration, creation, showcasing learning, and a learner’s need for quiet. I sat down with her to understand how we can shift from teaching the creative mind in a physical classroom to a virtual one. Below, Rebecca shares her insights and strategies for educators in every learning environment:

Creativity vs. creative teaching

First, let us define the difference between teaching for creativity versus creative teaching. In the first, we are developing creativity in learners, and in the later, educators are teaching in a creative way. The main difference between the two is, who gets to do the creative work — the teacher or the student? If we want students to be more creative, they need to do the creative work.

In order to get our students to think about content with their creative minds, we as educators can help them better connect and create. This is possible through distance learning.

Connect

Create a virtual environment in which students can share their ideas and work. Through this, students become inspired by one another, see other perspectives, give and receive feedback, and share their work. Using tools like Jamboard, Padlet, and Shared Google Slides allows you to have all students’ work in one place. Visual communication will help reduce students’ feelings of isolation and develop a more collaborative community. Ask students to generate and share questions about the content and see where their thinking takes the learning.

This is not a “one and done” experience. Ask students to go back and review each other’s work, give feedback, and reflect on what they shared. Now is a great time for teachers to go deeper with content and connections.

Create

Give your students multiple ways and new tools to share their thinking. Try combining high-tech and low-tech: Adobe Spark helps students create graphics, videos and web pages in minutes, and with very little training. From the low-tech side, challenge students by having them demonstrate their thinking using a limited set of items from around the house. Provide choices of how students can demonstrate their understanding and ideas, and have them share with the larger class. These exercises will get students to think differently, make new connections to information, and connect it to their own lives.

Your creative at-home teaching space

Try some of these strategies to design your own creative teaching space and inspire your daily online instruction:

  1. Change up your “desk”: Designate three spaces that support different postures (like your kitchen bar, sofa, dining table, or coffee table) to get your body moving. Try to stay no more than three hours in each space. You can even connect each space to a task that works best in that location.
  2. Get close to green: Strategically place plants near your work areas to brighten your day! Biophilic Design reconnects people to nature and brings green spaces inside. Research has shown that plants can reduce stress, help with focus, increase immunity and also help productivity.
  3. Include Rituals: Try to set up a few simple rituals that relax and energize you and help you pass your day. Rituals have been shown to reduce anxiety and improve performance. For example, have a coffee at 10:00am while you listen to your favorite song. Do yoga, stretch, or run each day before you check your email. Set up rituals that define your day, like a celebratory chocolate after work or an early morning weekday video chat with your best friend.
  4. Visualize your Progress: Make an accomplishment list each day or week—this could be a new ritual—in which you get to check off each item. Make this list only for non-work related items, like taking a shower, reading a book, exercising, and treating yourself to a dessert. Start it off with just your rituals and add other important tasks as you develop your routine. Tracking progress helps us increase our happiness, which is optimal for creativity.
  5. Create some physical whitespace: We do some of our best thinking off-screen. A large piece of paper (or a few pages taped together) or a journal can be a great backdrop for brainstorming, planning or a place for virtual meeting doodles. Whitespace and writing by hand help us detach from screens and the internet and give our minds new outlets for expression.

Join us on Thursday, April 16th at 12:30pm PT on our Adobe for Education Facebook and Twitter channels for a livestream interview with Rebecca Hare. Hear new strategies for injecting creativity into your virtual and at-home teaching spaces, and have your questions answered live! The session will be recorded.

Topics: Education, COVID-19

Products: Spark