5 Tools that Foster Creativity in the Remote Learning Environment

By Rachelle Dene Poth


With many schools around the world facilitating remote learning for the remainder of this academic year and possibly longer, we must find ways to provide more than just the content for our students. We need to consider how we can use this time as an opportunity for students to engage in learning, to explore and create more, in ways that meet their specific interests and needs. We also should think about the transition we will need to make when classes resume in our schools. What types of opportunities can we design that will help students to be flexible in learning, to develop a growth mindset, become problem solvers, while also providing ways for collaboration and communication to occur? 

Especially now, with social interactions limited, it is critical that we provide opportunities for students to engage in meaningful learning and leading experiences that promote the development of social-emotional learning skills and empower students to communicate and collaborate regardless of the “space.”  If technology will be used at a greater level for learning and working in the future, we need to be intentional about embedding ways for students to develop skills that are critical to personal and future professional growth. 

Creating, Connecting and Growing

Although this is a very challenging time in the world, it is an opportunity to have our students engage in learning in unique ways. By focusing our efforts on bringing in concepts such as project-based learning (PBL), place-based learning, STEAM curriculum, entrepreneurial ventures, and genius hour, our students can have more independence and the opportunity to drive their learning, now more than ever before. 

Below are some ideas, tools, and websites for students to explore which will promote creativity, curiosity, and offer the opportunity for fostering global connections and cultural understanding. As I plan my lessons, I am shifting to using some of these methods and tools for my own students, to promote more student-driven learning and to provide more than just the content that I teach.

5 Tools and resources that promote creativity in the remote learning environment:

  1. Empatico. It offers global opportunities for students ages 6 through 11. There are activities to connect students with classrooms from around the world and learn about topics such as culture, folklore, foods, school, and weather. Empatico offers “bite size lessons” for helping students to build SEL skills while at home. In particular, activities that focus on different perspectives and on respectful communication.  
  2. Flipgrid. Using a tool like Flipgrid, students can have a space where they share an idea and ask for peer feedback or feedback from other teachers. Find connections from around the world with Grid Pals. Explore ideas in the Disco Library and select from the different topics and then give students an opportunity to design their own PBL, become an inventor, learn about empathy, or explore wonders from Wonderopolis topics.
  3. Full STEAM Ahead. Offered through MIT, the Full STEAM Ahead project offers resources for week-long digital and non-digital learning opportunities for students in grades K through  12. Each week includes videos, lessons to work through with additional links, leading students to create a final project or invention to share. In week two, students can try stepping into invention and can then tie it into design thinking, genius hour or a project-based learning idea. Check the great resources from Defined Learning!
  4. Wonderopolis. A great site for exploring a different wonder every day which comes with reading support and a short quiz to check for comprehension. Students can explore the “Try It Out” activities with family members as an extension of learning. Many topics available through Wonderopolis would be good for students to explore for PBL or genius hour. An extension to promote communication and collaboration is to use Flipgrid in conjunction with Wonderopolis. 
  5. App inventors. There are a variety of tools available for students to create their own apps. MIT offers the MIT App Inventor, AppyPie, or students can become “Appreneurs” using MAD-Learn. With COVID 19, there has been a lot of talk about the types of technologies that we need to assist with detection and helping people to know when they are or have been around somebody with the virus. These can be good prompts for asking students to design an app that they think would be beneficial to certain parts of the world or for a specific use, based on how our lives have changed.

With these options, we provide opportunities not only for our students to explore new ideas, but to also create and build essential skills, regardless of when or where learning takes place. Each of these also provide students with a chance to focus on the five competencies of social-emotional learning skills of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. Providing more independent opportunities through PBL, STEM, and STEAM learning experiences, will help as students transition in this remote learning experience and will be beneficial when we return to our classrooms.

It is a difficult time for students as they adjust to online learning. By offering some of these options, students can still connect with the content they are learning but apply it in a more authentic, personal way. We can also help students with building essential skills and bring about some positive experiences for students and drive change in and out of our classrooms.

About the Author: 

Rachelle Dene is a Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle is also an attorney with a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. She serves as the President of the ISTE Teacher Education Network. Author of ‘In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking” “Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU” and “The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead,” Rachelle Dene’s latest book is with ISTE “Chart A New Course is now available. Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and on Instagram @Rdene915.


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