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Deeper Learning Digest: Star Wars, Social Media, and Skateboarding

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September 28, 2018 03:51 pm


Is it possible to test how creative someone is? There are quite a few tests on the internet that claim to do so. Of course, there are also “tests” on the internet than can tell you which Star Wars character you are. We know the people designing those tests are creative, but what about your regular American student?

This week’s Deeper Learning Digest covers a new creativity test designed for U.S. fifteen-year-olds and their international peers. It will also explain why fifteen-year-olds and other adolescents are hard-wired to adopt social media and take up extreme sports such as skateboarding and snowboarding. Finally, it will examine the common, the controversial, and why March—and not December—could be the most wonderful time of the year.

Are U.S. Students More Creative than Their International Peers?

Through the years, U.S. fifteen-year-olds have not fared well on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international test given every three years by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (See more in “How Does the United States Stack Up? International Comparisons of Academic Achievement.”)

Still, some education advocates tend to brush off poor PISA results by saying that U.S. students are much more creative than their international peers and THAT is the skill that really matters. As evidence, they point to the booming tech industry and the many successful start-ups that begin in the United States. Those examples are more anecdotal than empirical, but what if there was a test that could measure creativity?

Writing for Education Week, superstar reporter—and Alliance for Excellent Education fav—Catherine Gewertz notes that such a test is in the works:

“When teenagers all over the world take the PISA exam in 2021, they could face a new kind of test: one that aims to measure their creativity. And the maker of a major U.S. college-admissions exam—ACT—will build it,” Gewertz writes.

“A fundamental role of education is to equip students with the skills they need in the future,” said Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills and special advisor on education policy to the Secretary-General at OECD, in a September 19 ACT press release. “Creative thinking is a necessary competence for today’s young people to develop, as societies increasingly depend on innovation to address emerging challenges. PISA 2021 will take international assessments into a new phase by gathering data on young people’s creative thinking skills.”

Citing Mario Piacentini, the OECD scientist leading the project, Gewertz writes that the creativity component is not a sure thing, but that the plan is to “present the exam’s framework, and ideas for possible test questions, to the OECD countries in November, and gauge their level of interest in participating.”

If the test happens, we’ll finally know for sure whether American students are as creative as we all think they are. Or maybe we’ll just have something else to argue about.

Risk Taking, Rewards, and Relationships

Have you ever wondered why teenagers are so quick to adopt Instagram, Snapchat, and other forms of social media? Or take up X Games sports such as skateboarding and snowboarding?

A new report by the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) explains how changes in the brain make adolescents more likely to be influenced by their peers, take risks, and even become disengaged in school as their motivations change.

“Unlike younger students, adolescents are not motivated by stickers and extra time at recess,” said Bob Wise, All4Ed President and former governor of West Virginia. “Additionally, the opinions of their peers become more important and adolescents increasingly seek novel and thrilling experiences—all while the role of adults shifts from a providing role to a supporting role. By understanding these changes in adolescents, educators, parents, and policymakers can ensure that students are engaged in their education, motivated to succeed, and take positive risks that further their education, as well as their development as individuals.”

So what’s an educator, policymaker, or parent to do? Read the report! It includes recommendations to help educators, parents, policymakers, and others navigate the changes students experience during adolescence and design learning environments that support adolescent learning and development.

How Controversial Topics Inspire Deeper Learning

Jeanie Dailey writes in eSchoolNews about a process that Horry County Schools in South Carolina has developed to combine cooperate learning with technology to “help to deepen thinking about topics as sensitive as racism and segregation—and get students looking at issues through multiple perspectives.”

Dailey, a learning specialist and teacher with more than twenty years of experience teaching social studies in middle and high schools, explains that kids who go through the process are learning how to “be kind to each other, to be empathetic, and to employ positive social behaviors and language.” But students are not the only ones benefitting. Dailey says that teachers “love the training,” adding, “When we conduct professional development, we rarely have a teacher who doesn’t give the trainer the highest marks. There are even some who say, ‘This really saved my career, because I was burned out.’”

Read more in eSchoolNews.

Learning Commons

Where can a teacher turn to find blended and personalized learning resources? Where can a coach find the right tools? Where can staff find the information they need to support their teachers? The Learning Commons! Learn about how you can use the Learning Commons to connect and accelerate your learning.


The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

No, Andy Williams, we’re not talking about December. We’re talking about Deeper Learning 2019!

Held March 27-29 in beautiful San Diego, DL2019 will be the seventh-annual gathering of powerful educators focused on creating more opportunities for students to learn deeply. What? You’ve never been? Check it out! You’re not registered yet? Head over to and get registered!

Deeper Learning in Action

Twitter can be a great place to see what’s happening to promote deeper learning outcomes in (and out!) of classrooms across the country. Here are a few examples. Be sure to follow @DeeperLearning and check out #DeeperLearning for more!



The ‘Deeper Learning Digest’ is a bi-weekly roundup of articles, blog posts, and other content around deeper learning. Be sure to follow @deeperlearning on Twitter, @deeper.learning on Instagram, and like Deeper Learning on Facebook to stay up to date on all deeper learning news.

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