Schools and Colleges

iSchool professors receive grant to advance project on child creativity

Two professors in the School of Information Studies will receive a grant to develop a project assisting educators to enhance children’s creative thinking.

Ruth Small, the Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor and director of the Center for Digital Literacy, and Marilyn Arnone, a research associate professor, are the two recipients of the grant funded through National Leadership Grant for Libraries and awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

The $249,495 grant will be used to help fund the developing website The Innovation Destination, which is designed for librarians and teachers to encourage students in fourth through eighth grade to enhance their creativity, innovation, inquiry skills and entrepreneurship skills.

Arnone said the website would include resources such as interviews with professionals that explain the process of innovating as well as lesson plans and teaching ideas that foster creative thinking.

“We really need to provide much more motivation and stimulation of children’s interest in these things,” Arnone said.

Small said creative thinking is especially important in today’s test-heavy society in which students are tested on remembering information rather than synthesizing, analyzing and creating new information.

“Teachers are under the gun to make sure that kids learn fact as opposed to thinking for themselves and coming up with unique solutions to problems,” Small said. “And what really matters in the world is that latter.”

The two professors will be working alongside several organizations to develop the website such as By Kids For Kids, the Connecticut Invention Convention, New York On Tech, Time2Invent, Online Computer Library Center WebJunction and the Center for Mentoring Excellence.

Small said she first became interested in the area of youth innovation about a decade ago when she attended a conference as director of the Center for Digital Literacy. Small added that she conducted a research study three years ago using kids who took part in the Connecticut Invention Convention, a statewide competition program of children’s critical thinking skills.

“Through that [research], I found that while teachers do play a role in supporting innovating kids, librarians much less so,” Small said. “And in fact, kids had a very narrow view of what librarians could do for them.”

Small added that she thought this was an issue and wanted to address it in some way.

Through the project, Small said she hopes librarians will play an active role in promoting innovative thinking. She said part of the project will train school librarians to be mentors.

Melissa Porter, a librarian at Fabius-Pompey Elementary School, said she would be interested in using the website.

“I think I would probably use it as a resource to show what administrators, teachers and librarians can do to help not just in the library, but in the classrooms as well,” Porter said.

Small said she learned about the grant in a Sept. 7 announcement and was excited.

“I have had over a dozen funded projects from IMLS so I am pretty well-known and I think that we have done some remarkable work, not just for myself, but for the people who I worked with on these projects,” Small said.

Small said the actual project would launch on Dec. 1, when the grant is provided and devoted for training and development of resources on the website. The website itself will not be live for another year.

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