Igniting Creativity through Online Summer Camps with Cyndi Burnett

When Outschool teacher, Karen Wieland, posted about her upcoming class on Facebook, Cyndi Burnett took notice. As Cyndi’s past teacher, Karen had made an impression on Cyndi. The class was on Latin prefixes and suffixes, and Cyndi signed up her son right away.

Cyndi Burnett has taught deliberate creative thinking to college students for over two decades and is now shifting her focus to share her lessons on YouTube and social media. She uses her channel Create TUBEity to share creative thinking challenges and tips with people of all ages.

Part of the reason the Outschool class caught her eye is her son’s own creativity. “I've often said to my graduate students, ‘I'd like to bring my son in because he challenges things in ways that always surprise me and amaze me. He sees the world in a different way than most people do.”

After taking a few shorter courses on Harry Potter, the longer, 10-week course was a perfect fit. “he is really, really engaged. In fact, my husband was taking pictures of him while he was in the course because he was totally engaged with what the teacher was talking about,” Cyndi said.

What happens when a creative parent and a creative child join forces? They discover a creative new way to use Outschool.

Enter the Outschool online summer camp.

“Mom, I love that idea.”

With the summer coming, Cyndi has been looking ahead to the three full months her children will have off from school. While she is in favor of her children relaxing and playing, she also wants them to have opportunities to learn and “think about things in different ways.”

Following this philosophy, she looked to Outschool for an exciting new summer project: a design-your-own summer camp.

"There are so many classes on Outschool I'd love to take," Cyndi's son said about the summer camp idea.

One factor making this summer camp attractive was the affordable cost of Outschool classes compared to the wide-ranging benefits and value. “He's in a small group. He's with kids from different parts of the world, and it's a completely manageable cost. I pay more for my daughter's dance classes.”

Cyndi’s son has researched and selected an exciting lineup of topics for his online summer camp, including:

Part of the summer camp planning process was an exercise in negotiation and compromise. Cyndi wanted her son to take an essay writing course to complement the subjects he selected on his own.

“I said, ‘You're going to take drawing, but I want you to do an essay course.’ And he said, ‘Done.’”

Why Cyndi loves Outschool

There are several intersections between Cyndi’s research and work on creativity, and the flexible arrangement for teaching and learning Outschool offers. One of the major draws to Outschool for Cyndi is cooperative learning.

“I love the fact that my son is collaborating and learning synchronously with a group of kids from all over the world. It's easy. It's exciting,” Cyndi said.

Part of that collaboration occurs with the Outschool teachers, who also drew Cyndi to the platform. Teachers get to pick the classes they teach, which creates a cycle of inspiration between the teacher and the learner.

The credentials are impressive, too. “One woman I was looking at has a master's degree in engineering education from Stanford. Where else would I have the opportunity for my son to learn with someone like that?”

While Cyndi believes more traditional schools are here for the long haul and can cover basic educational needs, there are aspects of online collaborative learning that can’t be beaten. This includes the convenience of her son learning about a topic that excites him from his living room couch in his pajamas.

“When I found Outschool, I found a peek into the future of what's possible,” Cyndi said. “It's helping my son become socially savvy in collaboration and technology, which is an important skill for the future.”

The future of education is already here

When it comes to forward-looking learning, Cyndi has her own experience. Her MOOC (massive open online course) called Ignite Your Everyday Creativity, has reached over 100,000 learners. Similar to Outschool, part of Cyndi’s motivation in running her MOOC was democratizing and decentralizing education.

She contrasts the experience of teaching a MOOC or teaching on Outschol to academia, noticing the long wait times required to make progress in a more traditional environment. In Cyndi’s experience, it can take three, four, or five years to share new information through an academic journal.

Through YouTube and social media, Cyndi can reach learners instantly. Then, she can quickly receive feedback and use it to create more useful educational content for the future. This is similar to Outschool’s reviews, which allow parents and learners to make informed decisions about courses, and allow teachers to learn what works and what can be improved.

How parents can unleash creativity

As an expert on building creativity, Cyndi sees an important link between her advice for parents and the opportunity Outschool offers young learners. Her best advice for helping kids be more creative?

“See what your kids are interested in. Look for that spark,” Cyndi said.

This can be as simple as listening to what children talk about over and over, or encouraging kids to browse through a catalog of online courses. When they express interest in a subject, help to facilitate a learning opportunity for them around that subject.

“That’s where the magic happens, and that’s where creativity happens.”

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