The following is a repost from the main Microsoft in Education blog.
6 Ways Microsoft technology helps foster creativity and critical thinking skills
More and more classrooms are doing away with traditional teaching strategies and are emphasizing nurturing students' self-expression and creativity. Here are six ways technology can be used in the classroom to foster creativity and critical thinking skills.
1. Instead of traditional tests, conduct assessments by having students create content in Office Mix to demonstrate understanding
This challenges students to put their personal spin on the material by using critical thinking skills to add their ideas and opinions to the topic, while using creativity to communicate their learning in an effective and engaging way. See this Office Mix made by educator Lidija Kralj from Croatia that demonstrates how she uses this "270 Degree Method" in her math lessons.
2. Use OneNote for learning activities that allow students to respond in different modalities and be creative about how they communicate ideas
Like in this learning activity for Squirrel Appreciation Day, use OneNote to organize questions that encourage students to think critically about the material, and to give your students multiple ways to respond while challenging them to be creative in how they do it. Whether inking, listening to audio, or working with a partner to create a video, all these functions can be embedded and submitted within the OneNote Class Notebook where the activity sits.
3. Have students use Sway to foster creative presentation skills
Intuitive, easy to use, not to mention lots of fun, Sway is a completely new way to express yourself-- and one your students will love. Sway is super flexible and connected to the web, meaning there are almost no limits to how students can communicate their learning, allowing students to get creative with their presentations and foster self-expression. Everything is drag-and-drop operation--image and video searches through Bing and Youtube can be done within the site (meaning the experience is ad-free). Additionally, you can embed OneNote Notebooks, Office Mixes, and even Sways within the Sway! Challenge students to innovate how they present ideas with the design features--would a group, stack, grid, or comparison best work in this situation, or how about an interactive chart? Great for field trip summaries, book reports, science presentations, and class newsletters that everyone can work on together.
4. Let students take charge of their learning through Skype in the Classroom
Through activities like Mystery Skype, students learn important lessons about social studies, geography, and history; not through lectures, but by asking the questions that lead to their own learning. By using critical and creative thinking skills to research and form questions, students are essentially directing their lesson through innovative inquiry. Each Mystery Skype session starts off as a blank slate-it's up to students to create their own unique learning experience.
5. Use Minecraft to create new worlds and learn basic coding principles
In Minecraft, students are able to design and build their own world. Stretch creativity to new bounds as Minecraft provides an outlet for the wildest imaginations to come to life. Through Minecraft Mods, combine coding with creativity by letting students try to create their own features within the game. Coding adds another dimension of creativity as students learn the building blocks behind the process and are empowered to unleash their creativity on a virtual level.
6. Combine modalities and eliminate keyboard limitations with digital inking in OneNote
Whether working with words, drawings, or charts, students are free to annotate without restriction using a drag-and-drop operation within OneNote. Thoughts are not limited by the keyboard. The cognitive advantages of writing (see this research paper by Sharon Oviatt) combined with the wealth of digital resources (videos, audio files, links) ensures students can add their ideas to the digital journey.