‘Inspiring Creativity with the iDidAContest’ by Katie Harrison, Teacher in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District

Our Alaskan Schools blog

The IDidAContest is an annual Alaskan digital media contest sponsored by the Alaska Society for Technology in Education (ASTE) and run completely by volunteer Alaskan educators.The contest will celebrate its 20th year in 2020. 


We are surrounded by examples of creativity in today’s world: YouTubers who make millions of dollars playing video games, commercials that make us laugh and cry, apps that leave us questioning how we ever lived without them.

Creativity is currency in our modern society. Our students are experts at consuming, but it is our job as teachers to present them with opportunities to create.

Since first hearing about the ASTE iDidAContest, I’ve been using the carrot of a $100 first place prize to invoke creativity in a middle school Media Skills class at Susitna Valley Jr/Sr High School in Talkeetna. If you are unaware of the iDidAContest it is time for you to check it out! The program, sponsored by the Alaska Society for Technology in Education, celebrates student creations in the fields of photography, podcasting, videography, app design, music, and more.

The possibility of a $100 bill serves as the impetus for student buy-in in my class, but once the kids start taking pictures, recording podcasts and producing movies they are hooked on the creative process.

I love to watch teenagers lay on the ground to capture a unique perspective of an everyday object. Witnessing students work collaboratively to direct and act in movies makes my teacher-heart swell with joy. And I’ve never seen students enter flow state as easily as they do while editing images, podcasts and movies. Immediately they seem to access that special place of focus and limitless inspiration.

Creativity is a tricky skill to foster in students. It’s a vague concept that does not necessarily correlate with traditional classroom exercises. Expressing creativity involves forming new ideas; taking risks; failing, revising and persisting. The digital arts give students plenty of opportunities to practice.

Creativity may be difficult to explain, but we all know it when we see it. This is another reason why I love the iDidAContest. My students and I can view the participant submissions and discuss the creative aspects.

“What specifically makes this video more creative than that one?”

“What parts of this photo express creativity?”

“What new and original ideas is this podcaster presenting?”

After enough exposure, students start to get it.  It is a special thing to witness a student reach that level of creative understanding. It is even more special to bring home $100 bills to first place recipients.

Educators talk a lot about preparing students for the real world. The iDidAContest exemplifies the real world creative economy- innovators competing for financial rewards.  It’s such an authentic and exciting tool for fostering creativity in the classroom.

Have a story to share from your own school/district? You can either fill out this Google form, or simply send Sam Jordan content directly to work up a post.  We are looking for posts of no more than 500 words, accompanied by 1-2 pictures if available. If you need ideas, check out this doc https://bit.ly/2HDqyGx