Creativity and networks

How great would it be if more of our formal education incorporated some of the strategies of informal learning. I’m thinking about the Research and Do-It-Yourself approach.

Have a look at this example posed by Britta Riley of Windowfarms fame. These Do-It-Yourself researchers are apartment dwellers, learning how to make home window gardening ¬†a viable option. If they can figure it out, this means ¬†we can grow a little bit of our food at home, even if we don’t have a backyard in which to cultivate vegetables and fruit. Using the light from ¬†lounge and bedroom windows, we could be growing strawberries and tomatoes enough to feed a family.

To problem solve this complex horticultural and engineering feat, they’re using the power of the internet to make connections and share information. They’re connecting and combining ideas drawn from hydroponic research and space station research, and they’re just ordinary folk like you and me with an interest in gardening. Their research potential is tremendous because they are building on the knowledge of others, not reinventing the wheel at every point.

I think this is an example of what Steven Johnson calls emergent behaviour. No one is in charge but things keep on happening and a self-organising system is growing and thriving. Or so it seemed.

There is a dark side to this unfortunately.

The economic model seems to have failed as Riley’s self-styled ‘open source community of developers of hydrophoic edible gardens for urban windows’¬†is unable to meet demand for their home DIY gardening kits, and their website is covered in messages requesting that orders be met and delivered. The last message on their website was 16 December 2013, and ‘Lori” said she won’t stop posting there till she gets her kit. She’s been shouting for a while. It seems like no one is listening I’m afraid Lori.

Sad. But it doesn’t mean the idea of networking is not a good one. It’s the economic model that need some renovation.

Anyway, here’s ¬†Britta Riley with her idea: A garden in my apartment.

And, as you know, as Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody say,¬†“From little things big things grow.” You just need patience and perseverance.

Johnson, S. (2001). Emergence: The connected lives of ants, brains, cities and software. London: Penguin.

Sustainable education – and a touch of creativity

Education that is sustainable certainly needs an input of creative thinking, problem solving and problem reframing.

Professor Paul Kim, from the Stanford Graduate School of Education is a man after my own heart. Professor Kim has long had an interest in technology and education, and his model for educational design, for teaching now and in the future, focuses not just on the technology, but on the whole picture. This means including the idea of sustainability.

Kim talks about designing “learnable moments”, not just about distributing hardware to students in need. He also encourages inspiring students “with wisdom” – using our creative approach to education to work towards sustainability. It’s no good giving students new technology unless we have a creative plan for how that technology can be continued into the future, based on their needs and context.

He uses the ADDIES model for educational design – Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation and Sustainment.

To put this into action we need creative problem finding, creative problem solving, and a willingness to take risks and live with uncertainty. And that’s only the start.

Paul Kim – Designing a new learning environment

Connecting and combining, chindogu, keyboards and bananas

Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum have the Japanese art of connecting and combining objects, Chindogu, down to a fine art. Chindogu inventions are practical, but not. While at first they may seem like a solution to a problem, they are ‘unuseless’ because there is something a bit weird about them. They are not ‘appropriate’ in some way. What is appropriate? We have an idea how things should work, but might reject how they could work. And the thing with chindogu solutions is that because they are weird they might open the way to thinking in a new way about old ideas and problems, and come up with solutions that fulfil a pressing need or adress complex world problems.

Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum, two doctoral students, have created a kit called MaKey MaKey that gives the user tools to make a computer interface out of pizza, bananas, paintbrushes, dogs, people, anything! They see the world as a construction kit. They want everyone to be amazing. You are only limited by your imagination. Connect and combine, see what happens, and have fun.

Jay Silver: Hack a banana, make a keyboard

Creativity and context: teaching creatively online

One of the great challenges for those interested in fostering creativity is the problem of context. This as you’d expect shapes what teachers and students do, and in the fully online course space the contextual issues are a constant struggle between making space for student freedom, autonomy and agency within the boundaries of a course limited by time and resources, where you only ‘see’ students as they present via their online persona.

MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) present a particular challenge. Do they present opportunities for creative change in online learning or reinforcement of traditional ways? ¬†Always keen on the experiential approach to learning, I’ve enrolled in a number of MOOCs, which makes me a serial MOOCist,¬† MOOCee . . . or some such.

At the moment, MOOCs in the main, from my non-systematic reading, seem to be emerging as traditional online courses. Yes, with a few more students. I don’t think the majority are following George Siemens’ very loosely structured connectivist model. The majority seem to be structured on the traditional higher ed classroom presentation model.

I’m just now completing the Introduction to Philosophy course offered via the University of Edinburgh and Coursera. It’s traditional in that there are video lectures, weekly quizzes, a discussion board, and a final essay.

Signs of creativity? It’s philosophy, so it’s very much about analytical thinking, but creativity comes out in the examples chosen by lecturers to demonstrate points in their talks, and in the passion some of the lecturers show for their subject matter as they stand in front of the video camera, unaccustomed to public speaking in a room filled with one (themselves). There’s creativity in some of the lecturers‚Äô responses to the online discussions. So, traditional, but okay and there are enough boundaries to keep me on track without boxing me in.

From the student point of view is there creativity? Well, it’s all up to you to get whatever you want out of the course. No one else cares. There’s not an overwhelming amount of content in this course so you have plenty of room to think – which is what philosophers want you to do. There’s room for activity¬† – and where there’s activity and reflection then there’s room for creativity. You can go and research more if you want, but only you care. Goals are very important in MOOC Land – your goals.

I’m keen to see how the Creativity Innovation and Change course stacks up later in the year. Apparently I will be exploring creativity to gain personal insights, solving complex problems and using creativity to drive change. Collaboration will be a big part of this course which it wasn’t for the philosophy one. How much collaboration do we need for creativity?