Learning Creative Learning, and the imagination spiral.

Another course I’m currently taking part in is MIT Media Lab‘s Learning Creative Learning. What’s unique about it is that it is not being taught through an established platform like Coursera or EdX; instead, the power of Google is being used: Youtube for videos, Google+ for sharing and discussion, Google Drive for documents, etc. The course is being led by Mitch Resnick, who gave the following TED talk on teaching kids to code.

The course seeks to explore the different types of creative learning, which is distinguished from the syllabus-based learning of many schools today. They look to kindergarten for inspiration, where children are given basic tools (blocks, paint, etc.) and are left create whatever they can imagine. Through a spiral of Imagining, Creating, Playing, Sharing, Reflecting and Imagining again, the children learn how to create bigger and better towers, for example. This learning through play is something occupational therapists know all about, and Resnick thinks it can and should be applied to learning at any age. While the tools of kindergarten are blocks and beads, older ages need more complex tools to work with, which is where technology can come into play if designed right.

Resnick gave a talk on this imagination spiral at the Creativity and Cognition conference in June 2007. The accompanying article is available online, and it was the suggested reading for our first (this) week. I highly recommend it, as it’s very easy to read, and it’ll hopefully inspire you like it inspired me.

Resnick, M. (2007). All I Really Need to Know (About Creative Thinking) I Learned (By Studying How Children Learn) in Kindergarten. ACM Creativity & Cognition conference, Washington DC, June 2007.

I wholeheartedly agree that the imagination spiral is applicable to all ages. It definitely applies to the way I learned HTML, with a project in mind. However, I will admit that I’m not sure it’s applicable to all subjects of learning, such as maths. Yes, maybe the spiral is applicable if you’re an amazing mathematician trying to prove some sort of theory, but for learning multiplication and division? I may be proved wrong in the course of the next twelve weeks, and I am fully open to that. In fact, I’d love it if we could figure out a way to make learning mathematical concepts more fun and creative. Someone please, oh please, make proof by induction fun. (That was what I enjoyed least about IB Higher Level Maths.)

I’m very excited and inspired by this course already, and my group (#446!) is made up of an amazing selection of people, including a woman working as a user experience designer who studied human computer interaction. (Yes, I’ve already started picking her brains about it!)

Do movies imprint the right ideas on children?

Flan and I recently watched a TED talk that actually made us think a lot more than we thought from the title. The talk was by Colin Stokes and titled ‘How Movies Teach Manhood’.

Colin mentions the Bechdel Test, a tool that rates movies on the following criteria:

1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man

Here’s the Wikipedia article. The Feminist Frequency also wrote a piece about it.

How many of your favourite movies pass this? When I heard about the test, I realised I’d become so used to watching movies in which the main characters are either men or women discussing men. A lot of the time, you’ll find there will be a woman in a group of main characters, but only one – the token female. Alternatively, you’ll have a few women, but they’ll be either plotting to get men or complaining about them. The common roles of women seem to be mothers, wives, girlfriends or wannabe girlfriends. Meanwhile, the men are racing around in cars/helicopters/planes/trains/etc., hitting/shooting people and getting the girls in the end. Colin was worried about what these stereotypical roles were teaching his young children, and it definitely made me pause to think. Are girls learning to take charge of the situation, to be brave, to learn, to take care of others? Are boys learning to trust girls and let them lead as well?

Flan actually brought up the topic the next day after realising his daily work life doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test. Out of the seven people in his department at a technology company, none are female. In his physical office room (open-plan), there are sixteen people, and only one is female. Why is that? (I’ll leave that thought there so we can all have a think.)

Today, I am glad I have my family.

I’d like to say, first of all, that I am distraught about what has happened in Newtown, Connecticut today. I was on the verge of tears for over an hour, watching the BBC live broadcast, and the tears finally broke when Obama mentioned the families that won’t be able to hug their children tonight. I know this means very little, but my arms are open to those families today and for the years to come. I can’t even imagine what Christmas will be like for these families, as I’m sure there are presents hidden away for the young children who died today. Just writing this is making me cry again. I have cousin within the age group in a town about half an hour’s drive away, and one of the interviewed children sounded just like him. I don’t know what I would have done if the shooting was at his school, and I haven’t even seen him for about two years. I can’t imagine how the town of Newport is going to sleep tonight. My deepest, deepest sympathies…

Now, I almost don’t feel right writing this, so I’m going to keep it short – a little bit of good personal news to try to lighten the mood of this post. My parents finally sold their house in Surrey. It was on the market for almost a year, with two potential buyers backing out at the last minute due to financial reasons. The third buyer signed the contracts today, and it’s such a relief, for them and for me. I’ve been told I can worry too much, but I will be the first to admit that I’m very protective of those that I’m close to – family and friends. So I’m very happy for my family, as I know they’ve had a bit of a tough couple years, and everything is turning around for them now. (It might just be for me too, but more on that in another post.) I love them to bits, and I don’t know what I’d do without them. It’s hard enough living so far away from them!