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!)

Could I have a future in Human Computer Interaction?

Looking back over my experience studying occupational therapy, I’m coming to accept that I am not going to be a standard practicing OT. What I found most interesting were things like assistive technology and educational technology, and I had two placements that encouraged these interests. I also really enjoyed learning and developing new skills in the academic (but ‘practical’) setting. In school, I enjoyed conducting experiments and writing up reports. So it seems fitting for me to combine these interests and work with technology, potentially in a research and development role. It is something I’m repeatedly drawn to, so why fight it?

Something else that comes naturally to me is my ability to spot things that could be better. In my current job, I’m always suggesting improvements to the way my team works and how our environment is set up. In my final placement, I watched a presentation in which one of the OTs demonstrated a new programme to help the students (with dyslexia) construct sentences, and I felt almost disturbed towards the end, as the software was not in any way intuitive. I sat there just thinking about how this or that could be improved, and I even talked to the OT afterwards about her experience trialling it. She had to spend hours exchanging emails and phone calls with their support team just to learn how to use it in the most basic sense! (Apparently, once you know how it works, it’s great.)

I’ve been thinking about where I want to go in life, particularly what to do a Masters in. I know that I’m going to one day get a PhD – this is one of my life goals – but I just don’t know what exactly to focus on, as my interests range from education to AT to virtual reality to anthropology and so on.

And I think I’ve found my Masters area: Human Computer Interaction. The name is pretty self-explanatory – it involves studying how humans interact with technology and designing technology so that it better meets the needs of the intended users. It combines behavioural psychology with computer science, among many other fields. This is where I hope you all go, “But wait, this is totally relevant to occupational therapy!” Don’t occupational therapists also try to match technology (low and high-tech) with the needs and abilities of the user, just on a smaller scale with one person at a time or a very specific population?

I think occupational therapists are entirely qualified to study human computer interaction. We understand people, both psychologically and physically. We have the skills necessary to observe and analyse the behaviour of people in an environment completing a task, and we can modify the task or environment to improve the success rate of the activity. So it seems perfectly natural, if I want to work with technology, to study human computer interaction and apply it to creating and/or improving technologies for education and/or disabilities.

My next step is to continue reading and learning about HCI, as well as looking into the differences of the various universities that offer it as a MSc. I found out that I have two weeks worth of holidays to use before the new fiscal year, as does Flan, so we might take a few day trips to Bath, UCL, Brighton and so on over the coming months. It’s not a cheap venture, so I’ll also be seeing what funding options I have; there may be a companies or organisations out there willing to sponsor a potential HCI expert! Who knows?

Critical thinking skills.

Critical Thinking Skills | Flickr – Enokson.

I found this chart again through Nancy Rubin’s site, but it’s originally from Enokson’s Flickr site. Enokson, according to her profile is a library technician at a school in Canada, and going through her photos brings up my own short memories of being a library assistant at an American school here in the UK.

Anyway, the chart is of the levels of critical thinking, starting from Knowledge and proceeding to Evaluation. Each level lists the typical words and questions used to gather the appropriate information. I think it’s a brilliant and wonderfully colourful table, and Flan (the philosophy graduate) agrees. I’ve already emailed it to my mom in South Africa to print out for my teenage brother, and I’ve suggested that she show it to the teachers at his school.

From the gallery: “Not-for-profit organizations are free to use it within the Creative Commons licensing parameters.”