What do children care about?

You’re 10 years old, you live in Dublin, and someone asks you:
What’s the one thing would you like to change in the world?
What do you think the children said, more toys, less school?
Not at all, this is what the children said:

An end to world hunger;  No more air pollution;
World Peace; that no-one has to lose family and friends;
a cure for cancer;  the rainforest to be saved.
No shortage of wild idealism!

Then inspired by a presentation of future technologies (here)
and their own imagination, the children sat down to invent
ways to solve their chosen issue.
With names like ‘The Yom’, ‘Wheels of the Future’ and ‘Beddy Bye’,
here are some of their designs:

EnviroCar-s

A car which breathes in Co2 and exhails oxygen. 

FoodMachine-s

The YOM, a food and drink maker against world hunger.

Self-WritingPen-s2

A pen that writes by itself for children with Dyslexia.

Killian-Car-s2

A car which drives on electricity created by the wheels hitting the road. 

Solar-Chariot-s

And a solar powered chariot.

Thanks to all the children in 3rd class and 5th class, to Mr. O Sullivan and Ms. Halligan and the principal Mrs. Moore, all at the Harold School in Glasthule in Dublin, for having us. www.theharoldschool.ie

What would your children design for you? (Can children become Social Designers?)

To an extent they already are! Children’s potential is oft overlooked in every field. Their capacity for empathy and creative thinking positions them perfectly as social designers. And let’s face it, we need all the help we can get. Unexpect hypothesis is, ‘Children can creatively solve some of the world’s problems’ (problems usually created by adults). We are researching this hypothesis through a series of design workshops and manifestations. Looking specifically at the questions:
Under which circumstances can children tap into their design potential?;
What types of social and environmental problems can children best work on?

This week in a prototype workshop with 16 children in the age range of 8-9 years, we worked on the topic ‘Designing for your Parents’  The workshop was about two hours in length.

massagemachine

A floating massage machine for father, as he suffers from a slipped disc (hernia).

We kicked off the workshop, with a game, to encourage creative thinking and feelings of empathy. (if you would like the workshop program, download it here Unexpect#2 (in Dutch). Then we invited the children to draw the outline of an adult in their lives and map onto it any problems, they knew of. Most children choose a parent or a grandparent. They described problems such as, broken hips, black lungs from smoking, red spots on hands, being too busy, always having to work and sadness due to divorce.

oma&opa

A 3d printed hart for Grandma and a wire for better hearing for Grandpa.

Then we looked at a number of new and future technologies and talked about their potential. Such as 3d printing, eye lenses which react to the wearers blood- sugar level, jet pack, Google’s self driving car, huge touch screens.

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Lenses which react to the wearers blood- sugar level, for diabetes patients.

Next up was to envisage in what way a new technology might provide a solution to one of the earlier mapped problems. Most children went eagerly to work and had plenty of ideas, a few children struggled. Such as the girl whose father was sad due to the divorce, she didn’t know how to help him with that in a structural way, another problem she perceived was the lack of color in her father’s wardrobe so she decided on an app to give him clothes advice every morning.

app

The clothes color advice app, on the right the different screens. 

rocket

A cigarette which turns into a rocket and takes off, as anti-smoking device

We closed the workshop by sharing solutions and followed up the next day with an evaluation and checking if there were any concerns from the home front and to check if all the children knew where they could go to if they felt troubled.

Through the workshop and evaluation we learned a number of things:

– the workshop scored high in the children’s estimation with girls scoring it higher than boys;
– of the four workshop parts, the opening game and designing solutions scored the highest, followed by the new technologies and as last the mapping or problems;
– the children are well aware of their parents and other adults problems
– children are motivated to alleviate parents distress or discomfort.

Questions that were raised:
– how do we deal with the privacy of issues raised by children revealing adults issues?
– how do we channel creative thinking into applicable solutions

If you have any thoughts or suggestions, we’d love to hear them, drop a comment or mail us at workshops (at) unexpect.nl

This is the second in a a series of test workshops for Unexpect. Unexpect cultivates young people’s creativity for beauty, resilience and solutions to social and environmental challenges. In a nutshell, ‘Social Design Education.’

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LittleBits @ Maker Faire Amsterdam

LittleBits, the brainchild of Ayah Bdeir, an alumna of the MIT Media Lab, is a library of Electronics dubbed as ‘LEGOs for the iPad generation.’ They are pieces of an electronics  which snap together with magnets to create a working circuit, they have a simple color coding, blue for power, green for output and pink for sensors. You can make all kinds of fun things with them. I had just ordered an extended kit as a prototype tool for the new school I am working on called DNS, when I saw the call to take part in the Amsterdam Maker Festival and thought lets join in. And see what children would want to do with LittleBits.

nits
They look very friendly.

motor2
Putting together the LittleBits, light, slider, motor.

maeve-motor
Attaching things to the motor to see what happens.

On LittleBits:
It wasn’t really a workshop, we just played together and tried things out, some adults were totally glued as were some children, and kept trying different ways to make things turn bleep and light up.
The LittleBits are easy to work with and everyone young and old found them user friendly, on the down side, they are less adjustable than you would want them to be, as in the motion sensor would need to be in a really quiet room to work, the LED light when connected to a sound sensor mainly responds to high tones and stays on for a couple of seconds before going out and you can’t adjust that.
Another point of concern is the strength of the battery which wore down very quickly and the strength of the fan which wouldn’t really blow a sandwich plastic bag up, maybe only for feathers?

On Amsterdam Maker Festival:
This was a try out version, they put the whole thing together in 5 weeks so fair play. It was held in a perfect location, a former factory in Amsterdam North and there were a number of engaging children’s exhibits to interact with, so excellent for kids. I hope when the full version comes, next May 23rd and 24th, 2014 they will also attract the adult Maker scene for example people like Fred Abels, Plakken en Knippen from the Hague, the Dutch DIY Bio group etc. Looking forward!

See here for the flickr set of photos, from Saturday the 7th of September at Maker Faire Amsterdam

mfa-poster

filipejuliehousefathernson

Can you measure Creativity at Schools and should we try?

Levels of appreciation for creativity and innovation have risen sharply in the last 15 years, largely due to the claimed positive impact it is supposed to have on economic growth.  Yet people have appreciated creativity as an innate (not just functional) quality for a long time, think of Graham Wallas on the Four Stages of Creativity from 1926 or back further Leonardo Da Vinci,
‘The painter has the Universe in his mind and hands.’ –  Leonardo da Vinci

So are the recent calls (US, European, South Korea) for school systems to be measured in an index of creativity likely to be a good thing? presuming we agree that the aim is to enhance and cultivate children’s innate creative beings? And especially given that tests ala the SAT(US) or CITO(NL) or PISA (International) which  measure proficiency in language comprehension, reading, writing and maths are regularly cited as the main obstacle to developing creativity at schools.  And there lies the crux:
How might we measure creativity in a way that is formative?

The state of Massachusetts in the US is exploring the idea, their approach is measure inputs than outputs, that is, to gauge the extent to which schools provide opportunities that will foster creativity and innovation in young people.  Adobe did a large research across educators in the Asia Pacific region and came up with findings presented in this infographic:

Information Graphic

This year the OECD brought out a working paper, ‘Progression in Student Creativity in School: First Steps Towards New Forms of Formative Assessments’ PDF, the say:

Two clear benefits of assessing progress in the development of creativity are identified: 1) teachers are able to be more precise and confident in developing young people’s creativity, and 2) learners are better able to understand what it is to be creative (and to use this understanding to record evidence of their progress). The result would seem to be a greater likelihood that learners can display the full range of their creative dispositions in a wide variety of contexts.

My favorite framework, not because of its comprehensiveness, it’s not, but  for looking at creative thinking is the ‘Torrance Framework of Creative Thinking’, which gives us these characteristics:

  • Fluency. The total number of interpretable, meaningful, and relevant ideas generated in response to the stimulus.
  • Flexibility. The number of different categories of relevant responses.
  • Originality. The statistical rarity of the responses among the test subjects.
  • Elaboration. The ability to give detail to the ideas generated.

Some of which are definitely measurable. and which I tried to do here. This is a large subject of course and to be continued.

 

Clay Shirky @ THNK

photo (27)

At THNK forum again today, this time we have Clay Shirky, He is beaming in from New York via telepresence, no he’s not live, but he is on a huge screen and he’s here for us. As close to live as we can get today. If you don’t know Clay’s work, check here. Clay is also on the board of Ushahidi. He is THE authority on cognitive surplus and all things crowd sourcing.

HereComesEverybodyCover

FIrst a brief summary of Clay’s Why are those people working for free?
Answer: because they feel like they’re having fun.
So if you want folk to contribute to your effort, don’t see them as unpaid labor, put yourself in their shoes, ask yourself what’s in it for them. So if you’re envisaging a crowd sourcing community project, something that is an absolute necessary, that you have to have in place: People have to have positive normative values associated with your project. And the community needs to do one of these 3 things for people who take part, they are:

  • Autonomous – I have an influence
  • Competent – I’m good at this
  • Social – I’m a member of a group

Ellen Jorgenson is up with the first question, turns out she knows Clay already, New yorkers 🙂 She wants to know in how far he would envisage that an online version of her lab Genspace is a possibility. He explains how we can concept the trade off between travel and communication. And says his conclusion is that you shouldn’t collaborate as partners on any serious endeavor without having breathed the same air. He advises Ellen not to set up a Genspace elsewhere with partners, without first sitting down together with those partners.

Turns out thanks to Jillian York for connecting THNK to Clay.

Next up Itai Talmi, he is making a mobile platform for people to co-create, go through a full design cycle in fact, and then gamified and his question is  will this be enough shared value, the will to create? And does Clay think? Clay runs off and draws a pyramid for us, and refers to …… he says about 1% of users will jump in wholesale, and then about another 9% will comment and then the other 90% will just listen in or lurk. If the platform doesn’t produce a way to watch, it won’t fly, because you need to recruit from the other 99% to get them active. Clay’s advise, prototype and user test a version which has no gamification to find out if there is intrinsic value beyond the game elements. Otherwise you might end up with Farmville for creativity.

jake-mckee

Karim pick up on this, Is a lurker a participant?
Clay: Yes!
1. they are your recruiting pool and
2. the lurkers provide validation to the actives and lurkers provide – via data analysis – they provide enormous feedback to your product.

Kaz Brecher has a question, her project is Curious Catalyst she’s working on mega cities issues with an agile methodology and she struggles with the wording and sharing her plans with people, when the words she is using are key but now well known.  Clay loves the question as it’s one he struggled with himself. He has a couple of tips;
1. Even if your’e an excited New Yorker, you have to learn to speak slowly
2. Use a story, an example
3. Begin with here’s why this works
For example: If you and I working together could get fewer potholes on the street! would you join.

Nick Graham has a question on how to motivate / engage people for neighborhood issues.
Clay: You can think of people in one of three categories, naive economists, naive politicians or naive theologians.
Motivation:
Naive economists – if we work together we will both benefit
Naive theologians: Its’ the right thing to do even if we fail.

photo (25)

THNK participants listening to Clay

And in general: Clay says:
Every social network started good and small and grew, you don’t start big and mediocre! No-one gets up to spend the day wasting their time on an awful platform. The first group you recruit is wildy important.

As a final advise in answer to Ben Keenes question, presumably in relation to his work creating eco-tourist islands,
How do you not get demotivated, when a lot of people don’t seem to care.
Clay: Work for those who do care, even if it’s a small group. 

And now we get to do Wok+Wine with Peter Mandeno, Yay!