ReInvent your Neighborhood at Makers and Co Festival Amsterdam

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As part of a series of workshops engaging children in the art of social design, we held a session called ‘Reinvent your Neighborhood’ at the Makers & Co Festival in Amsterdam. The aim of Unexpect is to both to teach children new skills as much as to share the amazing inventions and designs children can create.
The 13 children, all of whom are members of the Weekend Academie in Slotervaart, ranged in age from 9 to 12. We kicked off with a creative energzier to get to know each other before introducing the topic of the workshop and getting down to mapping the different groups of people who might live in the neighbourhood including themselves and what their needs might be.

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Mapping people and challenges in the neighbourhood.

The children named challenges such as old ladies with heavy shopping crossing the road slowly, the police who couldn’t catch the robbers due to slow cars, mothers wondering when their children would come home at night and boys who couldn’t play football because there was dog poo on the grass.

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For inspiration we checked out a number of recent inventions such as Google Glass, 3D printers, Sugru (one of my favorites), and Smart Highways from Roosegaarde Studio. Then the children choose one topic to work on and set out to imagine a solution.

The-Google-glass

LittleBits

For protoyping we worked with LittleBits, while they are attraction in themselves, they are also quite an effective rapid prototyping tool. Some children preferred to just draw their ideas or work with clay, carton, straws or of course a combination. Thinking with your hands!

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So what did they make?
My two favorite inventions probably would be the sound warning system for the dogs to keep them off the football field, for which the boys also made a prototype (using the littlebits sound senor and noise output). The other invention was for the mother worried about her children out late, through a repurposed phone, they could send coded light signals, red meaning ‘You need to come home now’ and green for ‘I am on my way’.

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Other inventions included a park bench on wheels for the old ladies, an air canon for rubbish and a ‘friend house’ for children with no friends.

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Showing their work

Thanks to Harriet Robijn my co-facilitator, the children of the weekend Academie and Mira de Graaf and Diana Krabbendam our hosts at the Makers & Co Festival.

Check out our Flickr Set of the workshop. http://www.flickr.com/photos/91070382@N02/
Photographs by ACHT film & fotografie

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

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.

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They look very friendly.

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Putting together the LittleBits, light, slider, motor.

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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

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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

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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.

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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!