“Learning to Think Outside the Box: Creativity Becomes an Academic Discipline” These efforts are happening all over nation. Even at BYU there are some very promising efforts already taking place such as at the Ballard Center for Social and Entrepreneurship, the Laycock Center for Creative Collaboration, the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology (I’m an acting associate director there), in the School of Education (with efforts by Rick West, Peter Rich and others), the School of Technology (e.g., Innovation Bootcamp and History of Creativity 201 and 202, all classes that I’ve taught), the cross-disciplinary Crocker Innovation Fellows program, the Digital Humanities program and the Humanities Center, and the IMPACT program (Interdisciplinary Mentoring Program in Analysis, Computation, and Theory) led by Jeff Humphreys and others, as well as many other individual and group efforts to enhance the teaching and learning of creativity, innovation, and design at BYU. This is a thrilling time to be alive, to see these important efforts gain STEAM.
Because of my work at Brigham Young University serving as an associate director at the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology, teaching the History of Creativity courses (Tech 201 and Tech 202), and advising the student-led BYU Innovation Academy I’ve been able to encourage and support a variety of student inspired businesses. Here are just a few.
Lyke Watches. http://lyketime.com/
Zero Proof Mocktails. http://www.zpmocktails.com/
Luck O’ the Dice. http://www.luckothedice.com/
Virtual Immersive Educational Worlds (V.I.E.W.) http://www.the3d-view.com/
There are many others that I’m not documenting right now.
The students never cease to inspire and amaze me.
Together with my History of Creativity course students, I attended the last BYU Innovation Academy session of the semester this evening. Jeff Dyer, author of The Innovator’s DNA presented a summary of his finding. It was engaging and informative. During the meeting I had these associational thinking ideas:
What if education was like a timeshare? You pay for your education but then you could swap with others in an open market to attend for a short time other universities, locations, campuses, programs, etc. So, if you got accepted to (bought an educational time share from) BYU, Stanford, Harvard, etc., you could then spend one semester at BYU, the next at Stanford, the next at Harvard, etc. This associational idea is based on the principle of enhancing your innovative skills through networking that Dyer talked about.
And to spur creative and innovative thoughts a great question to ask is “What is different than expected?”
Teaching a class on innovation changes your perspective on just about everything. For example, I was at a home improvement store some weeks ago and happened to walk through the paint aisle. Within a few moments I thought of several ways that the paint can and the painting experience could use some disruptive innovation.
- Why not have a square can? Saves so much more space. I have a friend that works for SpaceKraft. They are making a killing in the shipping industry by using square, recyclable, cardboard boxes to ship LIQUIDS!
- Why are paint can tops so hard to open? Why is it that I need to have a screwdriver (which has nothing to do with painting) if I want to paint? To open the can. Easy win for a company to make millions redesigning a paint can with an easy off / easy on. Why not take a strategy from the Ziploc company for how to design the simple opening and closing of objects?
- Why do I have to have a stick or another screwdriver after I have opened the can? Shouldn’t there be an easy way to mix the paint? Why does the paint need mixing anyway? Why not reformulate the paint recipe so that it is ready to be applied upon opening without the need for mixing?
- Why does paint come in a can? Why not a cardboard square box? See point 1 above.
- Heck, for that matter, why do you need paint anyway? In our electronic world, why not have a wall that is like the iPad DoodleBuddy app where you can choose your colors to suit your fancy? Want green today? Touch and done. How about blue? You are set!
Mark C. Carnes gets it right about active learning in his article “Setting Students’ Minds on Fire.” If learning is exciting to learners, graduation rates will take care of themselves. What I found most valuable about this article were the compelling, actionable ideas that I can implement this upcoming fall semester. I think I’ll give “Reacting to the Past” games a shot for my History of Creativity class at BYU.
Sir Ken Robinson, in this TED Talk on Changing Education Paradigms, provides a compelling explanation of how our education system, based on an industrial era model, seriously curtails the development and expression of traits and skills that are key to what it means to be human: creativity.
Big questions to explore. What is creativity? Innovation? How do you teach these skills? How do you design settings or learning experiences that foster the learning and application of innovation and creativity?
I use this video at the beginning of the semester with all of my History of Creativity classes. Of course, invariably, throughout the semester, I’m called on the carpet by students for not fully enacting Robinson’s vision. I admit. Given the current structures and traditions of education, it is very difficult to teach, to design learning experiences, and to convince learners to learn, in ways that will capitalize on humans’ unique ability to be innovative and creative.
I should point out, for those who may not remember history that well, that industrial revolution happened TWO centuries ago. Why are we still using an educational system from 1800s? Why can’t we create an education system for the 21st century? Why is the education system so deeply entrenched in 1800s modes of thinking and acting? No other profession could be taken seriously today if they were still bound to the rules, regulations, habits of thinking, and traditions of two centuries ago. Who would hire a lawyer today that had been trained in the 1800s? Would that lawyer be qualified and capable to deal with the legal issues of today if they were bound to the traditions of the 1800s? Who would hire, to do a 21st century job, an architect or road builder who had been trained in the materials and methods of the 1800s? No such work would pass the muster of peer review or professional validation, assuming that the peer reviewers were not in the same dilemma of living their lives as if it was still the 1800s.
If such questions seem preposterous, then why in the educational system do we not fully and immediately embrace new ways of teaching and learning that more fully match with what we know now, in the 21st century, about how people learn and which learning environments and experiences are most likely to help people learn?