The importance of mentors, equity in education and how art helps us see the world differently, were the topics of the first three “Learning Innovation Conversation” series, hosted by the ExCITe (Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies) Center at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
The point of the conversations, according to ExCITe’s mission statement, is to encourage an exchange of knowledge and ideas that lead to new connections, inspirations, and collaborations. “The ExCITe Center is a core component of Drexel University’s strategic plan for research innovation, pursuing a unique mission of constructive disruption of traditional aspects of the Academy: research, education, and engagement with community. We employ a novel multidisciplinary approach bringing together design, technology, and entrepreneurship in pursuit of this mission, enabling new opportunities for discovery, disruption, and innovation. The core principles of ExCITe are:
• Collaboration is essential for innovation.
• A diversity of perspectives provides a relentless source of creativity.
• Everyone is creative. Everyone is an innovator.
• Aspiring to the highest standards lays the foundation for the greatest work.”
ExCITe Director Youngmoo Kim moderates the conversations. He said that having access to technological tools is not enough if you don’t have the support system of people to help guide how to use those tools. That’s why connected learning — the pursuit of a personal interest with the support of peers, mentors and caring adults, and in ways that open up opportunities — is so important.
In its most recent conversation, ExCITe featured Leah Buechley, a designer, engineer and educator who raised questions about the use of technology in learning and whether it equalizes or exacerbates disparities in opportunity for students. The other two speakers — Mimi Ito, director of the Connected Learning Lab at the University of California, Irvine, and John Maeda, head of design at Automattic — spoke about the power of connected learning and mentors, and the power of art in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics), respectively.
The following are excerpts, followed by the video of their talks:
Buechley on equity: “I don’t think technological innovation is going to solve all our problems. … In parallel with creatively developing new technologies and creatively developing curricula and so on and so forth, we have to be engaged as citizens….The way to rectify poverty is not to give people money but to create a just system.”
Ito on mentorship: “Learning heroes come from all of our spheres of learning. All of us have a role to play even if we’re not formal educators, and the research bears this out.”
Maeda on creativity: “If you’re an engineer, you’re creative. If you’re a scientist, you’re creative. If you’re an artist or a designer, you’re creative but you can also make things in ways you didn’t think you could make. So, maybe by keeping those letters — STEAM — together, it creates more friction. It’s OK to be a hybrid.”
Can’t wait to catch the next and final three speakers in the six-speaker Learning Innovation Conversation series.