Teaching Creativity in Schools – ‘Subject Mash Up!’ Platform Concept

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A couple months ago I worked with a team of strategists and creatives from firms such as Code and Theory and Cake New York to design a solution to the No Right Brain Left Behind challenge.  The challenge brief asked the creative profession to design concepts that will address the creativity crisis in US Schools Some very good ideas were generated but our separate work loads and schedules did not allow us to put in the time that we would have liked to.  Our brief foray into the notion of waning creativity in kids education did get me thinking though.

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The idea I came up with is a learning tool called ‘Subject Mash Up!’.  The basis of the concept is the idea that looking at one subject through the lens of another subject will provide opportunities for new insights and a more thorough learning experience.  The few sketches here show that ‘Subject Mash Up!’ is a platform designed to help students  learn by layering one subject over another and using that new context to ask questions and seek new understanding.  Instead of simply studying history, students could learn about it through the art of that period.  Then learn about art through the lens of storytelling and metaphoric symbolism.  Or learn about math by studying patterns in music.  The opportunities for layering different subjects over each other is nearly endless. (more sketches after jump)

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Students could apply each subject symbol to the object or subject that is currently being viewed which would bring up questions about that topic from the perspective of the subject symbol being applied.  Symbols could also be dragged and layered over each other or set in ‘equations’ to produce more hybrid lines of questioning and exploration.  The most important aspect of this platform design, though, is the ‘Mash Up!’ feature.  The bright symbol with the lightning bolt signals a dramatic shift in the learning process.  And a point at which creative thinking must be applied.  The ‘Mash Up!’ symbol would introduce an assignment that encourages the students to think about the subject at hand from a completely different perspective.  This ‘Mash Up!’  juxtaposition would task students to generate something new of their own, causing the learning process to culminate in a thoughtful yet creative exercise.

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This ‘Mash Up!’ of disparate ideas, or ‘collision of half hunches’ as Steven Johnson puts it, is the mental space where creative thought can lead to new ideas and innovation.  The product of the ‘Mash Up!’ exercise may have kids arrive at a place completely different from where they began.  But it is the process of thinking through each of the perspectives to achieve their solution that will seek to provide a deeper learning experience.  Teaching kids to be open to this type of exploration and to flex their creative thinking muscles in this way could do much to foster the resurgence of creativity in our kids and our education system.

11-demian-mash-up-ipad-85“Subject Mash Up!’ is currently just a rough sketch of a concept.  But it is an idea for a platform that I think could be developed for use over several channels such as in the classroom, interactive website and online community, an iPad app, a card game, etc.  I would welcome feedback and input from developers that are interested in building on this idea and working to foster creativity in the education space.