More creative approaches to learning can empower students of all ages

The ExCITe Center brings together experts from varied disciplines for a music hackathon

The ExCITe Center brings together experts from varied disciplines for a music hackathon

On Jan. 24 at 6 p.m., the ExCITe Center of Drexel University will kick off its Learning Innovation initiative with a conversation with iconoclast educator, artist and technologist John Maeda. WHYY invited Youngmoo Kim, director of ExCITe and moderator of the discussion, to share his thoughts on learning innovation.

In our society, education has traditionally been the most accessible path to greater opportunity. Historically, the accumulation of skills, based on a foundation of literacy and numeracy, provided a clear route to a stable career and the betterment of one’s standing. At one time, this was accepted by all, but for a growing number of students, parents, and graduates, it seems to no longer be the case. I think a core reason for this shift is that, for many, classroom learning (at all levels, but particularly K-12) has become increasingly pedantic, cumbersome, and a bit out of touch with the real world.Now, as someone who has experienced a fair amount of schooling, I can’t count the number of times when I’ve been lost or clueless in a learning environment, whether in middle school, high school, college, or grad school. And this continues today, at conferences and workshops. Overall, we can do a much better job of conveying knowledge. Too often we, as instructors, fail to provide an adequate context for the application of the skills and subjects we teach, and their relation to the creation of new knowledge, ideas, and invention.To respond to this challenge and offer ideas for how instruction might be improved, the ExCITe Center of Drexel University has launched Learning Innovation, an initiative to explore the close links between how we gain knowledge and how we apply it.

At the core is our belief that the act of learning is empowering. When you learn to do something, you increase your ability to take your fate into your own hands. We begin with the hypothesis that active methods (learning by doing, making, and creating) do more to solidify this relationship between knowledge and self-efficacy; that learning is not about memorization, factual recall, or your speed with arithmetic computation. Rather, it’s about what you can create with that knowledge, which is the focus of our inquiry.  To launch the initiative, we are pleased to welcome John Maeda on Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 6 p.m. to share his thoughts on how we can implement more creative approaches to learning, improve the way we design and implement new education initiatives and create a more inclusive innovation community. John is a computer scientist turned artist turned executive, who, at his core, is a designer and an iconoclast educator who has worked at the forefront of the STEM to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts & design, and mathematics) movement. In my experience, his thoughts on boundary-crossing, creative approaches to design for learning are always insightful and provocative.

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This is the first of a six-part series of conversations throughout the year, where national leaders will connect with local educators, makers, and policy advocates to exchange ideas and experiment. All are welcome to be part of this community.

We’re cognizant that, for the greater part of a century, public education in the United States has been an incredible success. But with any institution, the incorporation of new ideas, discoveries, and methods is absolutely crucial. Our work in the education community is never done, and there will always be room for improvement. That’s both the challenge and the great opportunity.

We hope Learning Innovation will illuminate such new ideas and pathways and clearly convey ways we can improve learning for all. We hope our audiences will help us to experiment with new approaches and to share ideas and discoveries. And we look forward to learning from participants as the initiative evolves.

Youngmoo Kim is director of the Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies (ExCITe) Center and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Drexel University.

John Maeda will speak on Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 6 p.m. at Drexel’s Mitchell Auditorium. To attend the conversation, please register. Maeda, formerly president of the Rhode Island School of Design, design partner at Kleiner Perkins, and professor at the MIT Media Lab, is now global head of computational design and inclusion at Automattic (the developers of

For more details on the Learning Innovation initiative, listen to the most recent podcast and sign up to receive occasional updates.

Drexel University provides financial support to WHYY.



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