Tuesday, July 21, 2015

BioSim at the Boys and Girls Club of Ellettsville

A post by Alex Dailey and Sam Lorentz

A couple of weeks ago the Creativity Lab’s BioSim Project ran some preliminary testing at the Boys and Girls Club of Ellettsville. Our team used this time to critique our research methods.
The BioSim team spent four days with the kids at the Club.  They closely examined how the kids reacted to each part of the exercise. Over the four days the kids learned about how honey bees feed themselves by collecting nectar and making it into honey.  The kids then simulated this process with electronic bee puppets.  They took turns searching for flowers with the most nectar.  At first their nectar searching was random.  Each kid spent a lot of time searching through each flower to find the ones that had more nectar.  Many times the kids searched so long that their bees ran out of energy and died before they could make it back to the hive.  We began to teach them that bees communicate the location of nectar with each other.  At first we let the kids tell each other where to find the most nectar.  This time they collected more nectar and none of the bees ran out of energy.

Honey bees communicate by dancing.  The do a sort of waggle up the middle then either turn right or left and loop back.  By doing this they communicate to other honey bees the distance and direction of flower with a lot of nectar.

waggle-dance.jpg       https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4b/Bee_waggle_dance.png
The waggle dance: By doing their dance, honey bees communicate to each other the location of flowers with lots of nectar based on the angle between the sun, hive and flower.

We challenged the kids to create their own dances to tell each other where the flowers with the most nectar were.  At first the kids had trouble gathering their thoughts.  Some kids tried to make up dances as they went along and others didn’t know what dance their hive was doing from the beginning.  As time went on they learned that without a descriptive dance that everyone could understand, they weren’t effective at collecting nectar.
On the final day of our visit one girl took her bee dance to the next level.  She took it upon herself to teach the rest of her hive a dance that mimicked the one that the actual honeybees do.  She wiggled up the middle then looped back either on the left or right to signify the direction and distance of the flower with the most nectar.  As a result of her creative thinking her hive collected more nectar and won the competition.  

By the end of our time with the kids it seemed like they had grasped a strong understanding of the complex system of honey bees. The world is made up of complex systems, which makes it imperative that students learn to understand them.  Young kids are continually underestimated in their cognitive abilities yet they are able to understand the complex system of honey bees.  


We were pleased with how our preliminary testing went last week but we also discovered multiple things for us to improve upon.  Thanks to the Boys and Girls Club of Ellettsville, we are one step closer to a successful implementation.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Bookmarks and Puppets Come to Life at Public Library's Teen Space

This summer, Creativity Labs members Verily Tan, Naomi Thompson, Tony Phonethibsavads, Anna Keune, and Sophia Bender have offered two sewing-related workshops at the new teen space known as the Ground Floor at Bloomington, IN's public library. As part of the library's Summer Maker Days, we facilitated a Sew Your Own Bookmark Book-Light e-textile workshop on June 1 and an Intro to Sewing puppet-making workshop on July 6.

The Ground Floor is a very open-ended space where teens between the ages of 12 and 19 can come and hang out with their friends, mess around with craft supplies and digital tools, and geek out around their favorite stories, video games, or creative projects. The nature of the space is such that our workshops were open to anyone who wanted to drop in and make something.

At the e-textile workshop, we saw a range of skill levels, from those who had never sewn before to those who had attended our LilyPad workshops before. They were all highly engaged in sewing a LilyPad LED to a battery holder with conductive thread, and then decorating their felt bookmark. Some made light-up bows rather than bookmarks, and some took on the challenge of sewing two LEDs instead of just one!

At the Intro to Sewing workshop, we set up four sewing machines in the space and helped several teens to both hand-sew and machine-sew hand puppets. Most of the teens drew on their favorite media for inspiration on what kind of puppet to make. Everyone ended up using a sewing machine at least a little bit, and even those who had never used one before caught on quickly and ended up with highly successful and creative puppets!
Verily and Tony hard at work helping teen sewers with their puppets.

A teen works on sewing her corgi puppet.

A Swamp Monster-Frankenstein hybrid puppet

A shark puppet inspired by the monster Zamtrios from the Monster Hunter video game series

The Joker from Batman

A Dobby puppet (from Harry Potter) in progress

A puppet of the Pokémon Pikachu, waiting for his ears to be attached
As always, we were blown away by the great hands-on learning and creativity we saw at these workshops!

Thank you to teen librarians Kevin MacDowell and Becky Fyolek at the Ground Floor for inviting us and making this wonderful outpouring of teen creativity possible!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

World Children's Festival @ Washington, D.C. (Jul 1, 2015)

The World Children's Festival is an annual celebration of creativity, diversity and unity, with participants from all over the world. The theme on Jul 1 was Creativity and Imagination, and Creativity Labs hosted a LED Light-Up Bookmark activity at one of the tents between 2-4pm. Sophia Bender, Anthony Phonethibsavads and Verily Tan helped close to 70 participants sew the Light-Up Bookmark on felt material. This consisted of an LED, and a battery holder. When the positive and negative lines have been sewn with conductive thread, putting a 3V battery into the battery holder causes the LED to light up. Children were fascinated, and excitedly sewed the lines for their LED to light up! Some children decorated their bookmarks with beads, sequins and fabric markers.
The event was indeed an international encounter for the facilitators - we had participants from Poland, Germany, China, and Korea. There were also Americans from across the country. Many children came with their parents, or mentors - and they made bookmarks together. It was a lovely sight to see mothers guiding their children with the sewing, following the instruction sheet or receiving help from the facilitators. We invited parents to create their own bookmark, and in many cases, both parent and child left with Light Up Bookmarks!
The children who participated were between 5-15 years of age, and it was interesting working with them. There was a group of girls from Tennessee who were performing at the Festival. One by one, they brought their friends and guided each other in the sewing. We were inspired by some of the very young children who were determined to sew and complete the Bookmark - we supported them, sometimes holding the felt material for them as they manipulated the needle and thread.
Reflecting on the two hour activity, we love the creativity and diversity of the children, and the inter-generational making. This really was a celebration of creativity, diversity and unity!

One of the well-decorated bookmarks!

Mother and daughter from California: Smiling with success!

Students from Tennessee who participated and guided each other through the process

Siblings from South Korea: Happy with their bookmark!

Winners of the Art Olympiad (from Poland) sewing with their teacher

With special thanks to the International Child Art Foundation for this opportunity!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Welcome Sam Lorentz! - Creativity Labs Introduces New Undergraduate Members

This June, the Creativity Lab Team has introduced two new undergraduate members to the lab, Alex and Sam.  They are both working with the BioSim Project and are eager to get started.

--A post by Sam Lorentz

I’m Sam and I am studying Biology, with minors in Psychology, Chemistry, and Biochemistry, at Indiana University.  In the fall I will begin my Junior year. I’m an Evans Scholar as well as a member of the Indiana University Swim Team.
The Creativity Labs initially interested me because of my strong desire to get involved in research.  As I’ve progressed through my science major, my interest in the entire process of research, from formulating questions and hypotheses to publication, has grown.  After hearing about the CL and all it’s innovative work I was certain it was something I wanted to be involved in.  
I have spent several summers working as a swimming instructor.  I have worked with large groups and individuals ranging from 4 to 12 years old.  I really enjoyed getting to work with kids of various age groups on a day to day basis.  My most effective lessons were when I made the learning and swimming fun for the kids.  After learning this I’m very excited to start working in the field with the BioSim play to learn model.  Additionally, I have experience working as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant in the Biology Department at IU. The Biology students I worked with gave me the opportunity to further my teaching abilities while enhancing my speaking skills. The CL gives me the opportunity to combine research and my experience with children and as a teaching assistant to a single place that’s changing the way we think about education and cognitive development.
With this excellent opportunity to work with such a qualified team, I am hoping to further my own abilities as a researcher, find out if research is something I want to pursue long term, and to make a contribution to science and education.  If I were to pursue research after graduation I could see myself working in some sort of cognitive development lab or a biology lab.  I’m particularly interested with the human brain as well as the molecular side of biology.  Working on the BioSim project is some of the best experience I can get, especially if i pursue cognitive development.  
As I’m getting started I’m most excited to start working with kids.  I really think that the research here is making a huge difference for kids, both immediately and in the future of education.  The complex systems that we work with have incredibly broad applications.  By helping young students to master them now, we are creating more thoughtful adults and future scientists that could eventually make revolutionary discoveries.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Gathering STEAM: E-textiles at South Fayette School District's STEAM Innovation Summer Institute

South Fayette School District in the Pittsburgh area has been a hub for educational innovation for several years now, pioneering a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) Studio model and hosting the STEAM Innovation Summer Institute to train educators to spread these innovations to their own classrooms. The Creativity Labs has worked with them before (links) to provide professional development in e-textiles. This summer, we were happy to do so again as part of our summer service activities.

To learn more about the awesome e-textile projects pictured here, read the rest of the post below!

Welcome Alex Dailey! - Creativity Labs Introduces New Undergraduate Members

This June the Creativity Lab Team has introduced two new undergraduate members to the lab, Alex and Sam.  They are both working with the BioSim Project and are eager to get started.

--A post by Alex Daily

I’m Alex, and I am studying Human Biology with a Concentration in Human Health and Disease and minors in Biology and Chemistry.  I am entering my junior year at Indiana University and I am also apart of the Hudson and Holland Scholar Program.
I was initially drawn to join the Creativity Labs because of my desire to do research that involved children and the mental capabilities that they possess.  My prior research experience differs greatly.  I first started doing research my junior year in high school doing field work with an ecology biology professor. I found this experience to be really helpful especially when it came time to decide where I wanted to attend school.  I was able to build upon the knowledge that I had acquired through basic science classes help my professor advance in her study of fish in the local ecosystem. My research has also brought me to a lab though the evo-devo department at IU; The Mozcek Lab.  With these experiences I have gained a passion for research and aspire to continue growing as a researcher and with the opportunity from the Creativity Labs I plan to do just that.

My past experiences with children also played a role with me joining the Creativity Lab.  I have experience as a summer camp counselor working with children from the ages of 4-17. This allowed for experience with many different age groups.  I was able to tailor different skills to fit the personalities and capabilities of all children that I worked with.  The experience also showed me that I enjoyed working with younger children and helping them grow and develop socially and mentally.  I also have experience as a peer assistant which gave me the opportunity to develop my skills as a leader and as a creative individual in terms of implementing plans and ideas.
CL allows me to take my past experiences and my hopes of being a pediatric neurosurgeon and researcher and put them to use.  I am able to see how I can help children learn complex systems and ideas and really understand in depth what connections their brains are making.  I am also able to help shape and mold minds for tomorrow, so that not only are children understanding material, but they also gain a desire and passion to go and solve new problems in the world and become the scientists and researchers that this world needs in order to progress humanity, this is what I am most excited about in terms of BioSim; watching the children come to the realization that through creative learning and various creativity methods that they too can understand complex ideas.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Creativity Labs Learns to Knit

This is the second in a series of blog posts about the Creativity Labs’ fiber arts summer workshops. The workshops are experiential opportunities to learn new crafting skills, which have connections to the current Re-Crafting Education project. We are learning from and working with experienced crafters in the community to strengthen our understanding of and connection to the regional fiber arts community.

In this second workshop, the Creativity Labs team took on the next fiber arts challenge during a group knitting lesson at Yarns Unlimited in downtown Bloomington, IN. The local yarn shop has been a key site for observation and instruction during the Re-Crafting project, and offers both a rich collection of beautiful, soft and colorful materials and fiber arts classes for crafters in the community, including knitting, crocheting, and weaving among many more. In addition to the playful storefront, where fibers, yarns and felt as well as knitting needles of all sizes and books inspire to make, the shop contains a classroom dedicated to fiber arts lessons.

The crafting classroom at Yarns Unlimited. 

The teaching staff comprises of passionate, skilled and dedicated knitters, crocheters, and weavers. Our instructor, Karen Canapa, has been knitting and crocheting most of her life, attesting to its therapeutic benefits. She works with fiber artists of all levels, but is particularly patient throughout the (sometimes frustrating) first minutes of a new knitter’s quest to get in the loop. Her extensive work with beginner knitters has given her the opportunity to observe and to design effective and fun instructions for a knitter’s first lesson. 

Here is a glimpse of what we learned when we picked up our needles:
  • The Slip Knot: To start a new project, the knitter can make the first loop to slip onto the knitting needles. This loop is called a slip knot, and the yarn “slips” right onto the needle as the knitter prepares the project. Karen warned us that the slip knot can be “super tricky” to make - we agree with her! 
“The [slip knot] is a small knot that leaves a loop on one end,” Karen explained, “and if you pull the two ends, the knot completely disappears. So, it allows us to have a variable size beginning stitch.”

From left to right: Karen shows Anna another variation of the slip-knot technique. Sophia practices making slip knots in the crafting classroom. 
  • The Cast-On: The first row of a knitted project is the row that is cast onto the needle by the knitter. The knitter will put both needles into the slip knot to make an “X” shape. 

From left to right: Putting the needles through the slip knot. Folding the yarn over the needle to prepare for the first stitch. Starting the second row of stitches.
  • The Knit and Purl: Knitting consists of two basic stitches: knit stitches and purl stitches. The first stitch the beginner knitter learns is the knit. A series of knit stitches is called the garter stitch pattern. We learned to knit a few rows of knit stitches. We also worked together fix some of our mistakes. In doing so, we were able to see that knitting is actually a process of crafting that generates loops, instead of knots (as some may think). A row of stitches is essentially a connected line of loops! After learning the knit stitch, Karen taught us the purl stitch, which can be thought of as a reverse knit stitch.

Sophia learns to knit and purl across the row on her stitches.  

These 3 techniques work together to form a knitter’s first tool kit. The knit stitch itself can be used to create an extensive collection of projects. Together, we learned that the first moments of knitting can be complex and challenging, but as one of us (Kate) writes about in her first weeks as an embedded knitter, mistake-making is a valuable component of the learning process. Karen recommends 15 minutes of practice a day to develop a natural flow to your knitting practice. It may only be a matter of time before the Creativity Labs knits a matching team uniform.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Fiber Arts: Sewing with Gail Hale

A post by Sophia BenderTony PhonethibsavadsNaomi Thompson, and Anna Keune

This is the first in a series of blog posts about the Creativity Labs’ fiber arts summer workshops. Tucked away on the eastern side of Bloomington, the CL team attended a workshop to learn how to use the sewing machine by artist, self-proclaimed maker and innovative recrafter, Gail Hale. Gail worked with the Creativity Labs team several times in the past, including assisting the creation of a cosplay costume as part of the Re-Crafting Mathematics project. This project was the overall frame for our sewing workshop at her private makerspace. As an artist of the Discardia group, that repurposes discarded materials into refashioned wearables, our workshop project was in true discardia style: sewing a grocery bag out of sheer synthetic fabric, which was repurposed from curtains.

The wonder-filled studio, with painting and dried out beehives dangling from the ceiling right over mannequins wearing hats and dressed in fashion projects in progress and former Trashion Refashion outfits, a fridge covered with reused magnets and shelves stacked with fabrics for projects to come, we gathered around a large and heavy wooden table, eager to learn.

To get started, Gail laid out the metal pattern used to cut the bag-shaped cloth for the project. The sheer fabric was slippery, and Gail fastened the pattern tightly onto the fabric, using old metal irons and pieced of railroad tracks that she gathered and cut apart years ago from a former workshop. To prevent the fabric from fraying, Gail recommended to use a woodburning tool to cut the fabric along the metal pattern, neatly sealing the synthetic fabric’s edges.


From left to right: Metal irons and railroad track pieces hold down the pattern. Kate practices her cutting skills. Kate adjusts the fabric before sewing.

Next, it was our turn. Rotating around the group, one by one, each of us carefully stepped towards the pattern and cut a small area. While this is a rather unconventional method for cutting fabric, it was an innovative use for old tools, underscoring Gail’s spirit of making. Moving forward, to save time, Gail provided each with pre-cut fabric pieces. 

Janis at Gail’s old Singer machine.

Ready to get our hands on the sewing machines, we all followed the same order to sew our shopping bags. First, we sewed up each of the sides, before moving on to the handles. Some of us decided to sew two “triangles” into the inside bottom of the bags to create a flat bottom and we learned a new term from our newest team members, Ed Gentry: We called this boxing it up. For the handles, Gail suggested a really neat trick to provide extra reinforcement and to flatten the seams so they would lie comfortably against your shoulder. This involved sewing along the handles once, then opening the seam and sewing each side down. However, some of us had sewed our seams too tiny to use this technique! She also said the sides of the triangles be sewn down to provide a more finished, secure look. Some of us opted to do that, and some didn’t.

The Creativity Labs team working hard

This fun workshop that kicked off the Creativity Labs summer series of fiber arts activities not only enriched our understanding of the intricate and fascinating craft of sewing, but also gave us a chance to learn more about each other, our past experiences and our interests moving forward as a research team. Thanks so much to Gail for helping us out!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Summer 2015 Service Kick-Off!


This past Friday, we hosted a hands-on exploratory workshop at Clifty Creek Elementary School’s STEM Fair in Columbus, IN. Given the drop-in and walk-by atmosphere of a fair, we wanted to offer a project that is easy to create but at the same time offers all of the circuitry learning benefits of the electronic textiles toolkit. We offered one of the many e-textiles activities documented in our colleague Leah Buechley’s book Sew Electric, the light-up bookmark, and another project we made up on the fly while preparing for the workshop, a light-up bow. However, much of the preparation was done in coordination with the Clifty Creek Elementary School teachers, who also provided materials for the workshop, including electronic components and crafting supplies.

E-textiles are electronics embedded into clothing, accessories, or other wearables. In the Creativity Labs, we like to use the LilyPad Arduino toolkit, which includes sewable LEDs, battery holders, and microcontrollers that can all be connected with conductive thread. This provides opportunities to combine both high- and low-tech, both crafting and electronics, and represents an unusual and very powerful approach to learning circuitry and programming that tends to be more inviting to girls. The Creativity Labs is always happy to share e-textile workshops with our partners!
The Clifty Creek STEM Fair was an informal after-school field day, kind of like an open house, for families and people of all ages to enjoy the pre-Memorial Day Friday. Throughout the fair, barbecue grills, face painting, and moonbounces gave the festival a true Mini Maker Faire vibe, that was sprinkled with science explorations at every corner of the schoolyard and house. The focus of the Fair was many science-themed activities, such as our e-textiles workshop.
E-sewers hard at work!
Our workshop was set up in Ms. Lucas’s 3rd-grade classroom. To create light-up bookmarks, we provided various materials to the visitors of our table. These included fabric strips, felt stickers, bows, conductive thread, sewable LEDs, sewable battery holders, and batteries. Many children gathered at various tables with their parents and embarked on highly imaginative creations, which included various patterns with stripes, hearts, and happy animals. The children were captivated by the lights sewn into the fabric, but naturally, many lacked experience with sewing and needed assistance from adults. Thus, parents were highly involved; while children focused on the imagination, decoration, and connectivity of the circuits, any parents who were present primarily helped with the stitching and knot-tying.

The classroom setup
The drop-in nature of the workshop provided many interesting facilitation challenges. For instance, our workshop was very popular and attracted more youth than the two facilitators could address at the same time. Many participants were excited by the prospect of bookmarks that lit up, so they got ahead of themselves before one of the facilitators could provide instructions on the next step, and even made some mistakes when connecting the circuits. Backtracking was necessary, but this simply led to even deeper circuitry learning. Excited about the decorative possibilities, but confronted with limited time towards the end of the day, some of the children did not finish their e-textiles projects at the table. We provided them with little take-home bags filled with samples of conductive thread, a battery and some decorative craft materials. One of the mothers said that this might be a fun evening at home finishing the project together with her children. We hope to further explore how to improve facilitation of drop-in e-textile workshops.

Given this great start to the Creativity Labs' summer service activities, we are excited about the other upcoming opportunities to interact and share our learning with the local community in and around Bloomington, IN, and, in fact, throughout the country. Here is a list of some of the events we are looking forward to:

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Our DML Commons Story at ALTfest

Last week, we had the opportunity to present our experience co-facilitating the DML Commons Design Based Research course at the Academic Learning Transformation Festival (ALTfest) held at Virginia Commonwealth University. The purpose of ALTfest was to explore ideas and share stories of learning transformation in a festival-type atmosphere. Mimi Ito kicked off the day’s events with a keynote address where she shared her work of connected learning with young people. Many of the participants in ALTfest came from higher education backgrounds, and were very interested in applying the principles of connected learning with faculty, in professional development with teachers, and in other spaces. A few quick highlights from our day at ALTfest included a visit to the Makerspace where we met @abchamberlain, and pulled a few prints.


We also met the folks from Hack.RVA, a makerspace for adults in Richmond, VA, played with some 3D printed animals, and generally enjoyed the atmosphere that buzzed with creativity and all kinds of artists and makers.

During our presentation on co-facilitating the DML Design Based Research Course, we began with introductions in order to get to better understand who was attending our session, and why. We created an online poll to get a better sense of attendees’ level of experience with MOOCs and DOCCs.  As you can see from the results, most of the attendees had never facilitated a MOOC or DOCC before, and we learned that most folks there were interested in learning more about how to facilitate open, online courses. 

During our presentation, we provided a brief tour of the DML Commons website, and engaged participants in some of the DML Commons activities we found particularly fun, such as the “What Epistemology Are You?” quiz (which was very popular among the audience!). We also presented some of the design features we found most helpful in increasing and encouraging participation.

We then engaged participants in a design challenge. We handed out packets with a collection of the elements of the connected course including webinars, readings, webinar activities, blogs, and so on, and then encouraged them to work in groups to apply some of the design principles to their own connected course and content.

As we visited with each of the small groups, we were impressed by the level of conversation and the ways in which folks were applying some of these ideas to their own settings. For example, one of the groups wanted to know more about how folks were using Twitter in the course. Another group wanted to learn about the advantages of etherpad in comparison to Google documents for engaging viewers. Yet another participant shared that she didn’t like Twitter and thought that it would be a useless design element to include in an open course, and was surprised to find out that much of the DML Commons interaction took place among participants on Twitter, for example through live tweeting sessions. Another participant wondered about the “seamlessness” of the experience. He asked “with so many platforms being used, were participants overwhelmed or confused?”

Finally, many participants shared that creating a connected course was a lot more difficult than they had imagined. We’d agree with them, but add what we shared at the end of our presentation: that because connected courses are co-created and co-constructed, the line between teacher/learner/facilitator becomes blurred. Indeed, it is in the act of “making” the course, that allows for the most meaningful learning happens. Ultimately, the process of co-creating the Design-Based Research Course not only deepened our understanding of a methodology we are truly excited and passionate about, it also helped us to become more connected learners and teachers.

After the presentation, we had an interesting conversation with one of the participants, musing about the layers of distribution the DML Commons course includes. @derekbruff wanted to know more about why we were calling the DML Commons a “DOCC” instead of a “MOOC.” “Weren’t they, in fact, the same thing?” he asked. We argued that they weren’t. First, we wanted to give credit to the Femtechnet scholars for broadening and pushing our understanding of what it means to teach and learn in online spaces. Second, we feel that the co-constructed and distributed nature of the DML Commons is one of its strongest features, and should be foregrounded. This includes the range of diverse range of online spaces that were appropriated to support the rich sharing of everyone involved, the participatory design of the course to shake traditional hierarchies, and the possibility to enrich offline learning spaces through the generated content and practices. Third, we think it’s important to move beyond the term “MOOC” because, frankly, it has a lot of negative connotations and people tend to have knee-jerk reactions to the term.

Through the DML Commons Design-Based Research course, we had the opportunity to prepare and co-facilitate two online synchronous events before presenting together at the ALTfest. Here, the boundaries that we experienced through online channels, such as directing listeners to where to submit comments or to use a backchannel to coordinate and pitch questions to one another, did not apply. However, the online co-facilitation experience gave us a chance to get to know each other’s presentation style and to develop a shared style together.