5:11 AM 7/1/2006
International Research Conference on Entrepreneurship
June 30, 2006
WEB 2.0 AS A TEACHING TOOLSET FOR CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION
Joel C. Yuvienco
Director, School of Management and Technopreneurship
De La Salle Canlubang, Leandro V. Locsin Campus, Biñan, Laguna
This paper, which serves as a report, surveys web-based software and teaching resources as a useful toolset for enhancing the learning environment in an undergraduate course of Creativity and Innovation. Course expectations were aimed at generation of creative sparks from participants, of whom no prior successful completion of general education subjects was assumed, much less required, but was desirable. However, higher order skills like analysis and synthesis were encouraged. The course was structured around the 4 Ps of Creativity and Innovation, i.e. Person, Press, Process, Product, but each learner was offered diverse opportunities to pursue his/her personal learning adventure. While primarily experiential, this course helped the participants to get a handle on the interplay of theory and practice. Focus was on Web 2.0 websites, otherwise known as Read/Write Web because of the inherent nature of the domain of creativity which encourages mutual feedback and cooperation for successful product innovation to happen. Sample sites used are listed and described below in no particular order:
http://www.youtube.com – which extends to the learner the functionality of a video show and tell, http://www.whynot.net or http://www.halfbakery.com – which allows the user to create an account to post original ideas and comment on other participants’ ideas, and http://www.inventiondb.com – which operates as a repository of ideas/projects along with the suitable documentation and resources such as computer programming source codes. Inspiration for blue sky ideas, proof of concept or even early commercialisation stages was benchmarked against thematic ideas from http://www.makezine.com and http://www.boingboing.net.
Hacking (the legitimate kind) and modding (or customisation) were encouraged. Team inventions were uploaded in http://www.instructables.com where each invention/innovation project could be showcased visually and descriptively as an academic exercise for possible patenting purposes.
Key words: Web 2.0, Toolset, Creativity, Innovation, Education
This paper discusses some of the lessons learned during an undergraduate course I taught at De La Salle-Canlubang. Creativity and Innovation was offered on the third term of school year 2005-2006, and 30 students from the School of Management and Technopreneurship enrolled in the course.
The broad objectives of the course center on giving the students the ability to understand the principles and practices of Creativity and Innovation. Course expectations were aimed at generation of creative sparks from participants, of whom no prior successful completion of general education subjects was assumed, much less required, but was desirable.
In the process the students were guided in acquiring proficiency in the use of blogs and collaborative Web applications while engaging in a critical analysis of the diverse elements of Creativity and Innovation. The class also asked students to apply their newly acquired social software skills and knowledge to promote their invention/innovative ideas. The dynamics and outcomes of the course are discussed below.
II. KEY COMPONENTS
* Course Syllabus: identifies the reading assignments, schedule, and other course requirements
* Course Toolset: diverse Websites with Read/Write functionality
* Course Output: consists of links to individual and group submissions as well as portfolio of printed discussions and journal
III. COURSE STRUCTURE
The syllabus identified the expected individual competencies on successful completion of the course:
1. Define and analyze the creative process.
2. Understand the roles and needs for creative/innovative approaches in business.
3. Recognize the benefits of the application of personal and group creativity/innovation techniques in diverse situations.
4. Understand how creative/innovative approaches, techniques and attitudes help in personal change and development.
The class operated as a collaborative learning community that encouraged working online as well as offline.
On a personal level, the class was exposed to questions such as: What does it take to be creative and innovative? How does one measure the results of creativity and innovation? How could an idea generation technique work? What could I do to innovatively find solutions to problems or situations?
Additionally, students worked on group projects which explored how functionalities closely associated with the then emerging concept of Web 2.0 can be used as an effective toolset for learning creativity and innovation. Web 2.0 refers to “a second generation of services available on the World Wide Web that lets people collaborate and share information online. In contrast to the first generation, Web 2.0 gives users an experience closer to desktop applications than the traditional static Web pages.”* It became a popular Internet label in the past months as a result of O’Reilly Media Inc.’s vigorous involvement in conferences that promoted the use of diverse Read/Write Web functionalities. Note that no effort is attempted in this paper to endorse the initiatives and activities of O’Reilly Media Inc. and its partners, particularly in connection with the term Web 2.0.
Wikipedia defines blogs, which is a short form of weblog, as:
“a website where regular entries are made (such as in a journal or diary) and presented in reverse chronological order. Blogs often offer commentary or news on a particular subject, such as food, politics, or local news; some function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. Most blogs are primarily textual although many focus on photographs, videos or audio. Collaborative Web Applications fall under the generic tool called groupware which Wikipedia defines as "computer-based systems that support groups of people engaged in a common task (or goal) and that provide an interface to a shared environment". It is also known as Collaborative software. It is the basis for computer supported cooperative work” Such different software systems like mail, calendaring, chat, wiki belong into this category.”
While a lot of blogs are usually maintained as personal online diary, the fact that they can accommodate comments gives the user the ability to use them as collaborative tools and thus make them indirectly fall under Collaborative Web Applications.
To start the students off on idea explorations, they subscribed with personal accounts at http://www.whynot.net a Website on “How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small”. It “allows the user to create an account to post original ideas and comment on other participants’ ideas.”
Besides giving the users the ability to engage in conversations, it allows them to vote on ideas. The voting mechanism enables viewers of the Website to see the ranks of ideas. An alternative Website http://www.halfbakery.com was also suggested just in case the first one was down for reasons beyond the control of the class.
Youtube.com, http://www.youtube.com, which has recently become wildly popular in the Philippines, because of its engaging ability to extend to the viewer the functionality of a motion picture show-and-tell, was shown to the students to demonstrate the fact that proof-of concept can sometimes be more easily understood if done through videos.
On the level of project management, Inventiondb.com, http://www.inventiondb.com was introduced to those who may wish to take the idea of project development and management more seriously. Inventiondb.com operates as a repository of ideas/projects along with the suitable documentation and resources such as computer programming source codes.
Inspiration for blue sky ideas, proof of concept or even early commercialisation stages were benchmarked against thematic ideas from Makezine.com and Boingboing.net. (Figures 4 & 5)
Consistent with the advocacy of makezine.com and boingboing.net, hacking (the legitimate kind) and modding (or customisation) were encouraged. The idea runs parallel to the efforts of a diverse yet growing worldwide community of open-source advocates. According to one post, (http://community.postnuke.com/Wiki-OSBackground.htm): “The basic philosophy behind open source is very simple: When programmers can read, redistribute, and modify the source code for a piece of software, the software evolves. People improve it, people adapt it, and people fix the bugs. And this can happen at a speed that, if one is used to the slow pace of conventional software development, seems astonishing.” Thus by keeping the source code of a project open to a community of users, the project has a better chance of improvement.
Team inventions were uploaded in http://www.instructables.com where each invention/innovation project can be showcased visually and descriptively as an academic exercise for possible patenting purposes.
While the above tools were explored on the practical side, the principles around the 4 Ps of Creativity and Innovation, i.e. Person, Press, Process, Product were discussed in class. Questions that mirrored those components were served up to the students as guideposts to create self-awareness. Questions such as those mentioned in the course structure above were used to provoke deeper thought and discussion.
Running parallel to these self-explorations was a series of discussions on the diverse standard tools for Creativity and Innovation. Books and traditional Websites on the subject are in abundance. The website Mycoted.com which offered a long list of creativity links and material came in handy. For example it comes with an A-Z coverage of diverse creative problem solving techniques. This made it easier to assign a technique to each participant for his/her exploration and live demonstration in a classroom setting.
The projects below (Figures 7- 11) are some of the notable submissions from the students. One major benefit of using the Instructables.com is that it provided an engine for participation that was very user-friendly. There are data fields for uploading project pictures and textual explanatory content.
The OREO Milk Dunker is an insulated mug wherein it dunks your Oreos for you in milk.
Cell phone screen enhancer which is a made to order lens that matches the grade of your glasses, which attaches right on to the LCD of your cell phone.
A shampoo made of Pancit pancitan grass (rat's ear grass) with ocean breeze scent, specially made for the summer season. A shampoo for everyone... A shampoo made up of grassroots, soapwort water and ocean breeze scent.
The course project submissions also benefited from the functionality of allowing comments from the subscribing public. This cuts both ways. For example, the Cell phone screen enhancer was interesting enough to invite positive as well as negative responses. Comments in diverse forms accumulated even long after the course wound down. The comments which ran from March 27 to May 16, 2006 can be followed at http://www.instructables.com/ex/i/72DD7C860F471029BC4A001143E7E506/. In fact the submissions continue to be open for comments.
But more than accommodating comments from participants, the collaborative affordance of Web 2.0 sites allowed projects to spawn derivative projects. The Oreo Milk Dunker idea inspired the project Toy Cookie Dunking Cup by someone who was not even a member of the class. In fact that evolution drove the owners of the Instructables.com to create a section on ideas as projects.
Again, beyond learning, by participating in a project contest, 4 of the students were fortunate enough to win promotional shirts from the Website owners of Instructables.com. This is not to say that they won by the mere submission of projects but rather by complying with the Website’s project documentation requirements. The two teams that got honorable mentions are the following:
A way wherein people who usually wake up at night to go to the bathroom or get a drink from the refrigerator don’t have to switch on the lights that would probably wake up his or her roommate or the whole household.
The Clapper is a gadget that uses a sound-activated switch sensitive to hand clapping, to turn off and on any appliance that is plugged into it depending on the number of times you clap.
It is also interesting to note that while the Clapper (Figure 11) is not exactly a novel idea, it was the fact of the students’ managing to navigate through the skills of creating an idea and describing its elements in a manner that adheres to standards (such as the documentation requirements for Intellectual Property registration, for example) that was recognized with the honorable mentions. I consider that a creative way of teaching learners the mechanics of anything too technical for their comfort.
Mejias explored how the current wave of Information and Communication Technologies called less technically as social software “can enable new forms of study and research, preparing students to participate in networks where knowledge is collectively constructed”. At the basic level his class was able to build enough understanding of the nuances of the enabling power of social software at digital information organization.
He also discovered that “beyond the benefits of better information management, the real purpose of [that] exercise was to turn students into contributors, not mere recipients, of knowledge about social software.” Indeed, each of his students became a “researcher who could add something to [their] study of the topic (while at the same time build their own collection of resources tagged according to their individual classification schemes).” This is something, I could perhaps explore further in my future classes in order to stress the importance of the user as the center of collaborative activities, more particularly in classroom learning.
Mejias saw the need to yield his primary role of being an instructor, as the sole source of information. This is something that bears stressing considering that the rapidly changing ICT tools are anchored on the emerging bottom-up participatory nature of Web 2.0.
He conceded that “in fact this was beneficial for [him] as well, as [he] became exposed to more research, resources and ideas than [he] could identify on [his] own. [His] interest and knowledge of the topic, in other words, was augmented by the contributions of [his] students.” Indeed, the statement “in teaching we learn, and in learning, we teach” cannot be more true than within a collaborative environment. In fact I made sure that I was also part of the registered users in whynot.net and instructables.com if only to generate broader and deeper conversations.
Mejias recognized that “[c]ontributing to a pool of resources was one thing, but a detailed examination of social software required a more individualized space for reflection, which is why everyone in the class was asked to maintain a blog throughout the course.” This is something that I should have likewise done. But for my purposes, the submission in the whynot.net website satisfied the blogging course requirement. I also blended that with the traditional paper and reports that my students assembled in a folder where they entered their journals and weekly summaries.
I admit that the Web 2.0 teaching toolset that I explored was far from complete. Although it would not have been possible to coordinate tasks and activities of the class without the usual email exchanges, a calendar component would have been nice. This is a functionality where Google calendar would be useful.
A wiki, which by its very essence is a collaborative tool could also make tracking project versions of documents a lot easier. Wikihost is one fine example. Its site description states: “Wikis play a constantly growing role of web content distribution. They provide easy to learn and use interfaces for content creation and maintenance. The idea is, anybody from anywhere normally can contribute to a wiki of his interest.”
Likewise, a mechanism for tracking the progress of the students’ idea or invention needs to be in place. It doesn’t have to be a complex tool that dynamically computes slack and adjusts the project time table, but something that at least takes care of the project milestones. This scheduling functionality can best be served by basecamphq (although not completely free). (Figure 13)
It is clear therefore that in future incarnations of this course and similar courses that can benefit from the Read/Write Web, a functionally rich toolset naturally becomes useful and desirable.
One piece of valuable learning I picked up in this course is that participants need to police themselves in order to reduce if not eliminate the likelihood of conversations getting too personal. The Web 2.0 tools I used were a public space and posting should be moderated by the users themselves. Some collaborative Websites put in place a flagging mechanism to minimize what is commonly called flaming by Web trolls or vandals. What this means is that in a more inclusive educational environment users should be able to define and use a “tagging system according to the peculiar culture of the user’s community.”
Except for that small bit of “classroom” management challenge, I’d like to believe that there is a lot of potential for the use of Web 2.0 as a teaching platform. As for the next offering of a similar course, students and teachers alike could look forward to a more enriched learning environment. Perhaps by then, we do not even have to call the toolset by the label Web 2.0 but a lower case semantic web where people and machine can talk seamlessly.
Creativity & Innovation in Science & Technology http://www.mycoted.com/
Mejias, Ulises (2005). “Teaching Social Software with Social Software: A report”.. Available online Dec. 28. http://ideant.typepad.com/ideant/2005/12/teaching_social.html#more [Downloaded June 13, 2006]
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, http://www.wikipedia.org
Yuvienco, Joel (2005). “Knowledge Management of Folk Knowledge: Harnessing the Power of Social Software Applications”. Available online Nov. 15. http://joelogs.tripod.com/JoelYuvienco1.htm
[Downloaded June 13, 2006]