No Right Brain Left Behind
Bringing together scientists, technologists, and educators to re-imagine creativity in the classroom.
SLOJD is a 6-day workshop that was designed and developed in a collaboration between verynice and No Right Brain Left Behind. The workshop prompts a small group of designers in Los Angeles to develop a new innovation and/or combined methodology that can foster excitement and engagement amongst 9th graders in two common subject matters that are taught at that grade level: Algebra / Biology. Our approach to the workshop format is simple: start with very little constraint, and gradually, throughout the course of the 6 days, continue to introduce more and more constraint / tools / opportunity. Our workshop began at GOOD Magazine’s headquarters.
These moments of rapid prototyping… of bringing people who are capable of making and generating ideas and getting from a problem to a proposed solution.. and only over the course of several evenings… really interesting things happen when you have to get things done quickly.
Co-Founder, GOOD Worldwide
The workshop consists of a total of 9 participants from a wide range of industries including game designers, product designers, user experience designers, and educators representing companies and organizations including Disney Imagineering, NASA, The Imagination Foundation, and more. Being the first day, we had three goals:
- Provide the participants with the official brief for the workshop
- Provide a knowledge-transfer to give the participants context
- Begin the ideation and brainstorming process.
For the knowledge transfer, both verynice and No Right Brain Left Behind gave brief presentations on the role of designers and the state of innovation in education. To better address the pain-points that exist within the high school education system in Los Angeles and beyond, we invited Douglas Weston, the Director of Development at Green Dot Public Schools, to share the stories of their students. Weston touched on a point that will serve as the basis of our agenda, the dire need to progress the conversation around the importance of nurturing holistic creativity, beyond the arts. Our second guest for the evening was Lee Zlotoff, the creator of MacGyver. Lee spoke to the participants about creative methodology and resourcefulness in order to instill a “Do-It-Yourself” mindset amongst the participants. This framework for making will come into play over the next few days.
Workshops like this teach the beauty of failure as part of the iterative process.
Director of Development, green dot public schools
After being split into 4 groups, we moved the participants to another section of GOOD’s offices in order to start our kick-off brainstorm exercise. Once in this space, the four groups were prompted with the task of coming up with 400 ideas around the intersecting topics of “21st Century Skills,” Algebra, Biology, and Creativity. Purposefully broad, our intentions with this component of the overall process was to allow each participant to begin thinking wildly and irrationally around these topics, with very little influence and inhibition. Each idea was to be presented on a single post-it note, because it isn’t a workshop about innovation without a healthy serving of post-it notes, right? Oh, one more thing: they had to come up with all 100 ideas within just one hour.
After a frantic ideation process, and one full hour, our participants stuck their post-it note ideas to the floor beneath GOOD’s logo. It was a crazy first day.
After a successful first day, our participants were ready to hit the ground running for day 2 of 6 at SLOJD, verynice + NRBLB’s workshop to explore the role of creativity in high school education. Shortly after arriving, our participants drank wine, ate a lot of pizza, and got back into their small groups.
Working together, each small group was prompted to sift through each of the 100 ideas they rapidly dreamed up the night before in order to select their top 3 directions. Each small group was advised to select ideas that did the following:
- Re-imagine the role of creativity in algebra and biology
- Leveraged unique points of intersection that included a context and a methodology
- Evoked a sense of curiosity that shows clear room for discovery and experimentation.
After selecting the three best ideas, each team took the post-its off of the wall and migrated to an assigned desk in the middle of the room to discuss the depth of each concept. While the night before was all about quick ideation, the focus of this evening was to begin to reflect about these concepts on a more sophisticated level. Thanks to one of our sponsors, SparkFun, participants were introduced to the first suite of material constraints: DIY hardware kits! These kits included the Makey Makey device, conductive paint, a paper robot kit, and an array of other funky technological matter.
After familiarizing themselves with the tools provided to them, each of the four teams were prompted to use their devices as a means of further exploration into the potential of one or more of the three ideas they selected from the mess of post-its.
For 2 hours, each small group worked intensely on a series of prototypes that explored different components of their concepts. Instead of simply taking an idea executing upon it, we challenged each team to dissect their ideas in order to tease out several components of each idea that were capable of being tested and iterated upon. As a result, we created an environment that celebrated learning through making and serendipitous discovery.
In the final 20 minutes of the day, we revealed to the four groups that we were now merging them to become 2 large groups. These will be the final groups for the remainder of the workshop. The 2 groups began their conversation by critiquing each concept in order to bring more depth to each idea through a fresh perspective.
Day 03 of our workshop started a bit earlier for one of the participants, Sheena Yoon, who paid a visit to Ánimo Pat Brown, a Green Dot public charter high school for urban youth in South LA, in order to do some initial ethnographic research. While at Green Dot, Yoon visited a drama class, a math class, and a robotics class. The biggest discovery was the visible polars of creativity that exist in the space. While it might not seem too surprising, it was eye-opening for Yoon to see the extreme lack of creativity in the algebra class vs. the amazing amount of creativity in the creative-oriented classes.
After sharing her experience with the rest of the team in the evening of Day 03, the two teams got back to work on their respective projects. While one of the teams was beginning to focus their efforts toward the creation of a tile-based interface for learning, the other was working more intensively on new models for collaboration and team-building in the classroom.
After a few hours of discussion and collaborative making, each team was then brought into the space’s conference room to speak to Lorie Manos (our Founder’s Mom!). Mrs. Manos is an educator with nearly two decades of experience teaching a wide range of subjects both on a one-on-one basis as a private tutor as well as in the classroom.
The discussions with our virtual guest pointed towards the necessity of re-imagining group work in the classroom as well as the limitations of a classroom environment vs an individual learning environment. Mrs. Manos also shared with the group several game-based learning methodologies she leverages in and out of the classroom.
As the day came closer and closer to an end, we re-enforced the necessity for each team to focus less on the content and more on the interface. Using the analogy of a Sony Playstation, we explained that the design of one game will only result in one game. The design of a platform, on the other hand, can result in endless opportunity. Leveraging this philosophy, the teams were challenged to think at a much larger scale in order to focus their efforts on the development of a new platform / methodology / kit of parts that both the teacher and the student can learn together with.
The workshop concluded with a public presentation of new platforms for creativity in education, and the night of the presentation, No Right Brain Left Behind was awarded a $100,000 grant from the Goldhirsh Foundation to implement the work.