'Activation' happens when kids are self-propelled toward learning in science. Kevin Crowley and Christian Schunn have seen it in action.
"Activation is a state that kids can get into, the thing that gives them momentum toward engaging with science, when they have a choice," says Crowley, director of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments. "That sort of experience sets up a positive feedback loop where they will look for other opportunities in science as they move forward."
Activation, says Schunn, senior scientist at Pitt's Learning Research and Development Center, "would make the next experience richer and [the child] would be more likely to choose it" on his own, despite "deactivating forces at play" -- such as the distraction of the Internet and the disinterest or disdain of friends.
That's why The Sprout Fund will hold a free Spark Strategy Session on Understanding Learning Activation
on July 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Downtown's Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel.
Spark has been funding and nurturing projects for young learners at the intersection of the arts and high tech for several years now. Organizers hope Crowley and Schunn's work on what activates or motivates young science learners can translate to what does the same for students more broadly -- or, as organizers put it, how activation can be applied "to the learning ecosystem in Greater Pittsburgh." The event will involve breakout sessions and small-group discussions.
Crowley says the group will begin to address what will be the optimum educational path for kids growing up in Pittsburgh and how it will change the momentum toward art and high tech learning.
There are many programs already in Pittsburgh whose missions dovetail with this effort, he notes. Without making the "educational ecology" less diverse, the group will try to get a clearer picture of what roles we're all playing in kids' lives.
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Kevin Crowley, University of Pittsburgh Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments, and Christian Schunn, University of Pittsburgh Learning Research and Development Center