Night-time #randomthoughts #reflections #questions #thinkingabout #innovation #creativity #Embracing_Change #WorldCreativityandInnovationDay #InnovationCatalyst

It's that day of the year when I should celebrate, it's the 'World Creativity and Innovation Day' today! What's so special about this day but? I always wanted to write about this; not about the day but on about one of the most important part of my life - creativity and innovation.

The story isn't just about my professional life but the thread of creativity and innovation weaves my identity, thoughts, feelings, personal life and professional life together. Creativity and innovation have no boundaries. You can be creative and innovative in whatever you do - may it be your work, cooking, household work, arranging your bookshelf, travelling.. literally, anything!

So the story starts from childhood when I used to hate crafts and drawing classes at school enjoying maths, computers, language classes and science experiments thinking I am not an art lover with a limited understanding of the definition of art. Being in love with literature, poetry and non-fiction, I had started writing poems, essays and a few so-called 'literary pieces' from my school days taking inspiration from my 'book lover' family. It was a time when people cared about report cards more than my creative expressions like writing, painting, making rangolis during Diwali, innovative recipes, love for theatre, poetry recitation (Kavyavachan) or storytelling (Katha Kathan). The time after completing schooling led me to self-doubt when my creative expressions were killed by situations and the guilt of not getting into the best engineering college took over innovation if there was any.

College days are a major boost to creative expressions and innovation when you find your best buddies in life. The urge of being 'different' takes over and makes one explore creativity and innovation again. For me, it was in terms of working on new topics every year, researching, doing different projects than the 'standard' ones. Powerpoint presentations and projects were my new found creative expressions and then started the tryst with innovation. It was my MTech time some 7-8 years back when I heard the word 'Arduino' for the first time followed by the 'Internet of Things'. Biomedical signal processing algorithms on MATLAB did the villain's job but Arduino was the bliss. That blinking LED on pin no 13 felt like conquering the battle of Panipat!

Innovation did happen to me. I found a new way of doing something. Rather, I found a better way of leading my life transitioning from Instrumentation to Biomedical with connecting machines to humans! I was looking for that missing human element which Instrumentation never offered. In fact, it killed the human by 'automating our thought process'. Biomedical was much more human while talking about 'life-saving machines' but I was looking for something more. My creative expression couldn't find its way in machines for humans. It was looking for real humans, innovation for humans by humans.

I owe my workplaces big time for finding me in the random most ways. A sort of interesting Facebook ad landed me to the world of creativity and innovation - the Makerspaces! Working at makerspaces we did crazy, unimaginable things. I wasn't a 'Maker' but I was someone who facilitated making with a lot of love and passion. I finally found something to hold on for my creative expressions. Anu, Pavan and Vaibhav, my then bosses, gave me immense freedom in terms of choosing my work area, designing what I wanted, working with people I liked and organising events according to my wish.

There I learned the art of packaging: not products but ideas. We ideated for days and nights in order to put together 'innovation programs'. This dates back to 2015-16 when the concept of innovation programs was limited to a certain community. Building communities, working with makers, mentoring students, curating events, bringing people from different backgrounds together, working on the latest technologies, working with innovators, creating a platform for them to showcase their innovations and tell their stories.. everything felt like a dream. Working with 'real human beings' who 'use' machines for a purpose, led me to find my own creative expression and helped me to innovate while at work. I learnt, 'only one person's creativity or innovation is not enough; we need a community for innovation and it is important to build an ecosystem conducive for innovation'. So for being on the mission of creating this newly conceptualised 'Maker-Innovator Community and Ecosystem', it was important to educate people about innovation, creativity, making, technology, design thinking, prototyping, digital fabrication, presentation, documentation and what not! This made us take a leap from being makerspaces to maker educators - spaces which educate people for innovation. The art of packaging of ideas - putting together the first-of-its-kind program for education for innovation happened to us then and I found a new way of my creative and innovative expression in terms of Education and Program Design.

Both stayed with me till date. Working on a number of small scale, large scale innovation programs for teachers, students, startups, people from the maker/ innovators community, open-to-all, women-centred, designed for govt school children.. the creative expression of the packaging of ideas helped me to find 'purpose, meaning and passion' in my work-life!

Education came to me as a tool for 'finding myself' in addition to the much-loved innovation ecosystem. Working with children and teachers to 'tinker' for solving worldly problems is fascinating. You can never imagine the kinds of ideas children have! With a bit of fine-tuning, one can help them to innovate but the system has to support them.

For creating next-generation innovators, it is important to create an ecosystem conducive for making, tinkering, building, experimenting but most importantly, the ecosystem which is conducive for questioning, thinking and discovering! The school-level innovation ecosystem today is under construction. It is our responsibility as educators, mentors, designers, innovators and program managers to create a non-judgemental, free and exploratory space for them to understand themselves, the world around them, to look at problems, to ideate and come up with solutions. If we want students to innovate, it is equally important that teachers should expand their boundaries to become 'facilitators' of innovation. Hence, at MakeShift, Ruchira and I mainly focus on teacher education and community development for building the school-level innovation ecosystem. In today's world when there are new means of tinkering and AI taking over Arduino and sensors, it becomes much more important for educators to ask children why question before what and how.

In the times of pandemic, when the world is changing, education is bound to change. One person can't define how it may change or what changes to bring but there has to be a common platform where people from different expertise discuss problems, expectations, requirements and brainstorm about solutions with each other. There can't be one answer to the problem of changing education as there are a number of problems to address. The pandemic situation is an opportunity in distress. It gives us an opportunity to rethink about the idea of education, the changing nature of curriculum, pedagogy, assessments and most importantly, the role of innovation in education. When there is a question mark on online learning experiences, the accessibility of online education, livelihood becoming more important than education; the innovation mindset needs to find its place in education without restricting itself to students or teachers. All stakeholders in education may they be technology providers, teachers, teacher educators, students, parents, policymakers, researchers; everyone needs to come together to make education better. Ruchira and I had organised one such virtual meet of stakeholders in education to discuss education after the pandemic. Now, we are creating a platform to innovate for education - NEXT Eduthon. We feel creating that much-required space (ecosystem) for facilitating innovation is our most important responsibility being the first few members of the maker community and innovation ecosystem in India.

This is a humble effort from our side to do our bit for reimagining this age-old system which kept many school students like me away from finding their creative expressions and means of innovation!

That's how my personal and professional life is weaved by threads of creativity and innovation and the feeling of doing something new and different and the joy of creation are incomparable to anything else in this world! For me, they are my 'highs' or you may say that I find my 'purpose, meaning and passion' there. Innovation for me stays deep within my heart and mind. Hence, I am celebrating the 'world creativity and innovation day' today!

Disclaimer: Though I am not an innovator if you consider today's definition of innovation - building devices, products or apps; I call myself innovation catalyst - an agent who works for innovation.

#education #educator #InnovationEcosystem #tinkering #maker #makersgonnamake #MakeShift #WorkbenchProjects #MakersAsylum #AIMtoInnovate

Education & Innovation | I write about people, places, thoughts and experiences

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