Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Series of LSUS classes focusing on creative thinking

by BIZ Magazine

SHREVEPORT – Digital arts associate professor Allen Garcie started noticing that his students were struggling more and more to generate their own ideas in an introduction design class.

What started as a way to generate design ideas seven years ago has blossomed into a two-course series in creative problem solving open to students of all disciplines at LSUS.

The courses – IDEA 101 (Creative Problem Solving) and IDEA 201 (Design Thinking) – focus on honing creative thinking skills that fit into any career field.

“Creativity is a soft skill that’s valuable,” Garcie said. “We mostly think of creativity in terms of artists or musicians, but you really need creativity every day no matter what job you’re in.

“Creativity is about solving problems, and we use that every day.”

Students in Garcie’s Design Thinking class put those creativity skills to use this spring.

Groups of students identify problems and generate solutions on an assigned topic.

“The series is designed to where IDEA 101 is pie-in-the-sky thinking where you go all out with crazy and insane ideas in ideal situations,” Garcie explained. “IDEA 201 is about coming back down to Earth and focusing on solutions that can actually help other people.

“It includes the creation of a tangible prototype, which reinforces the idea that ideas can lead to something real that people can see.”

On a topic addressing problems the elderly face, one student group visited senior living community Azalea Estates to get first-hand insight.

“Physical stability is a problem that the facility deals with on a daily basis,” said student Jason Maulding, whose best friend’s mom is an Azalea Estates resident. “They want to plan outdoor functions, but that’s hindered by residents having to transition between surfaces – say from concrete onto grass or coming off a bus onto concrete.

“This causes imbalance and fall potential, and the facility ends up not doing as many outdoor functions that require people to transition between surfaces.”

The solution? Maulding’s group found something on YouTube called a hexagonal robot in which the robot’s base stays perfectly level no matter which way the robot moves.

What if the hexagonal robot could be used in a shoe design that offers the elderly improved balance?

While the scope of the class isn’t to create a working prototype using a hexagonal robot, it’s the creative thinking on which the students are evaluated.

“The way this class is designed, it’s very open, and there’s a lot of freedom to share ideas,” said student Bryson Stroope, who was in Maulding’s group. “There’s criticism that comes with those ideas, but everything is encouraging.

“It helps you level out your ideas.”

Garcie’s logic is that if students learn how to think creatively, it’ll improve their career options and their lives in general.

“Specifically in digital arts, we can teach software, but software and technology are constantly changing,” Garcie said. “And then here comes artificial intelligence, which can do a lot of things.

“Creativity is about being flexible and adapting our brains to different situations, not just developing a skill set.”

Even the classroom in which the classes are held – IdeaSpace – is designed for the increased sharing of ideas.

Small tables with stools allow for students to move about the room more easily with other furniture like couches positioned for more relaxing conversations.

The walls are covered in dry erase boards with technology that allows for presentations and ideas to be shared digitally.

Fully operational in 2021, Garcie said the space was inspired by a visit to Stanford University’s d.school.

“The whole point is the space specifically fosters problem solving and collaboration,” Garcie said. “Not that these things can’t be taught in a regular classroom, but you see other schools having separate spaces like this, and I thought it would benefit us.

“The openness of the room creates a better environment for group projects and collaboration. I’ve actually seen students’ personalities change from the beginning to the end of a semester in these classes. Someone can go from being extremely quiet to communal and outspoken after being in these group situations over and over again.”

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