Has Our Creativity and Curiosity Decreased?

In an interesting article I read recently called “What is Creativity?–Cultivating Creativity”, it argues that there has been a steady decline in creativity since in the late 1990s. If we look around to our mobile devices, computers, films, art, design, science, etc., one can argue this may not be the case entirely. Well… with the majority of Hollywood films being adapted from novels and/or comic books, one can say film is one place where creativity has declined in the past two decades… Even if you look at the courses the ExCollege has offered to date have always been considered current, exploratory, innovative, and well received by the student body for decades.

In the article, the author discusses a time when he was in the supermarket with his son. His son asks him either do bananas grow on the trees from top to bottom, or bottom to top. The father pulls out his phone, Google’s the answers and in 30 seconds they knew all about how bananas grew, where, and when. Yet, the father stops himself and is upset to realized he did not give his son room to question and explore his thoughts before finding the answer. This is where I agree with the article, in many facets because we have the privilege of readily information at our finger tips, there is less room for exploration.

Exploration entices your curiosity and fuels your creativity. I’ve always been a very curious person about the things in our world and constantly think and question my surroundings. Growing up I was encouraged to do so by my mother, teachers, mentors, and sports coaches, and I’ve carried that into my early adulthood and will continue to do so. But let’s turn the mic around, do you think curiosity assist creativity? Is the readily available information more to our benefit than this article leads us to believe?

I always urge people to hold on to their imagination, just like when you were younger, careless, and bubbled with imagination. Hold on to seven year old you! Who knows, they might surprise you and help you configurate your paper or presentation in a manner that is innovative and more approachable to your audience. Or lend a hand in looking at your world with a new set of eyes. A fresh perspective. Give it a try! Here at the ExCollege, that’s what they’re all about. Exploration in an academic scope. See how much more you can learn when you start asking questions and ponder solutions before you come to the answer.

For more information on the article, please click HERE.

#Creativity #Curiosity #Exploration

Micro and Macro Influences from the ExCollege

The end of the foliage is near, the breeze getting cooler, and midterm season among us. But if you lift your head from the binds of your books or computer screens and look around, there is much to celebrate and notice at Tufts this year. The Experimental College, standing strong and getting it’s fall season home make-over, is celebrating 50 years here at Tufts University. I’ve been lucky to be a part of the ExCollege since my freshman year, bringing me to a consecutive four years with the ExCollege this spring, which in college years is a century. It’s been great to be fostered by a great family here at the ExCollege. My first year I was a student in “Blockbusters” a Perspectives course analyzing blockbuster films and the film industry as a business. I’m a student Board member on the ExCollege Board and an Office Assistant. Fast forward to my senior year, and I’m teaching an Explorations course called “From Brainstorm to Business” where we analyze  problems we see or encounter and ideas are simply the solutions and business ventures the execution. The mentee to mentor cycle occurs year after year here at the ExCollege, which to me is a prime example as to not only why it’s rejoiced by tour guides and lectures coming from all corners of disciplines, but why it’s celebrating it’s 50th this year.

We are in the mist of processing all of our proposals for Spring ’15 courses, and the pool of applicants is looking strong. I’ve seen all kinds of proposals for various classes while being an office assistant here at the ExCollege, but every year there is always a general handful of applications that never ceases to surprise me and spark my curiosity. This confirms my notion of creativity and curiosity and how it continues to thrive and coexist–something I believe the ExCollege fosters well through it’s course selection and general presence on the hill. Next week, I want to dive into this notion of creativity and curiosity, so please stay tuned!

You’ll be seeing me every Wednesday here on the ExCollege blog! Feel free to comment and ask me questions, or post to start dialogue with other readers. And since it’s parent’s weekend and you go with your family or your newfound college family (plus the weather will be gorgeous this Saturday) go to the Head of the Charles and cheer on your Jumbos’ crew team either Saturday or Sunday :)

Marcy Regalado, Engineering Psychology (Human Factors), Class 2015

#ProposalProcessing #ExCollege50th

An Inside Look at Spring Registration

In 1964, the ExCollege began its journey at Tufts with over 60 students, staff, and faculty participating in one class: The Contemporary European Novel designed by Seymour Simches, Juan Alonso, and Sol Gittleman. This course was not only the first comparative literature course taught at Tufts, but also the first class dealing exclusively in modern literature taught in translation. Fast forward 50 years and the ExCollege houses over 50 courses offered for credit to Tufts students. This spring, almost 800 students enrolled in an ExCollege course, ready to dabble in the experimental and be immersed in the wonderful world of innovative, interactive education.

ExCollege Spring 2014 Numbers Vertical_small

 

Out of the 24 selected Visiting Lecturer courses, 11 filled to capacity with excited Tufts students. So what were these popular classes?

  • American Superheroes: Power, Politics, and Morality
  • 2D Animation
  • The Corset and the Crown: The History and Politics of Fashion
  • Medical Spanish
  • The Mind’s Eye: Neuroscience in the Movies
  • Positive Psychology
  • The Right to Privacy in Modern America
  • Experimenting with Philanthropy
  • On the Record: Communicating for the Government
  • Introduction to Sports Management (an online course)
  • Microfinance

Tufts students continue to amaze us with their ability to tackle challenging topics, projects, and discussions in the classroom, and we can’t wait to see what this semester has in store for our ExCollege classes!

Peer Teaching through the Years

We extended our Peer Teaching application deadline to November 8! If you have an expertise and want to share it in your own classroom, get in touch with us before filling out your application. We are very excited to see what classes will be proposed by undergraduates for the upcoming semester.

Giving in to a bit of nostalgia, we went through the past few years of peer-taught courses and compiled some great course descriptions. Based on the unique and innovative classes offered over the past 3 years, we know that we’ll have a fantastic line-up of peer-taught courses this spring!


The Art of Improvisation
Taught by Rachel Shoenbrun (A13) and Adam Bangser (A14)

Do you love to make people laugh? Are you spontaneous? Do you love to tell stories?

This course teaches the exciting art of improvisational comedy. Students in this course will explore the basics of improv performance, including scene building, agreement (“yes, and”), basic narrative skills, and physical characterization. At the same time, we will be reading important improv texts, discussing improvisational theory, and relating its principles to our daily lives. Our work will be inspired by the teachings of the improvisational experts and theorists such as Keith Johnstone, Del Close, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler (founder of the improv troupe My Mother’s Flea Bag at Boston College). The structure of this course will be highly interactive and discussion-based, with field trips, guest speakers, and group performance. No experience necessary.


Architecture/Music: Sound and the Built Environment
Taught by Amelia Wellers (A13)

As Goethe once observed, “I call architecture frozen music . . .; the influence that flows upon us from architecture is like that from music.” Spaces speak—are you listening?

Sound is an omnipresent influence within our environment, but very few people actually listen to what they hear. This class will explore the many dimensions of how sound interacts within the built environment, exploring topics including archaeoacoustics, aural architecture, space and sound analysis, music and performance, visual art, film, hands-on sound production, and as many other applications as could possibly be deemed reasonable. We will take field trips to our own Granoff Music Center as well as to Boston Symphony Hall and engage in guest lectures given by some of the leading Boston area acousticians. Informal studio sessions and conceptual discussions invite students to synthesize their own diverse experiences in the soundscape of our world. The ultimate goal is to take creative license in forming your own perceived “point of audition.”


Game Strategy
Taught by Aaron Bartel (A12)

When playing Monopoly Scrabble or Clue, do you just go by the rules? Or have you ever thought about the strategy that’s involved? This course will explore the skills and understanding that’s necessary to actually win common household games. We will focus on the strategy implemented in these games by employing game theory, economics, statistics, and balance of power dynamics. Classes will consist of an examination of a certain strategic element within the context of a game, and then the exercising of that strategy in class by playing the game in question. Games explored will include students’ choices along with the following: Texas Hold’em, Risk, Monopoly, Settlers of Catan, Dominion, Hearts, Spades, President, Bridge, Connect 4, Checkers, Chinese Checkers, Chess, Scrabble.


Alpinismo: The Culture and Science of Mountain Climbing
Taught by Nick Levin (A11) and Ryan Stolp (A11)

Why do humans feel the need to travel into and immerse themselves in the highest and harshest environments on the planet?

This course presents the history of alpinism and how it has developed into one of the most extreme endeavors humans have undertaken. It will also include the practical skills of rock, ice, and mountaineering, as well as theoretical, philosophical and alpine environmentalist perspectives. Through skills practice, presentations, guest lecturers, reading responses, discussions, and a final expedition planning project, students will thoroughly explore the art of mountaineering.


Psychology, Magic, and Performance
Taught by Marcell Babai (A11)

This course will introduce students to an exploration of the psychology that makes magic work and makes it an entertaining art. As such, it combines study with performance.While specific techniques will be taught, the focus of the class is an analysis of how the techniques and psychological cues work together. To further the understanding of performance we will also briefly examine the history and evolution of technique, as well as examine how these concepts apply to other non-performance situations. In addition to a discussion of relevant theory, throughout the semester students will be preparing to perform short, close-up magic routines.


Investigations in Hypnosis
Taught by Aliza Howitt (A12)

Have you ever gone to a hypnotist show and seen your friends cluck like chickens? Maybe you thought it was a fluke or wrote it off to voodoo science. Well, not so! Hypnosis is a legitimate field that is often neglected by mainstream psychology curriculums.

This class is here to rectify that. In this course students will take a closer look at how hypnosis actually works. We will cover a variety of materials, providing students with an intimate knowledge of the history and science behind hypnosis, as well as an understanding of possible clinical applications and contemporary research on the subject.


HBO’s The Wire: TV and the American Inner City
Taught by Alex Hart (A11)

HBO’s The Wire has been called “a display … that must be considered alongside the best literature and filmmaking in the modern era.”

Through close analysis of of key episodes, this course will use The Wire to explore the societal and institutional processes that shape and influence the lives of inner-city Americans. We will journey through the first four of The Wire’s five seasons, examining the politics, societal influences, and institutional practices that affect the lives of the urban poor.

Readings will accompany viewings of the program, examining topics such as community policing, the economics of drug trade, the loss of jobs in America, underrepresented subcultures, and undocumented labor. The different academic viewpoints will provide a view into a disenfranchised community, located in the center of the American city. Participation and discussion will provide the fuel for the course.

 

Peer Teaching at the ExCollege

Since 1967, the ExCollege has provided Tufts undergraduates with the opportunity to design their own course and teach fellow Jumbos through the Peer Teaching program. Peer-taught courses often revolve around current issues; allowing for dynamic classroom spaces that make students re-think and re-shape the way they view the world. Currently, the ExCollege is on the look-out for Peer Teachers for Spring 2014. If you are a student and want to share your expertise in your own course, please apply! Before you submit your application, please get in touch with us (excollege@tufts.edu or 617-627-3384) with your course idea. The application is available on our main website. The deadline for applications is November 1.

Peer-taught course topics over the past 46 years continually morph based on changing student needs and contemporary issues. From 1970′s course “The Draft” to 2012′s class “Game Strategy,” exceptional peer instructors challenge their students while igniting dialogue and sparking ideas.

For a glimpse into the world of Peer Teaching, our intrepid summer intern Benji Cohen (A11 and former ExCollege student board member) put together a snapshot of the Spring 2007 course “The Future is Lost: The TV Series as Cultural Phenomenon” taught by Chadwick Matlin (A07) and Ed Kalafarski (A06).

The Course: The Future is Lost: The TV Series as Cultural Phenomenon, Spring 2007

The Peer-Teachers: Chadwick Matlin (A07) and Ed Kalafarski (A06) used ABC’s smash-hit drama “Lost” as an academic text to analyze the future of media and the intersection between technology, media, and economics.

Lost and Society: The class explored how the show has become a pop culture sensation, but equally importantly how ABC markets and positions the show in its television lineup. In addition, the online community devoted to “Lost” demonstrated, in Chad and Ed’s eyes, a significant turning point in the relationship between media and society. As Chad remarked, “the Internet is bringing people together to deal with something that is usually referred to as just a hobby, but here it’s becoming what people do when they come home from work for three hours at night.” Chad marveled that “Lost” mobilized “people in our reality based on a fictional show,” and attempted to teach his students that such mobilization was targeted by ABC executives because showbiz, after all, is a business.

Reception: Chad and Ed’s course received local, national, and even international attention and acclaim. Chad and Ed’s class was featured in the Boston Globe, USA Today, the Huffington Post, and NPR,  “Lost” producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse caught wind of the class from California and had a conference call to answer students’ questions, and Chad was interviewed by BBC radio.

Reflection: Chad told the Tufts Daily that in the end “Lost” was an entertaining means to an academic end. He said, “we’re instructing students on the new media landscape, and what it means to watch TV in the 21st century in the Internet-dominated world that we live in.” As ExCollege Director Robyn Gittleman told the Globe, Chad and Ed created “a very thoughtful syllabus that explored all aspects of the show. . . . It had many, many layers with different educational goals.”

Where Are They Now: After graduating from Tufts, Chad was an associate editor at TheBigMoney.com, Slate’s business site. He has written for Fortune.com, New York, The Atlantic, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Columbia Journalism Review, and Talking Points Memo. He is currently a senior editor for Reuters Opinion, Reuters’ online commentary arm. Ed received a Masters in Computer Science from Brown University in 2009. He has worked for Google since 2007, focusing on the Google Maps app. In addition, he was the project manager and lead developer for Slate’s “Map the Candidates” tool during the 2008 presidential election.

Explorations & Perspectives 2013!

Congratulations to the Class of 2013!! A hush has spread into the ExCollege office (and all over the Hill) with so many seniors taking off to pursue exciting post-Tufts adventures. We’re already missing our seniors, but we can’t wait to start getting email updates and surprise visits!

With the summer slowly rolling in, the Commencement excitement is transforming into an excitement for the fall semester and a new batch of Jumbos. In June, the incoming Class of 2017 will be getting a lot of Tufts-tastic information in the mail, including the coveted advising programs list. Every fall, the ExCollege provides the option for entering freshmen to enroll in either the Explorations or Perspectives advising programs.

Initiated in 1972, Explorations served as an innovative advising program meant to act as both an academic and social introduction to the Hill. Each Explorations seminar is led by 2 upperclassmen who design the syllabus and course topic themselves. From “Robots, Space, and Civilizations of the Future” to “Road Trips and the American Identity” and much more, the 9 Explorations seminars open to the Class of 2017 will continue the tradition of offering an experience that uniquely combines advising, learning, and a sense of community. Check out the current Explorations courses here.

After the awesome success of the Explorations program, Perspectives joined the ExCollege advising line-up in 1988. Unlike Explorations, with course topics wide-ranging, Perspectives classes all work under the large umbrella topic of “media studies.” Pre-2014, Perspectives seminars focused around the idea of movies, but given the surge in new media, the program has been re-structured to encompass all types of media. “The Business of Hollywood,” “Medical Fallacies in TV and Film,” and 7 other seminars will be offered to incoming freshmen this fall. Like Explorations, each Perspectives seminar has been custom-built by two upperclassmen ready to guide freshmen through their first semester as Jumbos. For a full listing of Perspectives courses, head over to our main website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

^2012′s Explorations and Perspectives Peer Leaders in summer training! 

Here are some memorable quotes from our 2012 Explorations and Perspectives students:

What did you like best about your Perspectives seminar?

“I loved my group and my leaders. I feel very close with each of them, and I think it has made the transition to Tufts easier and more fun.”

“I really enjoyed the conversation we had in class. I feel like I learned a lot from my classmates.”

What did you like best about your Explorations seminar?

“I really liked the environment. My instructors fostered an atmosphere that blended learning and relaxing. I looked forward to class each week.”

“I loved learning and going in-depth about a subject that I probably would have gone a lifetime without knowing anything about if not for this course.”

What was the most important thing you learned in this course?

“I developed a personal philosophy, and I’m optimistic about humanity.”

“To think openly and abstractly about current issues.”

“The importance of experiencing everything and becoming involved in things at Tufts.”

With such powerful and positive reactions from our most recent Explorations and Perspectives seminars, we’re looking to have a strong and memorable start to our 41st year of offering these programs in 2013. Between both Explorations and Perspectives this fall, incoming first-years will be able to choose between 18 extremely interesting and challenging topics. With 14 spots up for grabs in each course, the ExCollege looks to welcome 252 freshmen into our advising programs this fall! We can’t wait!

ExCollege Social Media!

The ExCollege is now increasing it’s social media presence at Tufts!  With our newly revamped blog, Facebook page and new Twitter account we’re hoping to help provide you with an inside look at how everything works here at 95 Talbot Ave!  Like our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/tuftsexcollege and follow us on Twitter @ExCollege.  We’ll be having different members of the ExCollege community blogging about the various happenings and events going on here and we look forward to hearing from all of you!

Back from Houston!

A post from Ali Mehlsak:

So a few weeks ago Cindy mentioned that I was headed to Rice University in Houston for a conference. I promised a blog entry, and finally, here it is!

What to say first about my trip…Well, I left a clear, crisp forty-degree Boston morning for the muggy eighty-degree afternoon of Texas. In retrospect, not too shabby. (But like any New England native I do prefer my heat without the humidity.) I was in the good company of other non-Texans though, so we all managed together. There were representatives at the conference from Brown, James Madison, Pitt, UCLA, Berkely and Oberlin. We were all there to discuss our student-taught course programs, and though my trip was short (just 36 hours!) it was fabulous to trade ideas and lessons with the other schools. (Here at the ExCollege, our student-taught programs include Explorations, Perspectives and Peer Teaching.)

Of the many things I discovered at Rice, one of the most interesting was the fact that the ExCollege is unique in allowing our students to grade their own full-credit courses without faculty or administrative input. Not only do we truly trust our students with the responsibility of teaching and grading, but they live up to our high expectations and often receive wonderful course evaluations.

Throughout the course of the day-long conference, I found that no two programs were exactly alike. Each school put its own unique spin on the simple process of undergraduates teaching undergraduates. However, what did remain constant across the board was the enthusiasm that each school exuded for the concept. Students teaching students is just plain awesome.

My advice? Don’t miss out on your chance to take part in one of these programs while at Tufts!