Spark: Measuring Network Impact Report-Out

Spark, Kids+Creativity Network members joined IFVP participants and Activation Lab researchers in an interactive conversation about Activation.

In July 2012, members of the Kids+Creativity Network collaborated with Activation Lab researchers to engage in an interactive conversation about Activation.


Activation is the process by which children or young adults become inclined or disinclined to a subject. Kids are activated by something when it sparks their interest and they develop a passion to learn more. Deactivation can occur when kids have a negative experience with a subject matter or when they are not provided with opportunities to continue pursuing their interests. This theory of Activation was developed by Dr. Kevin Crowley and Dr. Christian Schunn, of the University of Pittsburgh. Research conducted in support of this theory takes place in the Activation Lab, a partnership of the Learning Research Development Center (LRDC) at the University of Pittsburgh and the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California Berkeley. After surveying a sample of young learners about their learning experiences both in school and out, Activation Lab analyzes data to investigate the ways to design learning environments and programs that make it more likely for children to be activated toward studying a specific subject.

Speaking to dozens of Kids+Creativity Network members, Dr. Crowley and Dr. Schunn introduced their work and described how it might be applied to Pittsburgh’s learning ecosystem. Later, participants took part in several breakout sessions to analyze their own activation or deactivation as a child and propose ways to connect Pittsburgh’s schools, museums, libraries, and other learning assets into an Activated Learning Network. Needless to say, the Renaissance was boisterous, the audience was involved, and the conversation constant.

Graphic Capture by the International Forum of Visual Practitioners

They say that an image is worth a thousand words- and boy, do they mean it. Thursday’s conversations were graphically recorded by members of the International Forum of Visual Practitioners throughout the day. Dozens of posters, both big and small (and enormous) were hung around the Renaissance as facilitators added to each during conversation. While content varied slightly, style varied greatly, and Spark ended up with dozens of unique, skillful, impressive works of art to graphically depict the success and evaluation of the conversation that occurred.

Activation Intervention

To end the afternoon on an exciting note, Sprout announced Spark’s release of an RFP for Activation Interventions to come in August! Spark support will enable a research team to work closely with Kevin, Chris, and all their colleagues at the Activation Lab to begin the work of designing engaging programs that have activation at their core.

While many conclusions about Activation were made during the meeting, there is a clear need for further dialogue on this subject. Participants expressed a willingness to continue the conversation at another time, sensing the importance of Activation and its potential impact in the Greater Pittsburgh region.

Stay tuned to for updates on opportunities to continue the discussion, funding to implement pilot activation projects, and other information about additional Spark, Kids+Creativity events!

Published July 30, 2012