I just got back from a trip to Israel. I was invited by the MEITAL 2019 conference and the Kibbutzim College of Education, Technology and the Arts. MEITAL is an organization of higher education institutions in Israel focusing on understanding and responding to local and global trends shaping the future of education. The conference was held in Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv on the 9th of July.
I bookended the conference giving the starting keynote, and then participating in a panel at the end of the day. My keynote was titled Beyond TPACK: Designing Technology and Education—From Artifacts to Culture. This is how it was described in the program.
It often seems as if the decades of research, development and investment in educational technology have very limited effect in actual classrooms. A promising and prominent strand of research focuses on technology integration and teacher education. Within this strand, the well-known TPACK framework describes the type of knowledge teachers need to design effective uses of technologies. However, despite its prevalence, TPACK has not led to wide-spread change in educational technology use. In this talk, I argue this is because we have not paid enough attention to how educational technology works at the level of systems and culture. In this context, I present a new framework, the Five Discourses of Design, that can help us learn from the past and possibly carve a new path for the future. I conclude with examples of how the framework is being applied in the work we are doing at the Teachers College and with suggestions for future research and practice.
The next day I led a workshop with approximately 60 faculty participants, from the Kibbutzim College and other universities, around the topic of Re-Designing Education (description below).
Educational organizations are complex social systems with multiple stakeholders involved in defining their goals, functions and processes. These systems face challenges that are fraught with ambiguity and complexity and vary based on their specific contexts. We use an intentional, collaborative, open-ended design process that starts with learning deeply about what matters to stakeholders. This new form of professional learning for educators and leaders is an iterative process that gives control of change and innovation to those closest to the challenges. We value action guided by empathy, diverse perspectives and experimentation. This workshop will introduce participants to the design approach of the Office of Scholarship and Innovation, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. We will then break into teams and conduct a series of rapid design thinking exercises, which will help us identify and articulate key challenges that we face in our institutions. These will be followed by brainstorming exercises aimed at generating initial ideas for possible solutions to these challenges. We will conclude with a reflective discussion on the process and its outcomes.
After the workshop I had an opportunity to visit the Empathy Museum at the College and speak with professor Vered Ginzberg, who had come up with the idea. Among other things, I was introduced to Aravrit, a special font designed by Liron Lavi Turkenich. Aravrit combines Arabic and Hebrew into script that is legible in both languages! (See images and video below). I also had a chance to meet with the faculty and leadership at the Kibbutzim College in a wide-ranging discussion about the challenges facing teacher education in particular and higher education broadly, at this time.
I need to thank a lot of people who made this trip extra special. There are too many names to include but a special shout out to Dr. Miri Shonfeld (and her husband Yoshi), Eli Shmueli (conference organizer) and Dr. Yishay Mor.
This sentence refers to itself. This sentence declares that this blog post is about 2 poems I wrote recently. Both these poems are self-referential to some degree, namely both poems are about poetry. I have been interested in self-reference for along time—and this infatuation is described in greater detail at the end of this post. For now, enjoy the poems.
The first poem is a response to the poem Famous by Naomi Shihab Nye. You may want to read the original before reading my response. Go ahead, click the link above…. [Pause]… Welcome back. Hope you liked the poem. Something clicked in my mind after reading it – and in response I wrote this:
On reading Naomi Shihab Nye
June 10, 2019
Some poets I want to meet Naomi Shihab Nye, most definitely She is famous to me Others, maybe not so much
Their words are stern, less inviting Their minds, for some reason Less interesting
But the ones I want to meet They, they are special And I want to hear them smile
I have nothing to say to them As Naomi wrote They are famous to me (I am not famous to them)
I have known poets (My mother, for instance) Decent but average people So it is not like I am expecting Any great wisdom or insight
I just like their words The jumps, the connections And I feel like we could be (could have been) Friends
As I click the link And stare obsessively at The photo on the website Read between the lines of your bio Books written awards won Photos are terrible So are bios
They tell us nothing Similar to poetry in that way.
Some days I miss my mother
Here is the next meta-poem. I have been reading a decent amount of poetry recently, mostly courtesy of poetryfoundation.org. This poem has gone through quite a few revisions—and I am sure it will evolve further. But for now here it is.
Poetry does not need
June 18, 2019
Poetry does not need to Make a point It just needs to try (And fail) That’s all No more.
Polemics and posturing Feel good, for sure Momentarily Maybe To scratch an itch But life’s a bitch, Doing nothing for the ills It seeks to cure.
Better by far, for the poem To just point to something The warm winter sun A baby laughing Graffiti peeling off a wall And yes, that smile, yes that one.
All relatively Meaningless, And yet, (I must confess), Meaning so much more.
Note I: These poems were edited on July 15, 2019
Note II: On my infatuation with self-reference If this is not obvious by now, I love self-reference. I love books with titles like: “What is the name of this book?” or “Break all the rules of graphic design, including this one.” Or statements such as “This sentence no verb.” The last example is from Douglas Hofstadter’s classic Godel Escher Bach: A Eternal Golden Braid. And mentioning Douglas Hofstadter in this post is appropriate because, he, more than anyone else, infected me with the bug of self-reference way back when I was in high-school. He is also responsible for my love of paradoxes, visual wordplay and so much more. [Not to digress, but paradoxes often come along for the ride when we are speaking of self-reference. For instance, just consider the sentence: “This sentence is false” and try figuring out what exactly is going on here. Enough to bend your mind.]
Now, not all self-reference is pathological, by which I mean that most self-referential statements are benign, harmless. Consider “This sentence is in English.” Clearly the sentence is speaking about itself, but there is no inherent problem in that.
This interest in self-reference has, over the years, expressed itself in myriad ways—in my ambigram designs, in silly limericks I have written, many of the stupid jokes I crack (as my friends and colleagues know very well). I mean what could be more self-referential than an ambigram for the word “ambigram.” Form and function deeply connected.
One of the ways self-reference shows up in my work is when I write poetry and this goes back years, as this blog post demonstrates, and of course in the two poems featured in this post.
Is music a craft Or is it an art? Does it come from mere training or spring form the heart? Did the études of Chopin reveal his soul’s mood? Or was Frédéric Chopin Just some slick “pattern dude”? ~ Douglas Hofstadter
Ed Finn is the founding director of the Center for Science and the Imagination even while holding an Associate Professorship in the Department of English and the School of Arts, Media, and Engineering at Arizona State University. He considers himself, first and foremost, a writer, but also said that increasingly…
In the past few years, I’ve found myself becoming more and more of a builder, a maker, a ringmaster, an experimenter. [And even] a provocateur…I really enjoy that role…[but] authorship gives me too much credit…it’s a different kind of creativity in expressing these ideas, and trying to do that in a really collaborative, co-creative way with other people.
Our discussion with Dr. Finn explored the intersections between creativity, education, and science and technology from a perspective that sees imagination as central to creativity as well as being the key to envisioning possible futures which can allow us to consider the pressing issues of today. In fact, argues that creativity and the imagination are essential for our survival in near future. Additionally, he argues:
… how this conversation plays out in education is hugely important because we’re not preparing young people today to survive the coming century and to deal with the kinds of change and complexity that they’re going to be facing. We need to think about creativity and imagination not as academic topics or even just as methods but really as fundamental life skills. And almost as a human right: a deeply important part of individual and collective empowerment and personhood.
Read the entire article by following the link below, or access all the articles in the series here, or just the interviews here.
Note: As a little personal challenge to myself, I have been creating unique banner images for my blog posts, attempting to capture some of the key ideas in the post visually. For instance, the image at the top of this post – created from a photo I took during a recent trip to New York. Usually I create a few images before selecting one as the image to post. It was no different with this blog post – except that I kind of like some of the other ones I created and hated to just delete them. So for the record here are three other images I created for this blog post.
I was recently invited to conduct a workshop for the Celebration of Teaching Conference at the University of Missouri around Creativity in Teaching and Learning. This was my first time at Columbia, MO and the conference organizers were wonderful. I did two versions of my workshop: a 3-hour extended session and a shorter 50-minute version. I think we had around 60 people in the first one and around 20+ for the second one. I thought both sessions went really well—we covered quite a bit of ground (both conceptual and pragmatic) though the 50 minute session was a bit too short and I know I could have planned that better.
Jerod Quinn (@jquinnID on twitter), an instructional designer created these wonderful visual-notes from my first session that he subsequently tweeted out.
I am always impressed by people who can do something like this on the fly. It is an amazing talent, particularly around apportioning space and making connections between the ideas. Many thanks to Jerod for these notes and sharing them with me.
Here are a few other photographs from my visit.
Finally, here are a couple of haiku’s created by the participants, seeking to capture some of the ideas discussed. (Sadly, the best and funniest of the poems was not shared with me… but that is a relatively embarrassing story, personally speaking, for another day.
Teach me deja vu Flip it, create something NEW Teach me veja du
Making the old new Novel, effective and whole Familiar and strange
Here is the latest pdf version of the TPACK Newsletter (#41, May 2019), as curated and shared by Judi Harris and her team. (Previous issues are archived here.)
This issue includes 59 articles, 4 book chapters, and 20 dissertations that have not appeared in past issues bringing the grand total of TPACK related publications that have appeared in the newsletter to 1704 (which breaks up as follows: 1054 articles; 286 chapters; 28 books; and 336 dissertations).
Note: Over the past few issues I have tried creating tongue-in-cheek TPACK venn diagrams. This one is for Judi Harris, without whose tenacity and hard-work this newsletter would neither have seen the light of day nor would it be going so strong so many years later. The entire ed-tech community owes her a huge debt of gratitude.
Dr. Tatiana Chemi is assistant professor and researcher at Aalborg University, Denmark. She has a background in theater that gives her an unique perspective on creativity, the creative processes and the contexts that allow creativity to flower. In her research she works with a theater company / laboratory to identify creativity processes and ideas that are relevant to teaching and learning at all levels of education.
One of the important issues that Dr. Chemi discusses in the interview has to do with how creativity goes well beyond the purely cognitive, or the mental processes of ideation that are so often a focus of research and pop-culture discussions, into the more pragmatic side of craft and work. Her research shows that artists focus less on the types of ideational creativity that most non-artists commonly think of as an essential component of creativity, and instead point to a more grounded approach to hard work. For instance she and her colleagues were were surprised that not one of the artists they studied mentioned idea generation. As she says:
Not one of them mentioned what we laypersons in education and organizations are most focused on, spend much energy on, and actually think is what creativity is all about.
She continues that for artists:
Creativity is about work. It’s about getting to work and persisting and failing and getting up. And you need to know yourself. You need to know which processes are helping or stifling your creativity. Creative people persist. They know what works and doesn’t work and try to minimize what doesn’t work and implement what works. They sustain through difficulty and they take pleasure in frustrating long processes. They take pleasure in it and they stay there when it’s hard. Where us laypeople would just drop it. Especially artists because they work with and against medium and material, something they have to shape and form. They know that you have to do it again and again.
All these insights and a lot more in the article below – which is based on an interview with Dr. Chemi. This article is part of a series on Technology, Creativity and 21st century learning published in the journal TechTrends. You can find all the previous articles here and just the interviews here.
5/12/19 (Revised 5/13/19) (Inspired partly by conversations with Danah Henriksen around a paper we are writing on the dark side of creativity and this image. I should add this image may be painful viewing to some so please click with caution.)
The journey of design is complicated, filled with conundrums —some expected, others not so much. There are many possible strategies to address them as we iterate our way to the finish line. The School Design Game seeks to explore some of these complexities in a risk-free, collaborative, conversation-driven manner.
Led by Ben Scragg, and contributions by the entire design initiatives team, The School Design Game is loosely inspired by the original Oregon Trail and related work done by Angela Gunder and colleagues. Essentially the game maps the design journey from start to finish, with setbacks and conundrums thrown at the roll of a die. The key aspect of game play is that players discuss from among a range of design strategies (or come up with their own) to address these challenges.
We contextualized the game within the broader context of the Kyrene new school model project which allowed participants to not just learn about our partnership with Kyrene but provided them with an opportunity to experience, in a fun, risk-free manner, the complexities of the design process. Embedded above are the slides we created to present our ideas to the participants.
Our session, led by Ben Scragg, Laura Toenjes (from Kyrene School District) and myself, (with Jennifer Stein, Lisa Wyatt and Christina Ngo helping out in multiple ways) was a huge success. It is rare that in an academic conference you find people cheering and high-fiving each other as they engage in a genuine discussion of the conundrums and dilemmas they face as they engage in design. Below are some photographs from the session (please note the youngest designer in the group in the very first photo).
Many people reached out to us after our session seeking to learn more about the game, and how they could apply it to the work they were doing. We also received feedback on how to improve the game—and we shall be doing just that in the days and weeks ahead. That said, in keeping with the open-source spirit of all that we do, please find below all the relevant files required to play version 1.0 of TheSchool Design Game.
Here is a link to a zip archive of all the files needed to play the game. Included in the archive are the following documents:
Powerpoint slides that can be used to introduce the game to an audience
Instructions on how to play the game: 2 pages (that can be printed front and back)
PDF files of the three kinds of cards required for the game: Design Journey, Conundrum and Strategy cards. These will need to be printed on white, yellow and pink paper, respectively and cut into individual cards.
Get yourself a six-sided die and you are ready to roll. Enjoy.
A note of gratitude: The creation of this game was truly a collaborative effort by the entire design initiatives team. Lots of thanks to go around – and I am copying from an email that Ben sent out (with some minor edits) that captures all the different people who helped shape this game. In brief, thanks are due to:
Ben, for coming up with the idea of a game and creating a detailed first draft. None of this would have been possible without this crucial first step.
Christina, for editing the game cards’ content and thinking of fun and creative ways to play.
Cassandra, for the hero’s effort to print, cut and arrange multiple sets of game cards – such a huge effort!
Jennifer, for all of the support thinking through the way the game and the slide deck work together, and the planning.
Lisa, for playing the game and offering insights to make it better – and for the great encouragement/compliments along the way.
Jake, for editing the presentation and getting us ready to go.
Claire and Emili, for playing the game, copy-editing, offering feedback and helping us get ready along the way.
Punya, for reworking the instructions and presentation and making creative edits.
Back in September I wrote a long-ish blog post about something that had bothered me for years and years about the canonical TPACK diagram. It had to do with how contextual knowledge was represented in the diagram, or rather how it was not represented in the diagram.
As it happens, the editors of the Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, believed that it would be good to present these ideas in the form of a guest editorial and I was more than happy to take them up on that offer—just found out today that it had been published.
I would like to point out that editorials in JDLTE have played a significant role in the development of the TPACK framework. Back in 2007 Ann Thompson and I published a similar editorial announcing how what Matt and I had initially called TPCK would now be known as TPACK. One could argue that this name change – making the acronym actually pronounceable went a long way in making TPACK popular. (Note: JDLTE was known as Journal of Computing in Teacher Education back then.) Complete reference, link to pdf of article, and new image provided below.
NOTE (April 17, 2019): You are free to use the updated version of the TPACK diagram in your work under the following stipulations. First, you or the publisher do not make any claims to copyright over the image. Second, you use the language below to label / cite the image.
The difference between theory and practice is, in theory, somewhat smaller than in practice — Frank Westphal
Knowledge is not simply another commodity. On the contrary. Knowledge is never used up. It increases by diffusion and grows by dispersion— Daniel J. Boorstin
The recently published Wiley Handbook of Action Research in Education has a chapter by Danah Henriksen and I. We were invited by our friend and colleague, Craig Mertler, to write a chapter on dissemination of action research. As Craig writes in the introduction:
The scope and focus of the Wiley Handbook of Action Research in Education includes theoretical, conceptual, and applied/practical presentations of action research as it is found and conducted solely in educational settings. Coverage and discussion have not been limited to a US perspective, but also include a cross?section of authors and presentations representing global perspectives on action research in education. In fact, the Handbook is comprised of 27 chapters, written by 34 authors, who represent seven countries and five continents from around the world.
I am thrilled to have a chapter in this handbook, particularly since action research is not an area of expertise for me. That said, Danah and I had a lot of fun writing this chapter, as we tried to bring together everything from Aristotle’s rhetorics; to Schon’s criticism of technical rationality; from Roger’s diffusion of innovation framework to current ideas about Knowledge Mobilization to provide a framework for the distribution of the findings of action research. We make the case for a range of avenues: from the traditional journal article to newer, more non-traditional avenues such as social media, and everything in between. We end the chapter as follows:
Action research has the power to make changes that allow for powerful improvements felt at the local level, and across these local contexts, there is great collective power. But this power becomes multiplicative when researchers find ways to disseminate the work and share it out for even broader impact, so that other practitioners and scholars can benefit and feel the effects too. Strategy, rhetoric, KMb, and, of course, high? quality action research processes are all part of this – bringing the world of local scholarship to meet the larger world of research and practice.
Complete citation of our article is given below:
Henriksen, D., & Mishra, P. (2019). Innovations in the Dissemination of Action Research: Rhetoric, Media, and Communication. In The Wiley Handbook of Action Research in Education. Wiley Blackwell. p. 393-414.
Rohit Mehta (shy artist, polite scientist & stealthy educator) and I just published a review of the book Mobile Learning: Perspectives on Practice and Policy edited by Danielle Herro, Sousan Arafeh, Richard Ling, and Chris Holden. You can read the review, published in TCRecord, here. As we write, in this book the editors “have garnered perspectives from a range of academics and practicing educators, addressing issues of access, professional development, digital citizenship, corporate involvement in education, and mobility.”
We end the review by pointing to some issues that the book does not cover. While this may appear unfair to the authors and editors (Why didn’t you write the book WE wanted you to write, rather than the one you did?) Rohit and I believe that the chapters in the book, though scholarly and thoughtful, miss the bigger picture when it comes to the role of mobile devices specifically in learning and, more importantly, in our lives. We see this gap as being symptomatic not just of research on mobile learning but rather of the broader field of educational technology—namely a narrow focus on learning within specific classroom or school situations, while ignoring the broader social and technological contexts within which these technologies function. You will need to read the complete review to get the point, but here is how we end the review:
The educational technology research field has often been overly focused on evaluating “learning outcomes” (however they may be defined) in specific, often narrowly defined contexts, often driven by a somewhat rose-tinted, optimistic worldview of the positive impact of technology. We as scholars, researchers, and educators need to go beyond providing mere rhetorical caution but rather be at the center of the debate, whether the discussion be specifically on the role of mobile learning or broadly about educational technology. As Stephen Jay Gould wrote, while describing the complicated history of scientific representation, “We are most revealed in what we do not scrutinize.”
Note: Once again, you can find a link to the complete review here. I spoke of some of these issues in a keynote I gave recently in Sydney, which in turn became a shorter video (and hence the one to watch) titled Technology & Education: A Provocation.
Here is the Special Spring 2019 Conference Issue of the TPACK Newsletter (#40, March 2019), as curated and shared by Judi Harris and her team. (Previous issues are archived here.)
This special issue include all the TPACK-related papers/sessions that will be presented at the SITE conference in March in Las Vegas; at the AERA annual meeting in April in Toronto; and at the ISTE conference in June in Philadelphia—a total of 35 TPACK-focused conference sessions in just 3 months! Judi and her team have taken the trouble of just including those presentations that “use TPCK/TPACK extensively as either a theoretical framework and/or a focus for investigation throughout the cited conference papers/presentations.”
I remember the first time I saw David Zola teach. He was on stage in front of 200+ undergraduate students with a plastic cup of wine in his hand. The wine had been poured for him by a teaching assistant from a bottle hidden in a brown paper bag and David’s task was to figure out the provenance of the contents of the bottle. He sniffed and swilled and sipped, all the while talking us through the process and more importantly how he had acquired this skill. In short he talked to us about learning, and that learning was more than what happened in schools and classrooms, and through that subtly hinting at all that was lost when we speak of learning as just occurring schools and classrooms. I remember being impressed by how well he did (I think he got the year and country but not the exact vineyard) but, most importantly, what has stayed with me was his willingness to taking this risk to make a broader point about learning and education.
And, of course, how can anyone forget the time when he came dressed to class as Jean Piaget, with a fake beard and pipe, talking to the students about “his” discoveries about the stages of cognitive development.
David Zola cared about teaching. That much was clear. He also cared about each and every person he interacted with—whether a colleague or student. He always had a twinkle in his eye and an infectious smile.
But as a teaching assistant, what I remember most was the trust he placed in each of us. We were given incredible freedom to teach our sections the way we saw fit, to craft the curriculum in ways that made sense to us. This was scary to me—a fresh-off-the-boat graduate student teaching 25+ undergraduate students for the first time. But it wasn’t like he just let us be, to lead these discussion sections all by ourselves. There was a whole support network of senior TA’s and regularly scheduled meetings of the whole team to just see how things were going, to address questions we may have, and problems we may be facing. I remember discussions about individual students and figuring out, collectively, the best way to respond to any issues they may be facing.
And then there was the process of constructing the mid-term and final examination questions. Not for him the easy way out—of falling back on questions crafted in the years past. That was not his style. The questions were created anew every semester, crafted by the current teaching assistants, shared with the team, and then collaboratively edited till they were the best questions they could be.
I didn’t realize it then but I know it now, he was not just teaching 200+ undergraduate students but us, the teaching assistants, as well. He was teaching us, indirectly, to become better teachers and educators; to take this profoundly important responsibility we had been given seriously.
David has been an incredible influence on me—as a teacher and educator. He showed me that even in an environment that often does not value teaching, a culture that focuses on publications and grants, it was possible to be a good teacher. It was possible to care for every student, even in large, supposedly impersonal, lecture classes. His actions and words conveyed just how precious these moments we have with our students are. He demonstrated, in multiple ways, that there is nothing, nothing, that is off bounds to get our students to connect with the ideas and concepts they need to learn. He taught me to be a good teacher and a good teacher-leader. He taught me, that however talented we may be, however hard we may try, we are better collectively than we can ever be individually. These are lessons that I have internalized and are a core part of my identity as a teacher and educator. And for that I will be eternally grateful.
David passed away a over six months ago, something I learned just a few days back.
He will be missed. But his legacy lives on—in me and in each of the students whose lives he touched, in his inimitable way.
A design created in celebration of Pi-day, 2019. (More context about the day here and more about the number itself here). As always, the OofSI team celebrates Pi(e) day by offering a selection of Pi(e)’s – exactly at 1:59 PM. Totally irrational I know!
Apart from being irrational, ? is also a transcendental number, which means it is not the root of any polynomial having rational coefficients. This implies, mathematicians argue, that it is impossible to solve the ancient challenge of squaring the circle. I beg to differ, as I so (tongue-in-cheek-ingly) proved in this blog post from last year.
The Consortium of School Networking (COSN) is one of the leading associations for school system technology leaders. COSN recently released the first of three publications in their series on Driving K-12 Innovation: Hurdles 2019. The goal of this series is to “provide insights into pressing educational challenges and thoughtful, intentional use of technology to address them.” Additionally this series provides “resources and insight into strategic planning and smart technology integration into teaching and learning.” (On a side note: I had presented a keynote at the COSN conference back in 2013.)
As the title suggests the focus of the first report is on the hurdles faced by school leaders as they seek to transform teaching and learning mediated by technology. The image below shows the top 5 hurdles identified in the report.
One of the key hurdles they identify is The Gap between Technology & Pedagogy. As the report says, “this hurdle captures with a new sense of urgency a perennial challenge: tensions that arise when the impulse to adopt new technologies takes precedence over preparedness to use them effectively.”
One of the key approaches to addressing this hurdle is “making technology an explicit component of the learning equation is an emerging concept.” I was pleased to see that one of the key frameworks cited in the report is the TPACK framework (see screenshot from the report below).
There is a lot more in the report that may be of interest. You can access the complete report here. Incidentally I was told that this is COSN’s most downloaded publication to date!
Note: Finally, this may not mean much to most people but I feel obligated to point out that this is the first official citation of the recently upgraded TPACK framework that was first reported on this website. (The TPACK diagram gets an upgrade).
Here is the latest pdf version of the TPACK Newsletter (#39, February 2019), as curated and shared by Judi Harris and her team. (Previous issues are archived here.)
This issue includes 31 articles, 2 books, 39 chapters, and 14 dissertations that have not appeared in past issues bringing the grand total of TPACK related publications that have appeared in the newsletter to 1621 (which breaks up as follows: 995 articles; 282 chapters; 28 books; and 316 dissertations). This numbers are higher if we consider all the publications related to TPACK to date (as follows: Total 1644, consisting of 1013 articles; 282 chapters; 29 books and 320 dissertations). (Thanks to Judi for these numbers.)
Jill Castek, at the University of Arizona, invited me to participate in an NSF funded workshop on developing “Principles for the equitable design of STEM learning environments.” The event was being held at Bioshpere 2, which is this awesome place near Tucson. Because, regretfully, I could not go for the meeting she asked to create a short video (a provocation is how she described it to me) to be played at the beginning of the 3-day event.
Below is the video I created: Technology and Education: A provocation. In it I speak to how we, as scholars in educational technology, missed the boat on some of the most significant trends and concerns in our lifetime; and also try to offer some thoughts on what we can do better. I also took this opportunity to shamelessly plug the work we are doing within the Office of Scholarship and Innovation (OofSI) at ASU‘s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. I must add that even though I could not make it to Biosphere 2, our office was well represented (by Sean Leahy and Ben Scragg).
A special thanks to Jill for the opportunity and Claire Gilbert for both acting as a sounding board and helping with the audio.
While preparing for the latest keynote I realized that a lot had changed in the past five years: both in the world and in the field of educational technology and educational research. And these changes were not necessarily for the better. So I took this opportunity to reflect on some of challenges we face today and how we as a field can respond to them. In this context I also spoke to some of the work we are currently involved in within the Office of Scholarship and Innovation at ASU‘s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. A video of the presentation (audio synched to the slides) is provided below.
A sincere thanks to Bui Thi Thanh Huong for the recording without which this video could not have existed. A special thanks to Claire Gilbert for adding some musical transitions and for providing the fake applause at the beginning of the video. That made all the difference.
Developing a Rhetoric of Aesthetics: The (Often) Forgotten Link Between Art and STEM (complete reference below) is an article that digs into these ideas in depth. In essence, this article is an extended argument that builds on several lines of work including philosophy, psychology, history and biography, in order to promote a model of learning based on aesthetic ways of knowing, thinking, and exploring the world. This emphasizes key impulses that make us human. We provide a generative three-fold fractal framework that seeks to capture the entire cycle of engaging in STEM practices: from curiosity to the process of seeking answers, to a sense of completion that in turn leads to new curiosities to explore. We suggest that this leads to a powerful virtuous cycle that seeks to maintain the same sequence at different levels of learning—from the beginner to the professional scientist, mathematician, or engineer.
You should read the article in its entirety but I provide below some key ideas from the chapter – for a quick skim. We begin the article as follows:
A child’s first experience, of peeking through a telescope to see the vivid sharply etched, yet fragile, rings of Saturn is a powerful one; perhaps as powerful as standing amidst redwood trees listening to the sound of wind rustling through the leaves or experiencing a moment of clarity when an elegant geometrical proof, surprising in its simplicity, emerges from a chaos of sketches and doodles. It is in this sense of awe and wonder that our minds nibble at confronting powerful ideas such as infinity (whether the infinity of numbers, or the interminably large scale of the cosmos, or the immeasurably small universe of cells and atoms and quarks). The emotional turbulence that overwhelms us when we reflect on nature, truly understand a scientific idea, or solve a tricky mathematical or engineering problem often leads to powerful aesthetic experiences. These experiences, we argue, are no different or less than the aesthetic experience we have in engaging with powerful artistic human creations, be it music or the visual arts.
That said, the role of the aesthetic has often been ignored in the discussion on learning in the STEM disciplines. This despite the fact that:
The aesthetic exists in the pleasure of understanding and figuring things out. It lives in the thrill of the chase and discovery. It appeals in the sense of awe we feel when we confront at the beauty of nature and the immensities of the universe. It endures in the elegance of a proof or in a subtle line of code.
In this paper we argue that:
… at its core, the sensation of wonderment, the sublime feeling of awe, the natural sense of curiosity, and the intrinsic joy of discovery—the affective and emotional components of the experience of doing science—are the key to learning in the STEM disciplines. As educators, we often ignore them at the risk of alienating the very students we want to reach. We argue that doing science is an inherently emotional, and thereby humanistic, aspect of our lives. It is fueled by curiosity, steered by wonder, soothed by beauty, and replenished by the joy of discovery. This is why we love to solve problems, explore new lands and seas, and build enormous bridges and miniscule nanobots. It is who we are as humans—curious, complex, and forward looking. This is the aesthetic and affect-based reason for doing science.
One of the key achievements of our work, I think, is the manner in which we have brought a range of ideas and literatures together to develop a three-part generative framework that allows us to better understand the role that the aesthetic plays in learning STEM. The three key frames, with sub-categories within, are described in the table below:
This can be represented as a diagram as follows:
… or better still as an animated graphic that shows the manner in which the three steps build on each other and then lead on to further Wonderments, Journeys and Fulfillments.
I am thrilled at the publication of this article the culmination of years of work by the entire team. A link to the complete article and reference is given below:
Dr. Paula Thomson and Dr. Vicki Jaque are professors at California State University, Northridge, where they co-direct the exercise and psychophysiology laboratory. They each have their own individual research interests but together they work on researching connections across the mind, the body, and creative experience. It helps that Paula has a background in dance and choreography (having worked with several Canadian opera, dance and theater companies) and Vicki has a background in dance and figure skating. This allows them to approach creativity research from a somewhat unique trans-disciplinary perspective.
They have primarily studied what they call “interpreters” of creativity—such as dancers, musicians, and athletes that perform work that has been initiated by other “generators.” They argue that creativity is not solely located within the origin or originator of an idea or composition, but also in the interpretation of it. As Thompson suggest, a fundamental aspect of their research is in better understanding this act of interpretation. As she says
You may be interpreting somebody’s concept, but it won’t come alive unless the performer endows it with their creative capacities. And the whole process of putting on a production, all of the problem solving, all of the adaptations, they’re all inherently creative processes.
Along the same vein, in one of their articles, they argue that:
[Interpreters] took what had been brought into being by generators, and fit it to a new use, adjusting and modifying it along the way, and in so doing, connected ideas and concepts that may not necessarily have originally been conceived to fit together.
We spoke with both of them recently for our ongoing series for Tech Trends. Our conversation with the two of them spanned a wide range of topics, from individual creativity and flow, to research methods and the importance of school art programs. Some of these topics have been discussed previously in our series but, unique to this interview were a series of distinctive ideas related to the physical embodiment of creativity, pathologies related to creative cultures, and the healing capacities of creativity. You can learn more about their work by reading the article liked to below.
I was in Sydney recently to present a keynote at the MITE conference. I spoke there about some issues that have been concerning me for a while—what I like to call the “dark arts” of digital technologies. After the conference I had a wide-ranging interview with Jordan Baker of the Sydney Morning Herald. An article based on the interview was just published. Though we covered a lot of ground in the interview only some of what we discussed ended up in the article—which is par for the course. For the record here is a link to the article: STEM focus leaves kids vulnerable to ‘dark arts’ of fake news: expert
Three words, and a question mark. At one level it is a simple question—leaving open what it is that we might do. But at another level its openness is its strength. Because inherent within it is a call to action, a discomfort with the way things are, and an openness to change. And as Lisa Wyatt recently communicated to me, “the question inherently recognizes that there are many ways to answer the question, not just one.”
This past semester 14 student-teachers asked powerful “How might we?” questions about their own practice and came up with solutions that were unique, creative and impactful. In ways big and small.
It all began, as one can imagine, with a “How might we?” question of our own.
How might we improve the student-teacher experience?
How might we empower student-teachers to develop a designers mindset? A mindset that allows them to see themselves as designers of curriculum rather than mere users of curriculum?
The students’ how might we questions emerged from their own experience and in each case they worked in teams to design and more importantly test possible solutions in their classrooms. The story linked above has more information but here is a key quote, from Melanie Bertrand, faculty fellow with OofSI, speaking to what she observed:
“I could see that the experience was very empowering for the students. I think these experiences teach future or new teachers that knowledge about how to improve teaching doesn’t lie just with the mentor teacher or with some researchers who are considered experts, but rather with them as well.
This project would not have been possible without support and feedback from a wide range of people. The include the leadership of the Teacher Preparation program, Michelle Amrein, site coordinator at the school, and a team of mentor teachers. Finally thanks to Lisa Wyatt and the rest of the design initiatives team for taking the lead and asking the how might we question.
Dr. Kerry Chappell is a professor at the University of Exeter’s Graduate School of Education. She merges her training in dance, her doctorate in experimental psychology and interest in education to develop a transdisciplinary research program on better understanding how creativity could be nurtured. Her research has focused on the holistic meanings of learning, knowing, and being, bridging gaps between the understanding of the mind, body and materiality in creativity. She sees disciplines not as glued together but recommends a
mix of perspectives as a way of really getting to the bottom of questions that you are curious about…If you have a question that you’re curious about sometimes your knowledge from an art form might help you; sometimes the sciences might help you. So, it’s not just doing a discipline for the sake of it. It’s really trying to…answer some of the big questions that we’re facing.
Creativity is such a transdisciplinary topic itself that every discipline will have its own approach to understanding it. Psychologists, sociologists, artists, all may perceive and study it differently. Instead of thinking of these differences as contradictory to one other, we need to think of them as offering unique insights into creativity. Dr. Chappell suggests:
I think it gives us lots of perspectives on a concept that we’re all trying to understand, to demonstrate whether it’s there or not. So I think they are all complementary, I don’t think it’s about right and wrong in this kind of research.
Dr. Chappelle was recently interviewed by us for our ongoing series for Tech Trends. You can find a list of all the articles in the series here, and if you are interested in just the interviews, go here. Read the complete article by following the link in the citation below:
Every December the Office of Scholarship & Innovation (OofSI) team looks back at the year that was, to document and reflect on all that we have done, as well as to plan for the future. This information is then put together in a report that captures our successes and goals (both collectively and for each of our initiatives).
Specifically, in the latest report we address how OofSI over the past year has:
Instantiated a culture of principled innovation in everything we do. Which has allowed us to be…
Nimble and proactive in providing service and leadership to a range of projects, both within the Teachers College/ASU and with external partners. This in turn serves as a foundation for…
Seeking new opportunities and setting new goals for the future.
Download the 2018 OofSI Report or read it online below
• • •
Finally a note of gratitude to the amazing team I get to work with. None of what we do would be possible without their energy, passion and all-round goofy awesomeness.
Since 2008 we have been creating short videos to welcome in the New Year. These videos, created on a shoe-string budget, are usually typographical in nature with some kind of an optical illusion or aha! moment built in. Check out our latest creation to welcome 2019 titled Reflect.
(Links to previous years videos as well as information on the mathematics and art behind such illusions can be found below the video).
This video takes advantage of a technique called anamorphosis. As anamorphosis.com describes it, ‘an anamorphosis is a deformed image that appears in its true shape when viewed in some “unconventional” way.’ Anamorphosis has a long history in art (see here and here for more examples). In fact, one can argue that anamorphosis is the foundation for all representational visual art.
This video uses a specific kind of anamorphosis: cylindrical anamorphosis, i.e. creating a distorted image that has been changed in such a manner that it looks normal when reflected in a cylindrical mirror. Mathematically speaking, this requires you convert an image from a cartesian to a polar coordinate system. The best explanations of the mathematics behind the illusion, that I could find, are here and here.
How did we do it?
The distorted “2019” was created using Adobe Photoshop, first flipping it vertically (so that it would appear right-side-up when reflected on a vertical mirror) and then applying the “Rectangular to Polar Coordinates” filter (since this is a cylindrical mirror). We combined the distorted “2019” with a circular image that we created in Adobe Illustrator—that’s the colorful design in the background with the 2018 written vertically (so that it would be hidden behind the cylinder). This combined image was then printed on poster paper, cut into a circle and colored by hand.
The cylindrical mirror was a repurposed chromed sink extension tube from the plumbing department of Home Depot. It was placed on the poster, which lay on a glass sheet (a repurposed table top), which, in turn, sat on a rotating kitchen-turntable (aka a Lazy Susan).
The video was shot using an iPhone8 in reverse order of what you see (so that we could get the angles right), and edited using iMovie. The music is from Kevin McLeod’s amazing open-source collection at incompetech.com.
You can make your own cylindrical anamorphic image by following the instructions here and here.
I have written previously about the MSUrbanSTEM project and what it has meant to me. Over the past couple of years we have also published about this line of work (most prominently in a special issue of The Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching). Another book chapter (this one focusing on creativity in urban educational contexts) was recently published. Citation, link to article and abstract below.
Abstract: We examine the urban context of learning for the fellows in a partnership between Michigan State University (MSU) and Wipro Limited, a leading global information technology, consulting and business services company, which resulted in the Wipro Urban STEM Fellowship Program at Michigan State University (MSUrbanSTEM) program. This grant-funded fellowship provided full tuition scholarships and stipends for 124 highly motivated teachers in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) who demonstrated a passion for teaching STEM. The fellows were divided up into three cohorts. Each cohort participated in an innovative yearlong integrated learning experience to build STEM teachers’ capacity to lead and inspire transformative, innovative practices in urban K-12 schools. In this chapter, the fellows’ instructors explore how to support these teacher participants in their efforts to foster creativity in an era of intensified authority, control, and resistance. By engaging in creative pedagogies explicitly connected to disciplinary knowledge, the program aims to disrupt traditional ideologies around teaching. The mission of the MSUrbanSTEM program is to empower K-12 math and science teachers in CPS to create transformative, innovative, and multimodal instructional experiences through project-based and experiential learning experiences. Each educator participant was encouraged to engage in inquiry around how the ideas of wonder, improvisation, invention, and reflection connected with his or her subject-matter expertise. As reported by way of this case example of teacher creativity, these strategies supported the activities the teachers engaged in throughout the year. The fellowship itself provided a foundation for fellows to develop projects for reshaping aspects of their teaching practice.
Typically in school you are taught that the scientific method consists of making observations, developing hypotheses, testing them by collecting data and then accepting, rejecting or modifying the hypotheses. Through this process we develop new laws and theories to understand and explain the world.
We all understand that this is a simplistic description—one that misses the human side of science, the messiness of actual practice, and the unique grounded practices of different scientific disciplines.
I argue that there is another fundamental aspect of doing science that these criticisms miss—and that is the rhetorical nature of science. In other words, it is realizing that at the heart of the scientific method is the process of convincing others of the rightness of our point of view. That is one of the key reasons why we jump through the hoops of double-blind experimental design; why we develop better tools to measure phenomena and so on… essentially to protect our ideas from criticism from others.
This is the heart of blind peer review so that our arguments can be poked and prodded by others and through that we develop more convincing theories and understanding.
This aspect of the scientific method does not receive enough attention in the science classroom.
Our new article addresses how this idea of peer review can be brought into the classroom. This article was published in iWonder: Rediscovering School Science, a journal for middle school science teachers published by the Azim Premji University. This article is part of a series I have been (co)writing over the past few years.
Previous articles in this series can be found here, the latest issue can be found here or just our article is linked to below.
Abstract: This article explores peer instruction in the science classroom. The authors use research in science education to illustrate, practically, how teachers can work with their students to increase learning using peer instruction.
A new challenge I took up in this series was creating the illustrations that go with the articles. I have become increasingly aware of my limitations as an artist but it has been great fun. A heartfelt thanks to Chitra Ravi and Ramgopal Vallath editors of iWonder for giving me/us this opportunity. One of the illustrations I created for this article is at the top of the page and the rest are given below. Continue reading →
I had posted earlier about my visit to Bangalore back in summer to participate in the Quest 2 Learn Annual Summit organized by the Quest Alliance. The two day conference focused on The future of work and learning. During my visit I was interviewed by Aakash Sethi, the head of Quest Alliance team and an edited version of the interview was recently posted on YouTube. We covered a lot of ground in the interview and about educational technology, 21st century learning, John Dewey, experience design, systems thinking and more. Enjoy
I have been playing with my iPad a bit, experimenting with sketching and drawing apps for a few months now. I have realized that it is important to give yourself a task, a clear end-goal to work towards if I had to get anywhere. So with that in mind, I decided to sketch out the MSUrbanSTEM team. MSUrbanSTEM was a project(funded by Indian IT giant Wipro) that started when I was at MSU and continued after I had moved to ASU.
The MSU-WIPRO STEM & Leadership Teaching Fellowship program was the culmination of the partnership between global IT giant Wipro, Chicago Public Schools, and Michigan State University’s College of Education. 149 fellows participated in an innovative year-long integrated learning experience to build STEM teachers’ capacity and empower them to lead and inspire transformative, innovative practices in urban K-12 schools.
In this project I was incredibly privileged to work with an awesome team of people—and that’s the group that I decided to focus my iPad experiments on. So the banner image above shows the results of my efforts. (You can click on the image to get a hi-res version). Featured in the sketch are: Top row (from left to right): Missy Cosby, Chris Seals, Inese Berzina Pitcher, Swati Mehta, Rohit Mehta & Kyle Shack. Bottom row (from left to right): Punya Mishra, Candace Marcotte, Sonya Gunnings-Moton, Akesha Horton, Leigh Graves Wolf and Chessi Oetjens.