Making it in academia! Hmmm…?

The question of impact of one’s work is something that all researchers and scholars care about, particularly in applied fields like education. The question, however, is how is impact to be measured? Over the past few weeks I have had a few instances where my work has been recognized for its impact—on public discourse, in citations from other scholars and in teaching. In at least two of these cases, I am proud of the recognition—and yet, even in those two, I have to admit to some mixed feelings. I question what that “metric” on which my work is “scored” really means, who is included in the scoring and who is not. So it is with these somewhat ambivalent feelings that I present three examples that, just happened, to pop up in the past few weeks.

The first, and maybe, the most meaningful to me personally, was that I made it to the 2022 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings, at number 77 no less. For those who don’t know what this means, the Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings list the 200 university-based scholars who had the biggest influence on educational practice and policy last year. This is the first year that I made the list – and though I was pleased, I was also somewhat puzzled, particularly by the fact that I had landed at number 77! In my very first year? Should I not have started somewhere at the bottom, in the 190’s and worked my way up?

As I looked over the process that was used to generate this list, I wasn’t sure anything significant had changed in the past year in how these rankings were generated – so why did I make this year and not before? The only thing I could think of was that my name had just not been included in the list of names that were researched. This, of course, makes me wonder about all the other people who should be on this list and are not.

This is not to say I am not happy to see my name on this list – but it also gives me a sense of humility as I recognize the inherent randomness in the process. (To be fair, Rick Hess, who curates this list, provides a summary of the process and recognizes possible weaknesses in this, and actually, any approach that seeks to create such a list). As he says

This whole endeavor is an imprecise, highly imperfect exercise. Of course, the same is true of college rankings, NFL quarterback ratings, or international scorecards of human rights. Yet, for all their imperfections, such efforts convey real information and help spark useful discussion.

If the first piece of news was about public influence, the second item focuses more on the academic side of things, on numbers that academics really care about i.e. citations. To give some context, the standard way of measuring the impact of a piece of research is by counting the number of times the piece (usually a journal article) is cited by others. The idea here is that more important research will be cited more often than research that is less important. Citation analysis is typically used by governments, funding agencies, and university tenure and promotion committees to evaluate the productivity and quality of a piece of research – and, via that measure, to judge a researcher’s work. So, one can imagine this is something academics care for even though we know that 90% of papers published in academic journals are never cited.

As you can imagine citation analysis is complicated (for a range of reasons that I will not get into here). Recently, a few researchers attempted to create a standardized citation metrics author database of 100,000 researchers. They made this database (and its updates) public, so essentially anyone can go to the links at the end of this post and download the Excel spreadsheets and see/play with the data. This, being as ego-driven as the other guy, is exactly what I did.

Long story short, of the approximately 70,000 scholars that had education as their field of interest, I was ranked 466 (across my career) and 196 (for the year 2020). This sounds quite amazing really… but a few key caveats are in order. First, the point I had made above, that 90% of published papers are never cited, so that 70,000 number is not necessarily as meaningful as it sounds!

Second, and maybe more important, is the bias inherent in which journals are included in this tabulation. A little bit of digging reveals that the authors extracted data from the Scopus bibliographic database, which contains abstracts and citations for academic journal articles from over 21,000 titles from over 5,000 publishers, primarily focusing (and this the important part) on the scientific, technical, medical, and social sciences. This sounds impressive, but is deceptive, since the journals in this database are not necessarily representative of impactful work in my field, education. This often includes incredibly important and critical work done by scholars working in areas of social justice, philosophy, educational history, teacher education and more. So once again, I am happy to see these numbers, but I also take them with a healthy dose of salt.

The third and final indication that I had arrived was when I learned this morning that students could now purchase course assignment “reflection” papers about my work from an online paper-mill. And there are more than one of these paper-mills out there, letting students download (for a fee of course) papers about the application of the TPACK framework. I am not linking to those websites – since I don’t want to support this line of work that, in some fundamental way, undermines the important work that I, and many of my faculty colleagues, are engaged in—namely to get students to think and to express their thoughts and perspectives through writing. As the screenshots below show, these sites make some impressive claims and promises.

I guess I should feel good about the fact that the TPACK framework is established enough that it has become part of the routine questions that are asked in teacher education courses. But, to me it is more an indication of the fact that TPACK is now just one more framework, one more set of acronyms, that students are supposed to memorize. It is not something they need to engage with intellectually, conceptually and practically…. and that, to be honest, makes me sad. And the words of T. S. Eliot, in the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufock, come to mind,

 “That is not it at all,
               That is not what I meant, at all.”



Ioannidis JPA, Baas J, Klavans R, Boyack KW (2019) A standardized citation metrics author database annotated for scientific field. PLoS Biol 17(8): e3000384. (You can also access the updated database as of August 2021).

Creativity in online learning & in maker spaces: 2 new articles

As a part of our ongoing series on creativity, technology and learning for the journal TechTrends we recently spoke with two nationally recognized scholars: Dr. Leanna Archambault and Dr. Edward Clapp. See below for introductions to both scholars as well as citations/links to the articles. (You can find a complete list of articles in this series here, and the articles focusing just on interviews here).

Dr. Archambault is an Associate Professor in Learning Design and Technology at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. She is the author of multiple articles and coordinator of the Learning Design and Technologies program at ASU. She also serves as co-editor for the open access Journal of Online Learning Research, a K-12 focused journal that publishes research in online learning settings. She is an award winning scholar and a former middle school teacher — and in the context of the past year, when the shift to online learning was rapid and ground-shaking for many people, she has been an important voice in speaking to the value of creativity in online and blended approaches to learning. Citation and link to article given below:

Richardson, C., Mishra, P., & Henriksen, D. (2021). Creativity in online learning and teacher education: An interview with Leanna Archambault. TechTrends, 65:914–918

Dr. Edward Clapp is a principal investigator at Project Zero, a research center at the Harvard Graduate School of Education where he works on various research projects around design and maker-centered learning, creativity and innovation, school design, contemporary approaches to arts education, and the connections between creativity and diversity, equity, inclusion, and ethics. He is the author of Participatory Creativity: Introducing Access and Equity Into the Creative Classroom (2016), co-author of Maker Centered Learning: Empowering Young People to Shape Their Worlds (2016), and co-author of the Maker-Centered Learning Playbook for Early Childhood Education (2020). Citation and link to article given below:

Warr, M., Jungkind, E., & Mishra, P. (2021). Participatory Creativity and maker empowerment: A conversation with Edward Clapp, Ed.D. TechTrends.

Goodbye 2021, Hello 2022

One afternoon, back in December 2008, we made a couple of new year’s videos to welcome the new year. It was not planned in any way—it was just a way to spend the afternoon since it was too cold to go outside. Thus began a tradition that goes strong even today—13 years later! Our videos are made on a shoestring budget (for instance this year’s video cost less than $5) and usually feature some kind of visual illusion combined with typography. Check out the latest video, titled turn <re> turn, saying goodbye to 2021 and welcoming 2022.

Happy New Year!

You can see all the previous years’ videos on this page: Illusory New Year Videos.

The science behind the video

This video is based on an optical illusion first created by the psychologist Adelbert Ames, Jr. back in 1947 (Ames, A. Jr., 1951), and is called the Ames Window or Ames Trapezoid. As Wikipedia describes it

The Ames trapezoid or Ames window is an image on, for example, a flat piece of cardboard that seems to be a rectangular window but is, in fact, a trapezoid. Both sides of the piece of cardboard have the same image. The cardboard is hung vertically from a wire so it can rotate around continuously, or is attached to a vertical mechanically rotating axis for continuous rotation.

Ames window from wikimedia commons
Examples of Ames window from Wikimedia Commons

When the rotation of the window is observed, the window appears to rotate through less than 180 degrees, though the exact amount of travel that is perceived varies with the dimensions of the trapezoid. It seems that the rotation stops momentarily and reverses its direction. It is therefore not perceived to be rotating continuously in one direction but instead is misperceived to be oscillating.

Things get even more messy when you insert an object through the window and let the entire setup rotate. Our mind tries to make sense of what it is seeing – and just fails, leading to some somewhat “trippy” (and yes, that is a technical psychological term) visual experience.

Dr. Derek Muller, creator of the Veratisium channel on youtube says that “Ames window illusion illustrates how we don’t directly perceive external reality” but rather that seek to make sense of what appears in our visual field based on a range of pre-conceptions, which can sometimes be tricked into failing. As he says:

… our perceptions far from transparently representing external reality are constantly faced with ambiguity. And our brains below the level of consciousness have to decide which of the infinite possibilities we’re actually looking at.

He goes on to say:

You know these days, a lot of people are getting the same fundamental information but coming to very different conclusions about the state of reality. So I think in that context, it’s important to remember that something as simple as a little rotating picture can fool our brains in fairly spectacular ways. So we should approach the world and our conclusions about it with a little more humility and a little less certainty.

I could go on… and as you can imagine, there are many explanations, on the internet, of why this illusion works the way it does. A few are linked to below:

I should also add that, the Ames window/trapezoid is a special case of Anamorphosis (i.e. a distorted projection that looks “correct” from one specific vantage point). We have used anamorphosis in some form or the other in previous videos (particularly in 2018, 2015, 2014 & 2013). It is interesting to note just how different each of these videos is.

How we did it

The Ames Window and the box that is added half-way through were made using the following template. This was designed on a 8.5×11 paper and printed on card-stock.

The printout was cut according to the instructions above. The video was shot in a corner of my home-office mostly re-using things that were lying around the house. The only expense was that of the printout (approximately $4 at Walgreens). As the images below show, the “window” was glued to a kabab skewer that was held up straight by inserting it into a hole made in the lid of an empty jam bottle. It was placed on a Lazy Susan that had been modified at the bottom to allow it to be rotated by pulling a string.

The final video was cleaned up and edited using Adobe Premier Pro 2022 on a Macbook. The background music (Adding the Sun) was composed by Kevin MacLeod (from his amazing website and used with permission).


Ames, A., Jr. (1951). Visual perception and the rotating trapezoidal window. Psychological Monographs: General and Applied, 65(7), i–32.

Presentation at University of Zurich

I was invited by my friend Dominik Petko, Professor of Teaching and Educational Technology at the Institute for Educational Science at the University of Zurich to make a presentation to their faculty and staff. The video of my presentation (Contextualizing TPACK within the design of systems and culture) was recently released. The abstract of my talk and the video can be found below.

Contextualizing TPACK within the design of systems and culture

Abstract: The COVID19 pandemic brought home the importance of technology in teaching and learning. That said, it is not clear that most educators truly took advantage of the possibilities of technology to transform their practice. Despite extensive work around the TPACK framework, which describes the types of knowledge teachers need to design effective uses of technology, however, it has not necessarily led to significant change in how technology is used in the classroom. In this presentation I argue that TPACK does not exist in a vacuum but rather technology integration works within broader systems and cultures of practice which often define or constrain the kinds of moves teachers can make in pedagogical space. As systems and cultures mutate and as new technological artifacts exhibit potential for educational application,teachers must adjust their knowledge, practice and skills accordingly. In this presentation, I will introduce my work on the five spaces for design framework as a conceptual tool that provides us with a way to shift perspective and reframe problems and solutions in technology integration. These issues become even more salient in the current context of emerging from the pandemic, providing both opportunities and challenges.

Tactical creativity in sports: New article

Daniel Memmert is Professor and Executive Head of the Institute of Exercise Training and Sport Informatics at the German Sport University Cologne. A lifelong sports player and enthusiast, Memmert’s research is at the intersection of human movement science, sport psychology, computer science in sports, talent, children and elite research and research methods.

His research has studied some of the most renowned European and World Cup players—and through this he has informed the design of sports programs across the world, including the Canadian women’s soccer team as well as more than a dozen elite soccer clubs in Germany. And, he believes these elite creative skills can be acquired and learned, suggesting that there are ways in which this tactical creativity can be intentionally developed.

Our conversation focused on his work on teaching, developing, and understanding different forms of creativity in organized sports settings. We discussed his interest in helping athletes develop their capacity for divergent thinking—that is, thinking outside of routines, processes, and norms (which all relate to convergent thinking)—in real-time competitive situations, leading to what is generally referred to as ‘tactical creativity.’ As he said:

We all know what tactical creativity is, it’s flexible, effective, original solutions in a given time and situation…a kind of operationalization of divergent thinking, this fluency, this flexibility. We borrowed that and transferred that to the world of sport.

Full citation and link below

Cain, W., Henriksen, D., Memert, D., & Mishra, P. (2021). A Pitch for Diversity: Teaching Tactical Creativity in Sports and Other Domains with Dr. Daniel Memmert. Tech Trends.

Common sense in the science classroom: New article (& illustrations)

When the collision of train and car is discussed in the context of Newton’s third law, students usually imagine the scenario based on their experiences. Credits: Image by Akshayapatra Foundation on Pixabay (URL:; License: CC0). Illustration and design by Punya Mishra. License CC-BY-NC.

Students can sometimes perceive scientific ideas to be in conflict with their common sense. How do we approach such conflicts in the classroom? Do we see these commonsense ideas as being wrong or, at best, misconceived? Alternatively, do we see them as resources and assets essential for the development of true understanding?

In this article KK Mashood and I explore what these questions mean for the science classroom. Essentially we argue that

  • Children develop a ‘commonsense’ understanding of the world based on their everyday experiences. Sometimes this understanding appears to be in conflict with formal concepts taught in the science classroom.
  • Students’ ideas need not be treated as right or wrong, or as impediments to learning. They can be viewed as resources important to develop a more refined understanding of scientific concepts.
  • Breaking down scientific principles to acknowledge commonsense notions and then connecting them to formal definitions could help bridge the gap between students’ ideas and scientific concepts.
  • Giving voice to students’ ideas and bringing the ‘human’ element in a science classroom could help students identify science as a human activity, and recognize their own role in the process of knowledge construction in science.

This is the latest article in a series that I have been writing (with a range of co-authors) for iWonder: Rediscovering School Science a journal for middle school science teachers published by the Azim Premji University. You can find all the articles in the series here; the complete issue in which this article appears here; and the link below takes you to a pdf of our article.

Mashood, KK, & Mishra, P. (2021). Common sense in the science classroom. iWonder, pp. 63-67.

One of the pleasures of writing these articles is that I get to do the illustrations for them. The image above is one – the other two are given below.

This was the title image for the article. Image credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay (free for commercial use). URL: abstract-5562064/. Wordcloud created on Illustration and design by Punya Mishra. License: CC-BY-NC.

Children understand and perceive the world around them intuitively, imaginatively, and socially — developing a commonsense understanding of the world. Credits: The image to the left is by Ramesh Lanwani, through Wikimedia Commons (URL:; License: CC-BY). The image to the right is by foxypar4c, through Wikimedia Commons (URL:,_Uttar_Pradesh,_India.jpg; License: CC-BY). Illustration and design by Punya Mishra. License CC-BY-NC.

Creativity, risk-taking & failure in education

Photo Unsplash, design PunyaMishra

Failure and risk-taking are essential to the creative process. It is rare that good original, creative work or ideas come together in the first try. Thus, an important component of engaging in creative practice is both an acceptance of potential failure as well as a willingness to persist despite these setbacks.

Failure, however, is anathema in our current educational context. It is often incompatible with the existing educational climate which emphasizes caution, standardization and an emphasis on measurable outcomes. This leads to a risk-averse culture, both within classrooms and across the broader educational system.

This is certainly a problem if we are to prepare students for an uncertain future, that will be defined by global, technological crises and opportunities. Preparing ourselves and the next generation for this future requires both the integration of creativity in educational practice as well as the inculcation of creative mindsets in learners.

A possible new and emergent space to think about failure in learning involves digital learning environments. We contend that it is critical to allow teachers and students space to experience creative risk taking and productive failure and that digital technologies can play an important role in enacting creativity, risk, and failure in the messy spaces of classroom implementation.

That said, there is a dearth of examples, techniques, frameworks as to how we can see failure as being productive in technology-infused educational contexts.

I recently had an opportunity to help edit (with my colleagues Danah Henriksen, Ed Creely and Michael Henderson) a special section of the journal TechTrends devoted to creative risk and failure through technology in education. This was an opportunity to expand this important conversation, by providing examples, theoretical frameworks and ideas for future research in this area.

The special issue includes 7 articles reflecting a variety of research paradigms, conceptual frameworks and methods related to these inter-twined constructs. We (the editors) also wrote an introduction for the special section (see below).

Henriksen, D., Mishra, P., Creely, E., & Henderson, M. (2021). The role of creative risk taking and productive failure in education and technology futures. TechTrends.

The other articles in the section include:

  • My favorite failure: Using digital technology to facilitate creative learning and reconceptualize failure by Ronald A. Beghetto
  • When failure is an option: A scoping review of failure states in game-based learning by F. Eamonn Powers & Robert Moore
  • A research-practice partnership about K12 technology integration: Technology as a catalyst for teacher learning through failure and creative risk-taking by Cassandra Scharber, Lana Peterson, John Alberts
  • K12 Practitioners’ Perceptions of Learning from Failure, Creativity, and Systems Thinking: a Collective Case Study by T. Logan Arrington, Alison L. Moore, Lauren M. Bagdy
  • Leveraging Failure-Based Learning to Support Decision-Making and Creative Risk in Instructional Design Pedagogy by Jill Stefaniak
  • Exploring Ambiguity Tolerance during the Adoption of Maker-Centered Learning Tools and Strategies by Shaunna Smith, Shelly Rodriguez
  • Breaking Free: The Role of Psychological Safety and Productive Failure in Creative Pathmaking by Michael S. Mills, Jessica Herring Watson


Value Laden: A new podcast about ethical leadership

What is the role of values and principles in educational leadership? What can we learn from inspirational educational leaders? How did they develop their moral/ethical compass, and more importantly, how do they bring these perspectives to the work that they do?

These are important questions that we often don’t have the opportunity to truly dig into. In fact, I would argue that educators have often shied away from these conversations particularly in the public sphere. In some ways we have ceded ground to the loudest voices in the room. It is as if in the Yeats poem, “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

It is time that we brought our thoughts and expertise to these important questions – because the work we do is inherently value laden. Value laden in that what we do as educators has intrinsic value. But also value laden in that there is a strong ethical and moral dimension to education—something that we cannot, should not ignore.

These questions and concerns led me to start a new podcast, called (not surprisingly): Value Laden. In this podcast I speak with amazing educational leaders to both get their personal stories, their lived experiences that led them to where they are today, and how it plays out in their professional lives.

I would love for this podcast to be the start of a broader discussion about these important issues. I enjoyed these conversations immensely, and also learned a lot, and I hope you will too. You can subscribe to the podcast where ever you get your podcasts. Enjoy.

STEM Futures at AAAS

ASU recently hosted, what is known as, the world’s largest scientific gathering, the annual conference of the American Association of the Advancement of Science. As as part of this conference I was invited, along with Ariel Anbar and Trina Davis, to talk about our recently concluded STEM-futures project (more about that on this blog and on the website). The conversation was moderated by Larry Ragan, who had also been involved in the design of this project (and had also, masterfully, moderated the webinars that had preceded the STEM-futures design sessions).

It was fun to revisit this project with Ariel, Trina and Larry. Below is a video of that session—The future of STEM education: A conversation.

Youth participatory creativity in digital spaces: An interview with Ioana Literat

Ioana Literat is Assistant Professor in the Communication, Media, and Learning Technologies Design program at Teachers College, Columbia University, and the Associate Director of the Media & Social Change Lab (MASCLab). Her research focuses on the dynamics of youth engagement and online participation, specifically attempting to understand what the colliding forces are when looking at agency, empowerment and voice in the context of youth activism. She has also developed a game called LAMBOOZLED!, to enhances skills to deal with fake news. In the game, the objective is to collect as “much evidence as possible to figure out whether the news stories are real or fake.”

In this article we explore various aspects of her professional, scholarly work. Specifically we discussed:

… how she layers theories of distributed creativity onto her internet re- search agenda to examine how youth use online spaces and digital media to make sense of current events. [We discuss] her path to engaging in creativity research through the use of digital media and a dedication to amplifying voices. We explore how her work has changed and sharpened around participatory creativity as she saw shifts in creative outcomes and conversations around the political landscape of recent years.

Citation and link to article below:

Keenan-Lechel, S. F., Capurro, C. T., Henriksen, D.. & the Deep-Play Research Group. (2021). Creative potential for positive social change: An interview with Dr. Ioana Literat. TechTrends.