Going deeper into mindfulness & creativity with Viviana Capurso

We have covered a wide range of topics in our ongoing series on creativity, technology and learning (in the journal TechTrends), including 30+ interviews with some of the top scholars in the field. More recently we have been trying to create a series of 2-4 articles on the same theme. For instance, our previous article in the series focused on the relationship between mindfulness and creativity.

This time around we spoke with Dr. Viviana Capurso, a scholar who studies the connections between mindfulness and creativity. Her unique multi-disciplinary background, starting from public relations and advertising/ copy-writing, to her PhD in cognitive neuroscience, as well as her decade long practice of mindfulness, gives her a unique interdisciplinary perspective that informs her research. Our conversation with Dr. Capurso covered a lot of ground, including questions such as: What is the link between creativity, mindfulness and well-being? What does it mean to be creative? How is creativity manifested in different ways? In this way Dr. Capurso has been successful in connecting longstanding Eastern Asian and South Asian cultural traditions to more Western definitions of creativity and creative thinking.

Complete citation and link to the article given below:

Richardson, C., Henriksen, D., Mehta, R., & Mishra, P. (2022). Seeing things in the here and now: Exploring mindfulness and creativity with Viviana Capurso. TechTrends, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-022-00722-z

You can access all the articles in the series here and the interview series here.

SITE2022: San Diego

I sent the past week in San Diego at the SITE 2022 conference—first face to face conference in over 2.5 years. It was great to get out meet old friends, make new ones, and just spend time together. Below are (for the record) the papers and presentations that I was part of.

100 and counting: Silver Lining for Learning

March 11, 2020 (a little over two years ago), just around when the pandemic had forced educational institutions across the globe to shut down and transition to remote learning, my friend Yong Zhao reached out to Chris Dede, Curt Bonk, Scott McLeod, Shuangye Chen and me with the question: “What would happen to our global and local educational systems, if the Corona virus outbreak lasted for a year?”

That initial email culminated in a web-series called Silver Lining for Learning, that just had its 100th episode this past Saturday. Scott McLeod and Shuangye Chen stepped away after a while – so the show is now hosted by the four of us (Chris, Curt, Zhao and myself).

Hosting this series has meant that pretty much every Saturday for the past two years we have met and engaged with issues relevant to education, either with each other or with invited guests. In this process we have had an opportunity to speak with some amazing people – educational leaders, innovators, administrators, deans, researchers, students and more. These conversations have touched on a wide array of topics, including but not limited to: student autonomy, remote learning, novel learning organizations, pioneering curricula and programs, innovative ways of teaching, new approaches to education policy, ground-breaking technological inventions and more. Our guests have come from all over the world: Italy, Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Bhutan, Canada, Argentina, Australia, Korea, Israel, Malaysia, Nepal, Spain, England, Costa Rica, Thailand (to list a few) and of course the US. And we now have over 100 hours of original programming (available for free through the website).

Over time we have developed a small but devoted following, people from across the world who watch us live on YouTube, and participate in the chat with each other (and the hosts). Many of their comments and questions end up in the show, enriching the conversation. For our 100th episode we reached out to a few of our regular viewers and invited them onto the show, some of whom we had never met or seen. It was great to meet with them and put names to faces. Thank you Dodzi Amemado, Lydia Cao, Gerald Fussell, John Heffernan, Priyank Sharma and Danty Yin (and Shuangye who rejoined us as host).

Speaking personally, it has truly been a privilege to have been a part of this series. It has broadened my horizons and knowledge about educational issues across the globe. It has also allowed me to meet and engage with some amazing, committed, passionate educators and educational innovators.

It has also allowed me to keep up with my design skills since I also designed (and maintain) the SLL website, create unique graphics for each episode and edit the videos (and that includes creating the intro-outro for our videos). Incidentally, the first version of the intro/outro (that we used for approximately 50 episodes) was, musically and visually, somewhat dark and foreboding, in keeping with the insecurities that we all felt at the start of the pandemic. Over time, as the show broadened in scope to provide a more positive view of what is possible, I created a new intro-outro sequence seeks to capture this new more optimistic flavor. That intro/outro was lightly re-edited starting with episode 100.

One of the most fun parts of the being the “in-house designer” is that I am tasked to create a “signature” graphic for each episode. So over the past 2 years I have created over 130 such images, not just for the episodes but for guest posts and more. A “poster” with 100 of these is given below. I recommend clicking on the image to see a higher resolution version, just to see the variety of guests and topics we have covered on the show).

Click to see a higher resolution version (opens in a new tab)

Finally, a huge shout out all our guests for giving us their time and sharing their expertise. And of course, thanks are due to my co-hosts: Chris, Curt, Scott, Shuangye, and Zhao. This has been an amazing journey and I am deeply grateful for their energy, input, camaraderie, knowledge and friendship. Thank you.

A Socio-cultural Perspective on Creativity, Technology & Education

Photo credit: Rasheedhrasheed, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Almost exactly a year ago Danah Henriksen, Carolina Torrejon Capurro and I submitted a chapter for the second edition of the book Creativity and Innovation: Theory, Research and Practice edited by Jonathan Plucker. Given the time that had elapsed, since we had written the piece, I had almost completely forgotten about it – till a physical copy of the book landed in my mailbox.

Our chapter is titled A Socio-cultural Perspective on Creativity and Technology: New Synergies for Education (full reference below), and I do think we did a good job bringing together ideas from current creativity research, technology theory and education and provided some new ideas for educators and researchers to consider.

We do hope you read the entire chapter, but here are some key takeaways:

  • Creativity and technology are both essential to educational futures.  A synergistic, socio-cultural perspective provides an integrative framework with transformative implications for teaching and learning.
  • We advocate for understanding these issues in education settings based on Glaveanu’s 5A’s model, which moves away from the traditional 4P’s of creativity (person, product, process, and press) toward the language of actor, action, artifact, audience, and affordances.
  • This model allows for a language and understanding of creativity based on the interrelation or interaction between its elements rather than the elements themselves.
  • Technologies as tools to think, work, and create with are part of the social-material world and have different creative affordances (real and perceived). The advent of the internet in particular has unleashed ground-up creativity, which is in contrast to the traditional structures and boundaries of schooling.
  • Digital devices in general (and the internet in particular) allow for dramatic creative shifts in society and new implications for how we think about teaching and learning.

Here is the complete reference:

Henriksen, D., Mishra, P., & Capurro, C.T. (2022). A Socio-cultural Perspective on Creativity and Technology: New Synergies for Education. In Plucker, J. (Ed). Creativity & Innovation: Theory, Research & Practice. (2nd Edition). Prufrock Press.

Mindfulness & Creativity: New article

Mindful and Creative: Building Educational Systems for Individual and Community Wellbeing

In a technology-immersed world awash in distraction, stress, and often, distress—all of which can affect creativity and wellbeing—mindfulness is increasingly becoming a valuable consideration for supporting learners in educational practice. After nearly two years of an ongoing pandemic that has taxed the emotional and mental well-being of schools, teachers, students, and society—the idea of mindfulness is increasing being seen as an important topic to consider. In this article, the authors look at the relationship between mindfulness and creativity grounded in existing research, then share some of their current work and thinking around possibilities and practices for education, concluding with implications related to technology.

Henriksen, D., & Gruber, N. (2022). Mindful and creative: Building educational systems for individual and community wellbeing. TechTrends. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-022-00703-2

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.”

________________________

References

Ioannidis JPA, Baas J, Klavans R, Boyack KW (2019) A standardized citation metrics author database annotated for scientific field. PLoS Biol 17(8): e3000384. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000384. (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 https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-021-00669-7

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. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-021-00687-5

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 incompetech.com and used with permission).

References

Ames, A., Jr. (1951). Visual perception and the rotating trapezoidal window. Psychological Monographs: General and Applied, 65(7), i–32. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0093600

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. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-021-00645-1