Bridging the theory/practice gap: A visual exploration

by | Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Theoretically there should a reciprocal relationship between Theory and Practice – but it is the gap that every academic bemoans. This posting is prompted not by any particular insight into these matters but rather to share a set of visuals (ambigrams, memes, whatever…) that I created over the past day or so. This was prompted by a conversation about this with Danah Henriksen – so some blame / credit should go to her. (I prefer her getting the blame and all the credit coming to me, but she, and you, may disagree.)

To start with up on top is the standard image – the arrows representing how practice ought to inform theory and vice versa. As Immanuel Kant never said (but should have), “Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual play.” So to celebrate this reciprocal, transactional relationship here is an ambigram for these two words, reading “research” one way and “practice” when rotated 180 degrees!practice-theorytheory-practice

This of course allows me to recreate the two-arrow diagram up above with a new image that can be read even when rotated 180 degrees!!


As Danah and I were discussing these ideas, we were also looking on the Internet for interesting quotes related to the Theory-Practice divide, and we found some good ones. That prompted me to start creating some posters/memes (I have no idea what to call them) to represent these ideas visually. (Please note, all the photographs used in the designs below have been taken by me, over the years. And you can click on the images to see higher resolution version of the designs.) So here we go!


To start out
Theory and Reality are only theoretically related.

• • •


For all the graduate students out there:
I really need to graduate. I’ve lost the ability
to discern theory from practice

• • •


Two unique designs from one Yogi Berra quote:
In theory there is no difference between theory and 
practice. In practice there is. 

• • • 


Maybe my favorite quote, from Frank Westphal (similar to the Berra quote above):
The difference between theory and practice is, in theory, somewhat smaller than in practice  

• • • 


And of course the last word, always goes to the pessimist!
Theory v.s. Practice
Theory: Everything is clear, but nothing works
Practice: Everything works, but nothing is clear
Sometimes theory meets practice… Nothing works and nothing is clear

• • •


A few randomly selected blog posts…

Design and creative repurposing: Thinking about Ed Tech

One minute design ideas... I had posted something similar here (from Bic to vase). There is something deeper here than just cool design ideas though. What this video highlights is...

Mishra, Dirkin & Cavanaugh, 2007

I have been teaching summer course in our master's program for years now and for the most part have found them to be the most enriching teaching experiences I have had. These are intense 8 hours a day, 5 days a week programs that typically go on for a month. [We are...

The hitchhiker’s guide to online doctoral programs, SITE2013

We finished our second symposium yesterday. Titled the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Hybrid and Online Doctoral Programs the symposium included presentations by faculty members from Michigan State University and University of North Texas. Ann Thompson was our...

EPET @ SITE in New Orleans, the video

Sandra Sawaya has created a video from photographs taken during our recent sojourn to New Orleans for SITE2013. I think it captures a bit of what we did over there - lots of photos of food and friends, and some presentations. Enjoy.

Henriksen & Mishra, one of popular articles of 2015

Our recent article in TCRecord on how exemplary teachers incorporate creativity in their teaching (Henriksen & Mishra, 2015) was listed as one of the most popular articles of 2015! You can access the article by clicking the link above and, for the record, see...

Teachers & technology, a quote

Just heard this in a talk by Sugata Mitra, titled Sugata Mitra: Can kids teach themselves?Any teacher who can be replaced by a computer .... should be! — Arthur C. Clarke See the entire video...

Best practice v.s. PGP

Best practice v.s. PGP

I was recently in a discussion with members of the AACTE committee on Innovation and Technology about the term "best practice." This search for best practice (or practices) is something one hears about all the time in educational (and ed tech) circles. We want to list...

We Have Always Been Rhizomatic

We Have Always Been Rhizomatic

Danah Henriksen and I were recently asked to write a foreword for a book titled New Directions in Rhizomatic Learning: From Poststructural Thinking to Nomadic Pedagogy edited by Myint Swe Khine. This was a fun foreword to write and allowed us to explore a range of...

Plagiarism, note to Root-Bernstein’s and Creativity Portal

Here are some emails (for the record) that I have sent recently to the Root-Bernstein's (the authors of Sparks of Genius) letting them know of how their intellectual property has been stolen by David Jiles, Ph.D. Details in my original posting: David Jiles, Ph.D.,...


  1. OllyGames

    Hi Punya, awesome read! I love the quote you had here: “in theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”

  2. KristyBernales

    An insightful post… appreciate your creative style to define things.

  3. Gaurish

    Nice photos and ambigram.



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