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…

TPACK goes Chinese… virtually

Matt Koehler and I had been asked to provide the plenary address at the Annual Meeting of Global Chinese Conference on Computers in Education (GCCCE) at East Lansing. As Jack Schwille said in an email to the College: Our Confucius Institute is hosting the 12th Global...

The revolution will be twittered

The recent (and ongoing) evens in Iran sadden me deeply... but also give me hope. The scenes and news emerging from there speak of courage and a need and demand for freedom. What is also amazing has been the use of technology particularly twitter to get news out of...

Introducing India…

I had been invited to the Second Annual Internationalizing Michigan Education Conference: Building Bridges from Michigan to the World to speak about India. The title of my presentation was Learning about India, the world’s largest democracy. I was assisted in this by...

Mobile Technology in Teacher Education

I was recently invited to keynote The First International Conference on Mobile Technology in Teacher Education (MiTE 2015). The conference was organized by the School of Education, National University of Ireland, Galway. Kudos to the organizers (main point of contact...

SITE 2008, Google & Creativity

At SITE 2008 Mike DeSchryver and I presented a paper titled Pre-Service teachers and the web: Does access to the Web enhance creative thinking about teaching. Abstract: This study examined teacher creativity and its relationship with emerging technologies. Eight...

TPACK newsletter #32, March 2017

TPACK newsletter #32, March 2017

TPACK triplet design by Punya Mishra The latest version of the TPACK newsletter (#32) can be found here- March 2017 (pdf). All previous issues are archived here. A shout-out to Judi Harris for all the work that goes into this.

2017 Torrance Lecture on Creativity

2017 Torrance Lecture on Creativity

This past April, I delivered the annual E. Paul Torrance Lecture at the University of Georgia. Being invited to give this talk was a huge honor, for two main reasons. First, because of Paul Torrance, the person for whom this lecture is named. Dr. Torrance, known...

Representing networks

Facebook has a couple of apps that allow you to map your friends' network. I knew about them but hadn't really played with them till Matt Koehler asked for some ideas to use in his 956 (Mind, Media & Learning class) and I suggested trying some of these tools out. To...

Technology & research

Patrick Dickson just forwarded an article in the APA Monitor titled Beyond chalk and talk, in which Art Graesser, the new editor of Journal of Educational Psychology, indicates an openness to including more technology related articles in JEP. Patrick argued that this...


  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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