Of metaphors & molecules: Bridging STEM & the arts

Update on blog post that was published May 30, 2018 – since the article is now published (2 years since it was accepted for publication).

Square Roots: Illustration by Punya Mishra

What do President Kennedy’s speeches have to do with cell biology? And what does the vegetable “radish” have to do with mathematics or chemistry? Learn about all this and more in a soon to be published article where Danah Henriksen and I explore the use of figurative language as a bridge between the arts and STEM disciplines. Part of the fun in writing this article is that I got to create the illustrations that go with the article. These illustrations are reproduced below (click on them to see larger versions).

The published abstract can be found here and is also provided below:

STEM education in the United States is often described as being in a downward spiral, when assessed by competency test scores and lack of student motivation for engaging STEM disciplines. The authors suggest this arises from an overly instrumental view of STEM. While STEAM has arisen as a pushback paradigm, the application of STEAM in schools is challenging, and educators are often unclear about connecting STEM and the arts. The authors suggest envisioning STEAM through natural disciplinary interconnections. They focus on the integration of language arts and figurative thinking to blur the boundaries of STEM and the arts, and offer examples of figurative language—such as metaphor, linguistic etymology and synecdoche—for framing STEM teaching and learning.

The actual article is behind a paywall and cannot be shared publicly I provide a citation and a link to a pre-publication version below…

Henriksen, D. & Mishra, P. (2020). Of metaphors and molecules: Figurative language bridging STEM and the arts in educationLeonardo (53), 3. p.316-320.

Figure 1. Multiple metaphors for energy. 

Figure 2: Complex systems are dynamic, self-organizing, evolving networks that can operate without central control (e.g. ant colonies, rainforests, human brains, or cities).

Figure 3. Chiasmus, Chi and chiasmata.

A systems view of technology infusion

Image design: Punya Mishra | Photo credit: Pixabay

One of the significant changes in my way of thinking about technology integration has been a shift in focus—away from designing training and programs that target individual teachers to designing systems (both at K12 and higher education levels) that support teachers in the work they do. This does not minimize any way the teacher knowledge work I have done (aka TPACK framework) but it does situate that line of work within a bigger frame. This is consistent with my work on the 5 spaces for design that I have written about earlier. (More on that below.)

When Arelen Borthwick, Teresa Foulger and Kevin Graziano invited me to write a foreword for a book on technology infusion I decided to bring this broader frame into the discussion. In writing that foreword, Melissa Warr and I, expanded on a fun blog post I had written (Game of Thrones meets Toyota: 2 examples of systems thinking). More details below.

Borthwick, A. C., Foulger, T. S. & Graziano, K. J. (2020). Championing technology infusion in teacher preparation: A framework for supporting future educators. International Society for Technology in Education.

The publishers have made the table of contents and foreword freely available. Complete reference to foreword below.

Mishra, P., & Warr, M. (2020). Foreword: A Systems View of Technology Infusion. In A. C. Borthwick, T. S. Foulger, & T. S. Graziano, (Eds). Championing technology infusion in teacher preparation: A framework for supporting future educators. International Society for Technology in Education. (p. xvi-xxii).

For more information about the 5 spaces for design please see links below:

Us in Flux: A conversation with Sarah Pinsker

Image designed by Punya Mishra, based on Us in Flux YouTube title screen

The Center for Science and the Imagination at ASU has a new series called Us in Flux. Every two weeks they publish a (super-short) short story that explores “themes of community, collaboration, and collective imagination in response to transformative events.” They follow each story with a virtual conversation with the author and a guest.

The most recent story, written by award winning author, Sarah Pinsker, was titled Notice, and I was lucky to be the guest invited to the conversation. We had a wonderful chat, moderated by Bob Beard, with questions from the audience as well, that covered a lot of ground. Of specific interest to me, was learning how the story developed from an original idea to its final form, and the discussions on learning, noticing, community and values. The presence of some of these ideas is not surprising, given our current interest in learning futures and principled innovation.

You can read the story here, and watch the video below. Enjoy.

Play & Creativity Across the Lifespan: A conversation with Sandra Russ

Design: Punya Mishra | Sketches: Pixabay

As a part of our series of conversations with creativity scholars we recently spoke with Dr. Sandra Russ, Louis D. Beaumont University Professor, and interim dean at the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Russ is an expert on creativity and play and our conversation we explored her research on pretend play and creativity, the importance of nurturing play and creativity across the lifespan; as well as the role of play and creativity during crisis situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Complete citation and link below. Enjoy

Singha, S., Warr, M., Mishra, P., Henriksen, D. & the Deep-Play Research Group (2020). Playing with Creativity Across the Lifespan: a Conversation with Dr. Sandra Russ. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-020-00514-3

Note: A complete list of articles in this series (Rethinking Technology & Creativity in the 21st Century) can be found here; and, the interviews with creativity researchers can be found here.

100,000

Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

John Donne

Over the Memorial day long-weekend I just felt the need to create something to commemorate the 100,000 individuals, in the United States, who have lost their lives over the past few months to COVID19. That is a staggering number and one that is hard for us to grasp.

I have also been deeply troubled by the lack of discussion about the scale and the human dimension of the tragedy that we are living through. The New York Times front page (below) from Sunday (May 24) was an exception.

This video is the result.

It attempts to capture both the scale and the human dimension of the tragedy, the fact that this number is actually made of a hundred-thousand individuals – whose lives have been cut short by this virus. An incalculable loss.

The little details

Created by Punya Mishra (http://www.punyamishra.com | @punyamishra)

Created using Adobe Premiere, Adobe Photoshop & Apple Keynote.

Image credit: Flag vector image from OpenClipart-Vectors on Pixabay.
License: https://pixabay.com/service/terms/#license

Music credit: Mourning Song by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://filmmusic.io/song/4086-mourning-song
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

From being to becoming: Keynote by Dr. Shawn Loescher

Image design: Punya Mishra (Splash image: Pixabay)

It is rarely that I hear a talk that blows me away.

We have all seen the TED talks, and their mutant offspring. The over-hyped music and catchy taglines; the speaker in front of a rapt audience; the crafted delivery with its carefully punctuated pauses and reveals, the self-deprecatory humor and, of course, the final insight or wisdom packaged in 30 words or less.

But it is rare to hear a talk that is measured and thoughtful and, most important, thought provoking. A talk that manages to be deeply philosophical and academic and yet connect, as deeply, to questions and issues of practice. A talk that is measured and relaxed yet powerful.

I recently had the good fortune of hearing my friend Dr. Shawn Loescher give the keynote at the Doctoral Research Conference at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. And it is my pleasure to share it with the world.

In his talk Shawn touches on many things, action research and design, the relationship of research and practice, the role of design in the futures of learning, and the importance of principled innovation (all ideas dear to my heart). [For more on our work on designing Learning Futures and Principled Innovation see these this and this].

To start, here is an introduction to the conference and Shawn’s keynote written by my friend and colleague Dr. Danah Henriksen. (Thank you Danah)

Introduction the Doctoral Research Conference and Dr. Loescher’s talk

By Dr. Danah Henriksen

The EdD program in Leadership and Innovation has been a flagship program in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College for nearly 15 years. It began as a traditional face-to-face program, helping educators and educational leaders in Arizona who had dreamed of finding a better way to improve their collective practice and engage leadership and inquiry.

In 2015, a fully online version of the program was launched to great success and interest. In order to ensure that all students, both online and face-to-face, had the same opportunity for sharing of their research in a professional conference setting, the program committee decided to transition our bi-yearly Doctoral Research Conference into a fully online format. In this new online conference format, students from different cohorts, and geographic locations, come together one a year, in a one-day professional research conference. In sharing their action research efforts here, doctoral students connect across the program and the world with other students in the same program, who are working in a range of (sometimes very similar or drastically different) research problems and settings. This day-long event is an exciting celebration of the incredible work our students are engaged in.

The highlight of the day, each year, is the Keynote speaker. As a program, we seek out a Keynote speaker who can speak both to the challenges and rigors of research, as well as the complexity and messiness of practice. We hope the speaker can bring together ideas and concepts around innovation, action research and the intersection of research and practice, all within the context of current and emerging issues in education. This year, in 2020 we were honored to invite a recent and acclaimed graduate of the program—Dr. Shawn Loescher—to deliver the Keynote.

This is how I introduced him:

Dr. Shawn T. Loescher, Ed.D., is an active practitioner with over 25 years of experience, both domestically and abroad, in educational innovation and school system redesign. He currently serves as a Chief Executive Officer of an inner-city school system in San Diego, CA. In 2019, Dr. Loescher was named one of 16 worldwide recipients of the TED-Ed Innovative Educators award. He earned his doctorate from this EdD program, right here here in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at ASU with a focus on leadership, innovation, theory, and policy. Dr. Loescher is an American Educational Research Association awarded scholarly practitioner in action research and sciences, where he won the AERA Action Research SIG Dissertation of the Year Award for 2020. He’s a sought-after keynote and TED talk speaker, guest lecturer, consultant, and think tank participant.

Action research as praxis: From being to becoming

Abstract: In the English language, there are two common understandings of the word Ontology, that of being and becoming. Action research is guided by understandings of the past, is grounded in the present, and is solutions orientated towards a more ideal future state. Guided by the literature and contextual knowledge, an action researcher may simultaneously be a disrupter of the status quo, an instrument of data collection, and the navigator of a political environment. This keynote address focuses on action research as a means of systemic improvement for the Friearian notion of praxis towards our first vocation, that of becoming more human. Dr. Loescher will discuss how action research is being used as a means of emancipatory practice in the service of our students and communities.

You can find the video below (and the slides here)

More about Dr. Loescher

Measuring what matters: A convening

Measuring what matters | Image design by Punya Mishra

All of us involved in social design (and I include education in among those as well) ask ourselves, or are asked this question:

How do we measure the impact of the work we do?

This begs the question, why measure in the first place? Lord Kelvin, one of the greatest physicists of the 19th century, provided the canonical answer to this question back in 1883, saying:

…When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind.— William Thompson Kelvin (Popular Lectures, Vol. I, “Electrical Units of Measurement,” p. 73, 1883).

In other words, according to Lord Kelvin “to measure is to know” (which as it happens is another of his oft-quoted remarks).

This emphasis on measurement can be seen in all aspects of our lives. We measure our children’s heights, and our GDP; we measure learning gains in students, and recidivism rates of inmates released from prison; we measure the number of steps we walk and the calories we eat.

That said, we also know that there are things, important things, that we have not yet managed to measure, or do not know how to. These are often intangible, ineffable—and yet, important.

How do we measure if students are seeing beauty in mathematics? Or the economic value of public art? Or the capacity of music to move us?

These issues are of concern for all of us engaged in social design (i.e. the application of design methods to tackle complex human problems). In a recent blog post, prompted by the COVID19 crisis and global school closures, I asked the question about the value of school (in two parts, One & Two)– and argued that measures that focus on one dimension (that of learning, via standardized tests) miss all the other values that schools bring to our lives.

The issue, of course, is that if we can’t measure the impact of our work how can we know if what we are doing is working or not? The issue is not whether we should measure but rather if we are measuring what we ought to be measuring. Often, we are limited to measuring what we can easily measure rather than what we ought to measure. Alternatively:

Do we measure what we value or do we merely value what we can measure?

These are not new questions, but they are important ones, and worth revisiting.

Recently we organized a virtual convening of scholars and leaders from across ASU on this very topic. Titled: The Importance of the Ineffable: Measuring What Matters, the convening was organized by the Office of Scholarship and Innovation, the Principled Innovation Team and InnovationSpace. Participants came from a range of units within and outside of ASU, bringing their disciplinary expertise as well as their deep expertise into the conversation. (Complete list of colleges and units that participated given at the end.)

This event had initially been planned as being a face-to-face convening, till COVID19 got in the way. What this shift to an online convening meant that we had to get creative to ensure that the different approaches and perspectives could get properly and thoughtfully addressed and some synthesis reached.

To us that meant that we could not (and should not) just drop people into a zoom room and hope for good things would happen.

Jennifer Stein and Henry Borges put in some significant effort to design a genuinely powerful experience – with additional support from Clarin Collins, Ben Scragg, and Lok-Sze Wong. We moved seamlessly from whole group to smaller teams and back to whole group, toggling between Zoom and Google Slides and Google Draw, sharing ideas, collapsing them in to broad categories of questions and then digging deeper into them.

Screenshot from virtual card-sorting exercise. Names have been deleted.

A range of topics were generated and were virtually categorized and then people self-selected to discuss each of these overarching topics further.

Overall it was an exciting and intellectually challenging event, providing us with lots to chew on and we continue to explore these ideas in actual projects in the future.

Note: Participants included people from the following units or organizations: The School for the Future of Innovation in Society, School of Earth and Space Exploration, College of Public Service and Community Solutions, School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, and the Kern Family Foundation.

End note:

Finally, for two slightly different, and idiosyncratic yet relevant, takes on the whole issue of measurement see these two blog posts from a few years ago:  

Facilitating collaborative design: New publication

Essential tensions in design. Image designed by Punya Mishra

Design facilitators play an important role in the open-ended collaborative design process. This becomes even more important as design based approaches expand to groups and teams that may not be as familiar with the process as expert designers may be. Facilitators support small group interactions to help generate ideas, structure discussions and guide the process with minimal friction.

Despite this increased focus on collaborative design in contexts outside of professional design, such as education, there is little research to inform facilitators in productive and thoughtful ways to navigate this process.

We build on our personal experience as facilitators in a collaborative, multi-stakeholder, educational design workshop to provide insights into the process. We identify a range of “essential tensions” that exists within multiple aspects of facilitator roles and practices—including processes, products, discussion flow, and group dynamics. More in the paper below:

Henriksen, D., Jordan, M., Foulger, T.S., Zuiker, S. & Mishra, P. (2020). Essential Tensions in Facilitating Design Thinking: Collective Reflections. Journal of Formative Design in Learning. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41686-020-00045-3

TPACK Newsletter, #43 April 2020

TPACK image design: Punya Mishra

Here is the latest pdf version of the TPACK Newsletter (#43, April 2020), as curated and shared by Judi Harris and her team. (Previous issues are archived here.)

This issue includes titles, abstract and links to 76 articles, 2 chapters, and 10 dissertations that have not appeared in past issues. This brings the total numbers of publications recorded in the newsletter (over time) to a total of 1246 articles: 293 chapters in books; 28 books; and 404 —not found :-) dissertations.

Note: The banner image above may be my favorite tongue-in-cheek TPACK diagram (more here).

COVID19 & Education

Here are some of my pieces directly related to education and the COVID19 crisis. I am also part of the team behind the silverliningforlearning.org project (where you will find additional video archives and blog posts):