We have been creating short videos to welcome the new year since 2008. This year was no exception. These videos, created on a shoe-string budget, are usually typographical in nature with some kind of an optical illusion or AHA! moment built in. Check out our latest creation to welcome 2020 titled Writing with Light, (created with a budget of zero dollars!).
Light painting, painting with light, light drawing, or light art performance photography are terms that describe photographic techniques of moving a light source while taking a long exposure photograph,
The key here is long exposure, i.e. keeping the camera shutter open for a relatively long time (in this case two shots of 6 seconds each – one for 2019 and the other for 2020) to let moving light create an image. (For instance the banner image above was created by somebody writing in the air with a sparkler.)
This video takes the idea of light painting or writing to another level. It is light painting with an animation! What is interesting is that even though you can see the animation and the entire process, it is difficult to predict what the final image that shows up on the still camera (the one taking the long exposure photo) will look like.
So lets break it down.
The video starts with an abstract animation which is in two parts. (That is what you see at the beginning of the video). This animation, created using Keynote on the Mac, is at the heart of the entire trick. I have extracted them as two animated gifs below. Look carefully, what do you see?
This animation is nothing but the numbers “2019” and “2020” moving across the screen as seen through a slit. Essentially the numbers are in the background, moving behind two black boxes with a gap between them. The two animated gifs below will make it clearer – since I have reduced the transparency of the black rectangles so that you can see what is really going on. All you see in the gifs above are the white portions of the numbers as they pass below the gap between two black blocks.)
The direction of the movement also matters. Note that 2019 is moving from left to right while 2020 moves from right to left. This is important because it tells us how the laptop is to move with respect to the still camera.
When the laptop moves with respect to a still camera, with its shutter open, the light of the animation “paints” the complete image on the camera—which in this case happen to be 2019 (when the laptop moves left to right) and 2020 (when going in the reverse direction)!
For the shoot, the laptop was placed on a skateboard that could be moved (by someone hiding behind the table) from right to left for 2019 and from left to right for 2020, the opposite direction of the actual animation). The setup is sketched out below.
Once the things have been set up, the video camera is switched on and stays on the entire time. The DSLR is switched on twice, once for the 2019 and the next time for 2020, giving us these two images – created by nothing but light. How cool is that!
I love to talk about design and education. I like to hang out with people who care about design and education. This brings us to TalkingAboutDesign.com, a website/blog created by a group of graduate students (and faculty) at the Teachers College that seeks to explore “design in all its richness.”
the heart of the website is a framework for thinking about design and its role
in education which needs a bit of an introduction (which sort of justifies the
length of this post).
Simon, in his book, The Sciences of the Artificial, famously
Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones. The intellectual activity that produces material artifacts is no different fundamentally from the one that prescribes remedies for a sick patient or the one that devises a new sales plan for a company or a social welfare policy for a state.
one fell swoop, Simon situated design as playing a role across a range of
human-centered professions, whether it be graphic design, architecture,
medicine, or social policy.
most relevant to us: Education.
aren’t the only ones to see education as a design domain (far from it!). For
example, in 1992, Donald Schön highlighted how teachers are designers of
instruction. Others talk about the
design of school buildings, systems, curriculum, and more.
The application of design to education (specifically in its newest avatar: design thinking) has been receiving some significant attention recently. I have written elsewhere about some concerns I have with this trend – but that does not detract in any shape or form the value the I place in bringing a designer’s perspective to education and educational change.
The role of design is complex. Design happens across a range of contexts: from designing textbooks to designing policy; from designing learning experiences to designing admission procedures; from designing professional development programs to designing institutional culture. Thus, design can play out deferentially in different “spaces.” These spaces are connected: they impact one another, and effective design in one space requires an awareness of the other spaces.
Over the past couple of years, we (Melissa Warr, Ben Scragg, others in the Office of Scholarship and Innovation, and a group of doctoral students who call themselves the Talking About Design team) have been working on figuring out the nature of these spaces and applying them directly to education. Preliminary versions of this idea have been presented at conferences (see here and here) but this is an evolving idea, and this blog post is the most current version.
we see five interactive spaces where design plays out:
This work builds on and is inspired by previous work by Richard Buchanan and his four-fold classification of orders of design–symbols, things, actions and thoughts or, when seen in terms of the evolution of industries, moving from graphic design to industrial, interaction, and systems design. In each case, the orders are places of invention that allow designers to reimagine problems and solutions. We are also inspired by Golsby-Smith’s work wherein he offered a structure similar to Buchanan, but framed it in terms of the changes in value that designers bring to the process of change. Specifically, as we move from image to strategies and culture, the designer moves from creator to facilitator. This means that designers need a new set of interpersonal skills with an emphasis on communication, facilitation, and systems thinking.
Whereas Buchanan and Golsby-Smith labeled domains of design as “orders,” we avoid the term as it implies a kind of hierarchy between them. As we envision it, each space offers new possibilities for designing, places to create something new or change something that isn’t working. Although the spaces overlap and interact with one another, we distinguish them by where the intended outcome of the design process is focused, whether this is in artifacts, processes, experiences, systems, or culture. In reality, the spaces aren’t as distinct as we are making them out to be; each affects the other in fluid ways. This is where the real power in the framework comes in: we can purposefully move the intention of our design to different spaces in order to create new outcomes—to take new perspectives and find new problems and solutions that can create real change.
is common across the spaces is design itself. Perkins defines design as “structure
adapted to a purpose” and each space then represents an area where we can
intentionally create change. Furthermore, there are certain attributes we can
point to as being important for designers to possess, regardless of the flavor
of design they practice. These are attitudes and mindsets, ways in which
designers approach problems, think, and act. These include attributes such as
openness, empathy, creative confidence, optimism, a willingness to learn from
failure, and a willingness to iterate.
also requires working with specific elements and tools, and designers develop
knowledge, practices, and judgment that allow them to be effective. These are
particular to both the design space and discipline. For instance, within the
space of artifact, the kinds of knowledge, tools, practices and judgement
required for designing an app are very different from designing school
furniture. Similarly, designing a process such as a lesson plan is different in
many ways from designing a bell schedule, and so on. Design disciplines have
developed a deep reservoir of disciplinary knowledge and practices that give
them the unique ability to have a strong impact within their design space.
We have identified five categories common across the five spaces for design that frame the assets each discipline brings to design. In each context, the designer (either individually or in a design team) brings contextual knowledge, practices, and judgment to bear on specific elements and tools. For example, in the case of designing the culture of a university, the elements may be having the right people in the right positions, while the tools may be the development of policy documents, as well as procedures for hiring the right people.
As we design in education, it is important to remain
mindful of the rich disciplinary traditions of designers across the five spaces
of design. We can draw upon these traditions, including collaborating with
expert designers, as we design change in education. At the same time, the
five spaces of design framework becomes a conceptual tool to think with—a
way to shift perspective and reframe problems and solutions, enabling new ways
to approach complex problems. It encourages systemic approaches to innovation
There is a lot more to unpack and build on. One place where this is occurring is the website/blog Talking About Design. This website is the collective effort of a group of doctoral students, faculty and staff at the Teachers College. They are (in alphabetical order by last name): Daniel Brasic, Kevin Close, Luis Perez Cortes, Amanda Riske, Ben Scragg, Melissa Warr, and Steven Weiner. You can find out more by going to talkingaboutdesign.com and we hope you can also engage and participate. We are soliciting questions and answers or just comments. Feel free to jump in.
(!) One Word It starts Slow but sure Expanding out numerically, adding more Marching forward, doing the math, not asking why Knowing the ratio of words, in this line and previous, will equal Phi! A number, elegant, emergent, magical; found in sunflowers, shells and patterns musical; stark and alien in its perfection; meaning(ful)less patterns accreting Unrelenting, an unending stream (One point six one eight zero three three nine eight eight seven four nine eight nine four eight four eight two zero four five six); An irrational dream, never repeating!
Note: A poem on the Fibonacci sequence where the number of words in a line are based on the sequence.
A cosmologist worries (about infinity) December 2019
They cannot scare me with their empty spaces Between stars–on stars where no human race is. I have it in me so much nearer home To scare myself with my own desert places. ~ Robert Frost, Desert Places
A cosmologist, surprisingly, Is worried about infinity.
It is on his mind, Clearly, since He comes back to it Often, all evening.
Bollywood music and winter Are in the air, As we hang out, Drinks in hand, Rows of satay on the grill.
Sizzling In his mind.
It is not the empty spaces Or vastness, of it all That bother him. But rather, It is the too-muchness Of the idea. Where every pattern and its variant Can co-exist.
What if, he asks, we live Not in a finite world, bounded and complete But one that goes on Forever Just more and more And unimaginably more Unending multiples Of love and self And regrets and pain Repeated ad infinitum
(I, to appear smart, mention Borges and his fear of mirrors and their power to multiply.)
He comes back to this topic A steady refrain Again and Yes, once again.
There are no themes He worries In this plenitude Just variations And it is this idea I figure, That destroys his mood.
The world is too big Anyway I try to say Flipping the satay Too much to grasp What’s an infinity or more To keep us up at night.
As the chicken sizzles And sudden laughter, From others by the fire, Crowds into our talk, I imagine Worlds beyond worlds The same as ours, Yet Not the same.
One where, this poem Ends, maybe With some deep insight.
Note: Inspired by a conversation with Tanmay Vachaspati. New version posted December 10, 2019
Dr. Vlad Glaveanu, is Head of the Department of Psychology and Counseling at Webster University, Geneva; Associate Professor at Bergen University, and Director of the Webster Center for Creativity and Innovation. He co-edits the book series Palgrave Studies in Creativity and Culture and is editor of Europe’s Journal of Psychology. In 2018, he received the Berlyne Award from the American Psychological Association for outstanding early career contributions to the field of aesthetics, creativity, and the arts.
In this article, we share how he (Dr. Dlaveanu) understands creativity beyond individual creative actors, the importance of wondering as part of the creative process, the possibility of creativity and social transformation in online spaces, and how we can better scaffold students’ use of technology to enable openness. We bridge between Dr. Glaveanu’s established and written scholarship as well as direct quotes drawn from conversation with him, to provide readers with a broad sense of his work and thinking around creativity.
This is the 40th article in the series on Technology, Creativity and Learning in the 21st Century that we have been writing for the journal TechTrends. You can read the entire article by following the link below, or access all the articles in the series here, or just the interviews here.
Here is the latest pdf version of the TPACK Newsletter (#42, November 2019), as curated and shared by Judi Harris and her team. (Previous issues are archived here.)
This issue includes titles, abstract and links to 116 articles, 5 book-chapters, and 34 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 1170 articles: 291 chapters; 28 Books; and 394 dissertations.
Note: Over the past few issues I have tried creating tongue-in-cheek TPACK diagrams, which explains (or maybe not) the image above!
Quick summary: In which I disparage the buzzword “design thinking” even while praising the idea of design; point to the value-neutral nature of design and the need for a more principled approach, and end with a video that seeks to capture a vision of principled innovation embedded into the design process.
I am somewhat uncomfortable with this hype for a range of reasons. The first being that design thinking seems like just another fad that educators have to deal with. And like all fads it will end and nothing would have really changed. Second, and maybe more important, is that it is increasingly clear design thinking does not necessarily leads to good solutions. Examples abound—of companies and organizations that have used design thinking to manipulate and trick users. A lot has been written about dark design or dark patterns. (I addressed some of these issues in this video, and Danah Henriksen and I have a chapter on this very topic, titled: Move slow & nurture things: Human-centered values in a disruptive world). Along these lines, the renowned scholar of design, Richard Buchanan, had this to say:
‘The Holocaust was one of the most tragic, prominent products of design in the 20th century. It was designed thoroughly, but with a horrifying ethical foundation. And the fault lies in the people; Albert Speer and his surrounding henchmen. Design and creativity are neutral tools. But people need to know when and how to use and when not to use them.’ (See Henriksen, Mishra & the Deep–Play group, 2019, p. 26)
Let it be said again. Design and creativity are neutral tools!
And I write all this with a great love and respect for design and the design process. I have always considered myself as being a educator-designer and, more recently, I am proud to have been part of a range of projects that focus on educational innovation through design-based problem solving. As the website of the Office of Scholarship and Innovation (OofSI) says:
We believe the design process is a powerful approach to addressing challenges in education. We collaborate with partners across the education landscape to develop mindsets and cultures that value creativity and intrapreneurship–creating change and taking risks to improve an organization from within.
Our projects vary greatly, depending on need and context. (Click here for a complete list of projects we have been involved in.) One thing we have learned through our work, however, (and consistent with Buchanan’s quote above) is that design is more than just a process. It needs to be driven by an explicit commitment to a deeper set of values and ethical principles. At the heart of our work around educational innovation is the question: We can, but should we?
This has led us (working closely with another team in the college) to ground our design-based approach within a broader context what we call principled innovation. Principled innovation, in this context, is defined as the “ability to imagine new concepts, catalyze ideas, and form new solutions, guided by principles that create positive change for humanity.”
Over the past few months we have been working on developing a framework for design and principled innovation. This work was led, this past summer, by Melissa Warr, who worked with Jennifer Stein and myself to create short videos to explain our approach. Claire Gilbert, our in-house multimedia specialist has been working on creating more professional versions of these videos, the first of which is now available. Enjoy
We often think and understand the world using our bodies. Our senses and movement shape how we form and process knowledge. Paul Reimer, Rohit Mehta and I explore this idea and its educational implications in a new article published in iWonder: Rediscovering School Science a journal for middle school science teachers published by the Azim Premji University. This is the latest article in a series: previous articles can be found here; the latest issue of the journal can be found here; and the link below takes you to a pdf of our article.
Abstract: Embodied design for learning presents several unique challenges to the ways we conceptualize thinking and learning. For science teachers, embodied design highlights the role of physical movement in how our students interact with important scientific ideas and processes. Embodied design presents opportunities for us to rethink our science teaching practices. In many ways, it offers us a pedagogy that recasts learning as a more complete, complex and human activity.
I also created the illustrations that go with the article. The banner image above was one – the others are given below.
We, in the Office of Scholarship and Innovation (OofSI), have never been big fans of the typical interview and hiring process. We are not sure that the process helps us identify the right people, and more importantly, we find the process to be unnecessarily opaque and stressful to the candidates. That said, as people leave organizations and work demands change, there is no choice but to hire new people.
Hiring the right person is particularly important for small-ish teams, like ours, where each person makes a significant difference to the dynamics of the group. The fact that we exist in an environment that is fast-paced, highly collaborative and laden with lots of ambiguity only makes it even more important to get it right.
Over the past year or so we have come up with a process that seems to have worked well for us. It has helped us build a committed, creative, and passionate team of people; consisting of individuals with unique quirks, strengths and weaknesses who work (wonderfully) well together. The process we have come up with, working within ASU’s HR guidelines, seeks to be respectful of the candidates and their time, attempts to minimize interview anxiety, and most importantly tries to provide them a chance to do the best job they can. And of course, in the end, lead us to the best candidate.
Our hiring approach was the subject of a recent audio-case study. We see this case study as as an example of principled innovation, that can be used as a teaching tool for individuals and/or teams who are seeking to instantiate principled innovation in their work. This is why we provide some reflective questions at the end of the case study to prompt reflection and discussion.
The case study, and the contextual information on how to use it is given below.
This past Monday was a special. That evening I was at Manitas School in Kyrene school district for the ribbon-cutting of the new school model we have been working on for the past two years. An important part of the evening was the reveal of the name of the new school – one selected by the students in the school. The video below is how we all got to know:
Let me first start by saying, Ben, we missed you today. Very. (Note: This was one of the first projects Ben Scragg, lead design strategist took on after joining the team. Sadly due to other commitments he could not make the ceremony).
As all of you know, this evening we had the ribbon cutting for the Kyrene school of the future/imagine the possibilities/Spark school… what have you. And I tend to get a bit sentimental at moments like this.
I hope all of you will indulge me for a bit.
I have been involved in education since 1992. I have written many papers in “top notch journals.” I have been cited a lot. I have taught a lot of classes, and directed programs, to pretty decent feedback.
But what happened today was special.
We have today a school, a learning environment, that is pretty different than what we usually see. Approx. 80 children in that environment, learning, playing, and most importantly being themselves. Surrounded by adults who are energized and enthusiastic, seeking to meet these learners where they are, on their terms.
This is not to say that everything is prefect. Or that we have it all figured out. Not at all.
But this much I know. All the journal articles, all the citations do not mean much compared to what I saw today.
And this is something we all should be proud of. Jeanne recently shared a story of a district that attempted something similar – only to heart-breakingly fall apart. So, we know this work is not easy. Which makes today all the more special.
There are lots of people to thank. Personally, Soham & Shreya, who both taught me in so many ways that school was failing them. Danah Henriksen who shared a job posting with me when I was at MSU and encouraged me to apply to ASU. This place is different she said. (Sure, I muttered under my breath…).
To Dean Carole Basile who provided a bold vision and the freedom to play and try new things.
And the team: Jennifer Stein (on that first phone meeting with Kyrene admin, seems like yesterday and yet years ago); Ben Scragg (our first and lead design strategist who crafted our sessions despite all kinds of hurdles); Lisa Wyatt (where would be without her engagement and counsel); Paul Gediman (helping us navigate the rough waters); Elizabeth (for her scheduling skills); Claire (for her mad multimedia skills), Jan Vseley and Laura Toenjes (at Kyrene for their vision and persistence).. and so many more both within MLFTC and outside of it. I know I am missing so many people – people still here at and others who have moved on to other better futures.
I am proud and thrilled to be part of this team. I know we are pivoting here within OofSI, seeking new ways and approaches, facing new challenges. But irrespective of which way things go, I know this, we have made a difference to the lives of a bunch of kids. Provided them a space where they can be themselves—vibrant, enthusiastic learners. Provided teachers and our MLFTC students new pathways.
I am grateful to all of you. This is the high point of my career as an educator. There is lots more to be done. But I want to just thank each and every one of you for being partners in this journey together. And I look forward to more amazing things to achieve.
I was cleaning out my drafts folder and came across this poem. I liked it. A lot. It has my sensibility. My sense of whimsy.
But I DO NOT remember writing it. Nor do I remember finding it somewhere and copying it into an email. There is no author attributed – which makes me think that maybe I did write it. But I really have no memory of doing so. Google searches haven’t helped. So I am posting it here. If you know the source or author please drop me a comment below. I really do want to know. But for now, here it is: Perfect Vacuum.
What do we mean When we say, that Emptiness has achieved Perfection?
That it has reached The pristine peak Of nothingness?
They say that a perfect vacuum is impossible to achieve
I disagree Achieving nothing Is easy, though I must add
It sucks. (Literally).
Note: Incidentally Perfect Vacuum: Perfect reviews of non-existent books is the title of one of my favorite books by Stanislaw Lem. More about the book here. The first chapter is a review of the book itself :-)
Students in my EDT180 class spent some time yesterday writing short stories. Super short stories, trying to tell a complete story in just 55 words! As it turns this (55 Fiction) is actually a thing – as a simple google search will reveal.
Seeing my students engage in this task reminded me that I had, a bunch of years ago, written a few such stories myself. But finding them wasn’t easy. Files and documents have fallen through the cracks as I switched jobs and computers over the years. It took a while, but I managed to dig them out. Enjoy.
Creation In the beginning was nothingness. And then there was light. Designing a world, seeking order from chaos. Form and meaning intertwined. Traveling from alpha to omega. At the end, he looked at what he had brought about, (in exactly in 55 words, no more no less) and he was pleased. And then he rested.
Note: A self-referential piece on the act of writing 55 fiction.
Declaration of Independence They argued late into the night, as they often did. Seemingly pointless ruminations on the meaning of life. What was the point of it all? At daybreak, suddenly someone wrote down the magic words. They were silent because they knew this was it. In hushed voices they read: “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Note: A fictionalized account of the drafting of the declaration of Independence.
A Twist in Time The end: He lived happily ever after. The middle: Pain. A metallic taste. And always, the screaming in the head. The beginning: “Are these the books you give your students?” The judge asked, his voice shaking with anger. The verdict, guilty of subverting children’s minds, was no surprise. Neither was the punishment: Permanent cognitive reformatting.
Note: An upside-down narrative, in which the story starts with the ending; moves through the middle and ends with the beginning.
Anyone who works in the area of social design knows how important it is to develop a systems-oriented mindset and how difficult it is to do so. One one hand, we know that sustained change is possible only when we work at the level of systems not individuals and one-off projects. One the other hand, systems thinking is complex, and often difficult to grasp and explain. This is a challenge we face on a regular basis at the Teachers College and the Office of Scholarship and Innovation (OofSI) as we seek to instantiate principled innovation in educational contexts.
So I am always on the lookout for good accessible examples that can help me and others understand the value of systems thinking. I recently came across two examples that do the job really well.
The first one is a blog post by Aaron Swartz published back in 2012, titled: Fix the machine not the person.In this post Aaron describes an unique experiment where GM and Toyota collaborated on rejuvenating a failing car factory in Fremont. What is amazing about this story is not just what changed (a factory went from being a disaster to being a success) but what did not. What did not change were the people who were working at the factory. This is a must read story that speaks to how a change in systems and values can transform how people connect and work together.
Aaron bases his post on an This American Life episode (here) but also adds to it by speaking to an important psychological idea, a blind-spot that we all suffer from, what is known as the Fundamental Attribution Error. The Fundamental Attribution Error posits that, we, humans, attribute other people’s errors or mistakes to their personality, not their situation. Of course in our own case, any errors we make are attributed to contextual factors not our inherent personality. Here are some key paragraphs from his post
Our natural reaction when someone screws up is to get mad at them. This is what happened at the old GM plant: workers would make a mistake and management would yell and scream. If asked to explain the yelling, they’d probably say that since people don’t like getting yelled at, it’d teach them be more careful next time.
But this explanation doesn’t really add up. Do you think the workers liked screwing up? Do you think they enjoyed making crappy cars? Well, we don’t have to speculate: we know the very same workers, when given the chance to do good work, took pride in it and started actually enjoying their jobs….What worked wasn’t yelling, but changing the system around you so that it was easier to do what you already wanted to do.
The second blog post is more recent and by one of the most influential scholars about the new world of the Internet and social media: Zeynep Tufekci, associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Information and Library Science. In a post dated May 2019, Tufekci connects TV shows like Game of Thrones and The Wire with the fundamental attribution error (without naming it directly), the importance of thinking sociologically to how we should be thinking about modern technology and its discontents.
The post is titled: The Real Reason Fans Hate the Last Season of Game of Thrones and the subtitle “It’s not just bad storytelling—it’s because the storytelling style changed from sociological to psychological” alludes to the argument she is making. But don’t take my word for it, the post is worth reading in its entirety. Here are some key quotes, but again, read the entire post for yourself:
When someone wrongs us, we tend to think they are evil, misguided or selfish: a personalized explanation. But when we misbehave, we are better at recognizing the external pressures on us that shape our actions: a situational understanding. If you snap at a coworker, for example, you may rationalize your behavior by remembering that you had difficulty sleeping last night and had financial struggles this month. You’re not evil, just stressed! The coworker who snaps at you, however, is more likely to be interpreted as a jerk, without going through the same kind of rationalization. This is convenient for our peace of mind, and fits with our domain of knowledge, too. We know what pressures us, but not necessarily others.
That tension between internal stories and desires, psychology and external pressures, institutions, norms and events was exactly what Game of Thrones showed us for many of its characters, creating rich tapestries of psychology but also behavior that was neither saintly nor fully evil at any one point. It was something more than that: you could understand why even the characters undertaking evil acts were doing what they did, how their good intentions got subverted, and how incentives structured behavior. The complexity made it much richer than a simplistic morality tale…
Another example of sociological TV drama with a similarly enthusiastic fan following is David Simon’s The Wire, which followed the trajectory of a variety of actors in Baltimore, ranging from African-Americans in the impoverished and neglected inner city trying to survive, to police officers to journalists to unionized dock workers to city officials and teachers… Interestingly, the star of each season was an institution more than a person. The second season, for example, focused on the demise of the unionized working class in the U.S.; the fourth highlighted schools; and the final season focused on the role of journalism and mass media.
In my own area of research and writing, the impact of digital technology and machine intelligence on society, I encounter this obstacle all the time. There are a significant number of stories, books, narratives and journalistic accounts that focus on the personalities of key players such as Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Jack Dorsey and Jeff Bezos. Of course, their personalities matter, but only in the context of business models, technological advances, the political environment, (lack of) meaningful regulation, the existing economic and political forces that fuel wealth inequality and lack of accountability for powerful actors, geopolitical dynamics, societal characteristics and more.
These two posts brought home to me just how complex these issues but yet, how taking a systems approach allows us to not just ask the right questions but also to come up with nuanced and thoughtful answers to the challenges we face as educators. That as educational designers we need to take a systems view, not focusing as much on the individuals within the system as being good or bad actors, but rather at the way the system is designed (the contexts and influences, the culture and incentives) that more than anything else determine the outcomes.
This fall, nearly 100 third and fourth grade students in the Kyrene School District in Phoenix, Arizona, will experience the start of a school year different from any other. They will be the first student body of a new program that combines their two grade levels in an innovative learning space at Kyrene de las Manitas Elementary School.
Mary will be one of the key leaders in this new reimagined classroom. Her interview is worth reading just for the sheer breadth of thought and innovation that is being brought into the lives of the students in this new learning space. Learning in this new school, she says, will still be content and standards-aligned but with driving questions that the students will explore through a range of projects. And most importantly, she says, the students…
… have to come up with the questions, then seek out the answers. That’s something we miss sometimes in traditional curriculum design. We ask questions that have one answer. But these kids will be coming up with questions that might have different answers, finding different solutions and critiquing them.
It is invigorating to see the work put in by our team, the team from Kyrene and countless others come to fruition. There is still a lot we have to do and a lot that we will learn through this process but I could not be more excited, and proud.
Take a moment to read both the stories (link 1 & 2), check out the project page on our website or play the School Design Game that was inspired by our work in Kyrene.
A few weeks ago I started doodling words in 3 dimensions, for no particular reason, and before I knew it I had a bunch of interesting designs. Here is a sample:
A bit of goofing around with Keynote and some royalty free music from Kevin McLeod, and I had a little video to share. Enjoy.
These designs are sketched first by hand on paper (usually during meetings) and then traced / de-designed on my iPad using the Adobe Creative Suite Illustrator App. What I didn’t realized at first is that the app lets you create a movie as well, tracking your moves as you sketch. Here are a few that I saved.
I just got back from a trip to Israel. I was invited by the MEITAL 2019 conference and the Kibbutzim College of Education, Technology and the Arts. MEITAL is an organization of higher education institutions in Israel focusing on understanding and responding to local and global trends shaping the future of education. The conference was held in Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv on the 9th of July.
I bookended the conference giving the starting keynote, and then participating in a panel at the end of the day. My keynote was titled Beyond TPACK: Designing Technology and Education—From Artifacts to Culture. This is how it was described in the program.
It often seems as if the decades of research, development and investment in educational technology have very limited effect in actual classrooms. A promising and prominent strand of research focuses on technology integration and teacher education. Within this strand, the well-known TPACK framework describes the type of knowledge teachers need to design effective uses of technologies. However, despite its prevalence, TPACK has not led to wide-spread change in educational technology use. In this talk, I argue this is because we have not paid enough attention to how educational technology works at the level of systems and culture. In this context, I present a new framework, the Five Discourses of Design, that can help us learn from the past and possibly carve a new path for the future. I conclude with examples of how the framework is being applied in the work we are doing at the Teachers College and with suggestions for future research and practice.
The next day I led a workshop with approximately 60 faculty participants, from the Kibbutzim College and other universities, around the topic of Re-Designing Education (description below).
Educational organizations are complex social systems with multiple stakeholders involved in defining their goals, functions and processes. These systems face challenges that are fraught with ambiguity and complexity and vary based on their specific contexts. We use an intentional, collaborative, open-ended design process that starts with learning deeply about what matters to stakeholders. This new form of professional learning for educators and leaders is an iterative process that gives control of change and innovation to those closest to the challenges. We value action guided by empathy, diverse perspectives and experimentation. This workshop will introduce participants to the design approach of the Office of Scholarship and Innovation, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. We will then break into teams and conduct a series of rapid design thinking exercises, which will help us identify and articulate key challenges that we face in our institutions. These will be followed by brainstorming exercises aimed at generating initial ideas for possible solutions to these challenges. We will conclude with a reflective discussion on the process and its outcomes.
After the workshop I had an opportunity to visit the Empathy Museum at the College and speak with professor Vered Ginzberg, who had come up with the idea. Among other things, I was introduced to Aravrit, a special font designed by Liron Lavi Turkenich. Aravrit combines Arabic and Hebrew into script that is legible in both languages! (See images and video below). I also had a chance to meet with the faculty and leadership at the Kibbutzim College in a wide-ranging discussion about the challenges facing teacher education in particular and higher education broadly, at this time.
I need to thank a lot of people who made this trip extra special. There are too many names to include but a special shout out to Dr. Miri Shonfeld (and her husband Yoshi), Eli Shmueli (conference organizer) and Dr. Yishay Mor.
Finally, a video of my keynote – synced to the audio of what I said. Apologies in advance for the audio quality.
This sentence refers to itself. This sentence declares that this blog post is about 2 poems I wrote recently. Both these poems are self-referential to some degree, namely both poems are about poetry. I have been interested in self-reference for along time—and this infatuation is described in greater detail at the end of this post. For now, enjoy the poems.
The first poem is a response to the poem Famous by Naomi Shihab Nye. You may want to read the original before reading my response. Go ahead, click the link above…. [Pause]… Welcome back. Hope you liked the poem. Something clicked in my mind after reading it – and in response I wrote this:
On reading Naomi Shihab Nye
June 10, 2019
Some poets I want to meet Naomi Shihab Nye, most definitely She is famous to me Others, maybe not so much
Their words are stern, less inviting Their minds, for some reason Less interesting
But the ones I want to meet They, they are special And I want to hear them smile
I have nothing to say to them As Naomi wrote They are famous to me (I am not famous to them)
I have known poets (My mother, for instance) Decent but average people So it is not like I am expecting Any great wisdom or insight
I just like their words The jumps, the connections And I feel like we could be (could have been) Friends
As I click the link And stare obsessively at The photo on the website Read between the lines of your bio Books written awards won Photos are terrible So are bios
They tell us nothing Similar to poetry in that way.
Some days I miss my mother
Here is the next meta-poem. I have been reading a decent amount of poetry recently, mostly courtesy of poetryfoundation.org. This poem has gone through quite a few revisions—and I am sure it will evolve further. But for now here it is.
Poetry does not need
June 18, 2019
Poetry does not need to Make a point It just needs to try (And fail) That’s all No more.
Polemics and posturing Feel good, for sure Momentarily Maybe To scratch an itch But life’s a bitch, Doing nothing for the ills It seeks to cure.
Better by far, for the poem To just point to something The warm winter sun A baby laughing Graffiti peeling off a wall And yes, that smile, yes that one.
All relatively Meaningless, And yet, (I must confess), Meaning so much more.
Note I: These poems were edited on July 15, 2019
Note II: On my infatuation with self-reference If this is not obvious by now, I love self-reference. I love books with titles like: “What is the name of this book?” or “Break all the rules of graphic design, including this one.” Or statements such as “This sentence no verb.” The last example is from Douglas Hofstadter’s classic Godel Escher Bach: A Eternal Golden Braid. And mentioning Douglas Hofstadter in this post is appropriate because, he, more than anyone else, infected me with the bug of self-reference way back when I was in high-school. He is also responsible for my love of paradoxes, visual wordplay and so much more. [Not to digress, but paradoxes often come along for the ride when we are speaking of self-reference. For instance, just consider the sentence: “This sentence is false” and try figuring out what exactly is going on here. Enough to bend your mind.]
Now, not all self-reference is pathological, by which I mean that most self-referential statements are benign, harmless. Consider “This sentence is in English.” Clearly the sentence is speaking about itself, but there is no inherent problem in that.
This interest in self-reference has, over the years, expressed itself in myriad ways—in my ambigram designs, in silly limericks I have written, many of the stupid jokes I crack (as my friends and colleagues know very well). I mean what could be more self-referential than an ambigram for the word “ambigram.” Form and function deeply connected.
One of the ways self-reference shows up in my work is when I write poetry and this goes back years, as this blog post demonstrates, and of course in the two poems featured in this post.
Is music a craft Or is it an art? Does it come from mere training or spring form the heart? Did the études of Chopin reveal his soul’s mood? Or was Frédéric Chopin Just some slick “pattern dude”? ~ Douglas Hofstadter
Ed Finn is the founding director of the Center for Science and the Imagination even while holding an Associate Professorship in the Department of English and the School of Arts, Media, and Engineering at Arizona State University. He considers himself, first and foremost, a writer, but also said that increasingly…
In the past few years, I’ve found myself becoming more and more of a builder, a maker, a ringmaster, an experimenter. [And even] a provocateur…I really enjoy that role…[but] authorship gives me too much credit…it’s a different kind of creativity in expressing these ideas, and trying to do that in a really collaborative, co-creative way with other people.
Our discussion with Dr. Finn explored the intersections between creativity, education, and science and technology from a perspective that sees imagination as central to creativity as well as being the key to envisioning possible futures which can allow us to consider the pressing issues of today. In fact, argues that creativity and the imagination are essential for our survival in near future. Additionally, he argues:
… how this conversation plays out in education is hugely important because we’re not preparing young people today to survive the coming century and to deal with the kinds of change and complexity that they’re going to be facing. We need to think about creativity and imagination not as academic topics or even just as methods but really as fundamental life skills. And almost as a human right: a deeply important part of individual and collective empowerment and personhood.
Read the entire article by following the link below, or access all the articles in the series here, or just the interviews here.
Note: As a little personal challenge to myself, I have been creating unique banner images for my blog posts, attempting to capture some of the key ideas in the post visually. For instance, the image at the top of this post – created from a photo I took during a recent trip to New York. Usually I create a few images before selecting one as the image to post. It was no different with this blog post – except that I kind of like some of the other ones I created and hated to just delete them. So for the record here are three other images I created for this blog post.
I was recently invited to conduct a workshop for the Celebration of Teaching Conference at the University of Missouri around Creativity in Teaching and Learning. This was my first time at Columbia, MO and the conference organizers were wonderful. I did two versions of my workshop: a 3-hour extended session and a shorter 50-minute version. I think we had around 60 people in the first one and around 20+ for the second one. I thought both sessions went really well—we covered quite a bit of ground (both conceptual and pragmatic) though the 50 minute session was a bit too short and I know I could have planned that better.
Jerod Quinn (@jquinnID on twitter), an instructional designer created these wonderful visual-notes from my first session that he subsequently tweeted out.
I am always impressed by people who can do something like this on the fly. It is an amazing talent, particularly around apportioning space and making connections between the ideas. Many thanks to Jerod for these notes and sharing them with me.
Here are a few other photographs from my visit.
Finally, here are a couple of haiku’s created by the participants, seeking to capture some of the ideas discussed. (Sadly, the best and funniest of the poems was not shared with me… but that is a relatively embarrassing story, personally speaking, for another day.
Teach me deja vu Flip it, create something NEW Teach me veja du
Making the old new Novel, effective and whole Familiar and strange
Here is the latest pdf version of the TPACK Newsletter (#41, May 2019), as curated and shared by Judi Harris and her team. (Previous issues are archived here.)
This issue includes 59 articles, 4 book chapters, and 20 dissertations that have not appeared in past issues bringing the grand total of TPACK related publications that have appeared in the newsletter to 1704 (which breaks up as follows: 1054 articles; 286 chapters; 28 books; and 336 dissertations).
Note: Over the past few issues I have tried creating tongue-in-cheek TPACK venn diagrams. This one is for Judi Harris, without whose tenacity and hard-work this newsletter would neither have seen the light of day nor would it be going so strong so many years later. The entire ed-tech community owes her a huge debt of gratitude.
Dr. Tatiana Chemi is assistant professor and researcher at Aalborg University, Denmark. She has a background in theater that gives her an unique perspective on creativity, the creative processes and the contexts that allow creativity to flower. In her research she works with a theater company / laboratory to identify creativity processes and ideas that are relevant to teaching and learning at all levels of education.
One of the important issues that Dr. Chemi discusses in the interview has to do with how creativity goes well beyond the purely cognitive, or the mental processes of ideation that are so often a focus of research and pop-culture discussions, into the more pragmatic side of craft and work. Her research shows that artists focus less on the types of ideational creativity that most non-artists commonly think of as an essential component of creativity, and instead point to a more grounded approach to hard work. For instance she and her colleagues were were surprised that not one of the artists they studied mentioned idea generation. As she says:
Not one of them mentioned what we laypersons in education and organizations are most focused on, spend much energy on, and actually think is what creativity is all about.
She continues that for artists:
Creativity is about work. It’s about getting to work and persisting and failing and getting up. And you need to know yourself. You need to know which processes are helping or stifling your creativity. Creative people persist. They know what works and doesn’t work and try to minimize what doesn’t work and implement what works. They sustain through difficulty and they take pleasure in frustrating long processes. They take pleasure in it and they stay there when it’s hard. Where us laypeople would just drop it. Especially artists because they work with and against medium and material, something they have to shape and form. They know that you have to do it again and again.
All these insights and a lot more in the article below – which is based on an interview with Dr. Chemi. This article is part of a series on Technology, Creativity and 21st century learning published in the journal TechTrends. You can find all the previous articles here and just the interviews here.
5/12/19 (Revised 5/13/19) (Inspired partly by conversations with Danah Henriksen around a paper we are writing on the dark side of creativity and this image. I should add this image may be painful viewing to some so please click with caution.)
The journey of design is complicated, filled with conundrums —some expected, others not so much. There are many possible strategies to address them as we iterate our way to the finish line. The School Design Game seeks to explore some of these complexities in a risk-free, collaborative, conversation-driven manner.
Led by Ben Scragg, and contributions by the entire design initiatives team, The School Design Game is loosely inspired by the original Oregon Trail and related work done by Angela Gunder and colleagues. Essentially the game maps the design journey from start to finish, with setbacks and conundrums thrown at the roll of a die. The key aspect of game play is that players discuss from among a range of design strategies (or come up with their own) to address these challenges.
We contextualized the game within the broader context of the Kyrene new school model project which allowed participants to not just learn about our partnership with Kyrene but provided them with an opportunity to experience, in a fun, risk-free manner, the complexities of the design process. Embedded above are the slides we created to present our ideas to the participants.
Our session, led by Ben Scragg, Laura Toenjes (from Kyrene School District) and myself, (with Jennifer Stein, Lisa Wyatt and Christina Ngo helping out in multiple ways) was a huge success. It is rare that in an academic conference you find people cheering and high-fiving each other as they engage in a genuine discussion of the conundrums and dilemmas they face as they engage in design. Below are some photographs from the session (please note the youngest designer in the group in the very first photo).
Many people reached out to us after our session seeking to learn more about the game, and how they could apply it to the work they were doing. We also received feedback on how to improve the game—and we shall be doing just that in the days and weeks ahead. That said, in keeping with the open-source spirit of all that we do, please find below all the relevant files required to play version 1.0 of TheSchool Design Game.
Here is a link to a zip archive of all the files needed to play the game. Included in the archive are the following documents:
Powerpoint slides that can be used to introduce the game to an audience
Instructions on how to play the game: 2 pages (that can be printed front and back)
PDF files of the three kinds of cards required for the game: Design Journey, Conundrum and Strategy cards. These will need to be printed on white, yellow and pink paper, respectively and cut into individual cards.
Get yourself a six-sided die and you are ready to roll. Enjoy.
A note of gratitude: The creation of this game was truly a collaborative effort by the entire design initiatives team. Lots of thanks to go around – and I am copying from an email that Ben sent out (with some minor edits) that captures all the different people who helped shape this game. In brief, thanks are due to:
Ben, for coming up with the idea of a game and creating a detailed first draft. None of this would have been possible without this crucial first step.
Christina, for editing the game cards’ content and thinking of fun and creative ways to play.
Cassandra, for the hero’s effort to print, cut and arrange multiple sets of game cards – such a huge effort!
Jennifer, for all of the support thinking through the way the game and the slide deck work together, and the planning.
Lisa, for playing the game and offering insights to make it better – and for the great encouragement/compliments along the way.
Jake, for editing the presentation and getting us ready to go.
Claire and Emili, for playing the game, copy-editing, offering feedback and helping us get ready along the way.
Punya, for reworking the instructions and presentation and making creative edits.
Back in September I wrote a long-ish blog post about something that had bothered me for years and years about the canonical TPACK diagram. It had to do with how contextual knowledge was represented in the diagram, or rather how it was not represented in the diagram.
As it happens, the editors of the Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, believed that it would be good to present these ideas in the form of a guest editorial and I was more than happy to take them up on that offer—just found out today that it had been published.
I would like to point out that editorials in JDLTE have played a significant role in the development of the TPACK framework. Back in 2007 Ann Thompson and I published a similar editorial announcing how what Matt and I had initially called TPCK would now be known as TPACK. One could argue that this name change – making the acronym actually pronounceable went a long way in making TPACK popular. (Note: JDLTE was known as Journal of Computing in Teacher Education back then.) Complete reference, link to pdf of article, and new image provided below.
NOTE (April 17, 2019): You are free to use the updated version of the TPACK diagram in your work under the following stipulations. First, you or the publisher do not make any claims to copyright over the image. Second, you use the language below to label / cite the image.
The difference between theory and practice is, in theory, somewhat smaller than in practice — Frank Westphal
Knowledge is not simply another commodity. On the contrary. Knowledge is never used up. It increases by diffusion and grows by dispersion— Daniel J. Boorstin
The recently published Wiley Handbook of Action Research in Education has a chapter by Danah Henriksen and I. We were invited by our friend and colleague, Craig Mertler, to write a chapter on dissemination of action research. As Craig writes in the introduction:
The scope and focus of the Wiley Handbook of Action Research in Education includes theoretical, conceptual, and applied/practical presentations of action research as it is found and conducted solely in educational settings. Coverage and discussion have not been limited to a US perspective, but also include a cross?section of authors and presentations representing global perspectives on action research in education. In fact, the Handbook is comprised of 27 chapters, written by 34 authors, who represent seven countries and five continents from around the world.
I am thrilled to have a chapter in this handbook, particularly since action research is not an area of expertise for me. That said, Danah and I had a lot of fun writing this chapter, as we tried to bring together everything from Aristotle’s rhetorics; to Schon’s criticism of technical rationality; from Roger’s diffusion of innovation framework to current ideas about Knowledge Mobilization to provide a framework for the distribution of the findings of action research. We make the case for a range of avenues: from the traditional journal article to newer, more non-traditional avenues such as social media, and everything in between. We end the chapter as follows:
Action research has the power to make changes that allow for powerful improvements felt at the local level, and across these local contexts, there is great collective power. But this power becomes multiplicative when researchers find ways to disseminate the work and share it out for even broader impact, so that other practitioners and scholars can benefit and feel the effects too. Strategy, rhetoric, KMb, and, of course, high? quality action research processes are all part of this – bringing the world of local scholarship to meet the larger world of research and practice.
Complete citation of our article is given below:
Henriksen, D., & Mishra, P. (2019). Innovations in the Dissemination of Action Research: Rhetoric, Media, and Communication. In The Wiley Handbook of Action Research in Education. Wiley Blackwell. p. 393-414.
Rohit Mehta (shy artist, polite scientist & stealthy educator) and I just published a review of the book Mobile Learning: Perspectives on Practice and Policy edited by Danielle Herro, Sousan Arafeh, Richard Ling, and Chris Holden. You can read the review, published in TCRecord, here. As we write, in this book the editors “have garnered perspectives from a range of academics and practicing educators, addressing issues of access, professional development, digital citizenship, corporate involvement in education, and mobility.”
We end the review by pointing to some issues that the book does not cover. While this may appear unfair to the authors and editors (Why didn’t you write the book WE wanted you to write, rather than the one you did?) Rohit and I believe that the chapters in the book, though scholarly and thoughtful, miss the bigger picture when it comes to the role of mobile devices specifically in learning and, more importantly, in our lives. We see this gap as being symptomatic not just of research on mobile learning but rather of the broader field of educational technology—namely a narrow focus on learning within specific classroom or school situations, while ignoring the broader social and technological contexts within which these technologies function. You will need to read the complete review to get the point, but here is how we end the review:
The educational technology research field has often been overly focused on evaluating “learning outcomes” (however they may be defined) in specific, often narrowly defined contexts, often driven by a somewhat rose-tinted, optimistic worldview of the positive impact of technology. We as scholars, researchers, and educators need to go beyond providing mere rhetorical caution but rather be at the center of the debate, whether the discussion be specifically on the role of mobile learning or broadly about educational technology. As Stephen Jay Gould wrote, while describing the complicated history of scientific representation, “We are most revealed in what we do not scrutinize.”
Note: Once again, you can find a link to the complete review (on the TCRecord site) here and PDF here. I spoke of some of these issues in a keynote I gave recently in Sydney, which in turn became a shorter video (and hence the one to watch) titled Technology & Education: A Provocation.
Here is the Special Spring 2019 Conference Issue of the TPACK Newsletter (#40, March 2019), as curated and shared by Judi Harris and her team. (Previous issues are archived here.)
This special issue include all the TPACK-related papers/sessions that will be presented at the SITE conference in March in Las Vegas; at the AERA annual meeting in April in Toronto; and at the ISTE conference in June in Philadelphia—a total of 35 TPACK-focused conference sessions in just 3 months! Judi and her team have taken the trouble of just including those presentations that “use TPCK/TPACK extensively as either a theoretical framework and/or a focus for investigation throughout the cited conference papers/presentations.”
I remember the first time I saw David Zola teach. He was on stage in front of 200+ undergraduate students with a plastic cup of wine in his hand. The wine had been poured for him by a teaching assistant from a bottle hidden in a brown paper bag and David’s task was to figure out the provenance of the contents of the bottle. He sniffed and swilled and sipped, all the while talking us through the process and more importantly how he had acquired this skill. In short he talked to us about learning, and that learning was more than what happened in schools and classrooms, and through that subtly hinting at all that was lost when we speak of learning as just occurring schools and classrooms. I remember being impressed by how well he did (I think he got the year and country but not the exact vineyard) but, most importantly, what has stayed with me was his willingness to taking this risk to make a broader point about learning and education.
And, of course, how can anyone forget the time when he came dressed to class as Jean Piaget, with a fake beard and pipe, talking to the students about “his” discoveries about the stages of cognitive development.
David Zola cared about teaching. That much was clear. He also cared about each and every person he interacted with—whether a colleague or student. He always had a twinkle in his eye and an infectious smile.
But as a teaching assistant, what I remember most was the trust he placed in each of us. We were given incredible freedom to teach our sections the way we saw fit, to craft the curriculum in ways that made sense to us. This was scary to me—a fresh-off-the-boat graduate student teaching 25+ undergraduate students for the first time. But it wasn’t like he just let us be, to lead these discussion sections all by ourselves. There was a whole support network of senior TA’s and regularly scheduled meetings of the whole team to just see how things were going, to address questions we may have, and problems we may be facing. I remember discussions about individual students and figuring out, collectively, the best way to respond to any issues they may be facing.
And then there was the process of constructing the mid-term and final examination questions. Not for him the easy way out—of falling back on questions crafted in the years past. That was not his style. The questions were created anew every semester, crafted by the current teaching assistants, shared with the team, and then collaboratively edited till they were the best questions they could be.
I didn’t realize it then but I know it now, he was not just teaching 200+ undergraduate students but us, the teaching assistants, as well. He was teaching us, indirectly, to become better teachers and educators; to take this profoundly important responsibility we had been given seriously.
David has been an incredible influence on me—as a teacher and educator. He showed me that even in an environment that often does not value teaching, a culture that focuses on publications and grants, it was possible to be a good teacher. It was possible to care for every student, even in large, supposedly impersonal, lecture classes. His actions and words conveyed just how precious these moments we have with our students are. He demonstrated, in multiple ways, that there is nothing, nothing, that is off bounds to get our students to connect with the ideas and concepts they need to learn. He taught me to be a good teacher and a good teacher-leader. He taught me, that however talented we may be, however hard we may try, we are better collectively than we can ever be individually. These are lessons that I have internalized and are a core part of my identity as a teacher and educator. And for that I will be eternally grateful.
David passed away a over six months ago, something I learned just a few days back.
He will be missed. But his legacy lives on—in me and in each of the students whose lives he touched, in his inimitable way.