Common sense in the science classroom: New article (& illustrations)

When the collision of train and car is discussed in the context of Newton’s third law, students usually imagine the scenario based on their experiences. Credits: Image by Akshayapatra Foundation on Pixabay (URL:; License: CC0). Illustration and design by Punya Mishra. License CC-BY-NC.

Students can sometimes perceive scientific ideas to be in conflict with their common sense. How do we approach such conflicts in the classroom? Do we see these commonsense ideas as being wrong or, at best, misconceived? Alternatively, do we see them as resources and assets essential for the development of true understanding?

In this article KK Mashood and I explore what these questions mean for the science classroom. Essentially we argue that

  • Children develop a ‘commonsense’ understanding of the world based on their everyday experiences. Sometimes this understanding appears to be in conflict with formal concepts taught in the science classroom.
  • Students’ ideas need not be treated as right or wrong, or as impediments to learning. They can be viewed as resources important to develop a more refined understanding of scientific concepts.
  • Breaking down scientific principles to acknowledge commonsense notions and then connecting them to formal definitions could help bridge the gap between students’ ideas and scientific concepts.
  • Giving voice to students’ ideas and bringing the ‘human’ element in a science classroom could help students identify science as a human activity, and recognize their own role in the process of knowledge construction in science.

This is the latest article in a series that I have been writing (with a range of co-authors) for iWonder: Rediscovering School Science a journal for middle school science teachers published by the Azim Premji University. You can find all the articles in the series here; the complete issue in which this article appears here; and the link below takes you to a pdf of our article.

Mashood, KK, & Mishra, P. (2021). Common sense in the science classroom. iWonder, pp. 63-67.

One of the pleasures of writing these articles is that I get to do the illustrations for them. The image above is one – the other two are given below.

This was the title image for the article. Image credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay (free for commercial use). URL: abstract-5562064/. Wordcloud created on Illustration and design by Punya Mishra. License: CC-BY-NC.

Children understand and perceive the world around them intuitively, imaginatively, and socially — developing a commonsense understanding of the world. Credits: The image to the left is by Ramesh Lanwani, through Wikimedia Commons (URL:; License: CC-BY). The image to the right is by foxypar4c, through Wikimedia Commons (URL:,_Uttar_Pradesh,_India.jpg; License: CC-BY). Illustration and design by Punya Mishra. License CC-BY-NC.

Creativity, risk-taking & failure in education

Photo Unsplash, design PunyaMishra

Failure and risk-taking are essential to the creative process. It is rare that good original, creative work or ideas come together in the first try. Thus, an important component of engaging in creative practice is both an acceptance of potential failure as well as a willingness to persist despite these setbacks.

Failure, however, is anathema in our current educational context. It is often incompatible with the existing educational climate which emphasizes caution, standardization and an emphasis on measurable outcomes. This leads to a risk-averse culture, both within classrooms and across the broader educational system.

This is certainly a problem if we are to prepare students for an uncertain future, that will be defined by global, technological crises and opportunities. Preparing ourselves and the next generation for this future requires both the integration of creativity in educational practice as well as the inculcation of creative mindsets in learners.

A possible new and emergent space to think about failure in learning involves digital learning environments. We contend that it is critical to allow teachers and students space to experience creative risk taking and productive failure and that digital technologies can play an important role in enacting creativity, risk, and failure in the messy spaces of classroom implementation.

That said, there is a dearth of examples, techniques, frameworks as to how we can see failure as being productive in technology-infused educational contexts.

I recently had an opportunity to help edit (with my colleagues Danah Henriksen, Ed Creely and Michael Henderson) a special section of the journal TechTrends devoted to creative risk and failure through technology in education. This was an opportunity to expand this important conversation, by providing examples, theoretical frameworks and ideas for future research in this area.

The special issue includes 7 articles reflecting a variety of research paradigms, conceptual frameworks and methods related to these inter-twined constructs. We (the editors) also wrote an introduction for the special section (see below).

Henriksen, D., Mishra, P., Creely, E., & Henderson, M. (2021). The role of creative risk taking and productive failure in education and technology futures. TechTrends.

The other articles in the section include:

  • My favorite failure: Using digital technology to facilitate creative learning and reconceptualize failure by Ronald A. Beghetto
  • When failure is an option: A scoping review of failure states in game-based learning by F. Eamonn Powers & Robert Moore
  • A research-practice partnership about K12 technology integration: Technology as a catalyst for teacher learning through failure and creative risk-taking by Cassandra Scharber, Lana Peterson, John Alberts
  • K12 Practitioners’ Perceptions of Learning from Failure, Creativity, and Systems Thinking: a Collective Case Study by T. Logan Arrington, Alison L. Moore, Lauren M. Bagdy
  • Leveraging Failure-Based Learning to Support Decision-Making and Creative Risk in Instructional Design Pedagogy by Jill Stefaniak
  • Exploring Ambiguity Tolerance during the Adoption of Maker-Centered Learning Tools and Strategies by Shaunna Smith, Shelly Rodriguez
  • Breaking Free: The Role of Psychological Safety and Productive Failure in Creative Pathmaking by Michael S. Mills, Jessica Herring Watson


Value Laden: A new podcast about ethical leadership

What is the role of values and principles in educational leadership? What can we learn from inspirational educational leaders? How did they develop their moral/ethical compass, and more importantly, how do they bring these perspectives to the work that they do?

These are important questions that we often don’t have the opportunity to truly dig into. In fact, I would argue that educators have often shied away from these conversations particularly in the public sphere. In some ways we have ceded ground to the loudest voices in the room. It is as if in the Yeats poem, “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

It is time that we brought our thoughts and expertise to these important questions – because the work we do is inherently value laden. Value laden in that what we do as educators has intrinsic value. But also value laden in that there is a strong ethical and moral dimension to education—something that we cannot, should not ignore.

These questions and concerns led me to start a new podcast, called (not surprisingly): Value Laden. In this podcast I speak with amazing educational leaders to both get their personal stories, their lived experiences that led them to where they are today, and how it plays out in their professional lives.

I would love for this podcast to be the start of a broader discussion about these important issues. I enjoyed these conversations immensely, and also learned a lot, and I hope you will too. You can subscribe to the podcast where ever you get your podcasts. Enjoy.

STEM Futures at AAAS

ASU recently hosted, what is known as, the world’s largest scientific gathering, the annual conference of the American Association of the Advancement of Science. As as part of this conference I was invited, along with Ariel Anbar and Trina Davis, to talk about our recently concluded STEM-futures project (more about that on this blog and on the website). The conversation was moderated by Larry Ragan, who had also been involved in the design of this project (and had also, masterfully, moderated the webinars that had preceded the STEM-futures design sessions).

It was fun to revisit this project with Ariel, Trina and Larry. Below is a video of that session—The future of STEM education: A conversation.

Youth participatory creativity in digital spaces: An interview with Ioana Literat

Ioana Literat is Assistant Professor in the Communication, Media, and Learning Technologies Design program at Teachers College, Columbia University, and the Associate Director of the Media & Social Change Lab (MASCLab). Her research focuses on the dynamics of youth engagement and online participation, specifically attempting to understand what the colliding forces are when looking at agency, empowerment and voice in the context of youth activism. She has also developed a game called LAMBOOZLED!, to enhances skills to deal with fake news. In the game, the objective is to collect as “much evidence as possible to figure out whether the news stories are real or fake.”

In this article we explore various aspects of her professional, scholarly work. Specifically we discussed:

… how she layers theories of distributed creativity onto her internet re- search agenda to examine how youth use online spaces and digital media to make sense of current events. [We discuss] her path to engaging in creativity research through the use of digital media and a dedication to amplifying voices. We explore how her work has changed and sharpened around participatory creativity as she saw shifts in creative outcomes and conversations around the political landscape of recent years.

Citation and link to article below:

Keenan-Lechel, S. F., Capurro, C. T., Henriksen, D.. & the Deep-Play Research Group. (2021). Creative potential for positive social change: An interview with Dr. Ioana Literat. TechTrends.

Fishing for problems: Podcast interview

I was recently interviewed by Matt Schneidman (Curator, Creator, Podcast Host) for his Fishing for Problems podcast. Matt also publishes an  ed-focused newsletter. Our discussion was broadly framed around educational technology and the TPACK framework – but I think we covered quite a bit of ground beyond that as well—from whether “educational technology” even exists to the idea of teacher agency and design; from the philosophical ideas of Niel Postman to science fiction of Ted Chiang. As must be obvious, we had a great conversation. A large part of of the fun was that Matt had clearly done his homework, as evidenced by the very first question he asked me about my “23rd Law of Parenting.”

For that and more, listen to Episode #13: Educators as designers.

Tipping point for online learning: The interview

I had written a blog post towards the beginning of the pandemic (Tipping point for online learning, OR the postman always rings twice). In this piece, I built on something Neil Postman had written back in 1998 to try and better understand the current context. (Incidentally, this blog post ended up becoming an article in the journal ECNU Review of Education).

I was contacted by the team at about this article and the interview they conducted is now available online. You can listen to the entire interview by clicking on the link below.

Designing STEAM

Designed by Punya Mishra. Photo credit: Punya Mishra & Pixabay

Danah Henriksen and I were recently invited to present a keynote (and conduct two workshops) on design thinking and STEAM education at the 2021 NV STEAM conference, organized by the Nevada Museum of Art and Desert Research Institute. Of course, given the pandemic times we live in, the entire conference was conducted online.

You can find a video of our keynote titled, Creating STEAM by Design: Beyond STEM and Arts Integration below. I should add that my internet gave away during our presentation, which meant Danah had to step in and pretty much do the entire presentation. Thanks Danah. Thankfully I did manage to hop on for the QnA. You can find a link to our slides here and video below.

The workshops were trickier to create and navigate. We had 50 minutes to provide a hands-on, crash-course on design thinking to 80-100 participants—all that over Zoom! A huge shout-out to Cassandra Kellaris who helped Danah and I figure out what to do and how we could pull something like this off. Essentially, the participants worked both collaboratively and individually on a project of their choice and interest. We leveraged the chat function of zoom to tap into the collective wisdom of the large group to a predetermined set of prompts, and had them complete a design workbook around a problem or challenge that they were interested in. Suffice it to say, it was super fast-paced, challenging and fun. And we did it twice back to back with different groups of educators. You can watch one of the videos of the workshop below – and download our slides here. (And just for the record, here is a link to the video of the second workshop.)

Thanks to Claire Munoz, Craig Rosen (and their team) for their support and help in making these events a success.

Educational Change by Design: Creating a school of the future

How do we design a school for the future? This recent article seeks to capture (in the form of a case study) our recent experience in designing such a school. The design process was a collaborative process involving a partnership with a local school district and the design initiatives team at the Teachers College. More about that here and here. Abstract and citation below.


This case study, framed within a school–university partnership, highlights the tensions inherent to employing design-based approaches for educational change. The case illustrates core tensions between an abductive, open-ended, design-based approach to change versus more traditional (deductive/inductive) approaches to managing change in schools. The design process serves as a way to break away from the traditional “grammar of schooling” (Tyack & Tobin) in a system unaccustomed to radical change. The case highlights the challenges of maintaining fidelity to the design process within a range of logistical and resources constraints, such as the time available to participants to engage in the process, and the difficulty of rapidly prototyping a new school model within an existing educational ecosystem. In the teaching notes, we recommend a theoretical lens and set of questions for educational leaders to reflect on as they consider approaches to educational change in their own settings.

Wyatt, L., Scragg, B. S., Stein, J. Y. G., & Mishra, P. (2020). Educational change by design: Creating a school of the future. Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership.

Why creativity, technology and education don’t play well together? New paper

What is the relationship between technology and creativity, particularly in educational contexts? In this article, we provide a critical thematic literature review of existing scholarship at the intersection of creativity, technology, and teaching/learning in classroom contexts. We identify the contours of existing research in these areas and note their alignments and gaps to point to future research needs. Abstract and citation (and link to publication) given below:


Internationally, creativity is a widely discussed construct that is pivotal to educational practice and curriculum. It is often situated alongside technology as a key component of education futures. Despite the enthusiasm for integrating creativity with technologies in classrooms, there is a lack of common ground within and between disciplines and research about how creativity relates to technology in teaching and learning—especially in the uncertain space of classroom implementation. This article provides a critical thematic review of international literature on creativity and technology in the context of educational practice. We identify four essential domains that emerge from the literature and represent these in a conceptual model, based around: (1) Learning in regard to creativity, (2) Meanings of creativity, (3) Discourses that surround creativity, and (4) the Futures or impacts on creativity and education. Each of these clusters is contextualized in regard to emerging technologies and the developing scope of twenty-first century skills in classroom implementation. We offer conclusions and implications for research and practice.

Henriksen, D., Creely, E., Henderson, M., & Mishra, P. (2021). Creativity and technology in teaching and learning: a literature review of the uneasy space of implementation. Educational Technology Research & Development.