Creativity, risk-taking, education: a global perspective

EduSummIT is a global community of policy-makers, researchers, and educators working together to move education into the digital age.

The last EduSummit (2019) was held in Quebec, Canada and I was a member of Thematic Working Group 3 (TWG3) on Creativity for Teachers and Teaching led by Michael Henderson and Danah Henriksen. The work we did at the meeting has led to an article around creativity, risk-taking, education in global contexts.

In the article we review the literature on creativity, risk-taking and failure. We then describe our narrative inquiry-based research approach and present the six international vignettes where creative risk and failure were instantiated. The case study I shared was the story of the work we did with the Miami Globe school district. I had written about that work previously here and here.

Citation and link to the article below. Enjoy.

Henriksen, D., Henderson, M. Creely, E., Carvalho, Ana A., Cernochova, M., Dash, D., Davis, T., & Mishra, P. (2020). Creativity and risk-taking in teaching and learning settings: Insights from six international narratives. International Journal of Educational Research Open.

Goodbye 2020 (whew), welcome 2021

2020 has been a heck of a year… and maybe in hindsight (hindsight, of course, being 2020) it will all make sense. But, I think we can all agree that it is time to let it go.

A lot has changed this past year but one tradition we wanted to keep alive was the short videos we create to welcome the new year—a family tradition since 2008. Our videos are usually typographical in nature with some kind of an AHA! moment built in. This year’s video is somewhat different in that it is entirely created on the computer. This is something we have resisted doing since a large part of the fun has been designing the props and the process of shooting/editing to create the final video. However, as my friend Neelakshi pointed out, in some ways it is fitting that this year’s video should be entirely created on a computer since that’s where we did everything!

Check out the latest video, saying goodbye to 2020 and welcoming 2021. May this year be one of joy and peace for all.

You can see all the previous years’ videos here. As you can see we have had a lot of fun over the years.

The idea behind the video?

The video hinges on writing the word “zero” in such a way that it reads “one” when rotated by 180 degrees.

Such designs (that let you read words in more than one way) are called ambigrams. You can learn more about ambigrams (and the underlying mathematical ideas behind these designs) here or by watching the video below.

China, Australia, Nepal & Australia: A zoom tour of talks

Over the past couple of months I have been asked to give presentations at a variety of different conferences or organizations spread across the world. They are archived below.

I was invited to give a talk as part of the Dean’s Lecture Series at the School of Education, Drexel University. My talk was titled: Design pencils, universities and everything in between.

Dean’s Lecture Series

Drexel University School of Education

I was invited by the Friday Institute at North Carolina State University to serve on a panel on the topic of Exploring Next-Generation Education: K-12 Trends that Mater for 2021.

The introduction to the session was as follows (and the video is embedded below):

We’ve had an extremely challenging year—a global pandemic, ongoing racial injustice and inequities, and more recently an insurrection on our country’s capitol. Educators navigated their way through these compounded issues. They summoned their creativity and resiliency to support and engage students. With this dramatic backdrop, we move into 2021 with wounds, disappointments and hope for a brighter collective future. The goal of this panel discussion is to surface K-12 trends that matter for humanity. As community members, what do we need to be relentless about? As policy makers, what do we need to let go? As educators, how do we create spaces for transformation that can usher in new ways of thinking about and doing education? Join thought leaders as they analyze, predict and dream of next-generation schools.

The Public Interest Technology University Network is a partnership that fosters collaboration between universities and colleges committed to building the nascent field of public interest technology and growing a new generation of civic-minded technologists. Ariel Anbar and I were invited to be part of a panel on embedding humanistic values in STEM education, specifically focused on our recently concluded STEM-Futures project. You can read my blog post about the project, a description on the MLFTC website or visit the project pages at

Keynote for TheMarker conference (Israel): Education in a pandemic: A crisis (and possibly) an opportunity (blog post)

Teaching with Technology: Is TPACK still relevant? Part of a panel organized by Monash University (Australia) with Judi Harris and Michael Phillips, moderated by Michael Henderson.

Nepal: Creativity, technology & design for learning (in STEM and beyond). Presentation for Kathmandu University, School of Education; (Nepal) November 2020

Presentation at the 18th Shanghai International Curriculum Forum, organized by the Institute of Curriculum and Instruction of ECNU. This talk (titled: TPACK and beyond: Designing Technology & Education (From Artifacts to Culture) was viewed by more than 18,000 participants including experts and scholars, principals in charge of education administrative departments across China.

Embracing failure (in a first year technology course): New article

In his book The child and the curriculum; and The school and society John Dewey identified four key impulses for learning that he placed at the foundation of the curriculum. The key education challenge, he argued, is to nurture these impulses for lifelong learning:

These fourfold areas of interest—the interest in conversation, or communication; in inquiry, or finding out things; in making things, or construction; and in artistic expression—we may say they are the natural resources, the un-invested capital, upon the exercise of which depends the active growth of the [learner] . . . What are we to do with this interest—are we to ignore it, or just excite and draw it out? Or shall we get hold of it and direct it to something ahead, something better? (p. 48)

In a recently published article (citation and link below) we describe our design of a new technology literacy course based on Dewey’s four impulses for first-year teacher education students. We argue that Dewey’s four impulses form a compelling structure providing a flexible, humanistic, technology-agnostic framework for creating powerful learning experiences. More about the structure of the course can be found in this video below.

Citation and link to the article below:

Donner, J., Warr, M., Leahy, S. M., & Mishra, P. (2020). Embracing failure in a first-year technology course. UTE. Revista de Ciències de l’Educació Monogràfic 2020. Pag. 68-82 ISSN 1135-1438. EISSN 2385-4731

Education in a pandemic: A crisis (and possibly) an opportunity

Last year I was in Israel to present at the Meital Conference. When I was there I was interviewed by Lior Detal, the education correspondent for TheMarker – which led to an article in the magazine.

Earlier this year, once the COVID crisis was in full swing, I was contacted by a Lior once again to get my take on the current situation and its impact on education. This lead to another article in the magazine (you can read the Hebrew or the Arabic version). It appears that the article was positively received and I was invited to give a recorded keynote presentation for a conference (TheMaker Online Education Conference) being organized by the magazine.

The focus of the conference was on how this crisis could be seen as an unprecedented opportunity to lead change in education. (This is similar to the approach we have taken in the Silver Lining for Learning webinar series.) I was more than happy to provide my thoughts, in a talk titled: Education in a pandemic: A crisis (and possibly) an opportunity. The video is below:

Silly me: Narrated poems for our crazy times

Shreya and I created a video a few months back consisting of a series of narrated poems written by her (and to be fair, a few by me as well ). It was just a fun, pandemic-related project created for the Sun Devil Learning Labs (SDLL). These labs were a streaming service for K-12 learners, created by the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College in partnership with local school districts and youth-serving organizations. Essentially these were lessons developed and delivered by teacher candidates freely on the web learners once schools closed down.

The people behind SDLL, interested in early literacy, put out a call for people to read books for children. Shreya and I took this opportunity to create this video. Enjoy

From brains to music: Creativity with Anthony Brandt

Design: Punya Mishra (Photo credit: Pixabay)

From Brains to Music: a Multi-Faceted Discussion of Creativity with Dr. Anthony Brandt

Dr. Anthony Brandt, is Professor of Composition and Theory at Rice University and is co-founder and artistic director of the contemporary music ensemble Musiqa. He has co-authored (with neuroscientist David Eagleman) a book titled: The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World. He has received numerous awards and recognitions and has been featured in TIME, Harvard Business Review, and The Wall Street Journal. In our interview, Dr. Brandt discussed his life as a musician and composer, his study of creativity, and his excitement for the future of creativity studies.

He uses his experiences as a musician and composer to highlight the important role that creativity plays in our lives, providing examples that illustrate multiple understandings of creativity. Dr. Brandt argues that the ability to select unexpected outcomes may be the “secret sauce” that has allowed humans to become the imaginative, creative species that we are. Further, an additional process occurs that helps explain creative acts and thinking. As Dr. Brandt said:

Complete reference, and link to article below:

Richardson, C., Henriksen, D., Mishra, P. & the Deep-Play Research Group (2020). From brains to music: A multi-faceted discussion of creativity with Dr. Anthony Brandt.

Help me, find a story by Ursula Le Guin

 I am looking for a short story by Ursula Le Guin that I read many years ago growing up in India. The story has stayed with me but I cannot find it, despite many deep dives into the internet. I have posted on reddit, on the Ursula Le Guin fan page on FB and also reached out to the ASU librarians—but with no success. More details below…

Continue reading →

Let children play: Bringing evolutionary psychology to creativity

As a part of our ongoing series on creativity we recently spoke with Dr. Peter Gray, professor of Psychology at Boston College. Dr. Gray’s interest in creativity emerges as a consequence of his background in evolutionary psychology and interest in how humans (and other mammals) learn. Learning, he argues, is a key evolutionary need that helps humans and other mammals survive and succeed in a complex and dynamic world. Dr. Gray sees an important role for curiosity, play and sociability—which he defines as natural drives or impulses that help children learn and direct their own learning. By playing together and being curious, children pick up language, learn and hone new skills, acquire knowledge, and gain confidence to be in the world by interacting directly with it. The drive to play is not unique to humans. As he said:

Children are playful. All young mammals are playful and that’s how they learn. They’re curious about the world. As soon as they come into the world, they’re looking around…They’re moving to get their hands on things, to explore things, to figure out what they can do with these things in the world out there. They’re especially interested in other people. They want to know, they’re watching and listening to other people and figuring out what it is that people in this world do.

As always, our conversation with Dr. Gray covered a wide range of topics such as curiosity and play as being natural paths to creative learning; the negative role of evaluation, high-performance culture and standardized testing on creativity; the relationship between creativity, play and mental health; and possible role of technology in enhancing creativity. Complete reference, and link to article below:

Mehta, R., Henriksen, D., & Mishra, P. (2020). “Let Children Play!”: Connecting Evolutionary Psychology and Creativity with Peter Gray. TechTrends.