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.

Thank you, Sonya

Written for my dear friend Sonya-Gunnings Moton, on her retirement from the College of Education at Michigan State University.

Dear Sonya, wishing you all the very best on your retirement. Just want to say how much I have valued having you as a friend and colleague during my stay at MSU. And yes, I totally need to pay you for all the cigarettes I bummed off you during the conversations we had in the “smoking” space in Erickson Hall. All worth it, because it led to one of the most amazing projects I have been part of—the MSU Urban-STEM project. These photos cannot capture just how transformative this project was: 125 teachers working in Chicago Public Schools working with the most awesome instructional and support team ever. We made it happen. A genuine, meaningful and transformative partnership at so many levels. 

Sonya, it has been my privilege to have worked with you over the years. I have learned so much from you, your strength, moral clarity, passion and commitment to education. And most of all, you confirmed something I sort of knew already—that we can be ultra-serious about the work we do, but that does not mean that we need to take ourselves too seriously. You cut through the academic bullshit to focus on what was truly important. You reminded me everyday that one can laugh and have fun even while being passionate and totally committed to the work.

I miss your irreverence, laughter, passion and commitment. You made my world, and that of everyone else who came in touch with you, a better place. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. I am a better person for having known you. I wish you all the very best and I do hope our paths will cross in the near future.

Systems level change in education: New article

Image design: Punya Mishra

How do you design for change in complex systems—like education?

Implementing large-scale changes within educational systems can be a challenging task. Doing so requires many actors, working at different organizational levels (and perhaps across organizations), to not only be unified in their overall goals and coordinated in their actions, but also have the freedom to respond to changing local circumstances and unanticipated issues. In this paper we argue that these efforts can be fruitfully seen as being an act of design that take place within a complex social system. We contextualize our argument in the five spaces for design in education framework and demonstrate how the differing perspectives of educational professionals can either work at cross-purposes or be aligned to a larger goal. A sensitivity to these five spaces and an understanding of their interconnected nature can provide us with tools and approaches to bring about significant, sustainable change in education.

Citation, abstract and a link to article below.

Original points of view image from the internet: variations by Punya Mishra

Weiner, S., Warr, M., & Mishra, P. (2020). Fostering System-Level Perspective Taking when Designing for Change in Educational Systems. TechTrends.

Abstract: A core element of systems thinking is perspective taking. Perspectives help people distinguish between salient and irrelevant information, take particular types of actions, and make sense of the world. In this article, we consider what systems thinking and perspective taking means for designers in education. First, we present a framework, the five spaces for design in education, to illustrate design work in education. The framework presents five spaces for design: artifacts, processes, experiences, systems, and culture. We claim that most—if not all—educators participate in design work; however, the design spaces they work in vary. Consequently, educational designers often fail to consider the perspectives of those working in different spaces, resulting in failed reform efforts. We illustrate this concept through the technology integration attempts of the Los Angeles Unified School District. We argue more effective design in education occurs when designers both recognize their own design perspective and are aware of other perspectives.

Here are some related posts and articles

Designing the futures of STEM education

What knowledge is of most worth?” is a question asked over a 100 years ago by the English philosopher, Herbert Spencer. His unequivocal answer was—science.

This question (and his answer) resonates even today, though the context within which it is asked, and how we construct the answer, has changed dramatically. It is clear that science (or STEM) is key to addressing the multifaceted challenges we face: the environmental challenges of the Anthropocene; the economic pressures of machine learning and artificial intelligence; and the social challenges of an increasingly rapid pace of environmental, technological, and economic change.

It is also clear that addressing these challenges goes beyond any particular STEM discipline and in fact beyond just the STEM disciplines. Beyond knowledge of STEM, our students will need to demonstrate creativity and ingenuity as well as the ability to work collaboratively. As importantly they will need to understand the broader social and the ethical context and implications of their work.

Existing STEM courses and degree programs are, for the most part, unprepared to meet these challenges. They are largely organized around and operate within traditional disciplinary boundaries—even though we know that the most pressing problems require crossing STEM disciplines and even integrating beyond STEM into other domains of knowledge.

The Future Substance of STEM Education is a National Science Foundation-backed collaboration with ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration that seeks to redesign the substance of STEM education. (More at

Approximately 50 experts, from across the nation, will collaboratively engage in an iterative set of facilitated design-based exercises to both better understand current and future contexts and needs, but also to reimagine possibilities for the future.

The STEM Futures work is based on a framework for 21st century learning developed by Kereluik, Mishra, Fanhoe, & Terry (2013). This framework breaks down the 21st century knowledge into three key components: Foundational Knowledge, Meta Knowledge, & Humanistic Knowledge (see diagram below).

A succinct description of the project and its goals can be found in this video below starring the PI’s of the project (Ariel Anbar and Punya Mishra).

An introductory video for the Future Substance of STEM Education project.


Kereluik, K., Mishra, P., Fahnoe, C., & Terry, L. (2013). What knowledge is of most worth: Teacher knowledge for 21st century learningJournal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 29(4), 127-140.

Silver Lining for Learning, a side conversation with Priyank Sharma

We have had a few regulars on the Silver Lining for Learning show. And one of them is Priyank Sharma who consistently joins us despite it being around 2 or 3 AM in in New Delhi when the show runs here in the US.

Priyank and I spoke on the 22nd of June about a range of different topics – and the video is embedded below. More information about Priyank, his writings and a sort of spinoff show he is part of can be found below the video. Enjoy.

Priyank recently completed his MPhil from the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA) and is starting his doctoral program soon. He came to education, in a somewhat roundabout way – similar to my journey. He has degrees in engineering (from the National Institutes of Technology, NIT), social work (from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, TISS) and counseling (from the National Center for Educational Research and Training, NCERT). from (recently completed his MPhil in Educational Policy & Planning.

Priyank also writes about education and other related matters on his facebook page: A Random Educator

Also, Priyank and a few of his like-minded colleagues have also started their own version of SLL called, available as a Youtube channel: Approaching the New Normal