Redefining Adversity Through Questioning

When I began reading Warren Berger’s, A More Beautiful Question (2014), I found myself intrigued by the anecdotes scattered throughout the book. They highlight the success stories of some of the world’s most inquisitive individuals who later evolved into inspiring innovators, ranging from the origination of the popular sports drink, Gatorade, to Airbnb, a disruptor of the hospitality industry. However, regardless of the uniqueness of each story, they share a profound similarity: solutions come from asking the right questions.

Asking the right questions is something we, as problem-solvers, have control over. For example, we can opt to use the Why/What If/How process, as my fellow graduate school classmates and I demonstrated for our wicked problem project, which transitions from one line of questioning to the next until a solution is established. On the contrary, to form what Berger calls a beautiful question, “an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something—and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change” — one must perceive the circumstances they cannot change. One must perceive the defining moments of their past — the synchronistic events that have led up to present day. As Berger states, “It all starts with slowing down, stepping back, and trying to shift perspective in order to see your own life—and the problems, opportunities, and challenges worth tackling—more clearly.”

As an educator, I am constantly grappling with how I can inspire my students to invest in their learning and achieve the most positive experience in my classroom. Just as my wicked problem project taught me, I must not only teach, but more importantly lead by example. As such, my greatest source of inspiration has been unravelling the path that led me to where I am today and sharing my personal story with others in hope of motivating and educating.

Although I consider myself to be a reflective individual, I, like most, can get bogged down by day-to-day stressors. Therefore, to help crystalize and visualize my most pivotal event — donating 65 percent of my liver to my younger brother, Cameron — I created a custom My Maps with Google. To explore, click on the map below.

As highlighted in my map, upon preparing for transplant surgery, Cameron and I were faced with a decision. We could view our situation as the culmination of an unfortunate sequence of events and write it off as an experience of the past, or we could chose to seize it as an opportunity to bring about change in the future. As Berger notes, “When innovators look at the world around them, they’re often looking for what’s missing. But while questioning your own life, it’s also important to look, via ‘appreciative inquiry,’ not just for what’s missing, but also for what’s there.” Cameron and I sought the positive in the hand we were dealt.

My Most Beautiful Question

Throughout this process, my most beautiful question has become clear: How can I spend my life inspiring others? The future depends on curiosity and passion, and I hold myself accountable for helping equip my students with such characteristics. My goal is to make my students “winners” as described by Thomas L. Friedman, who stated, “The winners won’t just be those with more I.Q. It will also be those with more P.Q. (passion quotient) and C.Q. (curiosity quotient) to leverage all the new digital tools to not just find a job, but to invent one or reinvent one, and to not just learn but to relearn for a lifetime” (2013).

My story is proof that, sometimes, what may seem like the ugliest circumstance may actually lead to one’s most beautiful question.


Berger, W. (2014). A more beautiful question: the power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York: Bloomsbury.

Friedman, T. L. (2013, January 29). It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as much as I.Q. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/opinion/friedman-its-pq-and-cq-as-much-as-iq.html

Wicked Problem Solution: Rethinking the Role of Educators

At the commencement of CEP 812: Applying Educational Technology to Issues of Practice — my third graduate course in matriculating through the Master’s in Educational Technology (MAET) program at Michigan State University — I was offered the opportunity to explore what characterizes a problem of practice and to what extent it can be solved. While one may use logic, critical thinking and creativity to solve well-structured problems and complex problems, the same cannot be said for wicked problems. As John C. Camillus states, "A wicked problem has innumerable causes, is tough to describe, and doesn’t have a right answer” (2008).

Although a wicked problem is seemingly impossible to solve, my classmates and I took on the arduous task of researching and proposing a solution to Rethinking the Role of Educators. As linked to below, we constructed a multimodal presentation that encompasses a narrative of our journey, beginning with an explanation of wicked problems and ending with a proposed solution. Our proposed solution encapsulates refining and enhancing professional development practices for educators.

The Why/What If/How problem-solving process we conducted was adopted from Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question (2014). The process stems from curiosity, as we brainstormed a multitude of Why questions, progresses into the What If stage where one begins to imagine a solution and concludes with developing plans on How the solution can be implemented. Of note, our presentation includes excerpts from infographics that we designed, peer-reviewed research, and data collected from a survey that we created and conducted, which assisted us in forming a solution.

To access the presentation, please click on the image below. Additionally, please feel free to comment with any questions, concerns or feedback you may have. Thank you in advance for exploring our proposed solution.

Berger, W. (2014). A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas. New York: Bloomsbury.

Camillus, J. C. (2008). Strategy as a wicked problem. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2008/05/strategy-as-a-wicked-problem

Calling All K-12 Educators: Survey on Rethinking the Role of Educators

The best way that I can describe the wicked nature of Rethinking the Role of Educators is to compare it to this cartoon from 1943.

The moment my fellow classmates and I develop an idea for a proposed solution, it seems as though numerous additional components arise, spawning out exponentially. Although, it is no wonder that this is the case given that the role of educators was first defined in the 18th century, producing factory workers during the Industrial Revolution. Fast forward to present day; history shows years of technological advancements, rapidly-changing demands for students and the necessity to evaluate what it is that teachers should be doing to support students’ needs.

Proposing an Adequate Solution Requires Feedback from Teachers Themselves

While we move closer to formulating a proposed solution to our wicked problem of Rethinking the Role of Educators — which focuses on professional development needs and in-class support for teachers —  my classmates and I are seeking responses to the brief survey below. Moreover, it includes 15 multiple question questions and one optional, open-ended response. We hope that it will inform us with insights regarding student-centered learning, leadership, and professional development practices. Of note, NO personal identifiable information will be collected as all responses are anonymous. Further, data collected will be analyzed and submitted to my professors at MSU for further evaluation.

UPDATE: Although the survey is no longer accepting responses, a list of questions and data collected can be found here.

Masters, J. (2014). Gabby gabby goes fishing (1943) fleischer Studios-1 cartoons (Video). Retrieved from https://youtu.be/HQs1dmznuGg

Rethinking the Role of Educators

The essence of a wicked problem is that it is nearly impossible to solve. To make matters more complicated, when exploring the path to a solution one often finds themselves wandering down a multitude of side-roads leading to other, equally as impossible to solve, problems. For the past two weeks in my graduate course CEP 812: Applying Educational Technology to Issues of Practice, my fellow group members and I have been researching related topics to the wicked problem of rethinking the role of educators.

I created the infographic below to help visualize the problem and showcase its wicked nature, namely how many components inform it and what is needed to get closer to solving it in practice.

WickedProblem_Infographic.png

You Are What You Eat: What My Infodiet Says About Me

Throughout childhood, I was a picky eater. It was not until college that I started expanding my palate beyond pasta, meat, potatoes and a slim vegetable selection. Consequently, I was surprised by the fondness I had for different foods that I never considered eating in the past. In retrospect, it was not that I disliked certain foods, rather I had never tried them in the first place.

One cannot dispute the importance of eating healthy, yet when it comes to consuming information, how does one’s infodiet influence their thoughts, opinions, beliefs and actions? Many of us think we are being fed a well-balanced stream of content delivered via our technological devices, although the reality may be shocking.

(Markus Spiske/Unsplash)

(Markus Spiske/Unsplash)

The truth is, algorithms that internet search engines and social media platforms use to deliver us feeds of content based on our interests, tendencies and activity inevitably create what Eli Pariser — chief executive of Upworthy, author and speaker —  famously coined as a filter bubble. Before we ask “what’s the big deal?,” we must look at the bigger picture. According to Pariser in a 2011 TED Talk given long before we understood the severity of our situation, “this moves us very quickly toward a world in which the Internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see.”

You may be wondering, “why do we allow this to happen?” As James Paul Gee states in The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students Through Digital Learning, “Humans display what is called a ‘confirmation bias’ [...],  a seemingly built-in mental bias that makes humans favor information that confirms their beliefs.” Therefore, we ingest content from perspectives aligned with our own, especially when it comes to “highly emotionally charged issues or deeply entrenched beliefs” (2013, p.2).

To progress socially, culturally and educationally, we must actively attempt to reassess and pop the filter bubbles surrounding us. It is not say we should solely seek information free of bias, but rather curate feeds of content which explore as many perspectives as possible.

Reevaluating My Infodiet

In an attempt to reevaluate the streams of information I consume online, I spent the week analyzing what was being algorithmically engineered to my liking via the social media platform I spend most time on — Twitter. What I found was interesting; most of the content being pushed through my feed was from educators, which didn’t seem to pose an issue. However, I recognize that to strive to offer my students the most positive learning experience, I should consume a more well-balanced stream of information, expanding my horizon beyond the perspective of educators to that of other stakeholders in education, including guidance counselors, social workers, administrators, policymakers, psychologists and thought-leaders, as well as business and world leaders. Like in other industries, there are many roles in education, and it is valuable for teachers to analyze our field through the lenses of all of them.

It was time to seek out these varied voices. Yet, after “following” more and more accounts on Twitter and finding myself in a spiral of clickbait — i.e., suggested follows — it occurred to me that I was missing the mark. Then it hit me. At a conference I attended several months ago, I was introduced to Feedly, a content aggregator application that allows users to create and organize feeds from RSS subscriptions, websites and just about any other online content stream. It is helpful because, unlike social media platforms that use algorithms to curate content, Feedly allows users to manually curate their own content. While I had stopped proactively using Feedly — for no particular reason — I decided to revamp my feeds, this time with a focused purpose.

I urge you to assess your infodiet and decide whether you need to make changes as well. We can all take charge of our own curated content, but we must remember to consistently and critically analyze what we are presented with. And just because we balance the perspectives we consume does not mean we should stop questioning and exploring the opinions and beliefs of others, as well as the sources we are obtaining them from.


Gee, J. P. (2013). The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning. New York City, NY: St. Martin’s Griffin.

Pariser, Eli. (2011). Beware online “filter bubbles” [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles

Fostering Curiosity in the Classroom

I recently began reading Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question and found myself immersed, highlighting line after line of excerpts. The premise focuses on the deficit of questioning by students. Although I am a middle school teacher, first and foremost I consider myself a lifelong learner. That said, I cannot help but become perplexed when students are apathetic toward learning. Nevertheless, as Berger mentions, we should not wonder why students fail to display curiosity and a desire to learn; they have been conditioned this way. Berger explains, “Preschool children, on average, ask their parents about 100 questions a day. By middle school, they’ve pretty much stopped asking” (2014, p. 58).

The notion that students become less likely to ask questions as they age, in-turn becoming less engaged, welcomes a discussion on the root cause (Berger, 2014). Yet, whether a lack of questioning leads to disengagement or vice versa, one thing is certain: teachers must provide students with more opportunities to ask questions and further explore topics of interest. Despite pressures of meeting adequate state-mandated test scores and limited classroom instruction time, if educators want to cultivate a future of independent and innovative thinkers, time is of the essence. Tony Wagner and John Seely Brown, two leading researchers in education, strengthen the argument agreeing, “the consensus seems to be that this new world demands citizens who are self-learners; who are creative and resourceful; who can adjust and adapt to constant change” (Berger, 2014, p. 65).

What We Can Learn from Google

A More Beautiful Question contains many insightful anecdotes and perspectives on renowned innovators, of which include Google’s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. In Google’s Initial Public Offering (IPO) letter they explain, “We encourage our employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google. This empowers them to be more creative and innovative” (2004). Moreover, their vision was to offer employees an opportunity to build on curiosities instead of hindering them.

Although it is unclear who initially integrated Google’s philosophy in an educational setting, it has sparked a new wave of student-centered, inquiry-based learning experiences, known as 20Time, 20% Time, and Genius Hour — all synonymous in theory. The idea is to allow students to use 20% of their class time to take on a project of interest. Kevin Brookhouser, educator, author and advocate for 20Time in the classroom, discusses the impetus and outcomes for implementing it in his own classes.

Brookhouser pays tribute to best-selling author and thought-leader, Daniel Pink — specifically his three-pronged solution to getting the most out of employees, of which includes autonomy, mastery and purpose. Yes, Pink’s philosophies are geared toward businesses, but the same mentality could apply for getting the most out of students. If we fail to provide students with autonomy in their learning, we restrict their curiosities, closing the door on a realm of possibilities. Perhaps students’ apprehension to asking questions stems from the fact that we do not allow them the opportunity to do so (Berger, 2014). Offering students designated time to explore inquiries and produce something tangible from their learning is a wonderful tactic in harnessing the spirit of curiosity.

My Experience with 20Time

Word cloud created by me

Word cloud created by me

I am currently in my second year teaching Imagineering, an 8th grade course modeled from the 20Time philosophy. In contrast to traditional 20Time, Imagineering offers students a full, consistent marking period (roughly 50 days) to work. Routinely, students begin the class with varied outlooks, some excited, yet most timid to begin. I attribute this to the fact that they have rarely, if ever, had the opportunity to tackle a project aimed to answer one of the many questions that lie dormant within them. Although there are few exemplary projects that culminate, the opportunity far exceeds the results. The project urges students to question and this is a beautiful thing.

We, as educators, need to make up for lost time. Coincidentally, we must ask ourselves: what are our students' futures worth?

If you are interested in learning more about 20Time, check out Kevin Brookhauser’s book, The 20Time Project: How educators can launch Google's formula for future-ready innovation, and A.J. Juliani’s free guide to 20% Time in the classroom.


Berger, W. (2014). A more beautiful question: the power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York: Bloomsbury.

Brookhauser, K. (2013, May 9). Don't call it a classroom: Kevin Brookhouser at TEDxMonterey. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/MqG-bppvW7k

The New York Times. (2009, April 29). Letter From the Founders. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/29/business/letter-from-the-founders.html

Hitting the Reset Button: Calming Anxiety with Daily Meditation

Chances are, at one point or another, you have experienced a moment where your heart rate increased, breathing suddenly became difficult and panic set in. Perhaps you forgot to set your alarm, misplaced something valuable or forgot to complete a time-sensitive task. Worse yet, perhaps you had no idea what was causing the feelings of discomfort in the first place. Anxiety comes in various forms and, for many, it significantly hinders their ability to live their lives to the fullest.

While some individuals may occasionally experience the aforementioned feelings, others may be subjected to enduring and chronic anxiety, potentially being diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, separation anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder. One in four individuals between the ages of 13 and 18 are affected by anxiety disorders (Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 2017). This begs the question: as secondary educators given a specified allotted time for classroom instruction, how can we alleviate and subdue anxiety among students in our classes and, further, equip them with tactics to do so on their own, providing the most optimal learning space and experience?

Mindfulness and Meditation

While mindfulness is the practice of being conscious of the present moment and meditation is the practice of repeating a mantra and focusing on breathing techniques to become mindful, the two terms can be used interchangeably. Moreover, the act of meditating promotes mindfulness (Routhier-Martin, K., Roberts, S. K., & Blanch, N., 2017). When it comes to relieving anxiety and stress, enhancing self-awareness and improving focus, studies show that meditation can positively impact students’ learning experiences (Semple, R. & Droutman, V., 2017).

How Teachers Can Implement Daily Meditation Practices with Students

calm-meditate-sleep-relax_icon.png

Implementing a brief daily meditation ritual at the beginning of class can provide students with a fresh start, improving their well-being and paving the way to make the most of their learning. In an interview with Julie Corliss, executive editor of the Harvard Heart Letter, Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Trauma and the Community at Georgetown University Medical Center, explains that people with anxiety have difficulty “distinguishing between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit.” She continues, “Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self,’” (2014).

Voted Apple’s Best App of 2017, Calm is a mobile and web-based application that offers soothing and information-guided meditation practices along with sleep stories. The guided meditations range in length from 3 to 25 minutes and include themes such as improving focus, breaking habits, deepening concentration, gratitude, managing stress, enhancing relationships and calming anxiety. For educators and parents, Calm includes a feature titled Calm Kids, which includes age appropriate guided meditations and is a great starting point for implementing daily meditation in the classroom.

Of course, as with any new digital technology and subject matter, it is crucial that teachers immerse themselves in Calm’s teachings and layout. I have explored a variety of guided meditation apps and found Calm to be the simplest, most informative and enjoyable of them all. Additionally, the sessions are instructive, yet digestible enough for a beginner to dive right in.

Within the Calm Kids section, there are brief introductory sessions broken down by age groups ranging from  ages 5-7, 7-10, 10-13 and 13-17. The sessions provide an overview of meditation and mindfulness in a manner that relates to the specified age group. From there, it is up to the teacher’s discretion how to proceed with the daily practices. I would recommend implementing a routine, spending approximately the first five minutes of class experiencing a brief guided meditation. Depending on the length of your class, you can adjust the amount of time spent to meet the demands of your classroom instruction and needs of your students.

One of the best aspects of Calm is that subscriptions are free for educators — to apply for yours, click here.

See below for an overview of Calm’s features and benefits.

Although some students suffer from diagnosed anxiety disorders, implementing a brief, group guided-meditation can alleviate anxiety and promote the well-being of all students. Further, it can help the teacher do so as well.

If you are skeptical of allotting class time to such practices, think, for a moment, of the students who come to your class flustered, stressed from previous classes, or those who possess too much anxiety to think clearly — If you can hit a reset button, does it not make sense to do so?


Anxiety and Depression Association of America (2017, August). Facts & statistics. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics#

Calm (2017). App Icon (Digital Image). Retrieved from https://calm.com

Corliss, J. (2014, January 8). Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress. Harvard Heart Letter. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967

Routhier-Martin, K., Roberts, S. K., & Blanch, N. (2017). Exploring mindfulness and meditation for the elementary classroom: Intersections across current multidisciplinary research. Childhood Education, 93(2), 168-175. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.msu.edu.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/docview/1895978441?accountid=12598

Semple, R. & Droutman, V. (2017). Mindfulness goes to school: things learned (so far) from research and real-world experiences. Psychology in the Schools, 54(1), 29-51. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/doi/10.1002/pits.21981/epdf

The Best Recipe for Creativity is Allowing it to Happen

As my second graduate course in matriculating through the Master’s in Educational Technology (MAET) program at Michigan State University, CEP 811: Adapting Innovative Technologies in Education, comes to an end, I feel incredibly inspired.

I must admit, although at times I have a tendency to succumb to a cynical view of the current state of our world, there has never been a more exciting time to be a student, or teacher. We, as educators, are witnessing classrooms moving away from the traditional 'factory models' and transitioning into fluid learning spaces, encompassing open-collaborative features, welcoming colors, and technology that supports creativity and innovation (OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau Design, 2010).

Further, our students are being given opportunities to take on projects that showcase a side of them we have never seen before. Take my Imagineering class for example, where students take on a project of their choosing, create a proposal, set goals, outline a detailed plan, work on achieving their goals for an entire marking period, and ultimately produce something upon completion of the process. Of note, the course was modeled after Google’s 20 percent time, otherwise known as Genius Hour or 20Time in the classroom. The concept, although gaining popularity in educational settings, is still quite unconventional.

Nevertheless, there is one crucial factor that has made my own teaching experience significantly more impactful for myself and my students — abolishing limitations. CEP 811 has provided me with a wealth of knowledge on learning through Maker Ed activities, proving that if we restrict our students’ ability to be imaginative, take risks and demonstrate passion for what they are working on in a classroom setting, we are completely missing the mark when it comes to harnessing their full and unique potential.

For instance, for the past two years teaching Imagineering, I required my students to work in groups on their projects, even though some of them had stressed their desire to work independently. My thought was that, by urging them to collaborate, it would enhance their teamwork and problem solving skills. While there were some groups that created impressive projects, fully immersing themselves in their work, this was unfortunately far from the norm. Additionally, some of their ideas were too outlandish given our resources and project scope, leading me to sway them in different directions. Wow, was my initial thinking wrong.

This marking period, after beginning CEP 811, I decided I would teach the course to fit its true purpose — providing students with full autonomy. I allowed students to work independently if they desired and said “yes” to their ideas, even if I was reluctant. I cannot begin to describe how fulfilling it has been to witness students fully engaged and devoted to their work.

The moment we begin limiting students’ ability to think and act creatively is the moment we lose them. If we expect our students to be innovative and critical thinkers, we must give them the necessary space, technology, autonomy and encouragement to do so.

I would like to close my thoughts with a poem I wrote:

Sparks Poem by Jared Wohl.jpg

OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau Design. (2010). The third teacher: 79 ways you can use design to transform teaching & learning. Retrieved from http://thethirdteacherplus.com/s/Ch2-TTT-for-Web-0y6k.pdf

Assessing Creativity

As a fifth-year educator, I consider myself fortunate having taught a multitude of subjects, beginning with business courses to currently teaching digital technology and STEM courses. Initially, I received my undergraduate degree in Business, later receiving my teacher certificate; therefore, my general knowledge of pedagogy was minimal. During my first year of teaching, I learned a great deal about the importance of formatively and summatively assessing students — most notably utilizing rubrics as a way to clearly define criteria and expectations to students.

For students in a financial literacy class tasked with effectively creating a budget worksheet or analyzing a simulated portfolio of stocks, criteria for assessing were straightforward. Contrarily, when tasking students with creatively solving problems — whether for design challenges, problem-based learning or inquiry-based learning projects — the task of outlining criteria becomes much more expansive. Effectively assessing students’ learning via maker-inspired activities requires a deeper look into what creativity is and how educators evaluate whether or not a student displays such qualities in their work.

Ask any given person to define ‘creativity’ and you will receive a wealth of responses along with, perhaps, some perplexed looks. Most of us can spot a creative idea when we see one, however defining the word is surprisingly challenging; the reason being, creativity is not defined by one specific indicator, rather many of which include, imagination, style, cleverness and the ability to impact others (Wiggins, 2012).

In full disclosure, upon reading Grant Wiggin’s insights on assessing creativity, I was apprehensive to believing I could effectively and objectively assess that of my own students. Although, by not providing my students with concrete objectives and feedback regarding creativity, both formatively and summatively, my efforts are falling short. Further, if my students understand specifically what creative problem-solving consists of, they can more accurately assess their own creativity skills and adapt when necessary.

For example, take the classroom design challenge that I recently published, which tasks students with creating an interactive prototype of their ideal classroom using Makey Makey and scratch.mit.edu, and presenting their prototypes to their classmates. By nature, the project urges students to think creatively, yet I plan on using this Creativity & Innovation Rubric designed by the Buck Institute for Education (BIE) to provide students with specific assessment criteria and expectations (2013). The rubric encompassess criteria for the process students will go through, along with their finished product. Since the design challenge is proposed for my Introduction to Engineering classes, where we regularly utilize the engineering design process (EDP), it is a sufficient way to hold students accountable for not only going through all steps of the EDP, but emphasizing how creative their efforts are. For their final product, the rubric assesses three qualities: originality, value and style. It is simple and digestible for middle school students.

An impactful way to have students analyze their creative thinking and problem-solving skills is to require them to set goals and self-reflect on their progress throughout the project. Paired with reviewing the aforementioned Creativity & Innovation Rubric with students prior to beginning the project, it sets clear expectations. Of course, it is the teacher’s responsibility to actively engage in conversation with students, asking strategic questions that urge them to consistently assess their learning and development.

In 2010, IBM polled more than 1,500 Chief Executive Officers and found that they ranked creativity above rigor, discipline, integrity and vision. With today’s society being even more complex and fast-paced, the need for individuals to exhibit creativity is imperative for them to be able to differentiate themselves, their work and their problem solving skills. Indeed, maker-inspired activities foster creative expression (Halverson & Sheridan, 2014), however students must be prompted further than to simply “be creative.”  

As Grant Wiggins stated, “If rubrics are sending the message that a formulaic response on an uninteresting task is what performance assessment is all about, then we are subverting our mission as teachers” (2012). Beyond assessing reading, writing and arithmetic, we, as educators, must foster a productive and objective way to equip students with the necessary foresight to understand and implement creativity across their work and learning process.

 

Buck Institute for Education. (2013). 6-12 Creativity & Innovation Rubric (CCSS Aligned). Retrieved from http://www.bie.org/object/document/6_12_creativity_innovation_rubric_ccss_aligned

Halverson, E.R. & Sheridan, K. (2014). The maker movement in education. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 495-465.

IBM. (2010, May 18). IBM 2010 Global CEO Study: Creativity Selected as Most Crucial Factor for Future Success. Retrieved from https://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/31670.wss

Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/on-assessing-for-creativity-yes-you-can-and-yes-you-should/

Makerspace: Literally

If you work in education, chances are you have heard of a ‘makerspace’ or, perhaps, you have one at your school or place of business. I cannot help but notice that many people seem to throw the term around without a true understanding of what it actually means. Makerspaces have become a must-have for any future-ready school and, although I agree with the potential they have to enhance learning experiences, it is crucial that we understand the characteristics before putting hammer to nail.

Helping to clarify any confusion, below is an infographic I created, which explains: a) what a makerspace is, b) where they are typically formed, c) what types of equipment and tools they include, d) why they are so popular and e) what they can look like. Of note, it is important to remember that offering a makerspace to individuals will only prove to be as successful as the curiosity they possess, their desire to learn, and their willingness to participate. Nevertheless, I am a firm believer that, when people witness others around them creating, it inspires them to join, contributing to the iterative process that fuels innovation.

As always, I welcome any comments, questions or feedback you may have!

Explee TM (2014). What is a MakerSpace? Retrieved from https://youtu.be/NLEJLOB6fDw

Florin, F. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/fabola/22521685607/in/photostream/

Halverson, E.R. & Sheridan, K. (2014). The maker movement in education. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 495-465.

Male, M. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/mastermaq/18962871653

Sheridan, K. Halverson, E.R., Litts, B.K., Brahms, L, Jacobs-Priebe, L., & Owens, T. (2014) Learning in the making: A comparative case-study of three maker spaces. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 505-565.

Classroom Redesign: Optimizing Learning for the 21st Century

My students are often surprised and excited to learn that I once walked the halls of our middle school as a student. In fact, I had learning experiences in many of the same classrooms as they do, sitting in what looks to be the same chairs and at the same desks. Although reminiscing offers some nostalgia, it is troubling to think that the school has not changed much over the course of two decades. Sure, there is a nicely designed, open-spaced media center that was built years after I graduated, but students only spend a fraction of their time there. This begs the question — why do the majority of the classrooms look the same as they did when I was a student? Does it cost too much money to implement changes that optimize learning spaces for students? Are there steps that we as educators can take to create more welcoming, creative and student-centered spaces? Of course, money is certainly a factor, but after assessing my current classroom, I cannot let it stop me from implementing some incremental remodeling. After all, it is only fair that I offer my students a space that supports learning theories I believe in.

To better understand the scope of traditional classrooms, we must revert to the 18th and 19th centuries, when the Industrial Revolution took place. As Sir Ken Robinson, creativity mogul, so perfectly and simply states, “It’s the factory model” (OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau Design, 2010, p. 56). If our goal is to prepare students for a future filled with uncertainty, undoubtedly looking unlike anything we could imagine, it is troubling to come to the realization that most of our classrooms continue to exemplify conformity; teachers and students maintain strict roles and risk-taking is often met with discipline rather than praise. In the most viewed Ted Talk of all time, Sir Ken Robinson states, “Many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not because the thing they were ever good at wasn’t valued or was actually stigmatized” (2006). Consequently, before we begin remodeling the layout and design of our classrooms, it is important for us to reassess what we are doing within their walls.

In an article exploring what schools can learn from industry-leading innovators, Steve Turckes and Melanie Kahl pose the question, “What would it mean for schools to have a culture centered on design thinking and interdisciplinary projects instead of siloed subjects?” (2011). In an ideal situation, this would certainly require a macro-strategy by school districts as a whole; however we can still implement changes within our own classrooms that embody this sentiment. That said, below is my vision for redesigning my middle school classroom.

My Current Classroom

My Redesigned Classroom Model

By looking at the current photos, you will notice the walls are lined with desks and, when working on their computers, students sit, staring at the wall — not the most inspiring view. Besides the fact that the desks are positioned in a way that does not support collaboration, they are completely outdated; they include a fixed keyboard tray for old desktop computers. Therefore, my first and most pressing redesign measure would be to replace the desks with four, six-foot, height-adjustable tables, as displayed in the 3D models above. My students have boundless energy, so providing them with stools where they can choose to sit or stand will provide them with flexibility to work more efficiently (notice the positioning of the tables — diagonal to allow for better flow and less conventionality). Additionally, there are three desks in the middle of the classroom, and I would leave all but one as a teacher workstation. If I could not find unused tables at the school, these updates would cost approximately $2,500.

One wall of my classroom is currently lined with a chalkboard, while the other has a cork board — neither of which are used effectively. Instead, I would replace both with dry erase boards, allowing students to use them for planning, brainstorming or however else it helps them free their creative spirits. I would also line the tops of the tables with dry erase boards to foster further creativity and ease of brainstorming and collaborating at any time. Magnetic, dry-erase boards for the side walls would cost approximately $400.

The current projector I use is one that most likely existed when I was a middle school student, yet there is a new projector that was installed a couple of years ago, on the front wall of the classroom. Unfortunately, even though it was installed, it was never properly initialized, which has led to me to continue using the older model. I would rid the old projector and take the necessary steps to set up the new one.

Although it is not as pressing, I would love to have two lounge areas available to students, with four single arm chair couches and four round ottomans, costing approximately $600. Luckily, my classroom has plenty of natural light and built-in shelving available for storage.

Reassessing my classroom space has inspired me to begin making my vision a reality. It begins with a conversation with key stakeholders (i.e., my building administrators and supervisor), but it is time my classroom reflects the teaching methods I believe strongly in. While the cost of equipment is a factor, the cost of continuing to model our learning spaces from the 18th century is far more prohibitive.

Have you considered redesigning your own classroom? Feel free to comment below — I would love to hear your thoughts, opinions or concerns!

 

Kahl, M. (2011, November 22). What Schools Can Learn from Google, IDEO, and Pixar. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/UQWbSL

OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau Design. (2010). The third teacher: 79 ways you can use design to transform teaching & learning. Retrieved from http://thethirdteacherplus.com/s/Ch2-TTT-for-Web-0y6k.pdf

Robinson, K. (2006, February). Do schools kill creativity? Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity

Maker Lesson: Designing an Ideal Classroom Prototype

When I first got my hands on my recently purchased Makey Makey kit, I thought to myself, ‘how could it be that a device such as this — so compact and simple-by-design — helps individuals exhibit so much creativity?’ It was not  until I began tinkering with it that it clicked. Although the kit came with a few example how-to instructions for completing different projects, there was not a strict set of rules explaining how to use it. The autonomy and enjoyment that Makey Makey provides its users is what leads to it being used in such innovative ways. It is not that Makey Makey itself is revolutionary, but rather what it offers the individuals using it: creativity without limits.

Building on my exploration of ‘personalized learning’ last week, I discussed in my previous post that educators must be wary of over-emphasizing the use of adaptive learning systems; consequently, it seems to marginalize students’ freedom to choose how they learn (Roberts-Mahoney, Means & Garrison, 2016). Instead, by offering project- and inquiry-based learning activities, students can invest in their learning, finding enjoyment in the process.

My finished prototype

My finished prototype

This week, I have developed a lesson that offers students the ability to design their ideal classroom, challenging their constructivist view of what a traditional classroom is comprised of. Of note, the lesson can be viewed here. According to Angela M. O'Donnell, Rutgers University Educational Psychologist, “Knowledge is constructed by the learner and informed and influenced by the learner’s previous experiences” (2012, p. 61). The task of having students observe and assess their past and current classroom designs, research the future of collaborative learning spaces and then create a prototype of their ideal classroom to meet the needs and desires of students, taps into their previous experiences and suggests that there is always room for innovation. Further, the freedom given to students to explore and use any materials they deem appropriate enhances their ability to be creative problem solvers.

Although I have designed the lesson for my 6th grade Intro. to Engineering classes, it can be modified for any STEM-related unit. Additionally, the concept of using Makey Makey and scratch.mit.edu — a free programming website — to design an interactive prototype can be utilized for any prototype design, not solely to design a classroom. If you are planning on implementing this lesson, be mindful of the following:

  • Although you will be giving students freedom to use any materials they desire, it helps to have cardboard, aluminum foil, hot glue, glue sticks, scissors and other miscellaneous materials available.

  • The lesson is designed for five sequential classes, but if it seems as though students are immersed in creating their designs and/or you have flexibility, you can always give them additional time to create.

  • Below is my sample prototype that you can use as an example for students.

  • Below is a video of how I created my program in Scratch. You can also use this as a model for your students.

Here are some photos of my finished prototype and how I wired it to my Makey Makey. Of note, I used craft wire to extend the alligator clip wires that come with Makey Makey.

Feel free to reach out with any questions or to share your own experience with this lesson. I would love to see what your students create!

 

O'Donnell, A. (2012). Constructivism. In APA Educational Psychology Handbook: Vol. 1. Theories, Constructs, and Critical Issues. K. R. Harris, S. Graham, and T. Urdan (Editors-in-Chief). Washgington, DC: American Psychological Association. DOI: 10.1037/13273-003

Roberts-Mahoney, H., Means, A. J., & Garrison, M. J. (2016). Netflixing human capital development: Personalized learning technology and the corporatization of K-12 education. Journal of Education Policy, 31(4), 405-420. doi:10.1080/02680939.2015.1132774

Getting Personal: Exploring Personalized Learning in K-12 Classrooms

As ‘personalized learning’ has become a widely-used buzzword in education (Horn, 2017), it is crucial to understand its implications on learning experiences for students and the future of K-12 educational institutions. On the surface, it seems unquestionably necessary to tailor instruction to the needs of individual students, but is it possible to personalize student learning in a manner that becomes unduly data-driven and, in some cases, invasive? Netflixing Human Capital Development: Personalized Learning Technology and the Corporatization of K-12 Education (Roberts-Mahoney, Means & Garrison, 2016) poses strong arguments for why we must be cautious and walk before we run with making personalized education in a K-12 setting ubiquitous.

Photo by  Lukas  on  Pexel

Photo by Lukas on Pexel

Unfortunately, the loosely-defined and widely-interpreted term — personalized learning — makes it difficult to pinpoint its implementation in education (Horn, 2017). Personalized learning is not simply differentiating instruction for students based on their varied abilities, but rather linking instruction to students’ interests and abilities, and adapting activities to help them reach their highest levels of academic achievement. One idea of doing so, that is increasingly being discussed among educational technology companies, technology executives and the US Department of Education, is to utilize adaptive learning systems that use algorithmic data to display student growth and design activities specific to each individual learner (Roberts-Mahoney, Means & Garrison, 2016). However, one cannot help but wonder, at what point are we turning students into robots? Focusing on big data in a massive open online course (MOOC) setting, where there is unlimited student participation, seems more appropriate; yet in a K-12 classroom setting, we must implement less-daunting, actionable tactics to personalize learning for students without relying so heavily on numbers dictating what and how students learn. Furthermore, an overarching system that analyzes student growth across all subject areas seems to fall short of providing students with the most optimal learning experience possible.

 

What About Social Welfare?

If teachers are reduced to data-analysts (Roberts-Mahoney, Means & Garrison, 2016), I fear that the focus in the classroom will stray away from caring for students’ well-being and be placed solely on reaching pre-determined objectives. Students are already seemingly overwhelmed as they equate letter grades to achievement and success, along with the paradoxical “fake reality” that social media platforms foster; therefore, what will emphasizing data in education result in? Students need a refreshed perspective on learning, filled with curiosity and creativity, which is why personalization must be simplified.

 

What Teachers Must Do Now

Teachers must do everything in their power to help students foster a love for learning. By providing students with autonomy in choosing what and how they learn through project- and inquiry-based learning activities, engagement improves and an enjoyment in the learning process develops. Teachers should explore Maker Education and the notion that, at the core, we are all creators. Students should have access to an array of materials and educational technologies and use them in a Design-Thinking approach, tasking them with becoming critical, independent-thinkers, and innovators. This is the type of personalized learning that I believe in. It is up to the teacher to fill in the gaps and adapt their curriculum’s objectives to make fires with the sparks of curiosity displayed by students.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to fostering academic achievement with personalized learning. Yes, adaptive learning systems can improve education, but so can a passionate educator with a combination of technological, pedagogical and content knowledge (Koehler, Mishra, Kereluik, Shin & Graham, 2013) paired with the ability to seek out optimal educational technologies or, better yet, create new ones themselves. As educators, it is crucial to begin by having an open-mind and maintaining a classroom filled with eager-to-learn students; what is the best way to do this? Make the experience fun and the learning will commence.

 

Harvard University (n.d.) Design Thinking. Retrieved from https://tll.gse.harvard.edu/design-thinking

Horn, M. (2017). Now trending: Personalized learning. Education Next, 17(4).

Koehler, M. J., Mishra, P., Kereluik, K., Shin, T. S., & Graham, C. R. (2013). The technological pedagogical content knowledge framework. Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology, 101.

Maker Education Initiative (2015). Maker Ed: The Impact of Maker Education. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/3Ml9j1UkeI4

Roberts-Mahoney, H., Means, A. J., & Garrison, M. J. (2016). Netflixing human capital development: Personalized learning technology and the corporatization of K-12 education. Journal of Education Policy, 31(4), 405-420. doi:10.1080/02680939.2015.1132774

Makey Makey: Unleashing Creativity

We have a tendency to blame a lack of creativity on laziness or apathy and, while they are certainly factors, oftentimes we just can’t seem to place a finger on why we can’t come up with an innovative idea. What’s even more baffling is that, it’s as if the smarter we become, the more rigid our views on everything around us become as well. There’s a term for this — Functional Fixedness — the cognitive bias where individuals see objects used only in their traditional sense. Functional Fixedness places a stranglehold on perception and hinders the ability to think creatively.

In my graduate course, CEP 811, this week class focused on exploring the idea of repurposing and its implications on creativity and educational technologies. In an engaging and thought-provoking keynote presentation, Dr. Matthew Koehler, professor of educational psychology and educational technology at Michigan State University, and Dr. Punya Mishra, co-director of the Master's in Educational Technology program at Michigan State University, explain that creativity is “easy to recognize, but hard to define” (2012). We’ve all heard the overused statement urging us to 'think outside the box,' yet how do educators utilize educational technology to creatively construct meaningful activities for students? Ironically, “there is no such thing as an educational technology;” we create it ourselves (Mishra, 2012).

In 2012, Eric Rosenbaum and Jay Silver surprised the crowdfunding space, raising more than $500,000 to fund an invention kit they developed called Makey Makey. They claimed the kit would “turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet.” By simply combining a circuit board, USB cable, a few wires, alligator clips and everyday objects, Makey Makey breaks the barriers of Functional Fixedness. Still not drinking the Kool-Aid? Search “Makey Makey” on YouTube and you’ll find tons of individuals who have explored the world around them and created inventions out of the wildest objects. Take these for example: a compilation of Makey Makey music inventions, a Makey Makey video game controller, or even a way to make a carrot scream when being sliced!

 

My Makey Makey Invention

Adding myself into the mix, throughout the week I explored my own Makey Makey kit and invented a way to help reinforce training methods with my puppy, Lucy (you may recall my training endeavor from CEP 810). Last week, my fiancé, Samantha, and I were visiting her cousins’ house and happened to see that they were getting rid of an old rabbit pen. The idea struck me that we may be able to repurpose it in our apartment as a way to partition the living room from the kitchen (it has the ability to be situated into different shapes), giving Lucy a sizable, controlled space to roam around without getting into too much trouble. The only issue is, since she is a bit hyperactive, she often jumps on the counters and gate, which is something we’ve been trying to curtail. What better way to help reinforce her training than to invent a way to teach her when we’re not in the room ourselves? This is where my Makey Makey comes in!

Here is my invention in action:

 

How You Can Join in on the Fun

If you’re interested in trying something like this for yourself, all you’ll need is a Makey Makey kit ($49.95), aluminum foil, 28-gauge aluminum or copper craft wire (thinner wire is more flexible), tape (conductive tape helps if you have it), and basic computer programming knowledge.

As seen in the video, I began by first creating a program in Scratch, a free website that allows users to program interactive stories, games and animation. The website uses a form of click-and-drag block coding, so there’s no need to have prior computer programming experience. Of note, the website includes a wealth of step-by-step tutorials, which are an incredible way to introduce yourself and/or your students to programming. After recording myself saying, “Lucy, off,” I created a simple command so that when the space key is pressed, the recording will sound off and count the amount of times it occurs.

Below is my Makey Makey setup. The red cable plugs into the USB port on my computer, the yellow wire connects the space key to the foil on top of the gate, and the green wire connects earth to Lucy. Therefore, when Lucy touches the foil, it closes the circuit and runs the program I’ve created, prompting the recording to sound.

I also repurposed Lucy’s harness using some aluminum foil, conductive tape and craft wire. This took a few tries to get right since I had to make sure that the foil was touching Lucy's body.

Next, I connected wire to the foil, wrapped it around the rings of the harness, coiled it around the leash and ultimately connected it to the Makey Makey. The clip on her leash is metal so I knew that once it touched the rings, it would close the circuit. Lastly, I made sure to tether the leash to her crate to avoid my laptop from being destroyed if she tugged. Below is a video that further explains.

 

Final Thoughts

Although this activity was challenging to say the least, I thoroughly enjoyed the process of creating this invention; it certainly brought out the inner-child in me. I now understand why and how Makey Makey can completely revolutionize learning for students. As I was tinkering with my kit, I was going through the steps of the Engineering Design Process, first defining the problem I was trying to solve — to prevent Lucy from jumping on counters and gate — along with constraints, then moving on to exploring, planning, creating and ultimately improving the invention to be more efficient. With my Intro to Engineering students, Makey Makey can take design challenges to the next level. Furthermore, by integrating computer programming, it can urge students to think critically, sequentially and creatively, fostering invaluable skills in a fun and playful manner.

The sky's the limit when it comes to what Makey Makey can offer students and, as I’ve learned, it’s up to educators to provide them with the tools necessary to become innovative problem solvers. In this case, all we need is a Makey Makey kit and the world around us.

 

Functional Fixedness (2001). In Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/functional-fixedness

Keevill, A. (2014). Makey Makey Screaming Carrot. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/o4iTQ7lr2W0

Koehler, M. & Mishra, P. (2012). Teaching Creatively: Teachers as Designers of Technology, Content and Pedagogy. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/39539571

Mishra, P. (2012). Keynote Speaker @ 21st Century Learning Conference - Hong Kong 2012. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/9bwXYa91fvQ

Rosenbaum, E. (2013). MaKey MaKey Music Examples. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/wkPt9MYqDW0

Rosenbaum, E. & Silver, J. (2012). MaKey MaKey: An Invention Kit for Everyone. Retrieved from https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/joylabz/makey-makey-an-invention-kit-for-everyone

Rossberg, D. (2016). MaKey MaKey Game Controller Tutorial. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/81q-n28vOuM

Wohl, J. (2017). Puppy Training w/ Makey Makey. Retrieved from https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/183869285/#player

Made to be a Maker

Me in the studio (2013)

Me in the studio (2013)

I’ll never forget the day my brother, Cameron, and I came home with our all black, spruce top, acoustic guitar. Truth be told, it was his idea to split the cost and share the guitar; yet, it would end up spending its tenure in my room. We chose the color not because we were huge Johnny Cash fans but because, simply put, it looked cool. I was 15 years old and only a few years removed from my parents purchasing me my own electric guitar beginner kit which, after taking a few lessons and not practicing (I expected to be able to learn songs and skip the fundamentals — oops), my fleeting career ended. This was my chance at redemption, and I made the best of it.

I skipped the formal lessons and explored a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach, immersing myself in the online world of guitar tablature (or tabs for short) — a simple number and line method to teach guitar playing to individuals who can’t/don’t want to read sheet music. The idea was quite revolutionary to me and, although it was still just as difficult to learn the basics, I remember thinking to myself, “This time, I’m going to get it.”

Fast forward and I’ve written over 100 songs, performed at various venues in and out of my home state of New Jersey, and have had the good fortune of recording with top industry session musicians. Songwriting has become a significant part of my life, and it all began with the urge to create.

My second graduate course, CEP 811 - Adapting Innovative Technologies in Education, kicked off this past week with exploring Maker Culture, the idea that we are all fundamentally born to be makers, some of us tinkering with small projects and others creating the next groundbreaking technology. Yet, our innovative spirit relies on one another and, as filmmaker, Kirby Ferguson mentions in part one of his four-part web-series, Everything is a Remix, “Creation requires influence. Everything we make is a remix of existing creations, our lives and the lives of others” (2012). My urge to pick up the guitar, learn to play, and later write my own songs, was only possible due to inspiration from existing musicians. Further, it’s listening to other artists that fosters my desire to continue writing.

For my initial assignment, I was tasked with creating a remix video, using images and videos in the public domain only, that showcase Maker Culture in some way. What better way to do so than to explore the evolution of guitar making? I strongly recommend trying this activity for yourself as, although it was challenging, it certainly releases creativity and admiration for the maker spirit. The production process helped remind me to be grateful for all the time I’ve spent developing my craft. Of note, I used iMovie to produce the video, however there are free online video-production apps, such as WeVideo and Adobe Spark that are simple and easy to use.

Please enjoy the video below and feel free to comment with any feedback you may have! Lastly, if interested, you can listen to my music here.

Bech, M. (2017, October 16). Gibson Les Paul Goldtop (Photograph). Retrieved from https://unsplash.com/photos/OwMIhcZu_X8.

Centron Corporation (Producer). (ca. 1970). Fences and Gates (Documentary). Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/0846_Fences_and_Gates_09_29_02_00.

Ferguson, K. (2012, September 10) Everything is a Remix Part 1 (Documentary). Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/14912890.

Gurrola, G. (2016, August 17) Acoustic guitar player in pale light (Photograph). Retrieved from https://unsplash.com/photos/2UuhMZEChdc.

Henman, K. (2017, September 26) Untitled (Photograph). Retrieved from https://unsplash.com/photos/rg1X0DQHw6Y.

Henry, M. (2017, May 6) Guitar player gear looking (Photograph). Retrieved from https://unsplash.com/photos/_zoBLWLscqg.

Montgomery, K. (2016, May 9) Fender Jazzmaster headstock (Photograph). Retrieved from https://unsplash.com/photos/Ln1bd3eXATU.

Shea, K. (2017, January 24) Pure white electric guitar (Photograph). Retrieved from https://unsplash.com/photos/laHwVPkMTzY.

Sundalic, M. (2016, March 2) Untitled (Photograph). Retrieved from https://unsplash.com/photos/TVgcpjm7jxc.

Taalbi, B., & Taalbi, P. (2009, September 17) Breaking Bad Season Finale - Freestyle by Taalbi Brothers: teen brothers shred flamenco rock guitar! (Musical Performance). Retrieved from https://youtu.be/9nTGSfbP-N8.

Tsiorba, Peter. (2015, February 23) Luthier's Art of Guitar Making (Video). Retrieved from https://youtu.be/13RW9vBTiNQ.

Wohl, J. (2013, September 2) Untitled (Photograph). Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10100736227316612&set=a.675614930362.2206664.26101537&type=3&theater.

Wohl, J. (2017, October 27) Untitled (Audio Recording).

That’s a Wrap: CEP 810 Final Learning Reflection

Photo by  Elijah Hiett  on  Unsplash

Photo by Elijah Hiett on Unsplash

At the beginning of CEP 810: Teaching for Understanding with Technology, my first graduate course in matriculating through the Master’s in Educational Technology (MAET) program at Michigan State University, while I anticipated it would include a rigorous workload, I was pleasantly surprised by realizing how much I missed being a student. The course not only provided me with many new insights on how students learn, theories on technology and the importance of collaboration through personal and professional learning networks (PLNs) but, most importantly, it challenged me to re-think how technology should (and can) be integrated in education to provide the most positive learning experience for students.

Given the conventional nature of essay writing, I was slightly perplexed when I learned I’d be writing an expository essay during week one of a technology course. Yet, it was the perfect opportunity to evaluate the answer to a widely-discussed, critically important and foundational question; what is learning? Upon reading and analyzing “How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School,” (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000), I defined learning as a comprehensive process that encompasses the transfer of knowledge and skills, and translates into understanding and the ability to make real-world connections. Additionally, I recognized the importance of collaboration, goal-setting, reflection, autonomy and the utilization of digital productivity tools in supporting an optimal learning environment. If interested, the full essay can be read here.

While working on the initial assignment, my focus was through the lens of a teacher and the impact I could have on my students. Although, I’m intrigued by the parallels I’ve observed to my experience as a learner throughout this course. I’ve come to realize that to best prepare my students, I must consistently maintain a growth-mindset, devote myself to being a lifelong learner and be willing to take risks. CEP 810 provided the opportunity to explore a variety of digital tools (i.e., Google Keep, Evernote, Popplet, online help forums), most of which I deemed useful, yet it was through the experience of play, analyzing, and reflection that I was able to realize that just because something may be useful to me, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be seen as useful by my students. For example, I found David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) workflow system to be helpful in improving my ability to stay on top of the multitude of seemingly never-ending things on my to-do list, however it’s not for everyone. As I learned, although the learning process is unique for everyone, their core competencies as fundamental literacy practices must be strengthened by giving them the ability to make educated decisions for themselves (Hobbs, 2010).

I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity that CEP 810 offered me to positively impact my digital footprint as an educator through blogging and by expanding my personal and professional learning networks, things I look forward to continuing. Furthermore, my networked learning project allowed me to explore online communities of puppy trainers, witnessing the power of curating digital information. I’m proud to say that I’ve continued training my puppy, Lucy, with the help of YouTube videos. Of course it’s not without great effort, but learning to evaluate credible information online is one of the most valuable skills I’ve enhanced and a main focus I’ve adopted for my own students.

A question I look forward to exploring the answer to is, how, in a finite amount of time, and given a subject matter dictated by curriculum and course timelines, in a classroom every day with a diverse set of students, do I ensure I’m leveraging technology appropriately and efficiently in a way that will resonate - in one way or another - with all of my students? In addition to being mindful of differentiated learning when it comes to the content itself, how do I also differentiate effective modes of technology and, further, how do I evaluate their effectiveness?

CEP 810 has provided me with a great deal of inspiration and motivation moving forward in my graduate studies. I look forward to beginning my next course, which focuses on further exploring TPACK (Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge) (Koehler & Mishra, 2006), continuing to enhance my PLNs, and diving into the “maker culture.”

Thank you for coming along for the ride. I’ll be continuing to blog about my experience in the classroom moving forward, so stay tuned!


Bransford, J., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R. R. (2000). How people learn: brain, mind, experience and school (pp. 3-). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368.

Getting Things Done. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2017 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done

Hobbs, R. (2010). Digital and media literacy: A plan of action. Washington, DC: The Aspen Institute. Retrieved from http://blogs.uoregon.edu/artinsociety/files/2010/11/Digital_and_Media_Literacy_A_Plan_of_Action.pdf

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054. Retrieved from http://punya.educ.msu.edu/publications/journal_articles/mishra-koehler-tcr2006.pdf download .pdf

So, You Think You Know Technology?

When educators visualize the utilization of technology in the classroom, they often focus on digital tools to enhance instruction or replace traditional tools (i.e., notebooks, pencils, etc.). Some even believe in technocentrism, seeing technology as the ultimate solution; a shadow cast upon everything else. But aren’t there more factors to positive learning experiences, such as pedagogy and content knowledge? Doesn’t technology encompass more than a computer?

Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by tpack.org

Contrary to popular belief, technology is not the be-all, end-all and it doesn’t only include what’s digital. According to Merriam-Webster, technology can be defined as the practical application of knowledge, especially in a particular area. Technology includes tools to further understanding, dependent on two things: pedagogy and content knowledge. Dr. Matthew Koehler, professor of educational psychology and educational technology at Michigan State University, and Dr. Punya Mishra, Co-Director of the Master's in Educational Technology program at Michigan State University, have developed a widely-used theory — TPACK (Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge) — which clarifies the confusion and it’s much simpler than we might have imagined.

We’ve all heard educational technology buzz terms, such as 1:1 institutions (one device for each student) or flipped classrooms (students learning at home and then participating in activities in school), yet they don’t give us the full picture on optimally integrating digital technology in education. According to Dr. Mishra in his keynote address at the 21st Century Learning Conference, “There is no such thing as an educational technology. What we have is a variety of technologies and our job as educators is to repurpose [and] customize them for our needs” (2012). Providing students access to a laptop over a pencil and notebook isn’t the answer. Not only must we find innovative ways to use technology paired with understanding our audience and content, but we must share our tactics with one another, furthering the participatory culture outlined in Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (Jenkins, Purushotma, Clinton, Weigel, & Robison, 2006).

What learning experiences will you create with the use of technology?

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Clinton, K., Weigel, M., Robison, A. (2006). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Retrieved from http://www.newmedialiteracies.org/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/NMLWhitePaper.pdf

Mishra, P. (2012). Keynote speaker @ 21st century learning conference - hong kong 2012. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/9bwXYa91fvQ

Technology (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster online. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/technology

Wolf, L., G., (2009). Quickfires explained. Retrieved from http://www.leighgraveswolf.com/2009/08/19/quickfires-explained/

Seeing is Believing: Puppy Training Part Three

What did the internet do to my puppy?! Is it possible that in less than one month Lucy has transformed from being unruly to well-behaved? For those just learning of my endeavor, as part of my CEP 810 graduate course, I recently began training Lucy to sit, stay and stop mouthing. I’m pleased to report that, not only did I reach my goal, but I exceeded it and moved on to more advanced training exercises due to committing ample time, practicing patience and maintaining a growth-mindset. Through this process I learned that puppy training takes dedication and repetition and, while it doesn’t come without setbacks and unpredictability, consistency and the implementation of positive rewards ultimately gives way to regularity in performance. I’d be lying if I said the experience was stress-free, but my efforts still paid off. Have a look for yourself!

Per my second update, after evaluating a multitude of online forums dedicated to all things dog-related, I found YouTube to be the most thorough and effective resource. It was incredibly helpful to watch trainers conduct exercises I could emulate with Lucy. Additionally, it motivated me to see puppies as energetic and disobedient as Lucy quickly learn when the appropriate training methods were implemented. Although at times I found myself falling into the YouTube rabbit hole, going from one video to the next without knowing what I would find, I always wound up back on Zak George’s channel. His friendly demeanor and informative and digestible step-by-step tutorials were the most helpful as I learned to properly train Lucy. As noted, I wasn’t originally planning on training Lucy to leash walk as part of this project, but after reaching my goal, this video inspired me to take on the challenge.

A great deal of this week’s learning in CEP 810 focused on Renee Hobbs’ five core competencies as fundamental literacy practices, which can be explored further in her white paper, Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan of Action (2010). Hobbs explains, “These five competencies [access, analyze, create, reflect and act] work together in a spiral of empowerment, supporting people’s active participation in lifelong learning through the processes of both consuming and creating messages” (p. 18). This project helped me encompass all of these practices, as I actively sought and analyzed helpful information on puppy training, took part in meaningful activities by implementing methods that resonated, assessed my progress (and Lucy’s for that matter), and shared my experience. I hope that my journey will inspire others to take on new endeavors grounded in a plan of action.

Similar to the competencies outlined by Hobbs, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (Jenkins, Purushotma, Clinton, Weigel, & Robison, 2006) discusses new media literacies, which “include the traditional literacy that evolved with print culture as well as the newer forms of literacy within mass and digital media” (p.19), and participatory culture, where individuals possess these necessary literacy skills, accessibility, support, and willingness to share learning experiences. This project helped me become part of this culture and expand my personal learning network.

I will continue using online forums and YouTube to form new learning experiences for myself and my students, as the skills I learned from this project are invaluable and reach far beyond the evident (i.e., I also learned multimedia skills, including video editing and screen-recording). I believe that by providing students the opportunity to choose their own projects/topics, it will further contribute to the iterative process of learning and sharing, benefiting us all. For now, it looks like I need to research separation-anxiety remedies!

George, Z. (2017). How to train your dog not to pull on the leash. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/jBN2_YuTclU

Hobbs, R. (2010). Digital and media literacy: A plan of action. Washington, DC: The Aspen Institute. Retrieved from http://blogs.uoregon.edu/artinsociety/files/2010/11/Digital_and_Media_Literacy_A_Plan_of_Action.pdf

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Clinton, K., Weigel, M., Robison, A. (2006). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Retrieved from http://www.newmedialiteracies.org/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/NMLWhitePaper.pdf

Apple's Next Smartphone: Product Design Challenge Lesson Plan

My own personal example

As educators, we must continue cultivating the next generation of innovators, those who can solve the world’s biggest problems. Rather than solely using traditional teaching methods requiring students to memorize facts and information, Apple’s Next Smartphone: Product Design Challenge is a lesson I’ve designed to help students clarify their understanding of the engineering design process in a creative and collaborative manner. In short, the lesson instructs students to use Tinkercad, a free and user-friendly, web-based, computer-aided design (CAD) application, to create a 3D model of what they think Apple’s next smartphone will look like, along with the newly added features it will boast.

Although the integration of technology in education is becoming more widespread over time with the expansion of one-to-one computer initiatives, developing meaningful and relatable activities that foster positive learning experiences is crucial in preparing students for the unpredictable nature of the 21st century. From my experience, my students are most engaged when I provide them with fun activities that relate to the world around them. My initial thought to design this lesson began with a discussion I had with my Intro to Engineering students a few weeks ago. Upon Apple’s recent release of the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, we discussed the importance of engineering teams — ranging from product designers to software engineers — working collaboratively to create these stylish and multifunctional devices. My students were eager to discuss their thoughts and opinions, especially as most of them possess smartphones, along with buzz in the media regarding the new releases.

When my CEP 810 graduate course required us to create a lesson this week, it dawned on me: I would allow students to create their own version of the iPhone to help them recognize the effort that is spent in developing one of the world’s most widely used smartphone brands. Of note, the lesson is designed to be covered in one 60-minute class, however it can be extended if time permits. Additionally, even though I happen to teach middle school students, the teacher can differentiate the activity to meet the needs of more advanced and/or older students.

As Bransford, Brown and Cocking state, “Emerging technologies are leading to the development of many new opportunities to guide and enhance learning that were unimagined even a few years ago” (2000, p. 4). Traditionally, students have had the ability to learn CAD software, however with the inception of Tinkercad in 2011, individuals can now learn 3D modeling in a much simpler manner. As school districts make 3D printers more widely available to students, not only can they design prototypes, but also create tangible models to see their ideas actualize. Moreover, design challenges like the one I’m offering touch on Renee Hobbs’ five communication competencies, allowing students the ability to collaboratively and critically utilize technology to research information, create a solution to a given problem based on empathizing with the needs of others, and reflect on their progress. For more information on digital and media literacy mogul, Renee Hobbs, check this out.

Furthermore, this lesson meets students where they are most comfortable learning, through playing. As Thomas and Brown state in A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change (2011), "Children use play and imagination as the primary mechanisms for making sense of their new, rapidly evolving world" (p. 47). By having students immerse themselves in Tinkercad, unleashing creativity in exploration of all the website's features, it allows for endless possibilities and a greater understanding of the engineering design process.

Lastly, if you’ve never heard of Tinkercad, check out this brief introductory video. I highly suggest creating your own account and explore all that the site has to offer.

As always, thanks for reading and I welcome any thoughts and/or feedback you may have!

 

Autodesk Tinkercad (2016). What is tinkercad? A square is not just a square - An animated overview. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/FZhwtETwQzs

Bransford, J., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R. R. (2000). How people learn: brain, mind, experience and school (pp. 3-). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368.

Hobbs, R. (2011). Digital and media literacy: Connecting culture and classroom. Thousand, Oaks, CA: Corwin/Sage.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, Ky: CreateSpace?. Retrieved from www.newcultureoflearning.com/newcultureoflearning.pdf

Puppy Training: Update

I’d have a difficult time believing someone who told me Lucy, my hyperactive, mouthy puppy, would sit, stay and stop biting in under two weeks. I have seen celebrity trainers and been convinced their work was sorcery. However, after scouring the online world of puppy training, I have begun the journey of turning my monster into an exemplary student. Check it out!

Click on image to enlarge

Given I had no prior dog training experience, it was challenging to determine whether positive reinforcement or a discipline-based approach would be more effective. I do not find it appropriate to inflict physical harm or implement fear tactics when training; nevertheless, there are many people who disagree, using methods like electric shock collars and/or scruff-shakes (pulling on loose skin around a dog’s neck). Despite Lucy’s tendency to be overly mouthy, I did not want to utilize the aforementioned training so explored positive reinforcement methods.

I researched on YouTube and ironically, after pages of sifting, I wound up back to the first video I found, by Zak George, a well-known dog trainer (see my first blog post regarding this endeavor here). While, there were informative perspectives on help forums, such as Reddit’s “puppy101” subreddit, it was invaluable to have step-by-step visual tutorials that I could follow.

Two videos by Zak were particularly helpful: How to Teach your Puppy to Sit and Stay and How to Stop Puppy Biting. Both are thorough but not overwhelming, and contain easy-to-follow instructions. It didn’t take long for Lucy to grasp the concepts and I was pleasantly surprised by how receptive she was to the methods.

While exploring the aforementioned online sources, I couldn’t help but ponder the fact that, as a technology educator, I help my students learn digital literacy skills to effectively navigate the online world, and my experience is a prime example of its importance. We have access to a surplus of information, but must be able to form opinions and determine credible sources. As stated in Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century, “A focus on expanding access to new technologies carries us only so far if we do not also foster the skills and cultural knowledge necessary to deploy those tools toward our own ends” (Jenkins H., Purushotma, R., Clinton, K., Weigel, M., Robison, A., 2006). While there are many certified dog trainers, it doesn’t mean their training methods align with my own beliefs and it’s important I found an approach that resonates with me.

I feel inspired and committed to continue to train Lucy after my initial experience. I’m appreciative of my recent studies focusing on workflow, as they’ve pushed me to become more organized and focused on accomplishing my goals, including training Lucy. I suggest checking out David Allen’s Tedx Talk, The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, where he provides a reality check to procrastinators and scatterbrains who have too many things to do and use time constraints as their excuse for lack of productivity. He states, “If you’re trying to use your psyche to manage that mess [...] you get the result of two things that are the critical elements of self and organizational productivity. You’ll lose perspective [...] and/or you may be experiencing the results of what happens when you lose control” (2012). I can certainly relate to this sentiment, especially with adopting Lucy, and refining my own workflow will only benefit my continued efforts. For more information on David Allen’s workflow system, check out my previous post here.

I look forward to undertaking more advanced training exercises (i.e., proper leash walking, drop it) in the coming week. In the meantime, enjoy this video of Lucy showing off her one of her new skills.

Allen, D. (2012). The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/CHxhjDPKfbY

George, Z. (2014). How to stop puppy biting and don’t do these 5 things when training your puppy. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/1H1JGfzaW9A

George, Z. (2017). How to teach your puppy to sit and stay. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/DPNz6reMVXY

George, Z. (2014). How to train a puppy not to bite. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/m9KQegi4r8k

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Clinton, K., Weigel, M., Robison, A. (2006). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Retrieved from http://www.newmedialiteracies.org/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/NMLWhitePaper.pdf