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

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, 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

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

Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

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

Florin, F. (2015). Retrieved from

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

Male, M. (2015). Retrieved from

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

OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau Design. (2010). The third teacher: 79 ways you can use design to transform teaching & learning. Retrieved from

Robinson, K. (2006, February). Do schools kill creativity? Retrieved from

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 — 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

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

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

Keevill, A. (2014). Makey Makey Screaming Carrot. Retrieved from

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

Mishra, P. (2012). Keynote Speaker @ 21st Century Learning Conference - Hong Kong 2012. Retrieved from

Rosenbaum, E. (2013). MaKey MaKey Music Examples. Retrieved from

Rosenbaum, E. & Silver, J. (2012). MaKey MaKey: An Invention Kit for Everyone. Retrieved from

Rossberg, D. (2016). MaKey MaKey Game Controller Tutorial. Retrieved from

Wohl, J. (2017). Puppy Training w/ Makey Makey. Retrieved from

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.

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Centron Corporation (Producer). (ca. 1970). Fences and Gates (Documentary). Retrieved from

Ferguson, K. (2012, September 10) Everything is a Remix Part 1 (Documentary). Retrieved from

Gurrola, G. (2016, August 17) Acoustic guitar player in pale light (Photograph). Retrieved from

Henman, K. (2017, September 26) Untitled (Photograph). Retrieved from

Henry, M. (2017, May 6) Guitar player gear looking (Photograph). Retrieved from

Montgomery, K. (2016, May 9) Fender Jazzmaster headstock (Photograph). Retrieved from

Shea, K. (2017, January 24) Pure white electric guitar (Photograph). Retrieved from

Sundalic, M. (2016, March 2) Untitled (Photograph). Retrieved from

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Tsiorba, Peter. (2015, February 23) Luthier's Art of Guitar Making (Video). Retrieved from

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