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

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

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

Mishra, P. (2012). Keynote speaker @ 21st century learning conference - hong kong 2012. Retrieved from

Technology (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster online. Retrieved from

Wolf, L., G., (2009). Quickfires explained. Retrieved from

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

Hobbs, R. (2010). Digital and media literacy: A plan of action. Washington, DC: The Aspen Institute. Retrieved from

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

Who Said I Could Only Teach Technology?

A couple of months ago, my fiancé, Samantha, and I had the bright idea - OK, it was mostly my idea - of adopting a puppy. You know, so it could give us some practice for when we are ready to have children. Taking matters into my own hands, I filed the adoption papers unbeknownst to her and before we knew it, we were holding Lucy, our soon-to-be daughter. Fun fact: Truth be told, her shelter name was “Rihanna Lonestar” and was part of a litter, all given pop star names. Let’s be real, how could Samantha say no? Look at that face! It was love at first sight and so the story goes, the rest was history.

Although Lucy seems quite intelligent, she is a bit spiteful. It’s not that she doesn’t understand, it’s that she may or may not want to actually listen when being told to sit, stop jumping, or stop nipping us. We love her dearly, but the time has come to start her training regimen. What better way to learn proven techniques then to dive into the online world of puppy training? Luckily, for my latest assignment in CEP 810, the graduate course I’m taking, I was tasked with choosing something to learn, solely utilizing help forums and YouTube. Therefore, over the next few weeks I’ll be tapping into videos and discussions on how we can get Lucy to finally mind her manners. More specifically, my goal is to teach Lucy bite inhibition, sitting and staying.

To provide some context, adopting a dog as opposed to purchasing one from a breeder can pose certain challenges. Puppies are oftentimes removed from their litter too soon, before they have the opportunity to learn bite inhibition. As Debra Horwitz, DVM, states, “Puppies start to learn bite inhibition with their littermates. If Puppy A bites on Puppy B too hard, Puppy B will yelp. If that doesn’t work, Puppy B will leave. This sends the message to Puppy A that its bites were too hard and if wishes to continue to play, it needs to be gentle” (p. 4). As Lucy was only eight weeks old when we adopted her, it leads us to believe that her mouthiness is a result of being removed from her litter too soon paired with our lack of knowledge and initial training.

Besides the fact that I’m eager to attain the necessary skill-set to train Lucy effectively, I’m also looking forward to sharing my experience, becoming part of the participatory culture mentioned in “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century” (Jenkins H., Purushotma, R., Clinton, K., Weigel, M., Robison, A., 2006), which was part of my weekly readings for CEP 810. The text states, “Students should discover what it is like to contribute their own expertise to a process that involves many intelligences, a process they encounter readily in their participation in fan discussion lists or blogging” (p. 21). For many years, I have been a consumer of content via help forums, however I’ve rarely contributed. Don’t get me wrong, as a singer songwriter and organ donation advocate, I’ve produced and published creative works in hopes to inspire others, but when it comes to providing advice, I can’t say that I’ve been part of this so-called culture. As learning is an iterative process where we all must give back to keep it ongoing, I must do my part. In James Paul Gee’s essay, “Digital Media and Learning: A Prospective Retrospective,” another insightful read from my graduate class this week, he mentions, “As newcomers advance, they are encouraged to contribute back to the group (family, community, social group, institution, or culture), based on their learning” (2013, p. 6). My puppy training endeavor will challenge me to be a consumer and creator, hopefully serving as inspiration for others to share their own experiences.

Certainly, this will be challenging, but by taking on a growth-mindset and with the help of online communities of dog trainers, I’m confident I’ll reach my goals. Wish me luck!

Gee, J. P. (2013). Digital Media and Learning: A Prospective Retrospective. Retrieved from

George, Z. (2014). How to train a puppy not to bite. Retrieved from

Horwitz, D. (1999). Counseling pet owners on puppy socialization and establishing leadership. Veterinary Medicine, 94, 149-156.

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