A “Tangible” Idea

Our Connected World…

Our connected world sketch.I decided to take the idea of “our connected world” and transform that idea into something both visual and physical – turning the intangible into something tangible so to speak. I made a smiley face out of some paper that I had lying around my house (putting my childhood skills to use) to represent a person at the center of a connected world. I used orange yarn to create a circle and on that circle resides a series of objects/devices that connect to each other either directly or indirectly. The blue yarn extending from each object/device connects the person to that object/device. Essentially, everything is connected! I work with technology on a daily basis so the idea of always being connected to something or someone is a reality that is very much present in today’s world.

The Connected World at my Home!

The process of taking an idea and transforming into a physical form was enlightening simply because I found it extremely easy to find items in my house that are part of a “connected world” in some way, shape, or form. I used 13 items to visually display the idea, but I could have easily found many additional items around my house. As I added an object to my “connected world” circle, I thought about how it actually played a role in the connection. For example, my Bose portable speaker is Bluetooth enabled which connects to the other Bluetooth devices in my house and the Xbox controller connects to my GoPiGo robot, which is also connected via Bluetooth to my computer(s) and Raspberry Pi. It’s amazing!

I never really thought about how connected these objects really were to each other and to me until bringing the idea to physical “life”. I think that when an idea becomes tangible, it allows you to see things and experience them in a different way. I really enjoyed this experience, it allowed me to visually see and experience the connections of the world of technology right inside my home.

Reflection after Incubation…

Part 4 – Back to work and reflection

Idea Notes Addendum (new thoughts are shown in green)


  • Go through each chapter in the textbook and pick out 1-2 “sticky” areas and create short videos where I walk through a process or technique to help students better understand a particular technique – include actual coding.
    • Review the help discussion forum in each class to identify the “sticky” areas that students are asking the most questions about and use those discussions as video topics. I can keep a video library and provide links to the videos as needed from semester to semester.
  • Ask students to provide 1-2 areas in the chapter reading that they would like more clarification on. I will choose the 1-2 most popular areas based on student input and create a short video.
    • This requires input from the students, they may not have time in their schedule, and I may receive limited responses. I don’t plan on doing this.
  • Create generic videos that I can use throughout all of my online courses demonstrating how to submit completed work, accessing the web server, and interacting with the web server, which are common practices and requirements across all the courses in the program.
    • This is very doable, will benefit the students, and can be used for all courses not only a single course.

Student Support:

  • Assemble a document that contains all the support services offered at the college that can be distributed the students: (learning centers, career services, counseling & academic advising, disability/special services, Financial Aid, Reading & Writing Studios, Veteran and military services, health and benefits assistance, child care resources, and food assistance through the food pantry).
    • The document will include the name of the service, location (if applicable), and a contact name, phone number, and email.
    • The document will be emailed out to the entire class as well posted within the online classroom.
      • The college may already have a document like this so I can check there first before creating my own.
      • There is a tutor for my courses so I can include the tutor’s schedule at the start of each semester and post that in my online classroom as well as send it out via email.
  • Offer online office hours for students who cannot make it to on campus office hours.
    • This will be offered during a set time each week – all students welcome from multiple sections.
      • In order to do this, I first have to decide on which conferencing software to use (considering Zoom), type up instructions for the students, and then test it out.
    • Offer Individual online assistance (by appointment) for any personal issues and/or program advising.
      • See note above.
  • Advertise workshops at campus that promote student success.
    • Post announcements in the online classroom and send the information out to the class via email.
      • This information is already available at the college so I can simply link to it from within my online classrooms.
  • Share job/internship information within the virtual classroom and via email.
      • This is something that would be made available to students whenever I am given the information; it’s not something that may occur every week. It’s very easy to do with an email or link to an external website.
  • Encourage on/off campus study groups.
    • These are set up and managed entirely by students.
      • I won’t be involved in setting up the study groups; this will be the student’s responsibility. However, I can offer suggestions and sent out an email to the class with recommendations.
    • Offer meeting suggestions such as the campus Learning Centers or the Student Centers (at both campuses).
      • For meeting online, I can enable the chat feature in the online classroom so students can interact synchronously.
        • This is simply a setting in the college’s LMS.

Making a Personal Connection:

  • Conducting “optional” online meeting sessions during the first week of class and half way through the course to connect with students.
    • In order to do this, I first have to decide on which conferencing software to use (considering Zoom), type up instructions for the students, and then test it out.
  • Invite students to follow and connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn.
    • This information is present in my contact information but sending out an email to the class inviting the students to connect with me may be effective and also serve as a reminder.
  • Holding an online meet and greet – get to know the students and they can get to know me.
    • In order to do this, I first have to decide on which conferencing software to use (considering Zoom), type up instructions for the students, and then test it out.


Connect by Senjin PojskićWhen I started the process, I found it very easy to start jotting down questions, thoughts, and ideas based on my problem of practice. As I got to the idea notes section and as I was writing, I kept thinking to myself, “I need to narrow my focus, I can’t possibly do all of this at one time.” Reflecting on the information that I wrote down, I realized there are so many variables in this problem that I don’t have any control over and those variables are a big component of the problem. In order to wrap my head around this problem, I decided to break down the ideas into three main categories: videos, student support, and making a personal connection. From the main categories, I then tried to create subcategories – I was really trying to make sense of it all (actually, I was trying to determine a pattern – cue our previous week’s readings). As I’m writing at this very moment (after my “mind break”), there may only be a single category, student support, and everything else could easily fit into that single category. Yes! Did I just have a “profound insight”?

I’m a big fan of taking mental breaks and do it often. It’s usually in the form of exercising. I will be jogging outside or walking on the treadmill and an idea will hit me! I have learned to try to have paper and a pencil handy, or I add voice memos on my phone so I can record the ideas. Before reading the article from Psychology Today, I thought it was odd that this kept happening to me – 95% of my ideas/solutions come to me when exercising. Whew! I feel better now knowing that it’s just my mind getting “unstuck”.


Pojskić, Senjin. (2011, June). [Connect, Jigsaw, Strategy] [Image]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/connect-jigsaw-strategy-1586220/

P.Q. & C.Q. – “Live the questions NOW.”

The Journey

Looking back to the beginning of this course, we were asked a series of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” type of questions, questions that made me stop and really think about my answers. Little did I know that that type of questioning was laying the ground work for the entire course and what was to follow would prove to be a very engaging and enlightening experience. A quote by David McCullough from Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas immediately resonated with me:

“Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air, and behold the view. Climb is to you can see the world, not so the world can see you”  (Berger, 2012, p. 191).

So often we are more concerned with the “prize” at the end that we don’t enjoy the journey.

Questioning your own life can be scary but it can also be exciting. Berger (2012) points out that while you’re questioning your own life, don’t only look for what’s missing also look for what’s there via “appreciative inquiry”. Berger (2012) explains that “the main premise of appreciative inquiry is that positive questions, focusing on strengths and assets, tend to yield more effective result than negative questions focusing on problems or deficits” (p. 190). Bottom line, focusing on what is missing and what we don’t have elicits negative feelings that can block progress. Happiness researcher Tal Ben-Shahar suggests to “cultivate the habit of gratitude” as “gratitude is the shortcut to happiness” (pp. 190-191).

Technology, Passions, & Curiosities

In the ever changing world of technology where one of the few constants is change, being knowledgeable and knowing your stuff aren’t the only skills that are going to land you a job or make you efficient in your field. As Thomas Friedland (2013) so appropriately states, “We are a world that taken us from connected to hyperconnected”, just look around next time you’re waiting in a doctor’s office or walk into a coffee shop – people are glued to their electronic devices, technology is all around us.

Just being good with technology isn’t enough but add passion and curiosity to the mix and you create a recipe for success. pqandcqinfographicWhat is important to you? What are you passionate about? What are you curious about?  I asked myself those fundamental questions not only how they relate to my teaching career but also how they relate to my life in general. I answered those questions and visualized them in an infographic that depicts my P.Q. (passion quotient) and my C.Q. (curiosity quotient) as Friedland wrote about.

My passions in life and my career include:

  • Health & Well Being
  • Creativity
  • Learning
  • Technology

My curiosities include:

  • How can I bring project-based learning to the classroom and make learning more meaningful?
  • How can continuing to expand my PLN online and offline help with change in the classroom?
  • How do I encourage students to ask the “tough questions”?
  • How can technology be used to enhance and bring excitement to learning?

Ask the questions and never stop questioning.

I’m enjoying the educational and personal journey I’m on, embracing the challenges and “beholding the view”, living my passions, exploring my curiosities, embracing technology, and in the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, “Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers.”


Ben-Sharer, T. (2012, April). Five Ways to Become Happier Today. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/fLhpyzVTc8A
Berger, W. (2014). A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breathrough Ideas. New York City, NY: Bloomsbury USA.
Friedman, T. L. (2013, January 29). It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as I.Q.. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/opinion/friedman-its-pq-and-cq-as-much-as-iq.html?_r=0
McCullough, D. (2012, June). You Are Not Special Commencement Speech from Wellesley High School. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/_lfxYhtf8o4
Rainer Maria Rilke > Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/7906.Rainer_Maria_Rilke

This problem is a Wicked one!

During our Think Tank virtual meeting, we looked for commonalities among all of the brainstorming questions posted by each group member to arrive at our three defining questions that we will use as a focal point for the wicked problem of teaching complex thinking. The three defining questions are as follows:

  1. Why is it referred to as computational, critical, and complex thinking?
  2. Why does creativity play a role in complex thinking?
  3. Why is the classroom environment important for teaching complex thinking?

Question Mark by Gerd Altmann - https://pixabay.com/en/question-mark-punctuation-marks-358178/

Why is it referred to as computational, critical, and complex thinking? had us all in agreement after noticing that simply doing a Google search or a MSU library search for “complex thinking” brought up results that used complex thinking, critical thinking, and computational thinking terms interchangeably. Do all of these terms mean the same thing or does each term have a different meaning? We thought this to be an appropriate question to try and answer since it’s the basis or our wicked problem.

Why does creativity play a role in complex thinking? Each of us viewed creativity as part of the complex teaching (and learning) process even thought we interpreted it slightly differently but in the end arrived at the same conclusion that it does in fact play a role in complex thinking. We thought it would be important to find out why.

Why is the classroom environment important for teaching complex thinking? We were in agreement on it being necessary to use a combination of both traditional and nontraditional teaching methods to teach complex thinking. With further research, we hope to determine which teaching methods are most effective and the role a classroom environment plays in teaching complex thinking.

I created a Teaching Complex Thinking Infographic using Canva that summarizes the wicked problem of teaching complex thinking and a wicked problem it is!


Altmann, G. (2014, May). [Question Mark] [Image]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/question-mark-punctuation-marks-358178/

Assessing Creative Problem Solving

Color, Color Table by G. Altmann on Pixabay

Can creative problem solving be assessed? While majoring in Fine Arts/Advertising Design in undergraduate school at Wayne State University, I was continuously assessed not only on the technique of the medium used to create the work of art but also the creative process behind it and my ability to problem solve. I often wondered how my professors graded “creative process and problem solving”, how did they really know the entire process that I went through and the creative thinking that I engaged in while completing my work? I always felt that grading on one’s creative ability to solve problems was more subjective than objective, that is until I read the blog post “On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should” by Grant Wiggins.

As Wiggins (2012) points out within Bloom’s Taxonomy, “Synthesis was the level of thinking for such creativity”. The first half of Bloom’s definition of synthesis is as follows:

Synthesis is here defined as the putting together of elements and parts so as to form a whole. This is a process of working with elements, parts, etc. and combining them in such a way as to constitute a pattern or structure not clearly there before. Generally this would involve a recombination of parts of previous experience with new material, reconstructed into a new and more or less well-integrated whole. This is the category in the cognitive domain which most clearly provides for creative behavior on the part of the learner…

After reading Bloom’s definition of synthesis and connecting it to creative thinking and problem solving, I now view assessing “creativity ” in a completely different light. In my art class at Wayne State University, I used paint brushes, watercolors, and a blank canvas to create a living piece of art; I was engaging in a form of synthesis and didn’t even known it. Synthesis is essentially “how two processes or concepts are brought together to create a new one.” (Halls, 2013) I combined the concept of art with the use of brushes, paint, and a canvas with creative thinking and problem solving to produce a work of art. I get it now!

This brings us to assessing creativity within a maker-inspired lesson. “Making is about empowering students to see that they can bring their ideas to life, and create new things” (Thomas, 2012). A maker-inspired lesson invites collaborative group work, communication, creativity, innovation, problem solving, engagement, and learning in its process. Assessing the creativity of problem solving that occurs during a maker-inspired lesson, can be accomplished by observing the synergy, communication, and collaboration within the group that took place during the lesson and the impact of the lesson’s outcome both on the group and the individual learner after its completion. Assessing creative problem solving can be determined through discussion both during and after a lesson as well as self and group assessments. Are rubrics part of the equation? “…students are coming to believe that rubrics hamper their creativity rather than encouraging it” states Wiggins (2012). Rubrics can be used for assessment, but the criteria for assessing the lesson must not restrict the learner’s creativity so it’s very important according to Wiggins, that the “right criteria and multiple & varied exemplars” are used.

Makers are essentially synthesizers. Through a series of processes and problem solving, they take various elements and parts and put them together to “make” something complete and whole that didn’t exist before. A maker-inspired lesson needs to be designed in a way that provokes creative problem solving in an engaging and collaborative way that maximizes innovation, communication, creativity, and learning. By building on a solid foundation of 21st Century Skills, which includes problem solving, communication, creativity, and collaboration and then adding “making” to the mix, is a successful recipe for an engaging learning (and teaching) environment. “Next will be schooling that stresses the ability to solve problems, but not just solve problems, but to be able to do it collaboratively so you can work in a group where the group is smarter than the smartest person in the group” (Gee, 2010).

So, can creative problem solving be assessed in a maker-inspired lesson? Absolutely!


Altmann, G. (2014, August 25). [Color Color Table] [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/color-color-table-426596/

Edutopia. (2010, July 20). James Paul Gee on Grading with Games [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU3pwCD-ey0

Halls, J. (2013). How Creativity Occurs: Synthesis. Retrieved from http://www.jonathanhalls.com/resource/how-creativity-occurs-synthesis/

Thomas, A. (2012, September 7). Engaging Students in the STEM Classroom Through “Making”. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/stem-engagement-maker-movement-annmarie-thomas

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/