Making Innovation Part of the Learning Ethic

In CEP 812 we have been working on wicked problems. The wicked problem that I have been working on is making innovation part of the learning ethic. I worked in a “think tank” where we discussed innovation in education and how wicked of a problem it truly is. Innovation is one of those terms that gets thrown around a lot. In education innovation is something that is usually tied to the use of technology in the classroom. As new technologies are being developed there is a push for education systems to become more innovative.

In the “think tank” we talked about this idea of innovation in education and the stakeholders who might be involved in the process of solving this problem. The “think tank” identified students, parents, teachers, administration, and outside sources as being stakeholders in this problem. Outside sources include higher level educational systems, curriculum design companies, technology and app development. What makes the problem of innovation in education so wicked is there are so many stakeholders involved which does not lend itself to finding quick solutions. We are able to create four why questions for making innovation part of the learning ethic.

  1. Why innovate in the first place? Hasn’t school figured it out by now?
  2. Why aren’t more teachers and students given protection from potential failure with consequences when attempting innovative practices?
  3. Why is the apprenticeship of observation not broken when teachers go through teacher preparatory programs?
  4. Why are success indicators not adjusted to allow for innovation to be more central to the educational practice?

In my infographic below I dive deeper into these four questions. While collaborating with the “think tank” and wrestling with the four why questions, I learned that innovation is a term which constantly evolves, meaning solutions to the problem will also have to be in a constant state of evolution. I have also learned that it is not easy to change an institution that has been around for such a long time and it’s one of the only professions where an apprenticeship of observation is involved.  To better understand this problem and how wicked it is I have created the infographic below.




Education Evolving. (2014, May) Teacher-Powered Schools: Generating Lasting Impact through Common Sense Innovation. Retrieved from

Kelly, Heather. (2018, Oct. 31) Creating A Culture Of Innovation In Schools. Retrieved from

Holland, Beth. (2016, Jan. 26) Innovation in Schools: Changing Environment, Behaviors, and Beliefs. Retrieved from

O’Bryan, Michael. (2013) Innovation: The Most Important and Overused Word in America. Retrieved from

Weller, Chris. (2016, Oct. 10) The 14 most innovative schools in the world. Retrieved from



Watching my Infodiet

Photo by Pixabay on

This week I had the opportunity to go on vacation with my wife. We traveled to South Carolina and spent the week on the beach soaking up the sun. When I am on vacation I like to unplug from checking social media or emails. Though I was on vacation, I still had to do work for CEP 812 and this week’s assignment just happened to be about our infodiet. An infodiet is the information that you spend time consuming. I get most of my information from Twitter, Facebook, and emails. Since I was on vacation I spent a lot less time consuming information. This gave me the opportunity to read for CEP 812 and reflect on the information I choose to consume on a regular basis.

In CEP 812 I learned from Eli Pariser that we are all in a filter bubble. A filter bubble is created by the internet, algorithms, and unexpectedly ourselves. Organizations use algorithms to determine what information they should put in front of us based on what we have looked at before. Apps like Pandora use algorithms to determine what songs to play next on a playlist. We can then like or dislike the song and the algorithm takes note of this. Pariser shares in his Ted Talk how he noticed he was in a filter bubble when Facebook stopped showing certain posts on his newsfeed. After watching Pariser’s talk, I decided to look into my own infodiet and see how my filter bubble was keeping certain information away from me.

I looked at my Twitter account to check my infodiet. I use Twitter for professional and personal reasons. I follow my favorite sports teams, athletes, and news organizations. I also follow other teachers and education organizations that I get ideas from. I noticed that most of the educational accounts I follow are ones who tweet out things that are happening in their classrooms and what interesting things they have read. I am a kindergarten teacher, so I follow other kindergarten teachers who talk about how technology can be utilized with students. Below is a screen shot of my TweetDeck. I use TweetDeck to follow multiple Twitter feeds at once. I use hashtags to show content for the information I am interested in. I follow #kinderchat, #edtechchat, and #sschat.


As I looked more into my Twitter account and the information I seek out, I realized that a majority of information is geared towards technology and education. I had made a conscious choice to follow certain people and organizations to give me information that matches my interests. Pariser talks about how there needs to be a balance in our infodiets. He suggests that we sort our information by relevant, important, uncomfortable, challenging, and other points of view. If I compared my infodiet to the food pyramid, then I was only consuming sweets – all the things I wanted and not the things I needed. I was stuck in what James Paul Gee called “confirmation bias”(Gee, 2013, p. 2).

Next year I will be making the jump from teaching kindergarten to middle school. With this jump I will need to access new information that I will use with my middle school students that I may not have been able to use with my kindergarten students. I decided to use a #tagboard to expand my infodiet and follow other hashtags to gain insight into sources that are relevant, informational, uncomfortable, challenging, and from other points of view. Some hashtags that I have decided to follow are #worldnews, #mschat, #writing, #tlap, and #mindshift. Below you will see my #tagboard. Here is a link for my live #tagboard that I will continue to expand on. I have learned from Gee and Pariser that with the abundance of information available to me I need to be conscientious that my filter bubble is not keeping vital information away from me. I will continue to monitor my filter bubble and update my infodiet to make sure I am not only consuming the sweets.

Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 8.56.05 PM



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

Gee, J. P. (2013). The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students Through Digital Learning.

Pariser, E. (2011, March). Beware online “filter bubbles”. Retrieved on May 29, 2018 from


Igniting Questioning in the Classroom

Photo by Arun Thomas on

On Friday my students and I were taking a walk to the wetlands that are located behind our school. We were going to the stream to test the boats we made earlier in the week. On the way to the wetlands we had to cross the basketball courts. The students were in clumps as we trekked the concrete landscape. They were sharing their thoughts of whose boats would sink or float, which had the best design, and reminiscing on the last trip we made to the wetlands. As we made our way we noticed a baby turtle in the middle of the court (one of my students nearly stepped on it). The students were so excited to find a baby turtle. Finding such an adorable reptile led to a flood of questions from the students. They wanted to know where it came from. How did it get to the basketball court? Where was its mother? What kind of turtle was it? Can we keep it? Can we keep it, please? Mr. Adams can we please keep it!?

I tell you this story because of the reading I did for CEP 812 this week. I am reading the book A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger. In the book Berger lays out the question, Who is entitled to ask questions in class? When I read this question presented by Berger I couldn’t help but reflect on my classroom and teaching. I teach Kindergarten where students ask a bunch of questions and sometimes those questions seem to come all the way from left field. When my students ask questions they ask them from a position of exploration and knowledge-seeking. This position is vastly different than where a teacher asks questions. As a teacher I find myself asking my students questions to have them reflect or to explain their understanding. Dennie Palmer Wolf described a teacher’s questioning, “to primarily check up on students, rather than to try and spark interest”( Berger 2014, p.56).

After reading the words of Berger and Wolf I was left with my own questions. Can questions simultaneously spark interest and require reflection? How can I develop these kinds of questions? Can I get my students to reflect and share their learning if I don’t question them? Dan Meyer is a high school math teacher. In a TedX talk he describes how the math curriculum was giving his students too many hints. He wanted his students to have to think more and to ask questions, but not by asking his students questions himself. He showed a video of a tank being filled with water. The tank was taking forever to fill up. Eventually after minutes of watching the tank slowly fill up, a student asked the question, “how long is this going to take?” Dan found a way to transfer the ownership of the question. Rather than asking his students to find out how long it will take a tank to fill with water, his students posed the question. “Meyer understood, if a student thinks of a question him/herself, it is likely to be of more interest than someone else’s question”(Berger 2014, p. 56).

You might be wondering “so, what happened to the baby turtle?”. Well, my students became worried that if one of them almost stepped on it, then someone else might step on it too. They decided that we needed to take care of it. I told them that I didn’t know how to take care of a turtle.  One student shouted out, “we can do research to figure out what turtles need!”. (We had just finished a writing unit where students researched topics they were interested in.) I decided that my plans for reading and writing for the day could wait. For about half the day my students took control of the classroom and we only talked about turtles. They took ownership of their learning and shared their new understanding with their classmates. They were so excited about the day’s adventures they had to share them with the rest of the school. In my classroom my students are entitled to ask the questions. Below is a student sharing about our turtle adventure at school [you can view the video here if it doesn’t load correctly].



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

Meyer, D. (2010, March). Math class needs a makeover [Video file]. Retrieved from


Ill-structured Problems

We make decisions every day. In order for our brains to help us make decisions, it goes  through a process that helps us determine what needs attention right away and what things can wait. The skill of processing these decisions and determining which ones need attention is called our executive function or self-regulation. Our executive function is made up of our working memory, inhibitory control, and our cognitive or mental flexibility. Teachers and parents help scaffold and model things for children so that they understand how to follow multi-step instructions and how to play/work with others. Children are taught how to share and wait their turn as well as deal with mistakes and failure. Most of these skills and strategies are introduced to children between the ages of 2-5, when they are beginning to socialize more and deal with more complex problems.

Executive functions are skills that are primarily introduced and developed through Kindergarten and first grade. “The subsequent development tasks of refining them and learning to deploy them more efficiently can proceed into the adolescent and early adult years as tasks grow increasingly complicated and challenging”(Shonkoff et al., 2011, p. 4). Through my reading I have found that a lot of research is being dedicated to creating assessments and educational indicators to determine if children at a younger age need further support in “self-control and effective, goal-oriented approaches to learning and social encounters”(Shonkoff et al., 2011, p. 8). Being a Kindergarten and first grade teacher I am glad that a lot of resources are being developed to help teachers and parents support the development of executive functions in children. While I continued my reading of self-regulation and the development of executive functions, I couldn’t help but notice the ill-structured problem that was forming. The majority of research and development of training techniques are being developed for teachers and educational support staff for children in the preschool age range. So I was left wondering what resources are available to continue the support in the development of executive functions for students when they progress through school and enter into adolescence.

Next year I will be transitioning from teaching Kindergarten to teaching 7th and 8th grade. Now that I am making the move to 7th and 8th grade I want to find resources or technological tools that can help me model executive functions for my students. During adolescence, students are being presented with more complex problems and they are required to take more control of their own learning. “Teenagers need to communicate effectively in multiple contexts, manage their own school and extracurricular assignments, and successfully complete more abstract and complicated projects”(Shonkoff et al., 2014, p. 12). If students have not developed the necessary self-regulation and executive function skills than these requirements may become too demanding for a middle school student.

In order to help students continue their development of executive function skills, I wanted to find an assistive technology that can be incorporated seamlessly into the classroom environment. The middle school students at my school use Haiku Learning Journal where a lot of their work is done digitally on Google Docs and uploaded to Haiku. I found a Google Chrome Web Extension called Kaizena, that allows teachers to upload different forms of feedback to a student’s work in Google Docs. In Kaizena teachers can upload lessons directly to a student’s work that they find themselves re-teaching over and over so that students can watch them at their own pace. Teachers can also upload voice comments to help students who are more auditory learners. Students that have not developed appropriate executive function skills often struggle with multi-tasking or following multi-step instructions. With Kaizena, students can work within Google Docs and see the rubric for their work or skills that the teacher wants them to address all on the same page. Another skill that students need to learn how to develop is goal setting. When a student is still developing their self-regulation and executive function skills, they may not know what they are capable of achieving and how to monitor their progress. Kaizena allows teachers to establish skills that students are working towards and show students where they are in progress towards a specific skill.

Below you will find a screencast video of Kaizena and how it can be used to help support the development of executive function skills in adolescent students. Please leave any feedback on how you have helped support the development of executive function in your students. Thanks!


Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2014). Enhancing and Practicing Executive Function Skills with Children from Infancy to Adolescence. Retrieved from

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2011). Building the Brain’s “Air Traffic Control” System: How Early Experiences Shape the Development of Executive Function: Working Paper No. 11. Retrieved from

Assessing Creativity and Problem Solving

In a time where more and more schools are changing their focus of instruction from fact memorization to collaborative problem-solving and creativity, there also needs to be a change in the way assessments are used and how students interact with them. Grant Wiggins, who is known for being an assessment expert, has written a post about assessing creativity. In it he writes, “educators sometimes say that they shy from assessing creative thought for fear of inhibiting students” (Wiggins, 2012). If educators are not willing to assess creativity, then how will students learn how to deliver more engaging and thought provoking work?

In my school we teach using Project-based learning (PBL) with a focus on building 21st century skills, such as creative thinking, communication, and collaboration. When getting students immersed in a PBL, we model for students how to think creatively and what it looks and sounds like to collaborate and communicate effectively, but these areas have been hard to give a measurable value. Wiggins argues that students need to have a clear understanding of the purpose behind a task. “It is vital when asking students to perform or produce product that you are crystal-clear on the purpose of the task” (Wiggins, 2012). Wiggins also talks about how students need to learn about the concept of impact. Did my work create an emotional response? Were people able to reflect on what I contributed to the conversation? Can people interpret my meaning by looking at my work? The idea of impact can be measured, and students need to learn how to incorporate impact into their work.

As an educator charged with the assessment of student learning, I would assess creative problem-solving during maker-inspired lessons in two ways. In measuring students’ products or performance, I would use the Wiggins & McTighe GRASPS performance assessment that was adapted from the Understanding by Design Professional Development Workbook. The GRASPS acronym stands for goal, role, audience, situation, products or performance, and standards. To measure student creativity and problem-solving, I would use the creative rubric Susan Brookhart described in the February 2013 issue of the ASCD’s Educational Leadership. In the article Brookhart gave a criteria for creative students:

  • Recognize the importance of a deep knowledge base and continually work to learn new things.
  • Are open to new ideas and actively seek them out.
  • Find source material in a wide variety of media, people, and events.
  • Organize and reorganize ideas into different categories or combinations and then evaluate whether the results are interesting, new, or helpful.
  • Use trial and error when they are unsure how to proceed, viewing failure as an opportunity to learn. (Brookhart, 2010, pp. 128–129)

The rubric that Brookhart developed shows a comprehensive continuum for teachers and students to understand. I appreciate how it shows what level of creativity a piece of work is displaying. I believe this rubric also allows students to set goals for their creativity, which connects well with the GRASPS performance assessment developed by Wiggins & McTighe. Wiggins also developed his own creativity assessment that can be found here. Wiggins’ creativity assessment does a good job of explaining the different levels of creativity however, I believe that Brookhart’s rubric is more student and teacher friendly.

The design of these assessments is justified by what Wiggins and James Paul Gee have said about schools. Wiggins wrote, “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” (Wiggins, 2012). Teachers need to incorporate assessments for creativity so that students can learn how to deliver and produce more interesting work. Incorporating assessments does not mean that teachers need to give creativity a grade, rather it means that students need a clear understanding of what creativity is so they can make gains in approaching it. In an Edutopia interview Gee describes how schools need to change for the 21st century. In the interview Gee says that schools need to change from an understanding that knowledge is the acquiring of facts to understanding that knowledge is something we can produce. By using creativity assessments teachers can help students understand how their knowledge can be produced in a creative and engaging way.



Brookhart, S. (2013, February). Assessing Creativity. Retrieved from

Miller, A. (2013, March 7). Yes, You can Teach and Assess Creativity! Retrieved from

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

Wiggins, G. McTighe, J. (2008) UbD Design Guide Worksheets – MOD M. Retrieved from

Edutopia. (2010, July 20). James Paul Gee on Grading with Games [Video file]. Retrieved from


CEP 811 Reflection

CEP 811 is coming to a close. Throughout the course I have learned about remixing, repurposing, teaching students how to innovate, redesign a learning space, how maker spaces can impact the classroom, and how creativity can be assessed in MakerEd. My biggest takeaway from the course is that everything can be repurposed to fit a learning experience. When learning about Maker Spaces I connected with the fact that people are the best component of any learning environment. The goal now is getting students to understand how they can impact each other’s learning. I learned that in some Maker Spaces participants who learn a new skill will then teach someone else that same skill. I absolutely love this idea! When I think about my own classroom and how I want students to collaborate and problem-solve, I envision students not just learning, but teaching one another. After learning about MakerEd and how it connects to PBL and the 21st century skills, I have decided that I don’t just want my classroom to be a great learning environment, but I want it to be a passion community where students and teachers can learn together. To sum up my CEP 811 experience I have decided to go all the way back to week one and create a remix video of all the things I have learned throughout the course. I hope you enjoy and feel inspired to try making in your own classroom or learning space.



Adams, Z. (2018, April). CEP 811 Reflection [Video file]. Retrieved from

K12online. (2015, October). Marry Makers [Video file]. Retrieved from

MusicBeard. (2017, Jan). Home – Resonance [Video file]. Retrieved from

Nester, M. (2013, Nov). Alignment and Backward Design [Video file]. Retrieved from

The Newab. (2017, May). The Maker Showcase [Video file]. Retrieved from



The Maker Movement

This week for CEP811 I had to take everything I have learned about becoming a Maker and create an infographic. I am fortunate enough to teach in a school where we engage students in IMG_0580Project Based Learning (PBL) to help them uncover their understanding. Through the uncovering process my students like to build, make, and explore. The maker movement has close connections to PBL with lessons being more student-centered and driven. My learning and understanding of the maker movement has deepened after making connections to Dr. Punya Mishra and Dr. Mathew Koheler’s TPACK theory of how content, pedagogy, and technology can intersect during effective technology integration within teaching. While creating my maker movement infographic I remembered all the things I have learned throughout the CEP811 course. In the course I had the opportunity to play, explore, make, remake, investigate, and refine my understanding. These are the exact things that a maker space can embody for your students when implemented with your curriculum.


My infographic defines what a maker space is and outlines three different maker spaces that I was introduced to in Learning in the Making: a comparative case-study of three maker spacesThis case study describes three different maker spaces with different levels of involvement by the makers. My infographic will also help educators create their own maker space in their classroom. I have included links to maker space community groups, maker lessons, and materials used in maker spaces. What I learned most from these maker spaces is that the most important aspect of a maker space is the people involved. When you get people invested in the process of making, collaborating, and sharing, learning will take place. “Learning in each of these spaces is deeply embedded in the experience of making. These spaces value the process involved in making – in tinkering, in figuring things out, in playing with materials and tools” (Sheridan et al., 2014, p. 528). Below you will find my infographic. I hope you can find ways to implement a maker space in your own classroom!


Graves, C. (2015). Starting a School Makerspace from Scratch. Retrieved from

Graves, C. (2015). Maker Education Lessons and Projects. Retrieved from

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

Heavin, A. (2017). Makerspace Materials: Stock the Staples to Ignite Imaginations. Retrieved from

Mishra, P., & Koheler, M. (2008). Teaching Creatively: Teachers as Designers of Technology, Content and Pedagogy. Retrieved August 13, 2015, 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.
/content/SS15/CEP/811/SS15-CEP-811-733-97EFZZ-EL-14 -204/Sheridanetal_ComparativeCaseStudyofThreeMakerSpaces_2014.pdf