Creativity, Digitality, and Teacher Professional Development: Unifying Theory, Research, and Practice

Creativity, Digitality, and Teacher Professional Development: Unifying Theory, Research, and Practice

Punya Mishra (Michigan State University, USA), Danah Henriksen (Michigan State University, USA) and Rohit Mehta (Michigan State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 32
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8403-4.ch026
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This article describes the development of a trans-disciplinary framework for creative teaching using technology. In recent years, the authors of this paper (and collaborators) have sought to better understand the role of creativity in educational technology. Our approach seeks to inform theory, research, and practice. In this piece we step back to provide a big-picture view of the process of developing a theoretical framework for creative, transformational teaching with digital technology. We describe the development of our ideas over time, through research projects focused on highly creative teachers and their practices. We describe how we have applied these ideas in teacher education courses devoted to creativity and technology, and developed rubrics for evaluating creative products. At a meta-level we aim to provide a rich example of the reciprocal nature of theory, research, and practice in educational technology. Through this we hope to provide one example of how such a theory/research/practice development process works, with the goal of informing future work of this type.
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You can’t pursue any kind of inquiry without a relatively clear framework that’s directing your search and helping you choose what’s significant and what isn’t...If you don’t have some sort of a framework for what matters — always, of course, with the proviso that you’re willing to question it if it seems to be going in the wrong direction — if you don’t have that, exploring the internet is just picking out the random factoids that don’t mean anything...You have to know how to evaluate, interpret, and understand...The person who wins the Nobel Prize is not the person who read the most journal articles and took the most notes on them. It’s the person who knew what to look for. And cultivating that capacity to seek what’s significant, always willing to question whether you’re on the right track — that’s what education is going to be about, whether it’s using computers and the Internet, or pencil and paper, or books. Noam Chomsky

Theoretical frameworks play a critical role in the development of any field. In fact, it has been argued that the explicit use of theory is essential for the development of scientific understanding of a domain. This is of particular importance for research in fields such as educational technology, where the broad generalizations of theory have to work with the intricate realities of practice – both of which lie within a broader context of a rapidly changing technological landscape.

The challenges are obvious. Scholars seeking to develop theory, conduct research in order to develop abstract generalizations. They do so by finding patterns of causation and explanation from the complexities of the continually evolving “wicked problems” (Koehler & Mishra, 2008; Rittel, 1972; Rittel & Weber, 1973) of teaching with technology. Practitioners in the field, on the other hand, focus on the here and now, and see theory as often being disconnected from their daily lives as professionals. Thus, if theory or research in educational technology is to be of use to the practitioners, it must manage to both capture the richness of the lived experience of the educator, and identify broad themes and perspectives that work across cases. This implies that theory generation in fields such as educational technology must develop in a transactional relationship between research and practice, where each is valued for what it has to offer to the final theory or framework being developed.

How exactly such a transactional relationship works, though, is harder to describe. In our experience, specifically through the development of the TPACK framework, this is a complex and zigzag process, which rarely if ever matches the deductive scientific method often seen in textbooks. Practice, research and theory-development often occur in parallel, in a dialectic relationship, or in spirals of increasing complexity. This is why it becomes important that we have rich case studies of this process. Over the past few years we (the authors of this chapter) have been involved in just such a rich series of design experiments, to better understand the role and nature of creativity in teaching and learning specifically using digital tools. We have written and presented our work in a variety of venues and contexts: as theory, practice and research (Henriksen & Mishra, 2013; Henriksen, Mishra, & The Deep-Play Research Group, 2014; Mishra, Koehler, & Henriksen, 2011; Mishra, & The Deep-Play Research Group, 2012; Mishra, Henriksen, & The Deep-Play Research Group, 2012; Mishra, Henriksen & The Deep-Play Research Group, 2013).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Deep-Play Research Group: A research group comprised of faculty and students from Michigan State University (with collaborators from other institutions) focused on ideas and work that deals with issues of creativity, technology and 21st century teaching and learning. For more information, see: AU71: The URL has been redirected to Please verify the URL.

Creativity: A process or way of thinking by which things that both novel and effective and produced. In addition to these elements of newness/originality, and effectiveness/value, creative ideas or products also frequently have an aesthetic sense that is tied to context. In effect, this makes them Novel, Effective, and Whole (or NEW, as termed in the acronym described in the chapter by Mishra, Henriksen & Mehta).

Trans-Disciplinary Thinking: A schema for thinking that involves thinking across disciplines and/or making connections between disciplines. This includes connecting between ideas or disciplinary content in different areas often thought of as disparate, but with connections and links that allow each different area to better explain the other.

Theoretical Framework: This is the structure that supports the theory of a research study or line of research endeavor. The framework describes the theory that connects to the line of research and explains why a given research problem is of interest for study. It organizes a use of theory to allow research to uncover the meaning, nature, and challenges of a phenomenon. This allows a line of research to provide knowledge and understanding to act in more informed and effective ways.

TPACK (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge): A framework for teacher knowledge for technology integration. This framework describes the kinds of knowledge that teachers must have about technology, pedagogy, and content -- as well as the complex interactions and intersections of these knowledge types. The interaction of these bodies of knowledge, both theoretically and in practice, produces flexible knowledge needed to successfully integrate technology use into teaching.

Design-Based Research: Research methods by which interventions are designed and applied in iterations in real-world settings in order to better determine theory and generate new ideas and processes for learning and instruction.

Rubric: An instrument or measure designed to determine scoring and performance standards for a certain population, project or context.

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