Supporting and Permitting Creativity

It is incredible what we can do when we feel supported. When you feel supported, you are free to explore; you are not as afraid to make a mistake, and as a result, I think you can be more creative and innovation in action and thought. In other words, the support that we receive or give is akin to receiving, granting, or denying permission. I saw this a few days ago when we had guests in our lab.

This Saturday, we had a group of 15 male students of high school age visit our lab from Class Matters. The students were brought in by the chairperson of the organization, Darron Lamkin, who is a PhD student in our EdTech program. We did not have a very structured program. The goal was to have students in our lab, have conversations about creativity and show them the different tools in the lab.

I don’t know if it is the outcome of the Class Matters program or what, but the students seem to have a keen understanding of how to support each other. There was never an instance of any of them working on activities alone. When one was on the flight simulator, there was at least two on each side, giving input and guidance. When three were playing Just Dance 2020, there were at least three others with cheers of “go, go, go!” “you go!” “Show ‘em!” When one could not figure out how to use the telepresence robot, another went over to problem solve. What was happening (in my view), is that the support was giving permission. There was no fear of “I’ll be laughed at” or “I don’t know how to do this.” What was present, however, was permission to try, think outside the box or to be creative within the box.

This experience had me thinking about the way we give or deny permission to others, in the way we act in support or in opposing their ideas. The support can come in many forms and can be extrinsic or intrinsic. However, in the end, I think we have to find a way to be more supportive or to seek out support that frees us to be more creative and innovative.


To be successful in this dynamic and fast world, we need the ability to multitask. We must develop the skill of answering the phone, work, cook, and even pay attention to our kids, all at the same time. After some practice, it is impressive the way we can divide ourselves and perform many activities in parallel. But I wonder, is multitasking detrimental to our creativity?

We are pushed to carry many hats and to be successful wearing all of them. To do so, we live in a rush, and, hopefully, most of the time, we can complete all the work. Yet, some of the most creative ideas arise when we are taking a bath, when we close our eyes, when we are looking through a window, and often when we are merely taking a break. This lead to a larger queston: Are we creating or completing?

I like to think about this question, and when I feel I am not in the innovative and critical thinking path, I know it is time to slow down the phase. But then I begin to regret and blame myself for “loosing” time, and I speed up again. I think just as we practice being successful multitaskers, we must also rehearse to take productive breaks.

When writing this post, I did a little research about mindfulness. The dictionary defines mindfulness as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” Even though there is no consensus about the positive relationship between mindfulness and creativity, there are studies indicating that mindfulness training fosters the critical thinking and observation required to be creative.

If you are struggling to solve a problem, if you don’t find creative solutions, think about how to relax your mind, stop multitasking for a while, AND BREATHE…

Photo by Valeriia Bugaiova on Unsplash

Lighting cards to bring smiles

A new semester begins in our Emerging Technologies and Creativity Research Lab! We are looking forward to more events, new technologies, and plenty of guests willing to have fun in our place. So do stop in!

December was a productive month that gave us a chance to use the ETC Research Lab to host a meaningful activity called “Let’s illuminate someone’s Christmas.” Our playground got noisy with the presence of six elementary schoolers. They worked on a STEM activity while creating a Christmas Card for less privileged kids in Colombia. These awesome kids used the Maker’s corner materials available in the Lab to build a lighting card. They used conductive tape, led lights, 3V batteries, and lots of creativity to put their hearts in beautiful creations.

Each kid-created a card to a kid in Colombia, and these were delivered with some gifts on December 23rd during my travels over the holidays. Our place enabled a breathtaking moment that brought many smiles and happiness to kids that struggle daily. Meanwhile, our guests learned exciting facts about circuits, energy, and light.

We are fortunate to have a place were many things can occur. We have fantastic technologies, but also many materials to enhance instruction and learning. Building a lighting card is a productive activity to work with elementary students. Hopefully, this new year will bring us the opportunity to host many more events like this one. We are always happy to have creative guests that play, learn and teach us every day new exciting things!

What I am thinking about today…

When emerging is not so emerging anymore.

Embed from Getty Images

In the ETC Research Lab, we have been fortunate to play around with a lot of new technologies. The goal has always been to bring into the lab, cutting edge technologies so that the college community can try them out and engage in creative conversations regarding their potentials in education. However, as the years have gone by, we are now faced with a new challenge. The issue we are thinking through is, what do you do with the technologies that are no longer emerging?

It is easy to dismiss this as a question of privilege given the various digital divides that exist in the world. To do so, though, would be to disregard a broader issue. The problem has more significant global implications. What do we do with technologies once they are of no longer of use to us? One suggested solution was to donate technologies to others who could still use them. That is a good suggestion but is a temporary fix with short term benefits. It is similar to passing down the clothes you have outgrown to a younger sibling. The sibling benefits, but inevitably the sibling will outgrow the clothes as well. What do you do then? The question of what we do with the technologies we outgrow is one that I do not think is receiving enough consideration.  There is some research in this area, especially as it relates to the “good intention” of donating equipment to less wealthy countries. Sadly the outcome is not always a positive one, and sometimes these “good intentions” have turned those with less globally into a dumping ground of what the wealthy have outgrown. 

For those of us engaged in Learning, Design, and Technologies in education, this is something we should be thinking about as we continue to pursue emerging technologies. While trying to build the next best new machines or integrating existing technologies, we also have to answer the question of social responsibility. What we do when the once emerging technologies are not emerging anymore?


Looking Glass, Again


This February, the ETC Research Lab was fortunate to host some MS/HS Stillwater Public School teachers exploring classroom processes whose benefit could be strengthened through the integration of digital technology. We enjoyed playing with some of the gadgets in the Research Lab, mixing it up with the Hololens, and brainstorming ways the 3D printer could enrich the classroom environment. As part of our exploration, the teachers shared some of the challenges experienced when considering the integration of digital technology. It’s time to wipe the glass, to make room for new ideas, but I don’t have the heart to erase the challenges they noted without finding at least a couple possible solutions. Perhaps, if we all work together, we can get a bit closer. Below is a list of some of the “opportunities”:

  • Students (mis)use phones during tests
  • Students lack home access to digital technology
  • Classrooms are physically full, quite frequently holding 30 or more students
  • Limited Space/No money, resulting in limited access to digital technology
  • Varying levels of student technological fluency
  • Varying levels of student motivation to use digital technology (do they wanna?)
  • Students do not see the phone as an educational resource
  • Student engagement
  • New technology requires training time, sometimes takes longer to grade student work

How do you address these “opportunities” in your own world? We look forward to hearing from you!

~Kathy Essmiller

Confident Failure

20180201_111730Several things have been happening in the Emerging Technologies Creativity Research Lab this week! One, our 3D printer is having some filament issues, and as a result not all the prints are completing as expected. Two, our EDTC 3123 students (preservice teachers exploring processes through which they can incorporate digital technology into their classroom practices) are coming through to explore the resources in the Lab. The 3D printer is a big draw, and the challenges the filament issues present have given us some nifty opportunities.

Brad Hokansen (2018) suggests creativity can be developed as make connections and new ideas from their experiences and knowledge. Additionally, studies indicate that intentional incorporation of student misconceptions (celebrate and use your mistakes!) helps students learn. Our fidgety 3D printer allowed us to help our preservice teachers experiment with combining these ideas.

The print pictured above was originally intended to be two yellow flower stems. The filament slipped, the print stopped, and we ended up with an interesting yellow outline. Rather than being bummed about not getting flower stems, the future master educator wondered aloud what story the shape could tell, embracing the print failure and stretching her creativity. What story do you hear?

I hear the story of yet another amazing, talented educator on the way to our kids’ classrooms.

~Kathy Essmiller

Looking (at the) Glass


Photo by Sharon Pittaway on Unsplash

Problems become ideas which become solutions. We have had quite a bit of traffic come through the ETC Research Lab this week, and all those visiting are encouraged to identify problems (opportunities!) they have seen so that we can collaborate to share ideas and develop solutions. What does the glass hold for us today? Read on, fellow sojourner! (Doesn’t that sound fun and dramatic, fraught with promise?)

How Can You Use the Resources of the ETC Research Lab to Grow Academically and Personally?

“I’m using the walking treadmill to help me reach my health goals”

“…to hone my skills of being a better pilot.”

“To help show my clients to see different ways of speech!”

“To help give me ideas for interventions for my patients.”

“Learn to fly the flight simulator”

Idea Space

“What skills do you want freshmen to have?”

“… to understand the switching tasks behavior of users while using the resources and space of the ETC Research Lab and how instant gratification plays a role and impacts the learning process.”

How can you twist and turn these ideas and suggestions to produce creative solutions? Stop by and jot your insights on the wall, let’s see what we can do!      ~KE



Off They Go!


Photo by on Unsplash

The fall semester has wrapped, and I have sent my first batch of EDTC3123 students out into the world! I already have former students have grown up to be teachers, but this has been my first time to get to work specifically with undergraduate education majors. It was a delight. They are curious, passionate, and full of the belief that they can work with others to help kids be their best selves. They will hire on with some lucky school districts, start going by their teacher names, build family and community in their classrooms, and help their students see magic. I’m certain. And I am excited. You can be, as well. The future is in good hands.        ~Kathy Essmiller

Coding and…

“Coding is not only a valuable skill,

but also a way to develop complex logical thinking skills”

~Dr. Penny Thompson

Swift promotion

Computer Science Education Week is December 4-10! Schools across the nation will be celebrating with coding activities designed for practice and implementation for all ages. In preparation for Computer Science Education Week, the Emerging Technologies and Creativity Research Lab is hosting an opportunity for educators to explore ways to incorporate programming activities into their classrooms. A representative from Apple will be present in Willard 326 from 11:30am-1:00pm to facilitate hands on exploration of their Swift Playground app. In their words:

Apple created the free, comprehensive Everyone Can Code curriculum to make it easy to teach coding to students from kindergarten to college. With teacher guides and lessons, you can introduce coding concepts visually on iPad in elementary school, move to writing code with the Swift Playgrounds app in middle school, and support students in building iOS apps on Mac with Xcode in high school and beyond. So whether your students are first-time coders or aspiring app developers, youʼll have all the tools you need to teach coding in your classroom.

And the Swift Playgrounds app now offers new ways to learn Swift with real-world robots, drones, and musical instruments. Using the Swift programming language, students can make their devices fly, dance, change colors, and more — all from within the app

I’m thinking, as I experiment with the Swift app, that I could use it in my classroom to not only provide coding opportunities, but also to help students discover other important skills needed to design and create this app. Did they involve a graphic artist? Who created the music? What about a writer to create the plot? Marketing and communication?  How could you use this app to help your students discover and apply their talents? And also…learn to code…

Drop by and play!

~Kathy Essmiller


Meaningful learning…

Meaningful learning occurs when students are willingly engaged in collaborative endeavors reflective of authentic experiences. The OSU EDTC PhD students have been playing with the 3D printer in the Emerging Technologies and Creativity Research Lab. It’s fun, we made a fork, but have wanted to imagine ways the 3D printer could transform the student classroom learning experience. Rachel is excited, Frances has some ideas, but I (Kathy) have been dubious. I already have a fork. It is even plastic. And it didn’t drain my budget to the extent a 3D printer would. But then Rachel showed me an object she had designed using TinkerCad and printed on the ETC Lab 3D printer. Here she is…(see below).


She was pretty excited, so I (Kathy) was happy for her. She asked if I knew what it was. I tried the teacher talk thing, “that looks so awesome, why don’t you tell me about it?” but she didn’t bite. She insisted I guess what it was. I said the top of a rocket ship. She said no. I said a hat for your garden gnome. She said no, and then threw me a bone, telling me a past culture had used vessels like this to hold food and water. Oh, so it’s a dish. Good, I think we are done. But we aren’t! Rachel went a step deeper, and asked me why I thought it was shaped the way it was (it kind of had a pointy base, rather than a flat base). My class is over, my students are gone, I have Things To Do, but she is so nice, so I kept playing. I don’t know why it’s shaped like that, to fit into a rack? To make it easier to carry? Before I realized it, I had accidentally become curious and had fully engaged with the question. I wanted to Know Why It Was Shaped So Weirdly. She kept smiling, and I kept guessing, finally in a fit of crazy suggesting they didn’t have shelves or tables so they just shoved the dishes in the dirt.

That was it! That was why the bowl was shaped oddly! And guess what…then I had even more questions. I wanted to know who the people were, when they lived, where they lived, what the dirt was like….all of a sudden, despite my former considerable disinterest, I was experiencing meaningful learning, willingly engaged, collaborating, imagining real life people in real life situations.

I would not have cared about the topic one bit if she had sent me a link to a website talking about the culture, or showed me a page in a book, told me a story, or, quite frankly, handed me a model she had found at the teacher store. But as I engaged with that funky oddly shaped bowl my friend had designed and printed on the ETC Lab 3D printer, I became hooked. Fork, schmork. That 3D printer can help teachers create incredibly meaningful classroom learning experiences! I am sold.

If you’re in the area, stop by Willard 326 (or, if you have the MakerBot app and are on the OSU campus, you can access Our Printer remotely) and explore how you can use this piece of emerging technology to transform learning! Let us know what you try and how it works out. Happy teaching!

~Kathy Essmiller