Reformation 2.0

above:  the statues of the Four Reformers from the Reformation Wall in Geneva, Switzerland:  William Farel, John Calvin, Theodore Beza, John Knox.  Did you know that even though Martin Luther started the Reformation in Germany, that he was persecuted in Germany and his ideas did not receive acceptance there?    His ideas only took hold and spread out to the rest of the world from Switzerland, where his ideas were accepted and protected.  The epicentre for the spread of the Reformation was actually Switzerland, and not Germany. There is a great Reformation Museum in Geneva. Our family has visited the churches where Calvin and Zwingli (the great Swiss reformer) preached in Zurich, Lausanne, and Geneva. Our family has loved our time living in Switzerland (9 years at this point).  What an amazing privilege and blessing we were given, to live and work here as expats.

MIA a.ka. Missing in Action

It’s been over a year since I’ve posted a blogpost.  For those of you who know me, you will recognize how unusual this is for me.  I started Coetail (and this blog) in February 2013 and I’ve been posting at least twice a month, if not more, until 2016.

2016.  Ah 2016.  This is the year that will go down in history as when the world-order shifted, never to be the same again.  The two standard-bearers for the world for liberty, democracy, rule of law, justice, character, integrity decided to commit an incredible act of self-harm.  I’m talking about #Brexit and the “abomination that causes desolation” sitting in the American White House.  The other nations, upon witnessing this, decided that they too had no reason to rise above their base-desires and to aspire to something greater (what the UK and the USA used to represent and what other nations saw as the bench-mark they wanted to aim for) and the world-order dutifully imploded, never to be put back together again, quite the same (echoes of Humpty-Dumpty here).

Anyways, this is an Educational Blog, not a political or spiritual blog.  So, I won’t get any further in it.  This is just an attempt at an explanation for why I’ve been missing in action for so long (blogging little and tweeting little).   I feel grief (Little tears prick at my eyes, even now as I write). And when an introvert like me feels grief, one turns inward and hides away.  I mean, I just couldn’t find the motivation or the inspiration to write about educational issues or EdTech ideas when Rome is burning at one’s feet.  I apologize to all my teaching friends on Coetail, twitter etc. for disappearing after November 2016.  I didn’t even stop to explain.  I just left.  I hope this little note here can be my explanation.  Rather late, but better late than never. 😀  I hope you know that it was #nothingpersonal

Finishing SPF 689-Research Methods

That being said, I finished SPF 689 “Educational Research Methods” with SUNY (State University of New York) this past May 2018.  It’s my second last course before I finish my Masters (M.S.).  In SPF 689, I set up my final Masters research project.  My last course (EDU 690) will be actually to conduct the Masters research and to write up the results in a paper.  My hope is to eventually publish the paper in a research journal.  This is not a requirement for my Masters but Dr. Shively (prof) is willing to work with students that want to publish to get them published.  That would be SO amazing.  I SO want to do this, but it depends on whether I will be able to conduct the Masters research that I envision in my mind.  We will see.

What is Research?

I’ve been looking forward to SPF 689 (Research Methods) for such a long time!  I’ve always been curious about how scientists conduct their research.  I remember when I was an university undergrad student studying for my B.Ed/B.A. that I took an EdPsych class.  During the class, we learned about factors that determine whether testing, research is rigorous or not.

There are two factors (amongst others) that are important to consider when a school teacher administers any sort of test. They are 1. Validity  and 2. Reliability

I once participated in a twitter chat on #pypchat where Kath Murdoch (guru of PYP Inquiry Pedagogy) was saying that all PYP teachers need to consider themselves as scientists.  I took exception to that idea.  I felt it was hugely disrespectful to real scientists to label ourselves as scientists. This is because the average PYP teacher has no training in the rigours needed to conduct scientific inquiry:   1. how to set up valid research 2. how to set up reliable research 3. how to discern if the testing tools (i.e. exams) you create or choose are valid or reliable 4. how to test for validity and reliability in any conclusions you draw.

Yes, in the IB PYP (IB Primary Years Program) we are conducting inquiry, but I would never assume that the inquiries that PYP Teachers and PYP Classrooms are under-taking are, in any way, turn us into “real” scientists.  How disingenuous to say it could be that simple to be a scientist!   Whatever findings we find, need to be taken with a “grain of salt”. And isn’t that what the IBPYP Learner Profile attribute, “Critical Thinkers”,  is about?  It’s about not swallowing up any old conclusion or generalization.  But to put it all in context through critical thought.

For example, as IBPYP classroom teachers,  there is emphasis on Formative Assessment.  Formative Assessments are assessments of what children already know, before a unit is started.  They are useful to help teachers find a starting point in their teaching units.  They are also helpful for differentiating for students who are much further ahead or much further behind than the rest of the class. However, in practise, the “formative assessments” I’ve seen (and sadly used) is usually the classroom teacher (not always a math specialist) lifting a page from a math text, photocopying it, and then administering it as a test to students.  Because of the bit of my undergrad studies about educational testing, I knew to take any findings I got with a STRONG “grain of salt”.  Lifting a page from a textbook, even creating an original test by oneself is NO guarantee that the test has any validity or reliability, and tells us a great deal about the child’s abilities that are purportedly being tested.

Validity, as an indicator of a “good” test

Validity means that the test is testing exactly and only what the examiner is testing. One factor that works against validity of math tests is reading comprehension.  If the student is answering a math word problem, but doesn’t really understand the question (i.e. English isn’t the child’s native language, child has poor reading skills, language of the question was poorly written), then the fact that the child got the answer correct OR incorrect means nothing for their math’s abilities.  The question wasn’t testing their maths.  It was testing their reading comprehension.  So, in this instance, the findings for that math question lacked validity.  That test question is “bad science”.

Reliability, as an indicator of a “good” test

Findings that we garner from research, testing etc., are more rigourous if they have reliability.   If we administer the test over time under the same conditions, do we get the same results?   If a test gets one set of conclusions on one day, but then another different set on another day, then that test has poor reliability and it means that this test is inherently weak and we shouldn’t draw any conclusions from that test. The test should be discarded.

Undergraduate Teacher-Training

So, I had this bit of training in my B.Ed/B.A.  It wasn’t much but much more than teachers who only have a teaching-certificate but not a teaching degree, as I do.  But it was enough to make me conservative about all these “formative assessments” that teachers LOVE to administer.   They must all be taken with a “grain of salt”.   So, I was quite astounded when the #PYPChat told us that PYP teachers are scientists.  in fact, Kath Murdoch went as far as to conclude the #PYPChat by saying that you can’t be a PYP Teacher (an teacher of Inquiry) unless you consider yourself a scientists.  Well, lots of meaning is lost on twitter, so I will give her the benefit of the doubt and take what she said with a grain of salt.  Maybe I misunderstood her.  I’m a good teacher of Inquiry but I would never assume that I’m a scientist, who is university-trained in creating experiments, creating testing tools, conducting research, analyzing findings and summarizing them without bias.

Regardless, I would hazard to guess that most teachers with only undergrad training have little training in test-making and little understanding about what makes research or testing rigorous and how that should contextualize how they approach Formative Assessment in their classrooms.  I’m surprised that this is not a significant aspect of teacher training in undergrad.  It wasn’t until I started my Masters studies that I was forced to take a whole course in the subject.  Since testing and assessment form such a large part of a school teacher’s job, it seems absurd to me that the study of Research & Testing Methods is left to graduate-level studies!

You wouldn’t think a teacher would online bully, would you?

So, it was an “interesting” #PYPChat because it’s difficult to convey one’s points when one is limited to 140 characters.  What made it even more “interesting” is that after the twitter chat was over, one of the teachers (a PYP math teacher) who disagreed with me created a webpage to bully and insult me over my views.  She sent it to me publically via a link on twitter.  She deleted the webpage a little later, but I had already screenshot it.  I blogged about that bullying experience here on my blog.  You can find my blogpost that I wrote in this blog and the screenshot of what she said to me, if you google hard enough.  Needless to say, I never went back to #PYPChat on twitter!

What makes something a real scientific inquiry?

So, I really enjoyed my SPF 689 Research Methods course.  Finally, I was able to look in-depth at the tools, instruments, methods that real scientists use.  We looked at how to set up our Research Projects and what tools we can use to collect our findings.  We looked at ways to prevent bias and how all teachers need to cognizant about this very real factor when assessing our students.  My way of negating bias has always been to take all my findings from any assessments, whether Formative or Summative (Summative is testing after the unit is over), with a “grain of salt”.  I’ve used that metaphor a number of times. What do I mean by that?  I mean not forgetting that I could be absolutely wrong about my conclusions and that I should be open to other evidence collected in other ways, that say something differently. (Remember how Einstein’s math teachers thought he was a dummy at math?)

I don’t know if I was able to convey this important piece of advice to the #PYPChat that day, but that was the gist of what I was trying to get across, when I disagreed with the idea that PYP teachers are also scientists.

None of what I’ve said applies to standardized tests that have been tested and proven over-time, to be valid and reliable with a large population.   These tests usually come from educational bodies (full of ‘real scientists’)  and usually need to be bought by a school in order to be used i.e. PISA, ISA, IQ Tests, SATs, ACTs etc.–even the IBDP Final Exams.  Teachers usually need to seek parent’s permission to administer these tests, as the findings can have huge impact on students’ futures because the entire world respects the validity and reliability of their conclusions.  I’m not too sure if any test that regular school teachers make on a weekly basis could command such respect.

SPF 689 Research Methods EDU 690 Masters Project

So, it was a very valuable course for me.  I feel equipped to conduct research in my classrooms now, when I didn’t feel at all equipped, before.   I will continue to view all conclusions drawn from school tests “with a grain of salt”  but I will be better at test-creation and data evaluation, after I finish my Masters.  If I do publish my paper, I’ll be here first to post a link to it!  I imagine that in the EDU 690 “Master’s Project”, I will be looking at how to make my own specific assessment tools valid and reliable, according to my research intentions.


I don’t know if I will ever get back to blogging here every 2 weeks, like I used to.  I really ought to start a blog about our current political and social landscape, through my lens of being a Christian, because this is what has been pressing on my spirit and is screaming out to be released for the last two years (sort of like a mother labouring and trying to birth out a baby but everything is stuck)  =)   I love writing and I have a need to write, so a blog like that would be a perfect outlet for my angst.  At the same time, I doubt very much that I will start a blog like that.  There is already too much arguing online;  I don’t want to contribute more.  Instead, I will pray and do what I can to lead children to discern between truth and fake-science, one day at a time.

I will pop back here once in a while to write, but definitely not every other week, like before.  I’ll keep you posted about the Research Project when I start the under-taking of it.

My Research Project Proposal

At this moment, I’m hoping that my research project will study

whether and to what extent Sonic-Pi gives students with little or no musical-note reading ability access to composition activities in the music classroom

Sonic-Pi allows students to compose and perform abstract music through coding in the Ruby computer language (Ruby is a “real” coding language.)  It is a free software that turns your computer (Mac, Raspberry Pi, Window) into a music synthesizer.  It can create in all musical genres from classical to electric dance music (EDM).  Listen to Sonic-Pi play “Daft Punk”.  (The creator of Sonic-Pi, Dr Aaron Sam, plays EDM in nightclubs!)

Sonic-Pi was created by Dr Aaron Sam at the Cambridge University, UK to support the new computing curriculum that came out in the UK a few years ago.  Children in the UK, from the ages of 5 to 14 are required to learn computer science (computer programming) as a subject.  Sonic-Pi was invented to be a tool for students to meet their computing curriculum requirements while learning another subject.  The idea is that cross-integration (see my magazine article about this) between subjects raises the level of critical thinking and increases the depth of learning.  (Plus, it’s just plain more fun!) In this case, the integration is between the subjects of Music and Computer Sciences.   Anyways, that’s what I’m hoping to look at in my Master’s graduation project.  Wish me luck!

Reformation 2.0

Interestingly enough, 2017 marked the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  The Reformation shook the foundations of the world and nothing was the same again.  I wonder if we’re at another watershed moment in history?   The architecture of the world is being reshaped.  What are you doing to make sure it’s being reshaped in the way that will make the world somewhere your kids and grandkids will want to live in?

What can teachers do to combat #FakeNews #FakeScience?


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Sew Electric, Sew Fun!

Sew Electric--E Textiles Book

Sew Electric–E Textiles Book


Heightening Anticipation

  • Give Purpose and Motivation

I’m taking an online graduate course in Creativity offered by the State University of Buffalo (SUNY) for my M.S. degree (two more courses to go!).  This is the same university that many Coetail students are doing their M.S. through.  The Course is CRS 530 “Creative Teaching and Learning in Formal & Informal Settings”.

This week’s assignment is to share about creativity resources— programs and technologies.

This blogpost will discuss the technology “E-Textile Micro-controllers”.

E-Textile or Electronic Textiles is about embedding technology into fabric, textiles.  It a special form of technology because the hardware must be washable!

So, they say that programming skills are in high demand and will continue to be, as the world continues to be more and more connected with technology.   There is technology in all career-fields, now and we’ll need computer programmers to support all that.

So, there have been a myriad of tools developed in recent years to teach computer programming skills to children.

  • Tickle the Imagination

E-Textiles is a way of interesting children to code, who may not necessarily be interested in traditional toys to code, like robotics or cars.   Mitch Resnick, inventor of Scratch Programming (a computer language for children)  says there are two types of “players”.  Some are patterners and some are dramatists.  Patterners love creating patterns and seeing them “run”.  Patterners would enjoy building robotics, cars and coding them to run.  Dramatists prefer to make up stories.  E Textiles addresses those children who prefer to tell stories.

An example of a programming project is pictured above.  This is a bookmark with a firefly on it that can be programmed to sense the amount of light.  When it gets dark, the firefly lights up.

So, E-Textiles allows children to program anything that involves fabric: toys, clothing etc.   The little bits of hardware are all washable.

The micro-controllers are small “computers” that you attach to your project.  You program the micro-controller to make your project act as you want.  This might involve also attaching sensors (light, heat, sound, motion etc.) so that the project can interact with the outside world.  To get everything working, you have to have an understanding of how to make a closed electrical circuit as everything runs on electricity (usually battery).

So, in years past, students taking “Industrial Arts” in school would learn about electricity.  It didn’t seem to be very useful knowledge unless one had plans to become an electrician.  Learning about electricity is making a come-back as the market is filling up with micro-controllers for people to code to create interactive, programmable projects because the controllers rely on electricity.  (The simplest entry-point is the Makey Makey.)

So, to scaffold the learning of E-Textiles, Sew Electric is a wonderfully easy entry-way into the world of E-Textiles.  It is a book, but there is a kit that comes with it that I highly recommend.  The kit’s components come from LilyPad who specializes in resources for E-Textiles.

The Sew Electric book and kit will allow you to go through the entire scope and sequence below, except for the last project (holiday sweater).

Deepening Expectations

  • Digging DeeperA scope and sequence for teaching E-Textiles
  1. To start E-Textiles, you need a needle, conductive thread, a washable battery holder, washable LED lights, and a 3V coin battery at the minimum.   This is to make the light “light up”.  Sew a closed circuit:  Sew a line from the positive (+ )hole in the light (left) to the positive (+) hole in the battery holder.  Then, sew a line from the negative (-) hole in the light to the negative (-) hole in the battery holder. The light lights up when you flip on the switch in the battery holder.  This is a good time to teach about short circuits (Don’t let the two lines touch each other or the light won’t light up.)
ChezVivian Sew 2a

Closed Electrical Circuit: Battery holder on the right. LED light on the left, conductive thread (grey)


2. Sew a parallel circuit to get two or more lights to light up.

Parallel Circuit (grey threads)

Parallel Circuit (grey threads)

My first E Textile Project

My first E Textile Project


3.  Now, learn to program your circuit.  To do this, you sew a LilyTiny which is a washable pre-programmed micro controller into your electrical circuit that is.  It’s easy.  Just make sure you always sew from a  (+)  to a  (+)  and a  (-)  to a  (-)  and you’ll be fine!  Depending on which (+) hole you sew from on the micro controller, your lights will either twinkle, blink evenly, blink a heart-beat pattern, or fade when you turn it on.

Sewing a Micro Controller (middle circle) into your project. This one makes the light fade in and out.

Sewing a Micro Controller (middle circle) into your project. This one makes the light fade in and out.

ChezVivian Eifel Paris2

ChezVivian Eifel Paris

3D Printed


YouTube Preview Image


(Click the above to go to youtube to see the insides of soft-toy blink a heart-beat blink.)


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(Clic the above to go to youtube to see the finished toy.)


  • Visualize the Inside

4.  Now, you’re ready to sew in a micro-controller to your project that you program by connecting it to a computer via USB and using free open-source software called Arduino.  There are codes to copy and paste into the program at the beginning for different light blinks.  Then, you can start tweaking the program as you learn how to write the code.  The Sew Electric book has significant information on how to write code for Arduino.

Your first tweak might be to code it to blink in a pattern that you come up with.   Then, attach different coloured LED lights and program them to blink in the pattern that you like, incorporating different coloured lights.

After you’ve learned how to attach a micro-controller into a project and program it for lights, you’re ready to sew in speakers and sensors.   It sounds more difficult than it is.  It’s still the basic process of sewing lines with conductive threads to attach everything in the correct way so that electricity runs and it works!

ChezVivian Sew 5

This micrcontroller has a lithium battery embedded into the board. The medium circle in the picture is a speaker allowing you to program the project to make music.


  • Breakthrough–Expand the Boundaries

Now the fun begins!  The speakers allow your projects to make sounds or music.  Program it as you wish.  Sensors allow your project to interact with the world. There are sensors for sound, light, temperature, motion etc.  They are inventing new ones for E Textiles all the time, that are washable.   With the addition of speakers and sensors, you’ve expanded the boundaries of possibilities for your projects.

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(Click the above to go to Youtube to hear a project that I programmed to play “Hot Cross Buns”.)

ChezVivian Sew 7

ChezVivian Sew 4

Programmed to blink lights and play music “O Christmas Tree” when the sensor is pushed


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(Click the above to go to youtube to see the Christmas tree in action)

Extending the Learning

  • Visualize It–Richly and Colourfully (appeal to all senses)
  • Having a Ball (have fun)
  • Singing in One’s Own Key (personalize it)
  • Building Sandcastles (imagine, fantasize)
  • Shake Hands with Tomorrow (invent new things)

5.  You now have the basic concepts for E-Textiles.  The next step is to do more complicated projects, with more lights and more sensors.  It’s time for you to use your own imagination to create your own projects.

I went on to program a holiday sweater.  I took a store-bought sweater and attached lace and fabric to the bottom of it.  I sewed in LED lights that blink different colours, a micro controller, and a sensor that senses motion called an accelerometer.  I found code on the internet to program my sweater to blink in random coloured lights but ONLY when I moved.

YouTube Preview Image


(Click above to go to youtube to see me put my neopixels [the E-Textile LED lights from the company, Adafruit] through the “strand test”.  It cycles through all the colour possibilities and blink patterns.)



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(Click the above to go to youtube to see my finished sparkle sweater which is programmed to twinkle when it senses motion.)


So, here you have it!  A crash course in E-Textiles from the easiest beginner project to learning all the basic concepts and skills for programming your textile project to be interactive.   The rest is up to your imaginations but we can see that E-Textiles has great potential to develop these creativity skills from the Torrance Incubation Model for Creative Teaching and Learning:

  • Visualize It–Richly and Colourfully (appeal to all senses)
  • Having a Ball (have fun)
  • Singing in One’s Own Key (personalize it)
  • Building Sandcastles (imagine, fantasize)
  • Shake Hands with Tomorrow (invent new things)
  • Getting out of Locked Doors (trouble-shoot when things don’t work)
  • Breakthrough–Expand the Boundaries (make new things, previously inconceivable. Technology is redefining the learning task)

I think nothing develops creativity more than free, open-time to explore and experiment.  Tina Seelig’s Innovation Engine says that our environment and resources have an impact on creativity.   E-Textiles with its programmable micro-controllers turns every textile project (visual art, fashion, sewing) into an open-ended exploration incorporating computer science, science (electricity, motion, light, sound), and music if you program a project to sing a song.  If you use it to invent something to solve a social problem, then we can integrate humanities into it too.

E-Textile technology and resources are new tools for projects that can interest people in computer sciences who don’t enjoy programming on a computer screen, or programming robotics, cars, vehicles etc.  E-Textiles has the potential of integrating all disciplines, plus offering an authentic and engaging learning experience.

Sew Electric! Sew Fun!


Posted in #TECHXture, Arduino, E-Textiles, Maker Education, Scratch, Teaching Creativity | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sew Electric, Sew Fun!

Have a Piece of Sonic Pi!

Code Music with Sonic Pi

Code Music with Sonic Pi software on your Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi


I’m taking an online graduate course in Creativity offered by the State University of Buffalo (SUNY) for my M.S. degree (two more courses to go!).  This is the same university that many Coetail students are doing their M.S. through.  The Course is CRS 530 “Creative Teaching and Learning in Formal & Informal Settings”.

This week’s assignment is to share about creativity resources— programs and technologies.

This blogpost will discuss the technology “Raspberry Pi” with the “Sonic Pi” program for teaching and learning music, that can be used with the Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Pi Technology

The Raspberry Pi, for the uninitiated, is that metal contraption in the second picture, above.  It’s the size of your hand.  The rows of pins do make me think of a bed of nails but it isn’t a torture device.  It’s a tool for creativity.

The Raspberry Pi was developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation to assist children in learning computer programming skills.  It is an affordable computer for all ($5 to $35 US for each one) and one of the intents for the Raspberry Pi is that it would be used in developing-countries because it is so affordable.   The “Pi” is not another computer-screened device for children.  It is primarily for physical computing, which means for making physical objects and then “programming” them to be interactive or to do work for you.

For example, one of the future projects in our household is to build a bird’s house, outfit it with a camera and the Pi.  The Pi will be programmed to take a photograph when a sensor detects movement in the birdhouse.  We can also program it to tweet out a photograph each time it takes a photo!   See the project here.

Coding & Creativity Venn Diagram

Coding & Creativity Venn Diagram


Programming for Creativity

I gave a workshop at the ECIS Ed Tech Conference in Munich, Germany in 2015 about teaching computer programming to students and how programming is a way of expressing creativity.  I found a list of traits of creativity and critical thinking and I created this Venn diagram to show how computer programming develops both things.  I am not a computer programming.  I’m a school teacher who has done enough reading and playing with it that I feel that I can get students started in these creative exercises and I think a start is all they need!

I don’t know how accurate this Venn diagram is, because I organized the traits myself based on the little I know about computer programming but this is how I see “coding” teaching creativity and critical-thinking.

They say that Coding is a “super power” and opens up so many more possibilities when creating.  Coding definitely “levels up” the high-level thinking skills used in whatever project you are creating.   Making your creations interactive is only one possibility.

Raspberry Pi is a computer.    So, it’s applications are as numerous as any other computer for every academic or leisure field that you can think of.  It will connect to the internet.  There is software like Minecraft, Scratch, Python for the Raspberry Pi.  More and more software and peripherals are being developed for the Pi, as time goes on.  There is an astounding amount already, considering the Pi was only invented in 2012.

Sonic Pi in a case

Sonic Pi in a case with a SD card


There are a myriad of free resources created by the Raspberry Pi Foundation under three categories:  Teach, Learn, Make.  There is a free online magazine called Mag Pi.  There are a zillion books teaching uses for Raspberry Pi.

They also offer contests periodically.  One of the most memorable was Astro Pi when students vied for the opportunity to send their Raspberry Pi to the International Space Station to run experiments in space!   What an opportunity for creativity!  The Torrance Incubation Model  for Creative Teaching and Learning  (the focus of my SUNY course) would say, “break through and expand the boundaries!”

The Pi Academy is free professional development for teachers who want to learn how to use it in the classroom. There is also a teacher certification program.

Sonic Pi Program for Teaching & Learning Music

The program that I want to discuss that uses the technology, Raspberry Pi, is not as out of this world as Astro Pi, but it is a game-changer for musicians who don’t think they can code; or coders who don’t think they are musicians!

Sonic Pi is free, open-sourced software that you can put on your Raspberry Pi, Mac OS X,  Windows or Linux computer.  It was first developed for the Raspberry Pi.

“Sonic Pi was specifically designed for and built in collaboration with teachers for use in the classroom”— Sam Aaron (inventor of Sonic Pi)

Sonic Pi was developed at Cambridge University to allow people to code “on the fly” and compose music.  It turns the Raspberry Pi into a performance instrument, as you type in the Ruby computer language in real-time to create the sounds.  They call it “Live Coding”.

Sonic Pi is an intersection of the disciplines of computer programming, music, and physics.  In order to create the sounds you want, you code it. When you code, you are manipulate variables from physics in the code to change and tweak the sounds.

Here.  A video is worth ten thousand words.  In this youtube, the inventor of Sonic Pi (Sam Aaron) live codes a DJ set:

YouTube Preview Image


(Click the above to be taken to the Youtube.)

So, Sonic Pi allows coders to become musicians.  Computer programmers are manipulating elements of music (pitch, rhythm, harmony, tempo, beat etc.) as they code.  Sonic Pi allows musicians to become coders as musicians make the connection between elements of music to how it is expressed in code.

Both are physics scientists understanding and manipulating the properties of sound (waves, reverb etc.)

Sonic Pi is being used in UK schools in music classes as a way of addressing the new computing requirements from kindergarten to graduation that were made mandatory in 2014.   The UK is trying to secure a future for its country by making computer science compulsory from kindergarten to graduation.  Here are schemes of work (a curriculum program) for Sonic Pi in the classroom.

The strong points of Sonic Pi as a tool for creativity is that the music you create can be very open-ended.  Yes, you can re-create famous songs from classical music using Sonic Pi, but you can also compose original songs without having a lot of musical background.  This is because is it a synthesizer and you can create, manipulate very abstract sounds with it and young people like the sounds. Think of Electronic Dance Music.   Even though it is abstract music,  it has the same elements of music as traditional music (duration, rhythm, structure, melody, instrumentation, texture/tone, harmony).  It is still music.

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(Click the above to be taken to youtube to hear Bach’s Prelude and Fugue BWV532)

Here are assessment guidelines for Sonic Pi that you can assess for:

  • liveness (how much code was changed on the fly or not)
  • not fluent (disjointed, stilted)/fluent (flowing, ambitious)
  • neat/messy
  • ambitious (adventurous)/unambitious (unadventurous)
  • risk free/risk laden
  • technically skillful/unskillful
  • simple (brief, limited)/complex (detailed, elegant).

There is a lot of room with Sonic Pi to compose music successfully with all these possible assessment criteria.  There are definitely more opportunities to compose successfuly than with a traditional instrument like a piano or violin!

SonicPi ChezVivian3

Creativity: Digital Music Opportunities


If computer programming is the “super power” for the 21st Century and a skill that students will need for all sorts of future careers, then the Raspberry Pi is a very affordable and well-resourced piece of technology for schools.

You don’t often think of coders, musicians, and physicists being the same sort of people, but Sonic Pi brings these three worlds together—opening up the creative potential for the three groups to do new things.

Sonic Pi supports engagement in sciences because infusing arts in anything makes it more fun!

The Raspberry Pi is cheap ($5 – $35 US).  Sonic Pi is a FREE download.   If you want to “break through and expand the boundaries!” as the Torrance Incubation Model  for Creative Teaching and Learning gives, as one of its creativity skills, here are two very significant resources to do it!

Coding with Sonic Pi

Coding with Sonic Pi

Sonic Pi Conference in Cambridge UK

I attended a Sonic Pi workshop and conference in Cambridge UK

Posted in #TECHXture, Coding, Practical Ideas, Raspberry Pi, Software, Sonic Pi, Sonic Pi, Teaching Creativity | Comments Off on Have a Piece of Sonic Pi!

Fire up your Innovation Engines! A book review and a reflection

Innovation Engine ChezVivian1

Can Creativity be Taught?

I’m taking an online graduate course in Creativity offered by the State University of Buffalo (SUNY) for my M.S. degree (two more courses to go!).  This is the same university that many Coetail students are doing their M.S. through.  The Course is CRS 530 “Creative Teaching and Learning in Formal & Informal Settings”.

After a bit of “blip”, I’m back at my M.S. studies with this course.  I really didn’t know what to expect when signing up for this course.  I’ve read many articles about the need to teach creativity and nurture a spirit of innovation in students.  I had listened to Ken Robinson’s TEDtalk “Do Schools Kill Creativity? during my early days in my Coetail studies.  There seemed to be a lot passionate talk all over the internet, but little real practical information on how to exactly teach students to be more creative.  By inference, I figured there really wasn’t a way—–short of inviting students to throw paint at a wall 😉

I must say that I really LOVE this course and what I’m learning.  “Yes, Virginia (Vivian), you CAN teach Creativity!”

The core of the course teaches the Torrance Incubation Model of Creative Teaching and Learning (TIM).  The name of it sounds a bit strange and academic (It was developed ~1970s) and made me wonder, initially, if I could ever relate to this model.  DON’T let the name put you off!  It’s a really approachable, practical, inspiring, and INGENIOUS model of how to teach creativity skills (yes skills to be creative exist!) at the same time as teaching your subject content!  On top of that, the model forces a teacher, while planning, to think outside of the box and to up the creativity in her delivery of the content.  Intrigued?  Consider taking the course…

Book Review Assignment

One of the assignments in the course is to pick a book on educational creativity, read it, and do a review of the book.  There are many creative ways suggested to do the “review” but in the end I’ve opted to do an “old-fashioned” book review because there is little that is “old fashioned” about this book.  The best way to tell people about the innovative features of this book is a direct article about it.  Et voilà!

The book I’ve chosen to read and review is illustrated at the top of this blogpost.  It is “Innovation Engine” (Enhanced Ebook edition) by Tina Seelig.

Enhanced Ebook Features

I usually prefer paper books, but in the interest of time, I had to buy the Kindle version and this one had “enhanced” features that make it unlike any other ebook I’ve ever read.  If you’re interested in reading this book, I would recommend the ebook edition for the enhanced features.  The most valuable enhanced feature of the book were the embedded videos.

Embedded videos of the author lecturing

Embedded videos of the author lecturing

Tina Seelig is Professor of Practice in the Department of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University.  She has many online video lectures about her work on creativity.   Her creativity model is the Innovation Engine:

Tina Seelig's Innovation Engine

Tina Seelig’s Innovation Engine


I first became acquainted with  Tina Seelig’s Innovation Engine by watching her lecture:

The Six Characteristics of Truly Creative People

YouTube Preview Image


(Click the above to be taken to the Youtube.)

I watched the video while I was cleaning out and organizing the basement storage room.  It’s a chore that is terribly boring and I often put on a youtube lecture or documentary to get me through boring, tedious chores.

I’ve watched many lectures but for some reason, this lecture really stood out for me.  She said something that really resonated with me:

Knowledge is the toolbox of our imaginations

It was refreshing to me to hear someone praise “knowledge” because it’s become almost politically-incorrect to suggest that children need to learn and memorize content.  We’ve become so “inquiry-minded” and process-oriented that knowledge is seldom talked about anymore.  So, creativity doesn’t mean having no standards, throwing paint against the way, and “anything goes”.   It requires knowledge and if it requires knowledge then we can have objective standards for creativity.  It can be assessed and improved upon.

Watching the video and learning about her Innovation Engine inspired me to pick this book for my “book report”.

It was interesting to see bits of her videos embedded throughout the book.  It was another way of interacting with content and text.  Instead of just reading, I could watch videos which reinforced and expanded upon what I was reading, and vice versa.

So, if you enjoy her video, you will enjoy the experience of the Ebook.  Her video explains with a lot of images and photos etc. and this compliments the text of the book; but, the text of the book adds many more details that she couldn’t get into via video.

Other Enhanced Features

Besides embedded videos of relevant snippets from her videos, there are a lot of other enhanced features in the Ebook that add much more to the reading experience.  (These features may be available to all Kindle books.) Instead of writing about them, I’ve screenshot pictures and the captions should explain it all.

Innovation Engine ChezVivian 11

Look up words in Wikipedia

Innovation Engine ChezVivian 14

Look up words in a dictionary

Innovation Engine ChezVivian 13

Translate the text. Useful if you teach in an bilingual environment!


Innovation Engine ChezVivian 5

Highlight quotes to tweet out

Innovation Engine ChezVivian 4

See what other people have highlighted and highlight things that stand out for you

Make flashcards of quotes you've highlighted

Make flashcards of quotes you’ve highlighted

Review the book on Amazon. See other books by the same author

Review the book on Amazon. Read other reviews.  See other books by the same author


Technology does really “redefine” education.  (See the SAMR model for Educational Technology.) “Redefinition” means the technology allows for tasks that were previously impossible or inconceivable.  Through these enhanced features found in the Ebook edition of her book, reading has become a more interactive experience, with potential to interact with the public.  This is Redefinition of a book.

Relevancy to Teachers of Creativity

Since this is a book review, I can’t really explain Tina Seelig’s Innovation in detail (or you wouldn’t be tempted to read the book!).  I’ll give a brief overview of her model and then I’ll make some comments about the application of her Innovation Engine to teaching students to be creative.

Tina Seelig's Innovation Engine

Tina Seelig’s Innovation Engine

Tina Seelig’s Innovation Engine consists of six factors that impact on one’s creativity.  Three parts are internal factors and three are external factors. The definitions are Tina Seelig’s words.  I have put in italics my own words.

Internal Factors for Innovation (Creativity):

  • Knowledge: Knowledge is the toolbox for your imagination 
  • Imagination: Imagination is the catalyst for the transformation of knowledge to ideas
  • Attitude: Attitude is the spark that gets the process going

External Factors for Innovation (Creativity):

  • Habitat: Habitat is the environment (people, physical space)
  • Resources: Money, People, Natural Resources, Processes in Place, the Community where we draw upon for ideas
  • Culture: Beliefs that infuse the entire organization i.e. beliefs about failure, risk-taking, experimentation. The “background music” that tells you how to feel, how we think, how we act during the creative process etc.

Everything is interwoven

The internal factors are connected to the external factors.  All the factors depend upon each other and affect each other;  thus the model appears as an interwoven ribbon

  • Our habitats are external manifestations of our imaginations
  • The more knowledge we have, the more resources we have for our imagination. Vice versa is also true:  The more types of resources we have in our environment, the more knowledge we have about something
  • Our internal attitudes help create the culture of the environment that we learn in


Firing the Innovation Engine in the School Classroom

Tina Seelig’s focus for this book and her Innovation Engine is business entrepreneurship.  Still, her video lecture which is the basis for her book, says that these are  “Six Characteristics of Truly Creative People”.  This implies that the Innovation Engine isn’t just to help people become the next Steve Jobs billionaire entrepreneur.  It’s about how to cultivate creativity, (which leads to the invention of Innovative products).

Personal Application

This is how I see the parts of her Innovation Engine speaking to me as a school teacher and how I see connections between her Innovation Engine and the TIM Model of Creative Teaching and Learning:

  • Knowledge: Knowledge is the toolbox for your imagination 

As a teacher, I would consciously make sure that students are excited about the knowledge and content they are interacting with.  This will make sure that as much knowledge as possible “sticks”.  Since we all work within confines of curriculum, and don’t always have that much choice over the content; then we can use the TIM model to activate engagement as much as we can: TIM Model: Give Purpose and Motivation. This means being purposeful about giving students a purpose and a motivation to engage with the content.  In PYP terms, that would be the “Provocation”.  In the PYP, the provocation starts at the beginning of a topic (the start of the inquiry cycle).  For TIM, it would tell us that every lesson needs to have a provocation at the start.  All of it is to make sure that students are motivated to engage with the lesson, hopefully retaining more than if their engagement was taken for granted.

  • Imagination: Imagination is the catalyst for the transformation of knowledge to ideas

I would see my job as a teacher to address this part of the Innovation Engine is to give “room” for students to use their imaginations.  As adults, we love seeing our students use their imaginations but we don’t often plan for it.  We look at it as a delightful extra by-product of their learning, if possible.  We’re so focussed on the learning objectives that we don’t allow much time or room for their imaginations to go beyond the expected outcomes: TIM Model: Be Original-move away from the obvious. The TIM model is a methodology to plan for activating students’ imaginations.

  • Attitude: Attitude is the spark that gets the process going

My attitude as a teacher needs to be one of expecting students to go beyond the obvious and making that the culture of my classroom.  All the TIM Creativity skills need to be consciously embedded and exercised throughout the school year, until they become a permanent part of the toolbox that students use in their learning and something they leave my classroom with and use for the rest of their lives.

  • Habitat: Habitat is the environment (people, physical space)

As teachers, we can decorate and assemble our classrooms to promote creativity.  Chairs on wheels encourages students to collaborate and cross-pollinate ideas.  Littering our environment with books invites students to discover ideas, content, knowledge, topics etc. by serendipity.  (As a music teacher, that would mean “littering the environment” with a wide variety of music, musical time periods, music genres etc.).   The idea of a Makerspace is founded on the idea that littering children’s environments with physical materials and tools to “make” will encourage them to make!  Teachers can certainly do more thinking outside of the box as to how their classroom habitat is assembled for learning and can they do better to set it up for more creativity?

  • Culture: Beliefs that infuse the entire organization i.e. beliefs about failure, risk-taking, experimentation. The “background music” that tells you how to feel, how we think, how we act during the creative process etc.

I can hope that my attitude and my students’ attitudes will eventually seep out to affect the whole culture of the school.  There’s also the opportunity to develop a culture about creativity through mentoring other teachers in the school.  @BevansJoel (Coetailer and classmate in this SUNY course) introduced me to Pineapple Charts which is a method of professional development that is low-key and low maintenance but has a potential of being a huge impact because it is low-key and low maintenance; it stands a fighting-chance of being a sustainable long-term tool in a school.

I think it’s important to make conscious what a school’s culture is about failure, risk-taking, experimentation, creativity etc.   Spend formal time assessing it and then addressing impediments, as part of the School Development Plan.  Make it a part of the School Development Plan to nurture a school culture that prioritizes creativity.

  • ResourcesMoney, People, Natural Resources, Processes in Place, the Community where we draw upon for ideas

If creativity is a priority for a school, then we’ll resource it to make it happen.  As I mentioned at the top of the blogpost, most people don’t believe it is possible to teach creativity or they have mistaken beliefs about what creativity really is.  A school is an academic environment and administration and parents respond to studies and credible information.  Giving a workshop about the Torrance Incubation Model to colleagues on Professional Development Day and to parents  (Using the Torrance Incubation Model to Assist Parents in Developing Creativity in their Children) will encourage the school to prioritize resourcing the school to develop creativity.

Torrance Incubation Model for Creative Teaching & Learning

Torrance Incubation Model for Creative Teaching & Learning

TIM Creativity Skills

TIM Creativity Skills


In summary,  the book, “Innovation Engine” (Enhanced Ebook edition) by Tina Seelig augments her youtube lecture with more detailed examples to illustrate each part of her Innovation Engine.   Viewers can obtain the core of her message via the video and I don’t feel they would miss much by not reading the book.  However, the ebook does have innovative features that a paper book does not have (including embedded snippets of relevant parts of her video within the book).  If you enjoyed her video and the little nuggets of inspiration  and want to own it in one neat package and experience an interactive reading experience, then this ebook is worth considering.  It isn’t very expensive ($6.99 US for the Kindle edition, at the time of this blog being published).

Tina Seelig’s Innovation Engine makes us aware of six important factors that impact our ability to be creative.  Reading the book allows us to scaffold our internal and external factors for creativity, but you still need specific, practical guidance on how to execute your lesson plans.  This is where the TIM model fits in.

To get the most out of this book, I would suggest that you study or take a course in the TIM model afterwards.  The two models are both really ingenious and they complement each other!

3.5 stars




Posted in Innovation Engine, Pedagogy, Philosophy & Ideology, Teaching Creativity, TIM Torrance Incubation Model | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Fire up your Innovation Engines! A book review and a reflection

More Mag, Less Blog: The Art of Music Practising

The Art of Practising

My mag article: The Art of Practising


The Art of Practising

In this blogpost, I would like to give a shout out to International School Parent Magazine who published a second article of mine:  The Art of Music Practising.

(Practising with an “S” is the American spelling)  😉

This magazine article is geared towards students studying music at an intermediate or higher level.  All music students and their parents know that they need to “practise” but what that means is not well understood.

Music practising at the intermediate and upper grades should be vastly different from when you were a beginner.

This magazine article is my way of summarizing all the strategies I’ve picked up about how to practise in my years studying music and also while teaching music.  Have a read and pass it onto a music student that you know!  They’ll find their practice-time a lot more productive and they’ll thank you!


Thanks for the shout-out on the front cover!

Thanks for the shout-out on the front cover!

Caption:  Thanks for the shout-out on the front cover!




Posted in Music Education | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on More Mag, Less Blog: The Art of Music Practising