Thank you & Farewell #MSUrbanSTEM

On June 1, 2018, in Personal, by Leigh

On December 18, 2013 Sonya, Punya, Anurag & I took this picture (in the snow, on the roof of Erickson Hall) to celebrate the official signing of the Wipro Urban STEM Fellowship Program at MSU.

We knew we were starting something special – but I don’t think we knew just how special. Fast forward 4 1/2 years, and it’s hard to believe that we are at the end of this journey. 124 amazing Chicago Public School teachers completed the MSUrbanSTEM fellowship program. In that time, they published 8 books, created resources on their websites, and continue to share and network via #MSUrbanSTEM.  As a research team, we published and presented an impressive amount of scholarship. Beyond the tangible artifacts, we all have been profoundly changed by this experience.  O’Sullivan et. al (2002) define transformative learning as:

Experiencing a deep, structural shift in the basic premises of thought, feelings and actions. It is a shift of consciousness that dramatically and irreversibly alters our way of being in the world. Such a shift involves our understanding of ourselves and our self-locations; our relationships with other humans and with the natural world; our understanding of relations of power in interlocking structures of class, race and gender; our body awareness, our visions of alternative approaches to living; and our sense of possibilities for social justice, peace and personal joy.

This definition succinctly sums up my experience over the past 4 1/2 years. I am truly grateful to my collaborators, colleagues & the incredible Chicago Public School teachers.

So lucky to work with these amazing people #MSUrbanSTEM


#MSUrbanSTEM - telepresence is amazing


Works Cited
O’Sullivan, E. V., Morrell, A., & O’Connor, M. A. (2002). Expanding the boundaries of transformative learning: Essays on theory and praxis (Lst ed.). New York, N.Y: Palgrave.


We (Candace & Leigh) are honored to present at SITE 2018. This blog post will serve as our guide and “handout” for our roundtable session.

Inspired by reality TV cooking shows, the “Quickfire Challenge” is an educational tool created as an activity in the Master of Arts in Educational Technology (MAET) program at Michigan State University (Wolf, 2009). Over the past 8 years the Quickfire Challenge has been a core of the student learning experience. Having theoretical underpinnings in Mezirow’s Transformative Learning Theory (1991), the Quickfire Challenge is structured to create a (gently) disorienting experience which challenges traditional forms of professional development models. Quickfire Challenges are carefully crafted to impose time constraints, give specific, yet vague directions, embed tangible outcomes, all the while keeping learning at the core. By experiencing failure (and success) in this format, participants begin to rediscover the joy and creativity necessary to spark engagement in curriculum development and delivery.

For our SITE roundtable, we would like to provide attendees resources for replicating existing Quickfire Challenges (learning from practitioners who have successfully implemented the idea in K12 and teacher PD contexts) along with tools for creating their own challenges. We hope that attendees will leave with a series of experiences which can be implemented in professional development (both online and offline) contexts.


Quickfire Resources

The following links will take you to instructions and examples for several Quickfire Challenges that we have developed and run in the MAET program at Michigan State University:

MSUrbanSTEM Quickfires

Michigan State University, in partnership with global tech giant Wipro Ltd., launched an innovative fellowship program (which ran from 2014-2018) designed to empower math and science teachers in Chicago Public Schools schools to create transformative, innovative, and multimodal instructional experiences for students. One thing you’ll note as a key feature present in the majority of the MSUrbanSTEM Quickfire Challenges is the “extra spicy challenge”. In order to provide the (gently) disorienting experience for all of our fellows, the inclusion of this additional element provided an opportunity for differentiation.

Teacher-generated Quickfires

Over the years, people who have participated in Quickfire Challenges have been inspired to create & share their own versions. Here are a few examples:



Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning. San Francisco , CA: Jossey-Bass.

Wolf, L. G. (2009, Aug. 19). Quickfires explained. Retrieved from



Last Thursday & Friday I had the tremendous opportunity to attend the Valuing the Syllabus as Scholarship workshop.  It has been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to attend a workshop (as a participant instead of a facilitator!) and my mind is spinning with all sorts of wonderful ideas (and blog posts.) To start to put fingers to keyboard, I want to explain a one of the activities we did in the workshop as I know you may find it as interesting and (immediately) useful.

We spent Thursday morning in small groups discussing a syllabus which came from the Humanities Commons.  (Side note: Humanities Commons is awesome, consider sharing your work there!)  We were clustered into groups of 4-5 people and then asked visualize (in analogue form) the syllabus.  This was a very open prompt (which I of course love!) We were given these “Chart Suggestions “ as a thought starter for our visualizations.

By going through this exercise it opened my eyes to all sorts of objects in a syllabus (from patterns of assignments, to value laden language.) This would be an EXCELLENT exercise for a department/program to go through if they are working on curriculum revisions.

In the afternoon we transitioned into discussing the Humanities Values and ways that these values appear in syllabi.

Humanities Values 1. Equity, 2. Openness, 3. Collegiality, 4. Quality, 5. Community

Finally, we finished the afternoon discussing our own syllabi.  The participants were very open and courageous – it’s not easy to put your work out to be critiqued.  By starting out the morning looking at a “neutral” syllabus, it gave us the language and proficient to be more reflective and critical of our own work.

I’m working on organizing my thoughts for some of the more philosophical discussions that arose – but I wanted to get this up and out there – if anyone in my network would like to run through this exercise, count me in! It was so thought (and action) provoking – and fun!

You can scroll through all of the #hssvalues tweets here and I’ve embedded a few below.



I was elated to see the tweet from Michelle this morning that our chapter “Hacking Structures: Educational Technology Programs, Evaluation, and Transformation” in Hacking Education in a Digital Age Teacher Education, Curriculum, and Literacies has been published! I’m so proud of this chapter (and what led us to write the chapter.) Can’t wait to get a copy to see the words in print!!

Hagerman, M.S., Wolf, L.G., Woods, H. (2018) Educational technology programs, evaluation, and transformation. In Smith, B., Ng-A-Fook, N., Radford, L., Pratt, S.S. (Eds), Hacking Education in a Digital Age: Teacher Education, Curriculum, and Literacies. Information Age Publishing.

Book Cover: Hacking Education in a Digital Age


2017. It was a year!

On January 7, 2018, in Personal, by Leigh

Inspired by Catherine (who was inspired by Lorna, who was inspired by Anne-Marie), I’m going to take a few minutes to reflect on 2017.

I’ll start with tangible academic successes – these are the easiest to account for :)


Schopieray, S., Mapes, K., Long, C. P., Thomas, S., Wolf, L.G. (2017, June) Domain of One’s Own at MSU: Promoting Digital Presence and Public Scholarship. Domains 2017. University of Oklahoma.

Wolf, L.G. (2017, June) Keynote (virtual). Design Thinking: Going from Practice to Theory and Theory to Practice. JALTCALL 2017. Meijo University, Nagoya, Japan.

Wolf, L.G. (2017, June) Facilitator. Tackling Wicked Problems Using Design Thinking. Educational Technology Organization of Michigan Summer Retreat.

Wolf, L.G. (2017, May) Keynote. What is it you do again? Discussing the intents, purposes & vocabularies surrounding learning design. 4TVirtual Conference (Online) Recording:

Wolf, L.G. (2017, February) Stories from #MSUHub: Using Scrum for Innovative Educational Design. NUIGalway School of Education and St. Angela’s College, Sligo. Galway, Ireland.

Papers & Publications

Mishra, P., Gunnings-Moton, S., Wolf, L.G., Berzina-Pitcher, I, & Seals, C. (2017). Introduction: Innovative STEM Professional Development for Urban Educators: Multiple Perspectives on the MSUrbanSTEM Project. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 36(3), 211-217

Seals, C., Mehta, S., Wolf, L.G., & Marcotte, C. (2017). Theory and Implementation of an Innovative Teacher Professional Development Program. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 36(3), 219-235

Rosenberg, J.M., Greenhalgh, S. P., Wolf, L.G., & Koehler, M. J. (2017). Strategies, Use, and Impact of Social Media for Supporting Teacher Community within Professional Development: The Case of One Urban STEM Program. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 36(3), 255-267

Horton, A., Mishra, P., Wolf, L., Seals, C., & Marcotte, C.. (2017, November). Developing a Culture of Shared Practice through the use of Personal Learning Networks amongst STEM Educators. Poster presentation at the Association for Educational Communication and Technology (AECT) International Convention.

Seals, C., Mehta, S, Berzina-Pitcher, I., & Wolf, L. (2017). Enhancing teacher efficacy for Urban STEM teachers facing challenges to their teaching. Journal of Urban Learning, Teaching, & Research, 13, 135-146.

Heintz, A., Hagerman, M.S., Boltz, L.O., & Wolf, L.G. (2017). Teacher awarenesses and blended instruction practices: Interview research with K-12 teachers. Handbook for Digital Learning in K-12 Schools. Springer.

Now, some personal and professional highlights. In February, I was lucky to return to my second home to visit Science Gallery Dublin (and discuss plans for Science Gallery Lab Detroit!)

I can’t be in Ireland without stopping by my heart’s home (Galway.) While in Galway I was lucky to meet with my dear friends at the School of Education at NUI Galway & new friends at St. Angela’s College, Sligo to talk a bit about the work we’re doing at the MSU Hub. (Here’s a recap of the talk.)


Sadly, the MSUrbanSTEM fellowship program came to a close in May (it was a 3 year grant) – this was truly a transformational experience for all involved.


Luckily, we have one more year with our Sustainability Fellows!

What an incredible & inspiring group of people! Energized after a day with the #MSUrbanSTEM Sustainability fellows

In July I had the honor of officiating Bill & Joe’s amazing wedding!

marriage officiant












After the wedding, we headed back home for two weeks in Ireland.  It was my first time traveling there on vacation! I was reunited with these amazing ladies:

4 awesome women









and even got out on the links with Scott

leigh and scott in the rain










When I got home, I was able to have some special auntie time with all of my nieces and nephew!

nieces, nephew and aunt










At the end of October I had a scheduled surgery (in my continuing saga with endometriosis) back at the Cleveland Clinic. Unfortunately they found that the endometriosis had become incredibly invasive and 5 inches of my colon (in addition to my uterus) had to be removed thanks to the disease.  I will need to go back in a few months for one more surgery, then, all will be fixed with the main offenders now gone!












The last few months have been a blur of recovery and getting back to work. I was lucky that Mary Carty came by for a special visit after I returned home <3












Those are some of personal the highlights of the year. I will leave you with Beannacht: A Blessing for the New Year from John O’Donohue to start 2018 (a poem I frequently referenced to get through 2017):

On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets in to you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green,
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.


After a lot of hard work – the MSUrbanSTEM special issue of The Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching has finally arrived.  I am continually proud of this team and honored to be a part of this project.

Here is a link to the special issue: (and here is a link for MSU colleagues for direct access through the library.)





Mishra, P.,Gunnings-Moton, S., Wolf, L. G., Berzina-Pitcher, I, & Seals, C. (2017). Introduction: Innovative STEM Professional Development for Urban Educators: Multiple Perspectives on the MSUrbanSTEM Project. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 36(3), 211-217

Seals, C., Mehta, S., Wolf, L.G., & Marcotte, C. (2017). Theory and Implementation of an Innovative Teacher Professional Development Program.Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 36(3), 219-235

Horton, A., Shack, K., & Mehta, R. (2017). Curriculum and Practice of an Innovative Teacher Professional Development Program.Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 36(3), 237-254

Rosenberg, J.M., Greenhalgh, S. P., Wolf, L. G., & Koehler, M. J. (2017). Strategies, Use, and Impact of Social Media for Supporting Teacher Community within Professional Development: The Case of One Urban STEM Program.Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 36(3), 255-267

Mehta, R., Mehta, S., & Seals, C. (2017). A Holistic Approach to Science Education: Disciplinary, Affective, and Equitable. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 36(3), 269-286

Cosby, M., Horton, A.,& Berzina-Pitcher, I. (2017). Math Is All Around Us: Exploring the Teaching, Learning, and Professional Development of Three Urban Mathematics Teachers.Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 36(3), 287-305


The Idea Chairs

On August 30, 2017, in educational technology, by Leigh

Idea Chairs

Last Friday, I left work late and walked out in the evening sun to a stunning sight – several sets of colorful lawn chairs in the green space between Wells Hall and Erickson Hall (the two buildings where I spend much of my time on campus.) There were lawn signs around the chairs with inspirational quotes and the statement: What’s your dream? #IDEACHAIR. I was immediately captivated by the chairs and thought about them all weekend. Every day this week I have made a point to move one of my meetings out to the “Idea Chairs.”  Classes officially started today and it was another wondrous sight to see how the chairs moved – into new configurations. How they invited conversation, joy, smiles.  If you look around campus, any of the outdoor seating is firmly bolted to the ground.  There are benches, but, sitting on them is a bit awkward for a collegial conversation.  The idea chairs on the other hand are mobile, malleable, adaptable. My friend Ira speaks to this much more eloquently than I can as to why this is so important (see: Making Learning Spaces: The Secondary Library.)

Several years ago, Alison gave me the beautiful gift of the book The Third Teacher. Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia approach said “There are three teachers of children: adults, other children, and their physical environment” (aka, the third teacher.)  The Michigan State University campus is our classroom, the campus is the Third Teacher.  The idea chairs are a small, yet wonderful reminder and example of how important it is to create an environment conducive to how we learn and interact – and how something so simple has the potential to transform. I will be watching closely over the next few weeks to see how the space continues to adapt and grow.



It was an honor to be a virtual plenary at the JALTCALL 2017 conference last night. JALTCALL is a Special Interest Groups (SIG) of JALT (Japan Association for Language Teaching) for educators and researchers who share an interest in digital technology and language learning.

Unfortunately, I was unable to make it in person – but we were able to coordinate a recorded virtual session: Design thinking: Going from practice to theory and theory to practice. It was fun to watch the Twitter stream from Michigan (at 11pm!) I’m looking forward to interacting with the community virtually via the #jaltcall2017 hashtag over the next few days!





ETOM17It was an absolute pleasure to work with the members of the Educational Technology Organization of Michigan at their Summer 2017 retreat.  I sincerely thank Carl Weckerle and the ETOM board for the invitation! ETOM has a fantastic retreat model set up at the Kettunen Center. You arrive at lunch on Thursday, we had a workshop from 1-5, then had dinner and relaxed by the lake. The next morning we had breakfast – a few rounds of sessions/discussions and then lunch before departure.

The ETOM board gave me the challenge of tackling the wicked problem of “Adequate Assessment of eLearning Classes.” This has been on the list of greatest challenges for distance education program administrators for the past several years on the ITC Distance Learning survey. It was no small feat – but – our iterative journey helped us explore the issue from several stakeholder standpoints.  You can see the prompts & activities in the slide deck below. One outcome of of our collective sharing was a brief collectively authored Landscape Scan which has several links to assessment initiatives and supports in the ETOM network.

On Friday, I had the opportunity to share some of the theories and tools we use at the MSU Hub to take on some of our “wicked problems” at MSU (slides below.) I look forward to continued conversations with the ETOM community!

Workshop Title & Description: Tackling Wicked Problems Using Design Thinking – Dr. Leigh Graves Wolf, Michigan State University

The goals of the workshop are two-fold. First, participants will engage in an embodied experience using design thinking. This will give participants first-hand and participatory knowledge of design thinking techniques and processes. Second, participants will be using these design thinking methods to address a “wicked problem” identified by ETOM, which will produce solutions (and questions) for the ETOM retreat.

Our presenter is Dr. Leigh Graves Wolf. Leigh Graves Wolf is a teacher-scholar and her work centers around online education, emerging technologies and relationships mediated by and with technology. She has worked across the educational spectrum from K12 to Higher to further and lifelong. She has been a disc jockey, network administrator, teacher, instructional technologist and now professor. She believes passionately in collaboration and community and is currently the Assistant Director of the MSU Hub for Innovation in Learning & Technology, and academic specialist in the Dean’s office in the MSU College of Education, and a fixed-term Associate professor of Educational Technology at Michigan State University.


Session Title & Description: Tools of Project Workflow: Stories from #MSUhub

In January 2016 Michigan State University started a new campus initiative: The Hub for Innovation in Teaching & Learning (“The Hub”). The Hub’s mission is to “facilitate the passion and inventiveness of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders both inside and outside of MSU to create, identify, and accelerate new ways to collaborate, learn, research, and deliver instruction.” While the core staff of The Hub leadership team has anchored much of its work and processes around design theories and processes. In this session Leigh will share examples of their workflow processes and the digital (and analogue) tools used in their work.


Behind the scenes

Behind the scenes view of the 4T Virtual Keynote

Yesterday I had the honor of presenting at the 2017 4T Virtual Conference. I am a tremendous fan of the conference and was honored that Liz Kolb and the 4T Virtual organizers asked me to be a keynote this year.  I HIGHLY recommend that you take a look through the sessions that were presented this year (and the archives!) It is a treasure trove of online professional development.

My keynote was titled: What is it you do again? Discussing the intents, purposes & vocabularies surrounding learning design.  The idea was prompted by a conversation I had recently with a colleague and in my talk I attempt to construct an argument for defining our work and remaining critical as we engage and define our profession as “learning designers” (or Educational Technologists, Instructional and Information Technology Manager, Program Support Specialists, Academic Specialists, Digital Coachs, Technology Guides, etc.)

I provided a virtual handout to go along with my talk which you can find here:

The recording of the session can be found here: 
(requires Blackboard Collaborate) and the slides are embedded below.

In my session, I invited the audience to continue the collaboration and discussion – and I would like to do the same here. If you’re interested in collaborating on an article around this topic, please let me know!

Thanks again to all who attended, to my moderator Kevin Upton and to the 4T Virtual sponsors who make this incredible (FREE) event possible.