Creativity: How to Turn Your Classroom into an Idea Factory


How can we prepare today’s students to become tomorrow’s innovators? It’s an urgent challenge, repeated by President Obama, corporate CEOs, and global education experts like Yong Zhao and Tony Wagner. Virtually every discussion of 21st-century learning puts innovation and its close cousin, creativity, atop the list of skills students must have for the future.

If we’re serious about preparing students to become innovators, educators have some hard work ahead. Getting students ready to tackle tomorrow’s challenges means helping them develop a new set of skills and fresh ways of thinking that they won’t acquire through textbook-driven instruction. Students need opportunities to practice these skills on right-sized projects, with supports in place to scaffold learning. They need to persist and learn from setbacks. That’s how they’ll develop the confidence to tackle difficult problems.

How do we fill the gap between saying we must encourage innovation and teaching students how to actually generate and execute original ideas? The answers are emerging from classrooms across the country where pioneering teachers are making innovation a priority. Their strategies vary widely, from tinkering workshops and design studios to digital gaming and global challenges. By emphasizing problem solving and creativity in the core curriculum, these advance scouts are demonstrating that innovation is both powerful and teachable.

Across disparate fields, from engineering and technology to the social and environmental sectors, innovators use a common problem-solving process. They frame problems carefully, looking at issues from all sides to find opportunity gaps. They may generate many possible solutions before focusing their efforts. They refine solutions through iterative cycles, learning from failure along with success. When they hit on worthy ideas, innovators network with others and share results widely.

In the classroom, this same process corresponds neatly with the stages of project-based learning. In PBL, students investigate intriguing questions that lead them to learn important academic content. They apply their learning to create something new, demonstrate their understanding, or teach others about the issue they have explored. By emphasizing key thinking skills throughout the PBL process, teachers can guide students to operate the same way that innovators do in all kinds of settings.

Here are eight tips to borrow from classrooms where teachers are reinventing yesterday’s schools as tomorrow’s idea factories.


Good projects start with good questions. Listen closely to students to find out what makes them curious. Instead of presenting them with ready-made assignments, invite student feedback when you are designing projects. Make sure your driving questions for projects involve real-world issues that students care about investigating.


Projects offer an ideal context to develop students’ collaboration skills, but make sure teamwork doesn’t feel contrived. If projects are too big for any one student to manage alone, team members will have a real reason to rely on each other’s contributions. Teach students how to break a big project into manageable pieces and bring out the best ideas from everyone on the team. Offer them examples of innovations (from the Mars rover to the iPad) that wouldn’t have been possible without team efforts.


Innovators have a tendency to think big. They know how to use social networking tools to make a worthy idea go viral. Encourage students to share their projects with audiences beyond the classroom, using digital tools like YouTube or online publishing sites. Help them build networks to exchange ideas with peers and learn from experts around the globe.


Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Innovators who have empathy can step outside their own perspective and see issues from multiple viewpoints. Approaching a problem this way leads to better solutions. Teach students strategies for making field observations, conducting focus groups or user interviews, or gathering stories that offer insights into others’ perspectives.


Passion is what keeps innovators motivated to persist despite long odds and flawed first efforts. Find out what drives students’ interests during out-of-school time, and look for opportunities to connect these pursuits with school projects. Ask students: When you feel most creative, what are you doing? What tools or technologies are you using? Their answers should set the stage for more engaging projects.


In today’s flat world, where access to information is ubiquitous, innovation can happen anywhere. Opportunities to support good ideas are also getting flattened. Philanthropy and venture funding, once reserved for the wealthy, have been crowdsourced with online platforms like Kiva ( and Kickstarter ( To participate fully in the culture of innovation, students need to be able to do more than generate their own ideas. They also need to know how to critically evaluate others’ brainstorms and decide which ones are worth supporting. Develop classroom protocols for students to critically evaluate each other’s ideas. They may decide to throw their collective energy behind one promising idea or pull components from multiple teams into a final project.


Being a critical thinker also means being able to spot ideas that aren’t ready for prime time. Bold new ideas may have bugs that need to be worked out. An approach that appears to be a game-changer may be too expensive for the benefits it affords or may have unanticipated consequences. Give students opportunities to look for potential pitfalls and know when to say no.


Will students come up with breakthrough ideas in every project? Probably not, but you can encourage them to stretch their thinking by setting ambitious goals. What would students be able to do or demonstrate if they were truly operating as innovators?  Provide them with real-world examples by sharing stories of innovators from many fields, including social innovators who tackle wicked problems like poverty or illiteracy. Share the back stories of breakthroughs to show how much effort went into each inspired idea. Let students know they can’t expect to reach breakthrough solutions to every problem they tackle. Finding out what doesn’t work can be a useful outcome, too. Genuine innovation is indeed rare—but worth recognizing and celebrating when it happens.

Parent involvement in Science learning


Parent involvement in Science learning


Courtesy: National Science Teacher’s Association

Parent Involvement in Science Learning

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) believes the involvement of parents and other caregivers in their children’s learning is crucial to their children’s interest in and ability to learn science. Research shows that when parents play an active role, their children achieve greater success as learners, regardless of socioeconomic status, ethnic/racial background, or the parents’ own level of education (PTA 1999; Henderson and Mapp 2002; Pate and Andrews 2006). Furthermore, the more intensely parents are involved, the more confident and engaged their children are as learners and the more beneficial the effects on their achievement (Cotton and Wikelund 2001).

Historically, innovations in science and technology have been powerful forces for improving our quality of life and fueling economic development worldwide. To continue to reap the economic and social benefits that accrue from such innovation, as well as to find solutions to challenging problems in the areas of health, energy, and the environment, we must ensure parents and children value science learning and recognize the tremendous opportunities that can arise from being more scientifically and technologically literate and better prepared to participate in the 21st-century workforce.

Parents and other caregivers have a critical role to play in encouraging and supporting their children’s science learning at home, in school, and throughout their community. Teachers also play an important role in this effort and can be valuable partners with parents in cultivating science learning confidence and skills in school-age youth. NSTA recognizes the importance of parent involvement in science learning and offers the following recommendations to parents.


Children are naturally curious about the world around them. Parents and other caregivers can nurture this curiosity in children of all ages by creating a positive and safe environment at home for exploration and discovery.

  • Acknowledge and encourage your children’s interests and natural abilities in science, and help them further develop their interests and abilities over time.
  • Encourage your children to observe, ask questions, experiment, tinker, and seek their own understandings of natural and human-made phenomena.
  • Foster children’s creative and critical thinking, problem solving, and resourcefulness through authentic tasks such as cooking, doing household chores, gardening, repairing a bike or other household object, planning a trip, and other everyday activities. Actively engage with your children during mealtime discussions or group games requiring mental or physical skills, or by talking about books they are reading or television programs about science they have watched.
  • Provide frequent opportunities for science learning at home and in the community through outdoor play; participation in summer programs; or trips to parks, museums, zoos, nature centers, and other interesting science-rich sites in the community.
  • Provide your children easy access to science learning resources such as books, educational toys and games, videos/DVDs, and online or computer-based resources.
  • Join your children in learning new things about science and technology. Take advantage of not knowing all the answers to your children’s questions, and embrace opportunities to learn science together.

Schools are essential resources for science learning. The more actively engaged parents and other caregivers are in their children’s schooling, the more beneficial schools can be for building their child’s appreciation and knowledge of and confidence and skills in science and technology (Cotton and Wikelund 2001). This holds true throughout the school-age years, from preschool through college.

  • Become a partner in your children’s schooling. Communicate regularly with your children and their teachers, school administrators, and counselors to learn more about your children’s science learning opportunities and performance.
  • Encourage your children to participate in extracurricular opportunities focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), such as clubs, field trips, after-school programs, and science research competitions.
  • Seek out opportunities to meet and get to know teachers of science. Volunteer in the classroom or on a field trip; serve on a science curriculum review or policy development committees; or attend a school’s open house or family science night event.
  • Be informed about the science program at your children’s school. Learn more about the school’s curriculum and the amount of time devoted to science learning and hands-on laboratory experiences at each grade level, and find out whether teachers believe they have the necessary resources and experience to teach science effectively. Become involved with the local school board to ensure that science learning is a top priority in the school system and that adequate resources are available. If you are home schooling, be sure that you are meeting or exceeding the same science standards covered in the local school curriculum.
  • Establish high expectations for your children’s science learning, as well as for the school system that fosters it.
  • Be an advocate for science learning by supporting local, state, and national science education policies and investments in science resources, including school curriculum materials, laboratory equipment, and teacher and administrator professional development. It is also important to advocate for organizations that support schools and home school families, including museums, libraries, and other science-rich nonprofit organizations.
  • Reach out to policy makers to impress upon them the value of science and technology learning and its importance to your children’s future.

Parents and other caregivers play an important role in ensuring that their children have the necessary knowledge and skills in science and technology to become scientifically literate and informed citizens. It also is imperative that we develop a strong science- and technology-skilled workforce. Parents can encourage children to consider and pursue a science- or technology-related career and to obtain the necessary knowledge and skills that will allow them access to and success in such a career.

  • Seek out opportunities to introduce your children to individuals in your community whose work relates to science or technology. This may include trades and professions such as construction or manufacturing, public safety, medicine, natural resource management, or research.
  • Participate in “Take Your Child to Work” days, and expose them to the science and technology in your workplace. Encourage your employer to promote and support these opportunities.
  • Attend career fairs with your children. Help them explore a broad range of career options and learn about and understand the necessary skills and coursework required to pursue these careers.
  • Look for special events and programs in your community that enable your children to meet scientists, or visit a worksite or local university where science and technology are prevalent. Support your children’s participation in online academic mentorship programs that pair students and scientists to carry out STEM projects.
  • Find opportunities in your community to connect science and technology businesses, schools, and non-school learning venues such as museums, libraries, and clubs. Encourage both financial and personnel investments in science learning. Ask businesses to give employees release time to support science learning at school or in the community and to become mentors for school-age youth.
  • Encourage your children to disbelieve negative stereotypes about scientists, and help them understand that anyone can have a career in science.
  • Model values that support learning, self-sufficiency, responsibility, and hard work so your children will develop at an early age the confidence and determination to pursue their career interests in science or technology.

Bedtime Math: A Problem a Day Keeps Fear of Arithmetic Away


Bedtime Math: A Problem a Day Keeps Fear of Arithmetic Away


Courtesy – (

For many parents with young children, the bedtime routine is a firmly entrenched system involving a warm bath, a good book, a kiss and a hug. Toying with that equation borders on sacrilege, but Laura Overdeck thinks it’s time to make room for a math problem alongside the nightly story.

In February, the high-tech consultant-turned-stay-at-home mom launched Bedtime Math, a website devoted to creating the sort of cachet for arithmetic — before the final tuck-in — that reading has.  “You hear so many people say, I’m just not good at math,” she says. “But you never hear people say, I’m just not good at reading.”

Overdeck began by emailing about a dozen friends a word problem with varying levels of difficulty, ranging from calculations appropriate for their preschoolers to upper-elementary students. Within a week, her list of subscribers had tripled. Nine months later, 20,000 people have signed up to receive the free daily emails. “It’s just exploded,” says Overdeck.

That’s heartening news for educators who bemoan the state of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in the U.S.  In 2009, American teens ranked 31st place in math and 23rd in science, behind Asian powerhouses Japan and China and European countries including Poland and Slovakia in a global skills survey.

Bedtime Math isn’t the only program trying to turn the tide. Let’s Play Math encourages mathematical game-playing. Living Math extolls the beauty of arithmetic to parents and teachers. Math for Love offers professional development for teachers on how to spice up their approach to numbers and introduces kids — including my own — to the joy of math. For a parent whose palms grew sweaty just walking into geometry class, realizing that math could be something other than anxiety-provoking was nothing short of groundbreaking. “Through games, math becomes something that kids do for fun and not some awful arduous task,” says Math for Love co-founder Dan Finkel. “Our goal is to change the culture around mathematics.”

(MORE: How Does a Child’s Weight Influence Her Math Abilities?)

Overdeck, who studied astrophysics at Princeton University, first recognized the need to incorporate math into kids’ lives once she realized that she and her husband, who majored in math at Stanford University, were doing something with their daughter that none of their upper-middle-class friends were: math, starting from her second birthday. “In our house, math is a fun thing that kids seek out,” says Overdeck. “Everyone knows they should read a book, but nobody knows they should be doing math with their kids. People don’t do math recreationally yet all the politicians are scratching their heads, wondering why we’re falling behind educationally.”

The challenge is even greater for girls; women make up 48% of the workforce, but represent just 24% of STEM workers. But those workers are faring well, pulling in enviable salaries: they earned 33% more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs, according to the chief economist for the U.S. Department of Commerce. “We need more young women and minorities to have access to these careers,” says Joan Ferrini-Mundy of the National Science Foundation. “We know a lot from research that the earlier we can get kids hooked on math, the better that is for their long-term careers.”

Overdeck, 42, can see for herself the point at which she says little girls start to believe they’re no good at calculations. “Every email I get about a child who has a math block comes from a parent with an 8-year-old girl,” she says. “A lot of studies show teachers are not comfortable with math, and teachers are mostly women.”

She’s trying to change the paradigm, promoting the math problems she writes to teachers and principals in addition to parents. She’ll often draw on the interests of her own three children — ages 4, 7 and 9 — so there are frequent calculations about stuffed animals or vehicles.

Making math engaging and applicable to daily life is important when it comes to connecting with children, says Overdeck. When kids go to school, they are often bored by dry worksheets when they should be exposed to fun, real-life examples of the way math works in everyday life. After Hurricane Sandy, for example, one day’s problem challenged preschoolers to identify which license plate numbers entitled New Jersey residents (Overdeck is one) to fill up on rationed gas on odd-numbered days. Older kids were asked: “If 1 pump can fuel a car in 6 minutes and the station has 4 pumps, how many cars can get filled in an hour?  Bonus: We saw another car line that had 100 cars in it.  How long will it take the last car in that line to get gas?”

(P.S. Mom and Dad, if you’re struggling to unravel that gas-station riddle, the answers are: 40 cars and 2 ½ hours.)

Read more:

So, why is everyone talking about STEM?


Why is everyone talking about STEM?


So, what is STEM?

STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, in the next five years, STEM jobs are projected to grow twice as quickly as jobs in other fields. While all jobs are expected to grow by 10.4%, STEM jobs are expected to increase by 21.4%. Similarly, 80% of jobs in the next decade will require technical skills.

Why STEM early ?

Of the 3.8 million 9th graders in the US, only 233,000 end up choosing a STEM degree in college (National Center for Education Statistics). That means only six STEM graduates out of every 100 9th graders. While we know that young children work their iPhone, iPad, iPod and Games app easily, We have learnt that they too engage with ideas big and small – problem solving, thinking mathematically and using logic and reasoning. It is the practical application of those ideas and the creative thinking required to solve authentic problems forms the basis of a truly engaging learning experience.

What if my student is not interested in STEM careers?


What if my Son/Daughter is not interested in pursuing STEM careers when they grow up?


At HoneZone, we believe that everyone would benefit from learning the basic skills and mental gymnastics required to write simple computer programs, regardless of their future career choices. Technology is pervasive in almost every aspect of daily life, and as the workplace changes, STEM knowledge and skills grow in importance for a variety of workers (not just for Mathematicians and Scientists). This is a great age to introduce them with these skills. Please checkout to learn more !

Young students explore as scientists do!


Young children explore as scientist do!



In the ever-increasing drive to start the college pipeline as early as possible, debate has been heating up over just how much academics and testing should be included in early-childhood education programs. Now, a National Science Foundation-backed report in the journal Science argues that children’s natural learning style already reflects the scientific process educators will spend the next decade trying to instill in school-age students—if they can get an engaging environment to explore.

Alison Gopnik, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, reports that children from as young as 8 months old through preschool explore through techniques that would seem familiar to any scientist: they make hypotheses and test them against data; predict outcomes using statistics, and can infer the causes of failed actions.

All of these things, Gopnik and her colleagues argue, happen years before any formal training in the same scientific techniques. “What we need to do to encourage children to learn is not to put them in the equivalent of school, tell them things, give them reading drills or flash cards. We really need to put them in a safe, rich environment where the natural capacities for exploration, for testing, for science can get free rein,” she said in a briefing with reporters.

In the past decade, emerging research on brain development and plasticity have given parents and educators a much bigger sense of young children’s cognitive abilities. Rather than the traditional metaphor of a young child as a “blank slate” on which adults imprint knowledge, children constantly analyze and make conclusions about the world around them.

This can give teachers and parents more faith in children’s learning potential, yet Gopnik warned, “One of the unfortunate things that’s happened is, as we’ve begun to realize just how powerful babies and young children’s brains are and how much they’re learning, is, often the way people interpret that is to say we should put them in school earlier. There is great pressure from parents and policymakers to make preschools and early-childhood education more and more structured, more and more academic, more and more like school. What new science is telling us is … that push may have negative effects as well as positive ones.”

Moreover, young children need a “safe, rich, engaging” environment to explore, and that’s often one more gap between children in concentrated poverty and their wealthier peers. “Twenty to 25 percent of children are growing up in poverty; not just in terms of money coming in, but growing up in isolation, where it’s too dangerous to go out on the street, in families where there isn’t a supportive network of people to take care of you or pay attention to what you are thinking,” Gopnik said.

The report emphasizes that ensuring each child has a nurturing environment to explore early on may be as or more important to getting them ready for school than ensuring they meet pre-literacy benchmarks.

12 Technologies to watch in STEM education


12 Technologies to watch in STEM education



On Thursday, Sept. 20, the New Media Consortium for the first time released a technology outlook for science, technology, engineering and math .

The report identifies 12 technologies to watch in these fields over the next five years. Of these 12 technologies, four did not make it onto the short list of either of the reports on K-12 or higher education that the consortium released earlier this year. These four include collective intelligence, massively open online courses, social networking and wearable technology.

This chart shows a comparison of the 12 technologies that made the short list for each of these reports, all published by the New Media Consortium. This new report, though, was published in collaboration with the Centro Superior para la Enseñanza Virtual, Departamento de Ingeniería Eléctrica, Electrónica y de Control at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Education Society.

The K-12 and higher education editions narrow the list to six, while the new report keeps it at 12. The technologies highlighted in the chart below made it their respective report’s final list.

Three Horizon Report Comparisons
Time to adoption Technology Outlook for STEM+ Education 2012-2017 NMC Horizon Report 2012 Higher Education Edition NMC Horizon Report 2012 K-12 Edition
One year or less Cloud computing Cloud computing Cloud computing
Collaborative environments Mobile apps
Collaborative environments
Mobile apps Social reading Mobiles and apps
Social networking Tablet computing Tablet computing
Two to three years Augmented reality Adaptive learning environments Digital identity
Learning analytics Augmented reality Game-based learning
Massively open online courses Game-based learning Learning analytics
Personal learning environments Learning analytics Personal learning environments
Four to five years Collective intelligence Digital identity Augmented reality
Internet of things Natural user interfaces Natural user interfaces
Natural user interfaces Haptic interfaces Semantic applications
Wearable technology Internet of things Assessment of 21st century skills

Not surprisingly, mobile apps and cloud computing made it into the short list of all three reports in the one year or less horizon. That means within a year or less, this technology could become mainstream.

But here’s why these technologies matter for science, technology, engineering and math education. With cloud-based collaboration tools, students can work together to solve problems, create reports and brainstorm. Researchers can work with huge data sets as cloud-based servers are organized in better ways. And virtual machines in the cloud allow computer science programs to simulate computers that appeared at various points in history. Mobile apps allow students to disect animals virtually and view period tables in 3D.

Four to five years down the road, collective intelligence could become mainstream. Collective intelligence is exactly like it sounds: gathering and recording knowledge from large groups of people. And this is already embedded in scientific research networks.

Technology Programs for students ages 8 – 18 in Naperville

HoneZone Programs for Students ages 8 – 18 near Fox valley Mall in Naperville-Aurora

Today’s young people will need to be 21st century thinkers, able to recognize problems and opportunities, understand the complex and varied systems in which those problems and opportunities exist, weigh the pros and cons of potential solutions, and proceed wisely with enacting their decisions. Technology provides opportunities to create and solve novel problems, communicate and collaborate, create new products and processes, and adapt to changes providing a more engaged,relevant, meaningful, and personalized learning all of which can lead to higher levels of success in 21st century. At HoneZone, our goal is to help prepare your student for 21st century. Check out our programs and enroll now!

Tech Start® – Foundations in Technology (ages 8 – 18)

Start Young, Thing Big! Students take their first step into the world of technology by creating fun interactive, technology projects using easy to learn programming language. Students learn fundamentals of Cloud computing, Mobile technology and AI (Artificial Intelligence) and understand App development concepts for iPhone and Android OS.

Tech Dives® – Deep dive into world of Technology (ages 9 – 18)

Future is now, Future is You! Students learn and create advanced, highly creative, fun technology projects in this program. They learn Cloud computing concepts using Google apps, Salesforce apps. Students also dive into App Development advanced concepts with iPhone, Android OS. They learn how to integrate Game design with Artificial intelligence.

Tech Strides® – Bold strides with advanced Technology (ages 10 – 18)

Take bold strides for a Bright future! In this program, students learn sophisticated technology design building blocks behind the digital world of iPhone, iPad, Android, OS, Facebook, Google Maps, Computers and Robots. Knowing how to build technology opens up the possibilities of creating and building on their own ideas.

Tech Sprints® – Dream your 21st century career (ages 14 – 18)

Take control of your future! Students learn comprehensive career oriented technology programs on App Development, Cloud computing, technology design, development, marketing, persuasion and winning strategies. This program offers internship preparation component to put you on the right track in your career path.