The Creativity Ignitor
Dr. Remi Holden is a co-founder of the Institute of Innovation in Education. This Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado Denver wears many hats as he trains, leads, and inspires current and future generations of teachers to impact education through creativity, play, innovation, and technology.Dr. Remi Holden finds himself at the intersection of education and technology. His quest has led him to earn a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and a M.A. with the University of Michigan – Flint’s Technology in Education Global Progam. Currently, Remi is an Assistant Professor of Information and Learning Technologies at the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Education and Human Development. In addition to continuing his quest of learning while shaping the next generation, Remi has been and is still an active member of several projects, such as the Institute of Innovation in Education (iiE), Interactive Communications Simulations (ICS), and Playful Learning. His involvement in these organizations span multiple roles, from co-founder (iiE), to developer (ICS), and to co-chair of the national Playful Learning Summit. Being a part of these organizations provides an opportunity to support educators’ creativity, design, and playfulness.
A Hidden SecretThe Institute of Innovation in Education was created to get educators out of their comfort zone by creating an innovative place to design curricula and technology. “It was very important for us to identify our shortcomings in order for us to move forward,” Remi says about the iiE’s development from the now-defunct UM-Flint Global Program. The iiE engages communities that span the world while creating partnerships with programs, places, and schools. “The iiE is a hidden secret, a beautiful opportunity for people who think differently, interact differently, and have a different agenda around scholarly engagement. It isn’t driven by status, or who has been most successful. I do not want to see the iiE change in terms of the Gathering [annual conference] because it is intimate, personable, and creates authentic connections with people. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! The iiE is special and unique, and we should stick with the core design elements we nailed.”
Equitable PathwaysRemi is invested in working toward a more equitable future for students from diverse backgrounds and communities. He strives to create the conditions needed for more equitable learning. “Pathways for participation are open for students who come from less advantaged, resource-rich environments. How we begin to articulate certain commitments, whether it is curricular, pedagogical, and/or technological that can help create the conditions for more equitable learning. The definition of equity is shifting based upon settings and based upon culture. That to me is really exciting and commits me to the work that we are doing.”
Co-Designing in the Messiness, the Meddling, and the MangleThe term “Instructional Designer” can be problematic for Remi. “There is a fascinating division between people who design things and people who implement things. Imagine bringing in a team of instructional designers who create this thing, and they say, ‘This is it, that is the answer, now go off and use it!’” He generally eschews the term “instructional designer for the following reasons:
- It pulls expertise out of the hands of the educator. The educator is going to implement this as if they are a functionary; that they are not going to collaboratively design something needed to address a complex problem of their own practice.
- It tends not to honor student inquiry; what do students care about? What questions are they asking? What are their cultural resources, and what languages and heritages do they bring with them to their learning? Each of these questions and concerns should shape the tools needed in a classroom, and co-designed by educators.
- An instructional designer may too easily be seen as the expert, with educators afforded less agency and expertise in shaping what learning should look like. Rather, I see educators as the designers themselves and actually co-designers with their students. I hope pedagogy, curricula and the tools that support that can come from the messiness of education, or from meddling in the middle, or from the mangle of play in which learning emerges from processes that has already started. Co-design also means developing fluent critical and cultural competencies that educators can leverage in their own classrooms, and in conversation with their own students.