A Wicked Hard Problem


I found myself in another situation where I was researching something I know nothing about and providing a solution for it.  This time I was able to rely on the help of three other great educators (Laura, Sarah, Lupe).  Our task was to dissect the wicked problem of teaching complex thinking.  

We used the Why, What If, How questioning process from A More Beautiful Question to help us understand the problem and develop the best bad solution.  In a virtual meeting, using zoom, we discussed the problem of complex thinking and how to understand it.  To start, we came up with over fifty why questions related to our problem.  These why questions allowed us to think about the parts of our problem, instead of jumping right to answering it.  Most people are uncomfortable with not knowing the answers and having to sit with a question (Berger 2016).  It was definitely uncomfortable to start solving our wicked problem with more questions.

After we better understood our problem, we started to research complex thinking to find out what it is.  Following our research and meeting, we each created our own individual infographic explaining the problem of Complex Thinking (mine is located below).




After completing the Why stage of our process, we moved on the What If questions.  As a group, we connected virtually and asked what If questions to develop potential solutions.  What If questions allow us to explore ways we can act on the problem of complex thinking (Berger 2016).  After compiling our What If questions we need a way to gather more information about our wicked problem.  During a virtual meeting, we created a survey to help identify what people know about complex thinking and what potential solutions we could provide for teaching complex thinking.  For this survey, my colleagues and I reached out to our personal learning networks and learning communities.  Our survey totaled 134 responses from teachers, administrators, counselors, across a multitude of subjects.


After reviewing our data we noticed, participants addressed opportunities for student innovation as one of the most difficult areas to teach and student engagement in real world problems as one of the most important areas to teach.  Our group discussed Berger’s (2016) ideas about why people evade inquiry to explain this.  Making authentic connections is a difficult thing and many educators may avoid finding better ways to teach this.  Berger (2016) argues “people tend to avoid fundamental questioning…” (P. 183) in fear of not finding a quick answer or not finding one at all.

Our best solution we developed as a team is to provide some examples of ways teachers can provide authentic inquiry into their classroom.  We each researched different methods including project based learning, genius hour/20 time, student choice assessments, and authentic inquiry.

Below is a Thinglink my group and I put together explaining our research into complex thinking.  You will find survey results along with explanations of possible solutions for this wicked problem.


These process of solving a wicked problem was wicked hard but my group persevered.  It was not an easy task communicating between four people, on four different schedules, in two different states.  We were able to be flexible, build off of each other strengths and put together the best bad solution we could to the wicked problem of teaching complex thinking.



Berger, Warren. (2014). A More Beautiful Question:  The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas. New York: Bloomsbury.

History Meets Hollywood…Again

This summer has been one of experimentation, iteration, and success.  With the start of my graduate studies, I have been introduced to many new teaching philosophies and ideas to incorporate into my classroom.  Berger (2016) references the need to experiment in life and try new things.  In a previous blog post I wrote about play in the classroom and since then I have put some thought into what I can do.  My challenge and experiment is to combine play, digital storytelling, Hollywood, and United States History.


Much like the rest of the world, I have been swept up in the revival of superhero movies.  While I would not call myself a superhero buff I do find these movies quite entertaining.  However, it’s not necessarily the actions scenes and the deep storyline that keeps me thinking after the movies are over, usually it’s the historical context.

This is most prevalent with movies such as Captain America or Wonder Woman.  Both of these movies take place during World War II and (spoiler alert) end with the United States defeating the Nazis.  These movies fascinate me because they sneak in period military weapons, political leaders, cultural references, life as a civilian during the war, etc.  What if people are actually learning US History while they watch these movies?


This led me into series of questions about these types of movies.  Using Berger (2016) Why, What if, How process I started asking questions.  Why do people like these movies?  Why can’t my students be as excited about my class as the new movies?  What if I blended Hollywood with my classroom?  How might I make my classroom more like a Hollywood movie and less like a traditional class?

Hollywood and History fanatics have a long standing feud because Hollywood takes something based in fact, stretches it out, and creates something new.  Historians do not tend to like this because facts get mixed around, ignored, or flat out made up.  To blend Hollywood and the facts, I’ve thought about showing parts of or entire movies and having students research which parts are true and which parts Hollywood elaborated.  Then, students could re-film those scenes, making the film more true to form.  

Another way to have students use some Hollywood and television cinematics would be to have them create a segment from The Colbert Report, The Weekend Update, or similar shows.  These shows are very popular, entertaining and full of content.  Often with shows like The Colbert Report, you need to understand what is happening in the news to understand the jokes.  Both the movie remakes and the clips from TV shows bring in the idea of serious play. 


The next step would be to put these ideas together using digital storytelling.  Using ideas from Josh Nichols and Crossbraining, students would film throughout their process and present a final one minute clip of what they have put together.  Providing specific criteria for students to incorporate, I would have student capture their research, planning, iterations, and final product.  Having students record and reflect on their learning process drives metacognition and helps students transfer from novice to expert learners (Bransford, 2000).  Students are able to watch themselves as they work and are required to add narration to explain their process.

Borrowing from Crossbraining and TPACK (Mishra 2012) these lessons will help to integrate technology,  create a student centered environment, and help students learn the content.  The short one minute videos will keep students clear and concise on their topic and can be shared with parents, administrators, colleagues etc.

Hollywood and United States History may not actually be too far apart.  After listening to Nichols speak at Michigan State University, I have been looking for ways to work Crossbraining into my lessons.  I think it is an exciting way to look at something through new lenses and create some changes in my classroom. 



Berger, Warren. (2014). A More Beautiful Question:  The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas. New York: Bloomsbury.

Bransford, J., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R. R. (2000), How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Mishra, P., & The Deep-Play Research Group (2012). Rethinking technology and creativity in the 21st century: Crayons are the future. TechTrends, 56(5), 13-16. Retrieved from: http://punya.educ.msu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Mishra-crayons-techtrends1.pdf

From Maker Faire to Makerspace

A few weeks ago I helped to plan and host a mini Maker Faire at Michigan State University.  Having never heard of a Maker Faire or the Maker Movement, this was a very high stress time.  Long story short all went well, check out my Maker Faire post, and I was introduced to new ideas on learning and creating.

Having to host and learn about a Maker Faire and the Maker Movement definitely peaked my interest and curiosity.  Wanting to see what a “real” Maker Faire looked like, I started doing some research for a Maker Faire I could attend.  What I found was quite interesting.  The majority of Maker Faires coming up were happening on the East Coast, some Mid-Western States, and the West Coast but very few were in the West of the United States.

Makerspaces Utah
My school is located in Ogden, at least 45 mins from the nearest Makerspace

I am currently living in Utah, and there are no Maker Faires coming up for me to attend.  Since there are no Maker Faires, I started to look for Makerspaces around my school to suggest for students.  I used the Maker Faire website to locate Makerspaces and found there are not many in Utah, and the few I found are not very close.

Using the questions skills from Berger (2016), I started to ask why questions about the Makerspace in Utah.  Why aren’t there more Makerspace?  Why doesn’t my school have a Makerspace?  Then I moved to what if questions.  What if I created a Makerspace in my school?  Finally, I am moving onto the how stage.  How can I create a Makerspace in my school?

This is my question I am working toward answering this year.  The school I currently teach at is an art and science school and I know many students who would appreciate a Makerspace.  I’ve gone online to find resources on how to create a Makerspace.  I can also think of several teachers who would be willing to help to create this type of space within the building.

While creating this Makerspace, I will have to embrace the Maker spirit and use multiple attempts to achieve my goal.  This would be a great addition to my school and I want to help spread the Maker culture and ideas.  In my school students have the opportunity to take art, ceramic, robotics, and even a stage crew class.  These are all great options for students who are able to fit them into their schedule and feel confident taking these classes.  Creating a Makerspace will create an environment in which students are not graded and do not have to give up electives.  This space will allow students from varying ages and skill level to work together and learn from each other through inquiry and play (Halverson, 2014).

Squishy Circuit Kit. One of many Maker Kits

Students will also be able to create on their own, learning through inquiry.  At first, I’m sure I will need to demonstrate how some of the Maker Kits work, but for the most part, it will be students learning on their own and from each other.  There is not a set curriculum, objectives, or standards just students learning through making.

My biggest obstacles to overcome for creating a Makerspace are materials and an actual space.  I will need to talk to my administration about available space within the building and if needed I can use my own classroom.  The larger concern is the materials.  There are so many Maker Kits available is hard to know where to start and how many of each to get.  I’ve signed up for the Makerspace Playbook, which provides help in setting up your own Makerspace.

After hosting a Maker Faire in a short period of time, I did not want anything to do with planning anything Maker Faire related.  I was interested in learning more about the Maker Movement, but due to the lack of resources in my area, I’ve decided to create something which did not exist.

Maker Faire ahead.



Berger, Warren. (2016). A More Beautiful Question:  The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas. New York: Bloomsbury.

Halverson, E. R., & Sheridan, K. M. (2014). The Maker Movement in Education. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 495-504.

Let Me Answer Your Question With a More Beautiful Question

“What you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”  Warren Berger offers this well-traveled questions in his book A More Beautiful Question.  Questions are the driving force of innovation, creativity, understanding, and so much more.  So often the fear of failing or difficult answers keep us from pursuing what we truly believe in.


The idea of asking questions in society can be a difficult thing.  In many cases asking questions can be seen as negative and a challenging to authority.  However, questions are key understanding wicked problems and creating change.  As better questions are asked you are able to understand your problem and develop better answers.

Berger’s book

Not knowing the answers to difficult questions often creates an uncomfortable feeling in people.  Berger (2016) argues this feeling of grappling with a question is key to finding answers.  Often, asking questions requires stepping back, “unplugging,” and find your own “tortoise enclosure.”  By removing yourself from the internet and escaping distractions from the outside world you are forced to focus on your questions.  Too often people rush to the internet to find answers and gain surface knowledge but never dive deeply into their questions.   “A question could serve as the lever to pry open the stuck lid on a can of paint” (Berger, 2016, P. 204).

History and Questions

“Somewhere between ages four and five, children are ideally suited for questioning” (Berger, 2016, P. 42).  Unfortunately for me, I teach middle and high school students where their questions have severally dropped off.  Knowing this I want to be able to create an environment in which middle and high school students feel free to ask questions.

If you ask a History teacher, “why is History important?”  The majority of the answers will include developing students into active citizens.  What makes an active citizen? Participating in civic duties, creating positive change, thinking both locally and globally, moving society forward etc. I would argue good questioners should be near the top of this list.  For students and people to be engaged in society, they should be asking difficult questions.  Through asking the right questions they have the power to create change.


In United States History questioning is vital for students to understand the material.  History is full of unknowns and asking questions can help students make connections throughout time periods.  Understanding the History of a certain idea can allow for better questions to be asked.  Students may want to know why certain things are the way they are today.  

These are the questions students should be asking if they want to help create change.  Specifically looking at ideas which have been around for generations, students are able to bring novice viewpoints and lead to new answers.  The institution of slavery is an excellent example of questioning society.  Students are confused by how the United States allowed slavery to exist for so long.  Slavery had been an institution that had existed since people were born and did not question why it existed or even how they could get rid of slavery.  Having to step back and question why things are the way they are and how you can change them is an extremely difficult task.

The Process

Asking questions is important but having a process to follow allows us to ask better questions.  In his book, Berger shares the stories of innovators and how they were able to find their beautiful question.  The process Berger (2016) refers to these questioners using is the Why, What if, How process.

The first question innovators start with is “Why.”  These questions make it to where you are able to deconstruct your question and understand its parts.  Why questions can stem from necessity, personal experience, or strike at seeming random times.  All the beautiful questions Berger discusses started with why.

The next step in the process was to move to what if questions.  What if questions allow you to develop potential solutions and creative answers.  Adopting a novice viewpoint, or what Berger refers to as vuja de, is helpful in the what if stage.  This type of thinking requires to look at a question from a new perspective or see something familiar for the first time (Berger 2016).


The last step is the how stage.  Taking what you have learned from the why and what if questions and providing a solution and how to take action on your beautiful question.  These solutions are often not a definitive solution and may undergo many iterations and still not fully answer your question.

Questioning is a vital skill in education, your career, and life.  Knowing how to start and being comfortable with not knowing answers is a driving force of innovation.  Success comes from asking questions, knowing the right questions to ask, and how to find solutions to these questions.  A More Beautiful Question has inspired me to ask more questions and to question things I interact with daily.



Berger, Warren. (2016). A More Beautiful Question:  The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas. New York: Bloomsbury.