Wicked Problems and a Survey

This week I took all of the questions I generated in “The Questions Continue” and “Why don’t we ask more questions?” and I thought about how I really wanted to change my teaching and what that would mean for the students. With all of that clarified, I finalized my wicked problem. Wicked problems are those issues that never get solved because they contain so many ever-changing variables. Once you solve one part of the problem another issue comes up.

My wicked problem is:  Re-imagining the baking curriculum as inquiry-based, driven by student questions, and engaging for all learners.  Teaching my students how to ask better questions will also teach them how to be in charge of their own learning which will be beneficial to them in all areas of life. It will serve them as students and as productive members of society.

Now that the problem has been identified the first step in solving it is to collect information. I have written many iterations of a survey to more thoroughly define the problem and ask other teachers to suggest ways to approach a solution.  This is not the first time I have written a survey but it was certainly the most complex experience I have had.  My questions started out very simplistic and not very useful. I think my struggle was because I am a very independent person and asking others for information or help is not part of my personality.  I got some insight from an online article and also excellent feedback from a fellow student in my grad class.

\Now I think the survey is in the best form and ready for you to respond. Please consider taking a few minutes of your time to take my Inquiry-Based Learning Survey.  I would really appreciate your assistance.


(2019, February 27). Survey Design Best Practices: How to Write a Good Questionnaire. Retrieved from https://www.mymarketresearchmethods.com/survey-design-best-practices/


Challenges in Innovative Technologies

This week I was tasked with exploring broad issues in innovative technologies.  UDL and Intersectionality were selected for our exploration. UDL stands for Universal Design for Learning and asks the teacher to think about how to meet the needs of their students while they are planning so that they can be proactive in preparing for diverse learners. The information that I found to be the most useful was a chart with links for ideas in applying UDL.

The term Intersectionality was new to me. It was a  term, created “to deal with the fact that many of our social justice problems like racism and sexism are often overlapping, creating multiple levels of social injustice” (Crenshaw, 2016). After I watched the Ted Talk by Kimberle Crenshaw the takeaway I had was that people have layers to their identity that all have to be considered if we want to really see who they are.

I created the following presentation to express my understanding of both topics.


My Smilebox Creation

This was also critique week in my grad class which means we were asked to read a classmates learning plan and give feedback from UDL and Intersectionality.  The UDL feedback was more comfortable to offer than the Intersectionality feedback. I hesitated to pretend to be looking at the lesson from a perspective that isn’t my own until it occurred to me that I too have many layers and there are perspectives I can provide.
Overall, a great week with feedback from colleagues that made me look at my learning plan with different eyes. I have work to do now to make improvements, and that’s a good thing. It means I’m growing and becoming a better teacher for ALL of my students.


** All photos in the presentation are the work of the author **

Crenshaw, K. (2016, October). Kimberle Crenshaw: The Urgency of Intersectionality [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/kimberle_crenshaw_the_urgency_of_intersectionality?language=en

Reflections on Planning

Today I put some final touches on a draft lesson plan, and it was more of a struggle than I’m used to. I like planning learning experiences and writing curriculum.  Something about organizing my thoughts and ideas into a structured format resonates with my personality. That, however, isn’t the case when I’m not thoroughly versed in the topic. The learning experience I was planning today incorporated a new technology that I’m not an “expert” in yet, so it was harder to write. Without knowing all of the possible hiccups, it is hard to plan for all eventualities.

The planning started by thinking about what I wanted the students to be able to do at the end of the lesson. I’m well versed in the “Understanding by Design,” or UbD, approach. In UbD there are three stages of design: Stage 1 Identifying Desired Results, Stage 2 Determining Acceptable Evidence, Stage 3 Planning Learning Experiences, and Instruction (Wiggins & McTighe, p. 18).  Stage 1 was relatively easy to identify.  I want the students to be able to decorate a cake with fondant and successfully use circuit stickers to make their cake light up. Stage 2 wasn’t too difficult either.  The cake must have colorful 3D fondant objects, and at least one light must illuminate using the circuit stickers. Stage 3, however, was challenging. Since I haven’t used this technology in the classroom before I don’t have a clear idea of how this will go. To overcome this problem I will ask my independent study student to complete the project ahead of the full class so we can see what trouble he runs into. That will allow me to be slightly more prepared.

The lesson plan draft is called “Can we make a cake light up?” . Please share your thoughts in the form of a comment.


Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

The Questions Continue

“Great questioners “keep looking” — at a situation or a problem, at the ways people around them behave, at their own behaviors” (Berger, p 87).  After reading this in Berger’s book this week, I did some observation of the students and myself in my classroom. I saw a disturbing, yet predictable, pattern emerge. The person asking the questions in the classroom is almost always me.  Student questions are missing. They may ask out of necessity, but they don’t ask out of curiosity.

These observations were on my mind as I looked back over the questions I wrote last week during my five minutes of question quickfire. The more I looked at the questions, the more patterns I saw so I spent some time moving them around on a whiteboard organizing them in different ways and recorded my thought process as I did it.

One problem I ran into while organizing my questions was that I didn’t have any why questions. Berger says that the creative process can be divided into Why, What If, and How stages. “If What If is about imagining and How is about doing, the initial Why stage has to do with seeing and understanding” (page 75). During my video, I identify the questions that I feel at the most important, but they aren’t “Why” questions. To remedy this problem, I thought for a while about what I was really trying to get at by asking the original questions, and then I came up with the following “Why” questions to replace them.2019-03-29_17-51-37_848

I’m looking forward to seeing where these questions lead in my classroom.  It is becoming increasingly clear to me that encouraging the students to start asking their own questions is in everyone’s best interest.


Berger, Warren. (2014). A more beautiful question: the power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

Why don’t we ask more questions?


Have you ever set aside 5 minutes to just ask questions? Starting with one question and just writing down all of the questions that come to mind for 5 minutes? Before this week I had never tried it either, but now that I have I think it is a good practice. The picture above is the end result of my 5 minutes of questioning.  I started with a question about inquiry (or questioning), and at the end of 5 minutes, I had created a board of questions that have the potential to dramatically change the way I teach.

Keeping myself focused on writing down questions regularly for 5 minutes was tough. I really struggled at first to think of more questions, but then they started to flow a little more freely. By the end, I was so focused I jumped when the timer went off. I’m a curious person, and I think I ask an average number of questions on a given day. I ask questions of my students to guide them toward answers, or to encourage curiosity, but also to check for their understanding of the current topic. I ask questions of my colleagues. I direct questions at my children when I pick them up from after-school care to inquire about their day, their learning, their plans for the evening. However, in general, I never ask as many questions in a row as I did during this 5-minute exercise.

To prepare for the exercise, I first read a portion of Warren Berger’s “A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas.”  In his book he suggests that all of the great “changemakers” have one thing in common, “they were exceptionally good at asking questions” (Berger, p. 1). Questions are powerful because they help us learn, they challenge us to think, and they lead us to new discoveries. It’s human nature to be curious and ask questions, and in childhood, we ask an extraordinary number of questions. That begins to disappear as we age and it’s unclear why. It might be because questioning is such a part of us that we take it for granted. It could also be that we’re taught not to ask questions via our school experiences.

Unfortunately, in our schools and even workplaces, we don’t encourage people to ask questions. In many cases, we actively discourage it. Some teachers discourage questioning because it makes them feel uncomfortable. Others because there isn’t enough time to cover all of the required curricula if they veer off in search of answers. This is unfortunate because “as kids stop questioning, they simultaneously become less engaged in school” (Berger, p 45).

In Berger’s book there is a section heading that says, “Can a school be built on questions?” (p. 50) and in the margin, I have written in big bold letters I WANT TO WORK THERE! It just makes so much sense to encourage our children to ask more questions, not less.  I’m completely hooked on this idea. All of my questions from the 5 minutes were related to structuring my teaching around inquiry. Upfront it seems like a logistical nightmare. There are 24 students per class, and we don’t have the resources (stoves, sinks, mixers, etc.) or the budget to go in 24 different directions. It might mean letting go of some control in the classroom because if the teacher asks all of the questions they hold all the power.  However, it has worked for others so why couldn’t it work in my classroom as well?

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of Berger’s book and exploring his website.  My future reading is piling up as I just purchased a book by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana, founders of the “Right Question Institute,” who were written about by Berger.  I’m sure this will just help me create more questions.


Berger, Warren. (2014). A more beautiful question: the power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

Copyright and Fair Use

As a teacher, I often use bits and pieces of other peoples written work.  I am not an omniscient being so I draw on the work that others have done to fill in the gaps of my knowledge.  I don’t present their work as my own, I give them credit either by linking to the original work or a bibliography citation. I also require my students to do the same.

This is on every recipe students submit in my class. This MUST be completed, or I won’t accept the recipe.

This week I have been refreshing my understanding of media use, and it was a much-needed lesson.  The media available to teachers has changed dramatically over the years.  The first few days of my exploration actually made me a little nervous! Copyright law and the need to attribute work to the correct person was not new. Fair use was a concept that I had heard of and is the doctrine that allows the limited use of copyrighted work.  As long as you are only using a portion of the work for educational, not profitable, endeavors and using it in a transformative way you are probably falling within the fair use doctrine.

It was actually the word “transformative” that got me a little nervous.  It seems so vague! I did extra research on the meaning of transformative as it is used in this instance and you can see my new understanding in the following remix video.

I hope your understanding has been solidified a little by my remix video as well.  I learned a lot this week, and I intend to continue exploring. I added a Creative Commons license to this site, and I want to learn more about finding Creative Commons resources.


Freestocks (Producer). (ca. 2018). Baking Pastry Bread – Free Stock Creative Commons Video. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BDGT_ef8qo&list=WL&index=2&t=0s

Freestocks (Producer). (ca. 2019). Herd Of Chicken – Free Stock Creative Commons Video. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvCvdb8-b8g&list=WL&index=3&t=0s

Lawlor, Orion (Publisher). (ca. 2011). Slow Motion Water Ripples. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsrUxhaaWks

Music by Max Sergeev from Fugue. Retrieved from https://icons8.com/music/theme–slideshow

So Many Problems

I learned this week that all problems could fit into three categories. There are well-structured problems which have one best answer. There are ill-structured problems which require “flexible access to, and application of highly organized systems of knowledge that must continually shift and evolve”(Koehler & Mishra, 2008, p.4). Finally, there are wicked problems, the issues that never get solved because they contain so many ever-changing variables.

This week I was asked to choose an ill-structured problem from my classroom and suggest a solution.  I finally settled on one that has become a pervasive issue in many of my classes. Teen anxiety is on the rise, and it presents itself in many forms. Teens that are feeling anxiety often experience problems with communication. They freeze up when called upon or have a question to ask the teacher, but the thought of asking in front of the rest of the class silences them. This is the ill-structured problem that anxiety creates. How do we re-open the lines of communication with students who are suffering from anxiety?

I submit Google Chat as a possible solution to this problem.  It is available to all my students and is easy to use on their Chromebooks. This app allows the students to take part in classroom discussions online, which is more comfortable for students experiencing anxiety. They can also use the tool to send a private message to the teacher with any questions so there is no anxiety over what the other students will think.

I see new problems that could arise with its use. It’s going to require more time for the teacher, and it could make the students too comfortable with online communication in place of face to face. As I start this new initiative with my students at least, I know some of the pitfalls.

References used in the video and blog post-

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2008). Introducing TPCK. In AACTE Committee on Innovation and Technology (Ed.), Handbook of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) (pp. 3–29). New York, NY: Routledge.

Pierce, Tamyra. Social anxiety and technology: Face-to-face communication versus technological communication among teens. (2009). Computers in Human Behavior, 25(6), 1367-1372.

Swick, Susan D., & Jellinek, Michael S. Anxiety in teens. (2018). Family Practice News, 48(3).  Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A531979484/ITOF?u=msu_main&sid=ITOF&xid=02faae6b.

Varley, Christopher K. & Smith, Cindy J. Anxiety Disorder in the Child and Teen. (2003). The Pediatric Clinics of North America. 50(2003), 1107 – 1138.

Is FAILURE really such a bad thing?

I’ve been thinking about failure a lot this week, and strangely enough, it’s not because I have suffered a recent failure in my life.  The reason failure is on my mind is that earlier in the week I was asked to explore the topic and start to change my mindset where failure is concerned. No one likes or enjoys failure, most of us avoid it at all costs, but the more I’ve thought about it this week, the more comfortable I have become with my view of failure.  I honestly don’t think it’s a terrible thing and that was a shocking revelation.

Failure, you see, is just an excuse to try again and do it better the next time. It is a chance to LEARN and grow. In my classroom a failed recipe is never the end of the experience, it is the beginning of the investigation into WHY it failed and how we can make it work the next time. My students aren’t afraid of failing because they know it won’t be penalized. Instead, it will be analyzed for the learning it can provide and the new ideas it might spark. They know this because I’ve shared stories of my own failures with them and how they led to awesome creations, like Stuffed Bagel Balls and Inside Out Apple Fritters.

All this thinking about failure has started a reflection on my teaching as a whole. What does learning look like in my classroom? Does it transfer? What kind of learning do I value? Etc. To clarify all of my thoughts and how they interrelate I created the following infographic…

week-5c-201-5c-_37468297 (2)

In the infographic, you see that something called constructionism is at the center of how I try to teach. Constructionism is an educational philosophy that is “based on the principle that meaningful learning occurs when individuals actively construct a meaningful product in the real world (Rob & Rob, 2018, p. 5). ” According to Rob & Rob constructionism can be summarized as students using past knowledge to construct new knowledge by collaborating and sharing with others to make meaningful real-world products. In my classroom, this comes to life. My students are always working together and what could be more “real-world” than the food that they are preparing?

My favorite class to teach is Advanced Baking because it is taught with a truly constructionist approach.  We run a Bake Shop, and the students are tasked with creating new items for the menu.  The process starts with brainstorming and dreaming of creative baked goods. Then students do research to figure out the best way to make it become a reality.  They become makers in the kitchen, experimenting with recipes over and over until they get it perfect.  Each failure is a chance to make it better next time around.  When they have it perfected, the item is added to the menu and sold to our customers.

Transfer of knowledge is critical to this learning model.  “The ability to apply what you have learned in one situation to another, connected situation” is the definition of transfer (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 2000, p. 53). Students must be able to use their existing knowledge in new situations to make creation possible. Problem-based learning, such as the Advanced Baking class, encourages transfer.

You may have noticed that I described the students as “Makers.”  Maker culture has become very popular because it allows people to use technology to create and then share their creations with the rest of the world. While I was reading this week, I noticed quite a few parallels between maker culture and my classroom.  In their journal article Cohen, Jones, Smith & Calandra(2016, p 223) note 4 “Principles of Makification.”  They say that it involves creation, iteration, sharing, and autonomy.  Those are all part of the Advanced Baking class described above.

In the end, after thinking about this all week, I think it comes down to giving students a good base of knowledge and then allowing students the autonomy they need to be makers in the classroom so they can actively transfer their knowledge to new situations and learn through failure (iterations) so in the end they create knowledge. It puts them in the driver’s seat of their own learning.


Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., & Cocking, R.R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. National Academies Press. Retrieved fromhttp://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368.

Cohen, J., Jones, W. M., Smith, S., & Calandra, B. (2017). Makification: Towards a framework for leveraging the maker movement in formal education. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia26(3), 217-229.

Rob, M., & Rob, F. (2018). Dilemma between constructivism and constructionism: Leading to the development of a teaching-learning framework for student engagement and learning. Journal of International Education in Business11(2), 273-290.

Finally, a place to sit and rest.

Over the past few weeks, I have written a few blog posts about a Networked Learning Project (NLP) that was assigned in my grad class. The project challenged each person in the class to choose one thing we had always wanted to learn to do.  I decided on a goal of reseating an old wooden kitchen chair.  The exciting thing about this project was that we could only use online sources to learn the skills needed to complete it.  We were not allowed to ask another person in our life to help us, but we could ask folks on Twitter or Facebook for assistance.

I have been able to complete not one but two seats during this project!  The first taught me a lot of lessons, but my learning is not over.  I continue to learn more about the process with each seat I weave.  This puts me halfway through my set of 4 chairs, and I’m sure I will learn new tricks with each remaining chair. I’m really enjoying this and see it continuing into the future as a hobby.


Pictures of the first completed chair! So exciting!

I created the following video to give you a better understanding of my project goals, the sources I used for my learning, as well as the lessons I learned.

During the process of weaving these chair seats, I learned a lot about weaving and working with paracord.  One lesson is that paracord is very strong and if I pull it too tight when I am wrapping it is possible that the wooden rungs of the chair won’t be able to hold up against the pressure and they may break. To avoid this, I wrapped the paracord with a little slack so it would have some “give” when someone sits on it. I also learned that it’s important to pay attention to what you are doing when weaving.  I allowed myself to get distracted during the first chair seat and I messed up the weaving.  The process of undoing that work and reweaving it was frustrating.

The project was a great way to learn some of the lessons from class in a real-life setting.  For instance, at the beginning of this course, we started by reading and talking about learning, transfer, and expert knowledge. In that reading, we learned that people construct new knowledge and understandings based on what they already know and believe and the preconceptions that they approach learning with must be addressed for them to change their beliefs (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 2000, p. 10).  This was painfully obvious when I tried to tie a knot with paracord.  I was confident that I already knew how to do it and had to experience failure before I was ready to learn a new method.

This project also helped me to understand 21st-century learning in a much more personal way.   We learned from our explorations that 21st Century Learning is learner-driven, requires communication and collaboration, encourages a global scope, is adaptable, and encourages problem-solving (Rich, 2010).  While finishing these chairs, I was required to guide my own learning by using the global world of the internet and communicating with others via Twitter when I ran into problems.  I had to adapt the information to my own situation and solve problems as they arose.

Overall, I think this was a worthwhile project, and I see the benefits of this type of learning.  It is useful that while learning from online sources, you can do it in your own timeframe. I also like that there are so many sources of help when you get stuck in the middle of the project.  With this type of learning, support is often just a tweet away.

If you haven’t had a chance to read my other blog posts on this topic, you should check them out. In the first blog post entitled, “Have a seat?” I introduced the project and described my goal.  It was followed by a second blog post, “Tying a knot is…hard!” in which I described the trials I had met along my journey.


Bransford, J., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R.R. (Eds.). (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu/read/9853

Rich, E. (2010). How Do You Define 21st-Century Learning? – Education Week. [online] Edweek.org. Available at: https://www.edweek.org/tsb/articles/2010/10/12/01panel.h04.html [Accessed 1 Feb. 2019].

Note:  All photos and videos are the work of the author.

21st Century Lesson Planning

21st-century learning is a term that identifies skills and practices that are most important in the 21st-century classroom.  It identifies past practices that are no longer relevant to the classroom and should be updated or entirely left behind. “The term “21st-century skills” is generally used to refer to certain core competencies such as collaboration, digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving that advocates believe schools need to teach to help students thrive in today’s world”(Rich, 2010).

While it is great to identify these skills and practices, surely it would be even better to apply what we’ve learned to our planning and our classrooms. This week I’ve begun the process of bringing the 21st-century skills into my classroom.

To begin, I chose a lesson that has been part of my Baking curriculum for quite some time.  The experience is about the most common categories of baking ingredients and the purpose they have in recipes.  It is only by really understanding this information that students are able to start making changes to recipes to make them healthier and friendlier to those who suffer from food allergies.

In this new version of the lesson, I have included more chances for the students to work together in small groups and larger ones.  The Chromebooks are used for research as well as creation. The biggest challenge in planning this lesson was deciding how technology fit best in the plan.  I decided on using an application called Popplet so students can create a web with the information they find. Critical thinking and problem-solving are incorporated in the lesson so that students aren’t just learning information but USING it. All of the changes are supported by 21st Century learning.

This is just the first step on a long path, and I’m looking forward to the journey!


Rich, E. (2010). How Do You Define 21st-Century Learning? – Education Week. [online] Edweek.org. Available at: https://www.edweek.org/tsb/articles/2010/10/12/01panel.h04.html [Accessed 1 Feb. 2019]