Learning for life.

Fitting that the final week of CEP 812 asked us to consider Friedman’s (2013) ideas of passion quotient and curiosity quotients as we mull around Berger’s (2014) proposition of questioning for life.

What am I most passionate about in education?  Why am I so passionate about it?  How does my curiosity play a role?  What does it mean to be a good educator and how can I be a great one?  How do I teach as best as possible to ensure the maximum learning experience for my students?

When I began the Educational Technology program at MSU, I was curious about how I could integrate technology into my curriculum.  Now, having completed the program, I have realized how passionate I am about curriculum development, the importance of working at the interface of technology, pedagogy and content (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000; Koehler & Mishra, 2008), and how excited I am to design meaningful learning experiences for my students to be empowered collaborative participants in a global context.

Enthusiasm and inquisitiveness are palpable and contagious.  Educators need to model the learning theories we teach, so to raise lifelong learners and fearless questioners, we must work to become them ourselves.  While I thought the Educational Technology program was the step to discovering a solution to the wicked problem of educating in the 21st century, I have found that it was the stepping stone to the stepping stones.  It has led me to the path I need to continue on to find ever changing solutions to that ever changing problem.

Thank you.

Check out my prezi on Educating in the 21st century.



Berger, W. (2014). A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breathrough Ideas. New York City, NY: Bloomsbury USA.

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.

Friedman, T. L. (2013, January 29). It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as I.Q.. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/opinion/friedman-its-pq-and-cq-as-much-as-iq.html?_r=0

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: Routeldge.

Wicked Solutions for Wicked Problems: Teaching Complex Thinking.

After reading the 2015 Horizon Report and with Berger’s (2014) beautiful questions in mind, my think tank was tasked with finding a solution to the WICKED problem of teaching complex thinking.

Wicked didn’t even begin to describe this problem.  For starters, there wasn’t even an agreed upon definition of complex thinking!  How do you know if you teach it if you don’t even know what it is?!

So we took it slow and used the principles of design thinking.  Starting with questioning and research, and then moving into a visible thinking circle of viewpoints discussion we gradually began to build an understanding of the problem.  Once we thought we knew the problem, we solicited feedback from our CoPs (Communities of Practice) and then took Pariser’s (2011) advice in examining our filter bubbles to expand our PLNs (professional learning networks.

Armed with larger view of the problem and with data in hand we then began to piece together a wicked solution to this wicked problem – one that would be unique to each educator/school’s situation: the creation of a PLC (professional learning community) that would include all parties involved in empowering learners to break through barriers of rote memorization and standardized testing to reach a level of understanding that will allow them to question the world around them, collaborate across cultural and physical boundaries, and generate innovative solutions to address the complex problems that they will face in the 21st century.

Check out all of the details on our Weebly!


Berger, W. (2014). A more beautiful question: The power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA.

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., and Freeman, A. (2015). NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Pariser, E. (2011, May). Beware online “filter bubbles”. [Video file].  Retrieved from https://youtu.be/B8ofWFx525s

Welcome to the virtual crash course in design thinking (n.d.). Retrieved from http://dschool.stanford.edu/dgift/.

Balancing Act.

CEP 812 hit us with another wicked problem this week: balancing our information diet.

It started with Eli Pariser’s TED Talk on Filter Bubbles that left me wondering what the internet was hiding from me.

Clearly this is a problem, so how do we get balanced?

Step 1: Consider your current consumption diet.

How many ‘information vegetables’ are you consuming?  Are you overindulging on dessert?

Reflecting on my own information diet – a smorgasbord of election season banter, hilarious parenting ‘wins’, a splash of world events, and appropriately for this class, feed after feed of education technology, student centered learning and design thinking.

But what was missing?  Was I in essence creating my own filter bubble with my search terms?  What would happen if I searched for traditional learning benefits or teacher centric classroom to pros of lecture?

Step 2: Facing the reality.

A bubble.  I live in a bubble.  My results for topics counter to my viewpoints did not actually give me articles contrary to my viewpoints.  While Google was happy to show me an over priced bounce house ad after I searched one time for a much more conservative model on Amazon, it could not understand why after presumably hundreds of searches on incorporating technology into the classroom and designing modern learning environments, I would possibly want to read an article centered on the benefits of lecture.

Step 3: Making sense of it.

After searching for awhile – and disagreeing about much I was reading on standards and one size fits all learning – I realized that I was essentially swinging the pendulum the other way. Wicked problems are just that – wicked.  They don’t have a right or wrong answer so filling an information diet with strongly polarized ‘this way is the only way’ articles – regardless of the stance chosen – is just adding more junk to the plate.  While it is good to know what is out there, balance doesn’t necessarily mean reading articles of opposite stances, but rather, finding sources that provide a fair presentation of an opinion substantiated by research.

For example, I recall Bransford, Brown, and & Cocking’s (2011) idea that foundational content is critical to the transfer of ideas, and this reminds me that not everything has to be posed as a complex problem and it is okay to stop the class groupwork, focus everyone on the same board and give a brief lecture on a point that they need to know to dive deeper into a topic.  Is the entire class lecture? No.  Is the entire class student exploration? No.  It’s the balance that works for each specific group of students working to understand and apply a particular concept.  A balance that is not the same for any two groups of students – now that is wicked!

Step 4: Breaking the bubble – or at least expanding it.

Managing information bubbles is truly wicked.  We need some sort of filtering to allow us to locate valuable information in a time when vast amounts of information are available.  The question then becomes how to manage the bubble to encompass various viewpoints but not expand it so wide that we become overwhelmed with information.

Fortunately, a balanced PLN can aid in this.  A search on the top education feeds and blogs results in hundreds of lists to start with.  After adding a few in the beginning I realized I was simply cluttering my plate so instead, I made a list of a few to check in on and only if they seemed to present views from an objective stance did I follow them further.  In the end, diet is about moderation so don’t overflow the plate!

From one wicked problem to another…

This week’s look at information diets has led to some great insight for our other wicked problem – teaching complex thinking.  To truly understand the problem of complex thinking, we have to look at it from various angles – as parents, faculty with various opinions of teaching methods, administrators, boards of education, etc.  Being cognizant of our information bubbles makes it easier to search outside of that bubble for other viewpoints, however confusing to Google that may be!

Check out this word cloud of my recent notes.wordcloud-1


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.

Simplifying Complexity.

Making heads from tails is no easy task when it comes to complex thinking.  This week in CEP 812 the Think Tank sought to frame the problem of teaching complex thinking.

Our Think Tank quickly discovered that complex thinking does not have a standard and universal meaning, and to complicate matters even more, it often is used interchangeably with other terms like critical thinking and computational thinking.  As such, our first question in defining the wicked problem of teaching complex thinking became:

Why is it referred to as computational, critical, and complex thinking?

Definition aside, we then moved on to the role creativity plays in critical thinking. Invariably all of the references to complex thinking involved some sort of problem solving and cross-disciplinary approach.  Which led us to wonder:

Why does creativity play a role in complex thinking?

While these 2 questions address the complex thinking aspect of the wicked problem, neither addresses the teaching component.  Considering that the result of the design process will be a plan to address teaching complex thinking, we also framed our discussion around:

Why are classroom environments important for teaching complex thinking?

Armed with our framing questions and the informative results from last week’s survey (open image below in a new window to view details), we are all set to move into the next phase of the design process: Solutions!


Also, check out my Piktochart infographic to summarize our progress to date.





It’s week 3 and CEP 812 just got wicked.  Our think tank is tackling the wicked problem of teaching complex thinking…piece of cake, right?

Complex thinking, “the ability to understand complexity” (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, & Freeman, 2015), is one of many wicked problems facing the current education system.  While complex thinking is also referred to by Tharp and Entz (2003) as a component of challenging students to apply learning through activities, it is still not unanimously evident how complex thinking is defined.  What qualifies as complex? Is it based solely on creativity and problem solving?  Does it have to be cross disciplinary?  Do traditional teaching approaches support complex thinking?  Does student centered learning support complex thinking?  Does technology have to be involved?  What role does communication play?

To begin to get to the root of the problem and understand how other educators perceive complex thinking,  the following questions were sent via a Survey Monkey survey to my coworkers.  To maintain integrity of the sample, faculty and administrators serving grades 9-12 at an independent school in Western New York, the link will be provided after the sample set has responded and their responses are evaluated on Wednesday, September 21. Questions 1-12 were given a Likert scale with options of Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, and Strongly Disagree.  Question 12 is an open ended response.

  1. Students learn complex thinking from traditional teaching methods.
  2. Students learn complex thinking in student centered classrooms.
  3. Lecture promotes complex thinking.
  4. Project based learning promotes complex thinking.
  5. Technology integration promotes complex thinking.
  6. Collaboration promotes complex thinking.
  7. Complex thinking can be objectively measured.
  8. Cross-disciplinary connections are essential for complex thinking to occur.
  9. Faculty use student centered learning approaches to emphasize complex thinking in the classroom.
  10. Administrators encourage the use of student centered approaches in the teaching of complex thinking.
  11. Parents are informed about student centered learning.
  12. Students respond positively to student centered learning.
  13. Complex thinking is…

Each member of the think tank is collecting similar data and with more insight on how professionals in the field understand complex thinking, we will be better able to address the working components of teaching complex thinking in a meaningful way.  Let’s do this.


Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., and Freeman, A. (2015). NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Tharp, R., & Entz, S. (2003). From High Chair to High School: Research-Based Principles for Teaching Complex Thinking. YC Young Children,58(5), 38-44. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/42728979

Sit Still.Listen.Repeat.

40,000.  From why the sky is blue to what’s for dinner.  40,000 is how many questions a child typically asks during the toddler years, and sadly it’s all downhill after that…

Why?  Why aren’t students asking questions in school, in life?  Berger (2014) points out that this is in part a result of an education system that asks students to sit still in class, be receptacles of information, then recite it back in due time.  In implementing Industrial Age learning strategies we have groomed students to file into place, sit in stiff uncomfortable chairs, and look to us for facts that supposedly answer some life question that was never asked of or by them.  In light of this, Berger (2014, p.49) then raises two questions of importance:

“What kind of preparation does the modern workplace and society demand of its citizens – i.e. what kind of skills, knowledge, and capabilities are needed to be productive and thrive?”

“What if our schools could train students to be better lifelong learners and better adapters to change, by enabling them to be better questioners?”

While these are most certainly wicked questions with only best answers, rather than right answers, it seems logical that fact delivery in an age of Google is not the key to becoming a productive 21st century citizen.  So how do we break the mold of sit still.listen.repeat and get students questioning again? A wicked question that Deborah Meier took head on in her design of the Central Park East schools, but what if we aren’t in the position to restructure a school from the ground up?

Start small and keep it simple.  It’s natural to look to the person at the front of a room for answers, so get rid of the front of the room.  Embrace technology. And then get rid of those static desks.

I have found that Node chairs and mobile whiteboards have gone a long way in transforming my classroom into one of collaboration, inquiry, and questioning.  Mobile desks and whiteboards allow for a fluid class dynamic and eliminate the ‘front’ of the room.  (Mobile furniture not in your future?  At least get rid of the rows.) When students are arranged in small groups, they face each other rather than the teacher, giving a natural instinct to direct discussion to their classmates.  The teacher is then free to move between groups, quickly key in to the students’ thought processes by surveying their whiteboard, and facilitate their learning.  Ready to review key concepts or have a student present their work?  Simply roll the chairs into a new configuration.  Voila! It’s a facilitated collaboration, not a dictatorship.  fullsizerender

Furthermore, not only are physical spaces important (Barret, Zhang, Moffat & Kobbacy, 2013), but also, the atmosphere for questioning is set by letting and even encouraging students to use the resources that are available – even if they want to use Google, they have to know what to search for and then apply the found facts to the problem at hand – not unlike knowing what word to find in the index of a textbook. Undoubtedly, their first search will simply yield more questions and they realize that the answer to a singular question is not the most important takeaway.


The next step?  Learn to ask better questions…



Barrett, P., Zhang, Y., Moffat, J., & Kobbacy, K. (2013). A holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on on pupils’ learning. Building and Environment, 59, 678-689. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2012.09.016

Berger, W. (2014). A more beautiful question: The power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA.

New Shoes.

In a whirlwind of a week of the academic year and CEP 812 starting at the same, it’s all about new shoes – the physical ones that gave the students (and myself) blisters and the intellectual ones that pushed me to reframe well-structured, comfortable problems into those that are well worth the effort.

In a week of learning that was multi-faceted, let’s start at the beginning.

Problems of Practice:

How do you categorize a problem?  We looked at 3 types:

Well-structured:  These are the traditional, textbook questions that can be graded correct or incorrect in the blink of an eye – multiple choice, true/false, etc.  While these problems appear to give an indication of knowledge acquisition, they do not necessarily correlate to understanding and retention.  Thus, as educators we are encouraged to modify these problems into ill-structured problems.

Ill-Structured:  These problems are complex and require engagement and understanding to solve.  While there is an answer, there are many paths that students can create to formulate their response. These problems involve higher order thinking to synthesize responses through reading, writing, and problem solving. Dan Meyer’s  TED Talk  inspires us to re-imagine well-structured problems into more meaningful ill-structured problems.

Wicked:  These problems are those that we typically face as educators.  There are moving parts that are constantly in motion that continually change the conditions of the problem we are trying to solve.  As such, there is not one answer, but rather, simply a best answer at each specific point and time.  For example, how do I provide the most effective learning environment for a student?  This problem relies very much on the student at hand, and the physical and emotional state of the student on a specific date and time.  In teaching high school, this variable changes greatly due to the nature of adolescent life.  As such, one can only come up with a best plan, and then remain open to change as implementing the plan itself changes the variables.

Using Technology to Address Ill-Structured Problems:

In teaching chemistry, there are a number of places that well-structured problems can be transformed into more complex ill-structured problems to promote engagement, understanding and retention; however, I chose to focus on the teaching style in my classroom, which in and of itself presents an ill-structured problem.  The class (chemistry) is primarily discussion based with a “flipped classroom” implementation of textbook readings.  What then are the implications for students who have an auditory processing disorder?  In a fast-paced discussion in a room with continual ventilation (fume hoods for chemical storage) how am I best serving their learning needs?  If questions are ill-structured and students cannot simply Google an answer, then it is even more imperative that they can follow and engage in class discussions.  And more broadly, these are adolescents – rife with turmoil in so many ways. Remember being a teenager?! It’s tough, really tough! Between navigating social life, athletics, familial life, the college process, where to sit at lunch, etc., how can I possibly expect them to be fully engaged every day?  Let’s be realistic, even the most invested students have a bad day.  Add to that difficulty following oral directives, particularly in a room with continuous background noise, and straining to follow a discussion as it bounces from student to student across the room, and it’s a recipe for anxiety (Ross-Swain & Geffner, 2013).

Fortunately, working at the interface of technology, pedagogy and content (Koehler & Mishra, 2008) affords a solution and that’s where Educreations comes in to play.  This app enables me to make a screencast in which I can record examples and/or give feedback to students.  The screencast can incorporate multi-modal elements with the ability to ink over the screen to emphasize a point or solve a problem – hopefully one that is ill-structured – in real time.  Students are able to pause , ‘rewind’, and re-watch the screencast as many times as needed, and can even make their own screencast to explain it again to themselves or ask a question to the teacher.  (They can snap a picture of their assignment and incorporate it directly into the screencast.) While the ability to re-examine a classroom topic at the student’s own pace, volume setting, and environment directly enhances the learning experience of a student with an auditory processing disorder (Ross-Swain & Geffner, 2013), it also caters to those students who are struggling to understand a new topic because they are having an off day.

Check out this screencast on Educreations.  Not a fan?  Check out Seesaw!


Koehler, M.J., & Mishra, P. (2008) Introducing TPCK. In AACTE Committee on Innovation and Technology(Ed.), Handbook of Technologyical Pedagogoical Content Knowledge (TPCK) (pp.3-29). New York: Routeldge.

Ross-Swain, D. & Geffner, D.S. (2013) Auditory Processing Disorder: Assessment, Management, and Treatment. San Diego: Plural Publishing, Inc.

Evaluating evaluating.

Assessing and evaluating students could be the most difficult aspect of teaching.  Luckily, with the following resources and the advent of learning analytics and catalytics that can offer personalized learning and immediate feedback (TEDx Talks, 2013), the process is becoming easier.

Assessing Creativity:

In Wiggins’ 2012 blog post on assessing creativity, he states “If rubrics are sending the message that a formulaic response on an uninteresting task is what performance assessment is all about, then we are subverting our mission as teachers.”  When I first started teaching, I struggled with using rubrics, as I felt I was essentially turning all creative endeavors into fill in the blank tasks in which I was still determining the outcome of the student work – essentially turning it into a search and find for information.  While they were gaining practice in finding and evaluating sources of information, I still felt as though true learning of the content was missing.  In the following year, I did not use a rubric and while the creativity aspect improved, the content then was missing and the quality was variable.  Through these experiences, I realized that the problem was not in using a rubric, but rather in using a poor rubric that did not account for creativity.  With some adjustments to making the rubric more open ended, I sought balance between the two – afterall, as noted by Bransford, Brown, and Cocking (2000) foundational knowledge is necessary for transfer to occur.  Wiggins has an interesting rubric for measuring creativity that can be adapted to fit into current rubrics.

A Sum Greater than the Parts:

Furthermore, in Gee’s 2008 interview Grading with Games, he notes that experiences help to contextualize new information for students and emphasizes that need for learners to work in collaborative settings that are more indicative of how they will solve problems outside of academia.  To this end, he states that groups should be “smarter than the smartest person” in the group.  It is essential that we help students identify their strengths – and weaknesses – in order for them to realize how to contribute and collaborate effectively in teams.  Intellect alone is not enough, as that intellect has to be applied and shared to create an impact.

Ready, Action:

Taking these aspects into account, I have been working to reevaluate my former grading scheme – previously based on tests, labs, and homework – which was neither creative nor telling of skills actually acquired/improved throughout the year.  Rather, I think it may be better to assign a metric based on foundational knowledge, communication, and creativity in application.

Time to hash out some rubrics to see if this scheme works….


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.

Edutopia. (2008) James Paul Gee on Grading with Games. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU3pwCD-ey0

TEDx Talks. (2013, January 10). Reimagining Learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeaconStreet. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0uAuonMXrg.

Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/on-assessing-for-creativity-yes-you-can-and-yes-you-should/

MakerEd. At a glance.

Infographics.  LOVE. THEM.

It seems that infographics are used everywhere now.  What better way to convey an immense amount of meaning in a very short amount of time while transcending language barriers?  And what better way to sum up what we have learned in CEP 811?

My infographic is streamlined to  convey the differences between Maker Education and Traditional Education by focusing on the benefits of Maker Education as rooted in learning theory (Bransford, Brown &Cocking, 2000) and TPACK (Mishra & Koheler, 2008).  Maker Education prepares students for life in an increasingly collaborative, innovative and global society in which they will need to construct and apply meaning each and every day.






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

ISTE Standards for Students. (n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2016, from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/for-students-2016

Mishra, P., & Koheler, M. (2008). Teaching Creatively: Teachers as Designers of Technology, Content and Pedagogy. Retrieved August 11, 2016, from https://vimeo.com/39539571

TEDx Talks. (2013, January 10). Reimagining Learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeaconStreet. [Video File]. Retrieved August 11, 2016 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0uAuonMXrg.