Redefining Adversity Through Questioning

When I began reading Warren Berger’s, A More Beautiful Question (2014), I found myself intrigued by the anecdotes scattered throughout the book. They highlight the success stories of some of the world’s most inquisitive individuals who later evolved into inspiring innovators, ranging from the origination of the popular sports drink, Gatorade, to Airbnb, a disruptor of the hospitality industry. However, regardless of the uniqueness of each story, they share a profound similarity: solutions come from asking the right questions.

Asking the right questions is something we, as problem-solvers, have control over. For example, we can opt to use the Why/What If/How process, as my fellow graduate school classmates and I demonstrated for our wicked problem project, which transitions from one line of questioning to the next until a solution is established. On the contrary, to form what Berger calls a beautiful question, “an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something—and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change” — one must perceive the circumstances they cannot change. One must perceive the defining moments of their past — the synchronistic events that have led up to present day. As Berger states, “It all starts with slowing down, stepping back, and trying to shift perspective in order to see your own life—and the problems, opportunities, and challenges worth tackling—more clearly.”

As an educator, I am constantly grappling with how I can inspire my students to invest in their learning and achieve the most positive experience in my classroom. Just as my wicked problem project taught me, I must not only teach, but more importantly lead by example. As such, my greatest source of inspiration has been unravelling the path that led me to where I am today and sharing my personal story with others in hope of motivating and educating.

Although I consider myself to be a reflective individual, I, like most, can get bogged down by day-to-day stressors. Therefore, to help crystalize and visualize my most pivotal event — donating 65 percent of my liver to my younger brother, Cameron — I created a custom My Maps with Google. To explore, click on the map below.

As highlighted in my map, upon preparing for transplant surgery, Cameron and I were faced with a decision. We could view our situation as the culmination of an unfortunate sequence of events and write it off as an experience of the past, or we could chose to seize it as an opportunity to bring about change in the future. As Berger notes, “When innovators look at the world around them, they’re often looking for what’s missing. But while questioning your own life, it’s also important to look, via ‘appreciative inquiry,’ not just for what’s missing, but also for what’s there.” Cameron and I sought the positive in the hand we were dealt.

My Most Beautiful Question

Throughout this process, my most beautiful question has become clear: How can I spend my life inspiring others? The future depends on curiosity and passion, and I hold myself accountable for helping equip my students with such characteristics. My goal is to make my students “winners” as described by Thomas L. Friedman, who stated, “The winners won’t just be those with more I.Q. It will also be those with more P.Q. (passion quotient) and C.Q. (curiosity quotient) to leverage all the new digital tools to not just find a job, but to invent one or reinvent one, and to not just learn but to relearn for a lifetime” (2013).

My story is proof that, sometimes, what may seem like the ugliest circumstance may actually lead to one’s most beautiful question.

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

Friedman, T. L. (2013, January 29). It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as much as I.Q. Retrieved from

Wicked Problem Solution: Rethinking the Role of Educators

At the commencement of CEP 812: Applying Educational Technology to Issues of Practice — my third graduate course in matriculating through the Master’s in Educational Technology (MAET) program at Michigan State University — I was offered the opportunity to explore what characterizes a problem of practice and to what extent it can be solved. While one may use logic, critical thinking and creativity to solve well-structured problems and complex problems, the same cannot be said for wicked problems. As John C. Camillus states, "A wicked problem has innumerable causes, is tough to describe, and doesn’t have a right answer” (2008).

Although a wicked problem is seemingly impossible to solve, my classmates and I took on the arduous task of researching and proposing a solution to Rethinking the Role of Educators. As linked to below, we constructed a multimodal presentation that encompasses a narrative of our journey, beginning with an explanation of wicked problems and ending with a proposed solution. Our proposed solution encapsulates refining and enhancing professional development practices for educators.

The Why/What If/How problem-solving process we conducted was adopted from Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question (2014). The process stems from curiosity, as we brainstormed a multitude of Why questions, progresses into the What If stage where one begins to imagine a solution and concludes with developing plans on How the solution can be implemented. Of note, our presentation includes excerpts from infographics that we designed, peer-reviewed research, and data collected from a survey that we created and conducted, which assisted us in forming a solution.

To access the presentation, please click on the image below. Additionally, please feel free to comment with any questions, concerns or feedback you may have. Thank you in advance for exploring our proposed solution.

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

Camillus, J. C. (2008). Strategy as a wicked problem. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

Calling All K-12 Educators: Survey on Rethinking the Role of Educators

The best way that I can describe the wicked nature of Rethinking the Role of Educators is to compare it to this cartoon from 1943.

The moment my fellow classmates and I develop an idea for a proposed solution, it seems as though numerous additional components arise, spawning out exponentially. Although, it is no wonder that this is the case given that the role of educators was first defined in the 18th century, producing factory workers during the Industrial Revolution. Fast forward to present day; history shows years of technological advancements, rapidly-changing demands for students and the necessity to evaluate what it is that teachers should be doing to support students’ needs.

Proposing an Adequate Solution Requires Feedback from Teachers Themselves

While we move closer to formulating a proposed solution to our wicked problem of Rethinking the Role of Educators — which focuses on professional development needs and in-class support for teachers —  my classmates and I are seeking responses to the brief survey below. Moreover, it includes 15 multiple question questions and one optional, open-ended response. We hope that it will inform us with insights regarding student-centered learning, leadership, and professional development practices. Of note, NO personal identifiable information will be collected as all responses are anonymous. Further, data collected will be analyzed and submitted to my professors at MSU for further evaluation.

UPDATE: Although the survey is no longer accepting responses, a list of questions and data collected can be found here.

Masters, J. (2014). Gabby gabby goes fishing (1943) fleischer Studios-1 cartoons (Video). Retrieved from

Rethinking the Role of Educators

The essence of a wicked problem is that it is nearly impossible to solve. To make matters more complicated, when exploring the path to a solution one often finds themselves wandering down a multitude of side-roads leading to other, equally as impossible to solve, problems. For the past two weeks in my graduate course CEP 812: Applying Educational Technology to Issues of Practice, my fellow group members and I have been researching related topics to the wicked problem of rethinking the role of educators.

I created the infographic below to help visualize the problem and showcase its wicked nature, namely how many components inform it and what is needed to get closer to solving it in practice.


You Are What You Eat: What My Infodiet Says About Me

Throughout childhood, I was a picky eater. It was not until college that I started expanding my palate beyond pasta, meat, potatoes and a slim vegetable selection. Consequently, I was surprised by the fondness I had for different foods that I never considered eating in the past. In retrospect, it was not that I disliked certain foods, rather I had never tried them in the first place.

One cannot dispute the importance of eating healthy, yet when it comes to consuming information, how does one’s infodiet influence their thoughts, opinions, beliefs and actions? Many of us think we are being fed a well-balanced stream of content delivered via our technological devices, although the reality may be shocking.

(Markus Spiske/Unsplash)

(Markus Spiske/Unsplash)

The truth is, algorithms that internet search engines and social media platforms use to deliver us feeds of content based on our interests, tendencies and activity inevitably create what Eli Pariser — chief executive of Upworthy, author and speaker —  famously coined as a filter bubble. Before we ask “what’s the big deal?,” we must look at the bigger picture. According to Pariser in a 2011 TED Talk given long before we understood the severity of our situation, “this moves us very quickly toward a world in which the Internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see.”

You may be wondering, “why do we allow this to happen?” As James Paul Gee states in The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students Through Digital Learning, “Humans display what is called a ‘confirmation bias’ [...],  a seemingly built-in mental bias that makes humans favor information that confirms their beliefs.” Therefore, we ingest content from perspectives aligned with our own, especially when it comes to “highly emotionally charged issues or deeply entrenched beliefs” (2013, p.2).

To progress socially, culturally and educationally, we must actively attempt to reassess and pop the filter bubbles surrounding us. It is not say we should solely seek information free of bias, but rather curate feeds of content which explore as many perspectives as possible.

Reevaluating My Infodiet

In an attempt to reevaluate the streams of information I consume online, I spent the week analyzing what was being algorithmically engineered to my liking via the social media platform I spend most time on — Twitter. What I found was interesting; most of the content being pushed through my feed was from educators, which didn’t seem to pose an issue. However, I recognize that to strive to offer my students the most positive learning experience, I should consume a more well-balanced stream of information, expanding my horizon beyond the perspective of educators to that of other stakeholders in education, including guidance counselors, social workers, administrators, policymakers, psychologists and thought-leaders, as well as business and world leaders. Like in other industries, there are many roles in education, and it is valuable for teachers to analyze our field through the lenses of all of them.

It was time to seek out these varied voices. Yet, after “following” more and more accounts on Twitter and finding myself in a spiral of clickbait — i.e., suggested follows — it occurred to me that I was missing the mark. Then it hit me. At a conference I attended several months ago, I was introduced to Feedly, a content aggregator application that allows users to create and organize feeds from RSS subscriptions, websites and just about any other online content stream. It is helpful because, unlike social media platforms that use algorithms to curate content, Feedly allows users to manually curate their own content. While I had stopped proactively using Feedly — for no particular reason — I decided to revamp my feeds, this time with a focused purpose.

I urge you to assess your infodiet and decide whether you need to make changes as well. We can all take charge of our own curated content, but we must remember to consistently and critically analyze what we are presented with. And just because we balance the perspectives we consume does not mean we should stop questioning and exploring the opinions and beliefs of others, as well as the sources we are obtaining them from.

Gee, J. P. (2013). The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning. New York City, NY: St. Martin’s Griffin.

Pariser, Eli. (2011). Beware online “filter bubbles” [Video file]. Retrieved from

Fostering Curiosity in the Classroom

I recently began reading Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question and found myself immersed, highlighting line after line of excerpts. The premise focuses on the deficit of questioning by students. Although I am a middle school teacher, first and foremost I consider myself a lifelong learner. That said, I cannot help but become perplexed when students are apathetic toward learning. Nevertheless, as Berger mentions, we should not wonder why students fail to display curiosity and a desire to learn; they have been conditioned this way. Berger explains, “Preschool children, on average, ask their parents about 100 questions a day. By middle school, they’ve pretty much stopped asking” (2014, p. 58).

The notion that students become less likely to ask questions as they age, in-turn becoming less engaged, welcomes a discussion on the root cause (Berger, 2014). Yet, whether a lack of questioning leads to disengagement or vice versa, one thing is certain: teachers must provide students with more opportunities to ask questions and further explore topics of interest. Despite pressures of meeting adequate state-mandated test scores and limited classroom instruction time, if educators want to cultivate a future of independent and innovative thinkers, time is of the essence. Tony Wagner and John Seely Brown, two leading researchers in education, strengthen the argument agreeing, “the consensus seems to be that this new world demands citizens who are self-learners; who are creative and resourceful; who can adjust and adapt to constant change” (Berger, 2014, p. 65).

What We Can Learn from Google

A More Beautiful Question contains many insightful anecdotes and perspectives on renowned innovators, of which include Google’s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. In Google’s Initial Public Offering (IPO) letter they explain, “We encourage our employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google. This empowers them to be more creative and innovative” (2004). Moreover, their vision was to offer employees an opportunity to build on curiosities instead of hindering them.

Although it is unclear who initially integrated Google’s philosophy in an educational setting, it has sparked a new wave of student-centered, inquiry-based learning experiences, known as 20Time, 20% Time, and Genius Hour — all synonymous in theory. The idea is to allow students to use 20% of their class time to take on a project of interest. Kevin Brookhouser, educator, author and advocate for 20Time in the classroom, discusses the impetus and outcomes for implementing it in his own classes.

Brookhouser pays tribute to best-selling author and thought-leader, Daniel Pink — specifically his three-pronged solution to getting the most out of employees, of which includes autonomy, mastery and purpose. Yes, Pink’s philosophies are geared toward businesses, but the same mentality could apply for getting the most out of students. If we fail to provide students with autonomy in their learning, we restrict their curiosities, closing the door on a realm of possibilities. Perhaps students’ apprehension to asking questions stems from the fact that we do not allow them the opportunity to do so (Berger, 2014). Offering students designated time to explore inquiries and produce something tangible from their learning is a wonderful tactic in harnessing the spirit of curiosity.

My Experience with 20Time

Word cloud created by me

Word cloud created by me

I am currently in my second year teaching Imagineering, an 8th grade course modeled from the 20Time philosophy. In contrast to traditional 20Time, Imagineering offers students a full, consistent marking period (roughly 50 days) to work. Routinely, students begin the class with varied outlooks, some excited, yet most timid to begin. I attribute this to the fact that they have rarely, if ever, had the opportunity to tackle a project aimed to answer one of the many questions that lie dormant within them. Although there are few exemplary projects that culminate, the opportunity far exceeds the results. The project urges students to question and this is a beautiful thing.

We, as educators, need to make up for lost time. Coincidentally, we must ask ourselves: what are our students' futures worth?

If you are interested in learning more about 20Time, check out Kevin Brookhauser’s book, The 20Time Project: How educators can launch Google's formula for future-ready innovation, and A.J. Juliani’s free guide to 20% Time in the classroom.

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

Brookhauser, K. (2013, May 9). Don't call it a classroom: Kevin Brookhouser at TEDxMonterey. Retrieved from

The New York Times. (2009, April 29). Letter From the Founders. Retrieved from

Hitting the Reset Button: Calming Anxiety with Daily Meditation

Chances are, at one point or another, you have experienced a moment where your heart rate increased, breathing suddenly became difficult and panic set in. Perhaps you forgot to set your alarm, misplaced something valuable or forgot to complete a time-sensitive task. Worse yet, perhaps you had no idea what was causing the feelings of discomfort in the first place. Anxiety comes in various forms and, for many, it significantly hinders their ability to live their lives to the fullest.

While some individuals may occasionally experience the aforementioned feelings, others may be subjected to enduring and chronic anxiety, potentially being diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, separation anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder. One in four individuals between the ages of 13 and 18 are affected by anxiety disorders (Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 2017). This begs the question: as secondary educators given a specified allotted time for classroom instruction, how can we alleviate and subdue anxiety among students in our classes and, further, equip them with tactics to do so on their own, providing the most optimal learning space and experience?

Mindfulness and Meditation

While mindfulness is the practice of being conscious of the present moment and meditation is the practice of repeating a mantra and focusing on breathing techniques to become mindful, the two terms can be used interchangeably. Moreover, the act of meditating promotes mindfulness (Routhier-Martin, K., Roberts, S. K., & Blanch, N., 2017). When it comes to relieving anxiety and stress, enhancing self-awareness and improving focus, studies show that meditation can positively impact students’ learning experiences (Semple, R. & Droutman, V., 2017).

How Teachers Can Implement Daily Meditation Practices with Students


Implementing a brief daily meditation ritual at the beginning of class can provide students with a fresh start, improving their well-being and paving the way to make the most of their learning. In an interview with Julie Corliss, executive editor of the Harvard Heart Letter, Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Trauma and the Community at Georgetown University Medical Center, explains that people with anxiety have difficulty “distinguishing between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit.” She continues, “Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self,’” (2014).

Voted Apple’s Best App of 2017, Calm is a mobile and web-based application that offers soothing and information-guided meditation practices along with sleep stories. The guided meditations range in length from 3 to 25 minutes and include themes such as improving focus, breaking habits, deepening concentration, gratitude, managing stress, enhancing relationships and calming anxiety. For educators and parents, Calm includes a feature titled Calm Kids, which includes age appropriate guided meditations and is a great starting point for implementing daily meditation in the classroom.

Of course, as with any new digital technology and subject matter, it is crucial that teachers immerse themselves in Calm’s teachings and layout. I have explored a variety of guided meditation apps and found Calm to be the simplest, most informative and enjoyable of them all. Additionally, the sessions are instructive, yet digestible enough for a beginner to dive right in.

Within the Calm Kids section, there are brief introductory sessions broken down by age groups ranging from  ages 5-7, 7-10, 10-13 and 13-17. The sessions provide an overview of meditation and mindfulness in a manner that relates to the specified age group. From there, it is up to the teacher’s discretion how to proceed with the daily practices. I would recommend implementing a routine, spending approximately the first five minutes of class experiencing a brief guided meditation. Depending on the length of your class, you can adjust the amount of time spent to meet the demands of your classroom instruction and needs of your students.

One of the best aspects of Calm is that subscriptions are free for educators — to apply for yours, click here.

See below for an overview of Calm’s features and benefits.

Although some students suffer from diagnosed anxiety disorders, implementing a brief, group guided-meditation can alleviate anxiety and promote the well-being of all students. Further, it can help the teacher do so as well.

If you are skeptical of allotting class time to such practices, think, for a moment, of the students who come to your class flustered, stressed from previous classes, or those who possess too much anxiety to think clearly — If you can hit a reset button, does it not make sense to do so?

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (2017, August). Facts & statistics. Retrieved from

Calm (2017). App Icon (Digital Image). Retrieved from

Corliss, J. (2014, January 8). Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress. Harvard Heart Letter. Retrieved from

Routhier-Martin, K., Roberts, S. K., & Blanch, N. (2017). Exploring mindfulness and meditation for the elementary classroom: Intersections across current multidisciplinary research. Childhood Education, 93(2), 168-175. Retrieved from

Semple, R. & Droutman, V. (2017). Mindfulness goes to school: things learned (so far) from research and real-world experiences. Psychology in the Schools, 54(1), 29-51. Retrieved from