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

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