Wicked Problem

A “Wicked Problem” refers to a problem in school that seems to be impossible to   solve. There is no  way around it. Some example can be parents’ expectations, departamental imperatives and student’s reading comprehension abilities. For this project the theme I chose was

This diagram represents the first stage of my project, the plan. By clicking on the image, a new window will open where you are able to interact with the different features on the diagram.


First Draft Plan

I work in a bilingual school. The majority of the students are English language learners. The students are divided into two classrooms. One group has english during the morning and the other after recess. Each classroom has an average of 16 students. During English period, time is divided into four subjects: Social Studies, Reading, Spelling and Grammar. I decide how much time I dedicate to each subject. Each classroom has forty five minutes in the computer lab. Teachers decide what activities students do during that session.

Insufficient time to cover all curriculum content. The reason why this falls into the category of a “wicked” problem is because students are lacking time to construct their knowledge. Learning happens when information from our short term memory is rehearsed and passed into our long term memory which can be accessed and retrieved at any moment (Atkinson-Schiffrin, 1968).

There is a mandated curriculum which the students and I need to fulfill. This consists of a Social Studies textbook with about 345 pages, a textbook which includes content from Spelling, Grammar and Reading which is divided into one week blocks, each with twelve pages, a reading anthology and a writing folder. The Reading and Grammar content is intended for students whose first language is English, whereas 90% of the students in 5th grade are English language learners. Students must also copy each grammar lesson with examples in a notebook, which can be very time consuming. The school’s curriculum is vast and parents hold great value in the fact that most of the pages in their textbooks are filled out. The school prides itself in building a sense of community and has many school events throughout the year. All of them requiring several hours of practice. Building a sense of community is important in a child’s development (Kid Sense, 2012), but it takes a lot of time away from classroom activities. The final cause for this wicked problem would be defaults in my teaching process. I need to think of ways to get more out of my time. I am not tying connections across the curriculum and I teach subjects separately. The pedagogy aspect is flawed.

Students are asked to fill in pages of their books, so they will give the impression of having worked hard throughout the year. By doing this, students are not given enough time to really process everything that is trying to be taught in class. In their book, How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school, Bransford, Brown and Cocking (2000) make emphasis in the importance of organizing information into a conceptual framework which allows for a greater transfer. Transfer is applying information to new situations and learn better related info more quickly. If the students are not getting the opportunity to comprehend and organize new subject matter, it will be harder for them to understand the content coming next, causing some to be left behind in the process of acquiring knowledge. The process of transferring information relates to the idea of building background knowledge when beginning a new topic. In Social Studies, students are learning many facts, but not in depth content about each unit. Concepts are not being grounded.
Due to my own lack of expertise metacognition is not cross curricular and grammar especially is being affected. Collaborative activities take time and are often eliminated from my lesson plans.

Solutions and Impacts:
I thought of two three technology applications to be used to help solve my wicked problem.

1. Jing: Using Jing, screencasts would be created and posted on the class website in order to allow students to setup their weebly and google docs accounts at home, and showing them how to upload their projects. Questions would be answered the next day. This allows more class time for activities and discussions.

2. Google Docs: The affordances of this website are that students don’t necessarily have to have a gmail account in order to set up google docs, it is free and simple to use. Students can work collaboratively creating writing pieces, venn diagrams or even slideshows. It is difficult for students to meet after class because they have extra curricular activities, Google docs allows them to access their document at any moment and make changes on it, it also has a setting for comments. Students can comment on their decision making.
The act of collaborating, writing, creating and publishing on the internet is known as Digital Literacy. Digital writing can help students develop critical thinking skills and support learning across all subject areas (Jossey-Bass, 2010).

3.  Weebly: Would act as a platform for students to post their work. The purpose of this is to have a visual recount of the activities done throughout the school year. “Teaching practices congruent with a metacognative approach to learning include those that focus on sense-making, self assessment and reflection on what works and what needs improving (Bransford, Brown and Cocking, 2000).” Students can monitor their progress and reflect on the efforts they have made. A reflection would be asked of them about their work; a kind of self evaluation.  It will be evidence of hard work, as opposed to a textbook. Parents will have access to their child’s website and see what they have been working on, thus hoping they would not focus on empty pages in a textbook and value these types of projects as well. Having this platform puts students in charge of their learning. As well as Google docs, Weebly is free and I believe simple enough for fifth graders to manage.


The TPACK model created by Mischra and Koehler (2006) represents three knowledges each teacher is required to have in order to integrate technology in their classrooms. These 3 components are technological knowledge, content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge. This model guided the realization of this project.

In reference to the TPACK model, if I would have to categorize my problem as one of the three aspects, it would fall into a pedagogical problem, because the technology is a new variable being brought in and the content is not changing. By adding the third component which is technology and modifying my pedagogy in the TPACK model, there will be more representations of content. This will in turn, be beneficial for students when constructing their knowledge. Technology is very appealing to students. They are usually more inclined to participate and collaborate when projects involve technology. “Engaging students in a variety of activities is a way of accommodating learners’ differences in concentration (Socol, 2011).”

It was difficult thinking of solutions to the wicked problem that followed the TPACK model and that were not just thinking about the technological aspect, just to say that technology is being incorporated in the classroom. In class I asked Punya Mischra if TPACK was a skill. His answer was no, that it was more a way of thinking that one must bring to bear in any educational scenario. Thinking back to Dr. Dwyer (2012, in press ) she mentioned that thinking processes need to be modeled by a teacher so that students know how it is done. If TPACK is a way of thinking wouldn’t it also have to be taught, thus making it a skill that needs to be learned?

After finishing this project one idea came to mind, I will not have more time with my students, but with the time that we have I can turn it into quality time. Do not work harder, work smarter. It is not about the amount of pages it is about the metacognition in the process. Subject content does not need to be decontextualized. I can read articles about Israel while trying to locate linking verbs or build vocabulary. Later, students would be assigned a partner or have them choose and asked to create a venn diagram comparing the Jewish and Muslim religion using google docs. During that lesson I covered Social Studies, Grammar, Reading, critical thinking plus they will practice working with a classmate. I am able to cover more and essential in-depth curriculum in a meaningful way.


Atkinson, R.C., Shiffrin, A.M. (1968). Human memory: A proposed system and its control processes. In K.W. Spence & J.T. Spence (Eds.) The psychology of learning and motivation: Advances in learning and theory (pp. 89-191). New York: Academic Press Inc.

Bransford, A.L., Brown & R.R. Cocking (Eds.)(2000),How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school (pp. 3-27). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved from:

Dwyer, B. (2012, in press ). Developing online reading comprehension: Changes, challenges and consequences. In K. Hall, T. Cremin, B. Comber & L. Moll (Eds.), International handbook of research in children’s literacy, learning and culture. UK: Wiley-Blackwell

Koehler, M.J., & Mishra, P. (2008). Introducing TPCK. In AACTE Committee on Innovation and Technology (Eds.) Handbook of technological pedagogical content knowedge (TPCK) for educators (pp. 3-30) New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

National Writing Project, with Dànielle Nicole DeVoss, Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, and Troy Hicks (Jossey-Bass, 2010) Because Digital Writing Matters. Retrieved from:

WIDE Research Center, Michigan State University. Why teach Digital Literacy?. Retrieved from: http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/

Socol, I. (2011). Instructional tolerance and universal design. (p. 200) Retrieved from: http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2011/02/instructional-tolerance-and-universal.html




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