Innovation…a Leap of Faith: A Wicked Problem.


Photo by Alastair Creelman used under the Creative Commons License CC BY-SA 4.0

What are wicked problems?

They are “issues that are extremely difficult and even seemingly impossible to solve because of the complex or ever-changing environments in which they arise,” (2013 Horizon Project Summit Communiqué).

‘Because we have always done it this way’, possibly the most dangerous phrase in the English language! How do we make innovation part of the learning ethic when creative learning areas are not highly prioritized due to increasing curriculum requirements in our education systems?

Being an educator in a 21st Century environment can be quite a daunting responsibility. Today, teachers are expected to be more facilitators of learning than simply providers of knowledge. They need to encourage and show students how to think critically and learn by doing, acting as a resource while their pupils discover and master new concepts. Teachers today need to teach the students to be:

  • Critical thinkers;
  • Problem solvers;
  • Good communicators;
  • Good collaborators;
  • Information and technology literate;
  • Flexible and adaptable;
  • Innovative and creative; and
  • Globally competent.

For this to happen our education systems need to change their mindshift. Until we make this “Mind” (Gee, 2013 p.165) shift, we do not have the capacity to shift what we do. If we do not think differently, we will never do differently!

Today’s students want an education that meets their individual needs and provides opportunities that connect them on a global scale. The Technological, Pedagogical, Content Knowledge (TPACK) theoretical framework (Mishra and Koehler, 2009) explores the interrelatedness and complex interaction of these three domains in teaching and learning. It provides parameters within which they intersect creating a “sweet spot” where innovative teaching can make our learning environments more exciting, creative, challenging and rewarding.

In tackling this ‘wicked problem’, our group, David Propst, Hayley Johnson and I first had to define the word innovation. The Merriam-Webster dictionary (2015), defines innovation as,  “a new idea, device, or method;  the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods” and Berkun (2013) describes innovation as a “significant positive change“. 

By taking on this positive change we decided to explore Genius Hour and Google’s 20% time and for the purpose of this wicked problem assignment we have re-named it ‘Tinker Time’. The Oxford Dictionary (2015), describes tinker as, “to play around, to make small changes to something in order to repair or improve it”.  We specifically chose this title as it describes a new and exciting learning environment where all students will be challenged.    

Tinker Time will be student centered and dependent upon student inquiry, investigation and self-reflection. According to Kuech (2004), “Informal learning environments promote student interactions that include reflection and recall, inter-subjectivity, and elaboration and questioning” (p.40). The benefit of Tinker Time and its informality is to increase student learning and questioning. Students are able to choose their own projects and outcomes that are of interest and relevance to themselves. Tinker Time provides students with an opportunity to create, explore and fail in a safe and secure environment.

Did we solve this wicked problem? No probably not, but throughout our research, online investigations, discussions (I might add was difficult as I live in Australia and Dave and Hayley live in the USA) , brainstorming and collaboration, I believe and hope that in our own little way we have taken our small step in the right direction. As Neil Armstrong said, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. I ask, was putting a man on the moon a wicked problem? If we can put a man on the moon in 1969, then surely today, we can bring innovation into the learning ethic!

You can view the full results of our Wicked Problem, ‘making innovation as part of the learning ethic’ on Blendspace here.


Berkun, S. (2013). The best definition of Innovation. Retrieved from

Communiqué from the 2013 Horizon Project Future of Education Summit | The New Media Consortium. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Gee, J.P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Innovation | Definition of innovation by Merriam-Webster. (2015). In Dictionary and Thesaurus | Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from

Kesler, C. (2013). What is Genius Hour? Retrieved from

Keuch, R. (2004). Collaborative and Interactional Processes in an Inquiry-Based, Informal Learning Environment. Retrieved from

Koehler, M., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK)? Contemporary Issues In Technology And Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70. Retrieved from

Oxford Dictionaries. (2015). Oxford Dictionaries – Dictionary, Thesaurus, & Grammar. Retrieved from

Von jan, K. (2011). Demand Google 20% Time at School. Retrieved from