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ShapingEDU Unconference 2021: Reshaping Wicked Problems

Browse This Year’s Wicked Problems

First, we asked our ShapingEDU community of education changemakers to share their Wicked Problems: pressing, complex challenges facing learning now or in the future. Once we received the submissions, our dreamers, doers and drivers had the opportunity to vote for their favorite topics. Without further ado,
we're unveiling this year's nine Wicked Problems we’ll untangle at the 2021 Unconference!


Click on the names of the Wicked Problems to learn more about the complex challenge!

"Invasion" of the Degree Snatchers: Stacked microcredentials vs. traditional degrees

1. "Invasion" of the Degree Snatchers: Stacked microcredentials vs. traditional degrees

Is the value of the traditional degree declining in the face of alternative models? What kind of outcomes are aligned with what employers will value in the future?

The value of traditional degrees is coming into question as more alternative models for credentialing are increasingly proving valuable to future employers. Let’s collaborate to help craft the future(s) for communicating, confirming and sharing learning and more.

 Facilitated by:

  • Allison Hall, Director of Learning Experience Design, Arizona State University
  • David ThomasExecutive Director for Online Programing, University of Denver
Frankensteining tools into strategy

2. Frankensteining strategy into tools

Tools gone wild! Are we overwhelming students/staff with too many tools? How can understanding our teaching strategies help us construct tool environments that augment all forms of post-pandemic learning? What tools will you continue to use post pandemic, in a remote or hybrid learning environment? 

With a seemingly unlimited number of tools available, understanding how to select, curate and integrate the right products and services to augment learning in all forms of post-pandemic learning environments is crucial.  

Facilitated by: 

  • Lisa Gustinelli, Instructional Technology/IT Admin, St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic School
  • Tom Haymes, Independent Consultant, Idea Spaces
  • Allie Nakonek, Senior Customer Success Manager, Higher Education at Slack
A Quiet Place: How to better engage virtual learners & avoid burnout

 3. A Quiet Place: How to better engage virtual learners & avoid burnout 

How do we keep students and staff from feeling isolated and alone while learning and working remotely? What methods/projects/content have proven to be most effective for remote engagement? Do we have more or fewer mysteries today than before the pandemic?

Though remote learning has many benefits, some learners report it can feel isolating and more difficult to keep up. Let’s address how to engage students in a virtual environment and make their experiences balanced and positive.

Facilitated by:

  • Melody Buckner, Associate Vice Provost for Digital Learning and Online Education, University of Arizona
  • Megan Eichelberger, MBA/MSDS candidate, Willamette University
  • Janet Smith, Assistant Director, Continuous Improvement, University of Arizona
365+ Days Later: Post-pandemic best practices

5. 365+ Days Later: Post-pandemic best practices                                                                                                       

What have we learned from remote teaching, learning and working during the pandemic? What do we want to carry forward or shape in the future? How do we go about this?

The pandemic has sparked many opportunities to learn, grow and become more resilient and antifragile.Together, let’s examine what we’ve learned to define what we want to carry forward in the next era.

Facilitated by: 

  • Jodie DonnerCollaborative Learning Specialist, Arizona State University
  • Paul Signorelli, Writer, Trainer, Presenter and Consultant, Paul Signorelli & Associates


Nightmare On Accessibility Street: Creating a space + place for all online

7. Nightmare On Accessibility Street: Creating a space + place for all online

What technical and cultural changes must we make to ensure that all online courses and course materials are accessible to all students? What can we do to protect the civil rights of students with disabilities to equal Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) access and to ensure the digital inclusion of all students, regardless of ability?

The U.S. Department of Education estimates that 19% of university students have a disability, with most of these students facing barriers to the internet and digital resources. Using our unique and shared experiences, let’s consider what needs to be done to set these lifelong learners up for success.

Facilitated by: 

  • Adero AllisonAssistant Director - Student Accessibility and Inclusive Learning, Arizona State University
  • Anne ClancyHigher Education Industry Sector Advisor, T-Mobile
  • Michael Kubit, Higher Education Industry Sector Advisor, T-Mobile
  • Kathy MarksWeb Accessibility Specialist, Arizona State University


Brainscan 2021: XR, deepfakes and gamified experiences

9. Brainscan 2021: XR, deepfakes and gamified experiences

How will immersive VR/AR change the way we learn and teach? Will employers accept practical application skills acquired via VR as a substitute for field experience? As gamification becomes more widely recognized as an interactive resource to turn lectures into engaging video games, how can we balance this with real world application? What do AI-generated synthetic media (deepfakes) mean for the future of education? Can deepfakes accelerate the accessibility quest to improve equity? 

Known all together as extended reality (XR), virtual, augmented and mixed reality are enhancing the ways we teach and how our students learn. Let’s analyze the opportunities and complexities of these tools with an eye toward how we can effectively integrate XR into learning experiences.

Facilitated by: 

  • Emory CraigCo-Founder and CEO, Digital Bodies
  • Maya GeorgievaDirector of Education Futures / XReality Center,  The New School 
  • Ryan KinserSr Learning Experience Designer, Arizona State University

Now combined for maximum impact, we present: 

Mirror, Mirror Spotlight on the Wall, Whose Voice is Not Being Heard at All:  “Dial S for Success: Voice + Choice + Community-Building for Lifelong-Learning”

 Silence of the Students: Why we need to prioritize voice + choice for lifelong learning Mirror, Mirror: Encouraging positive mental health & wellness practices The Shining of the spotlight DEI (Diversity Equity Inclusion) in education

4. Silence of the Students: Why we need to prioritize voice + choice for lifelong learning 

What's important to you as a lifelong learner? How has that evolved? How can a student’s voice be the primary voice in their educational journey? What are the primary voices in education currently? Will this change in the future?  Do students currently feel like they have a voice? How can student voice be incorporated into different topics? How can we support student storytelling, reflective practice and self-growth?

Let’s determine how to further learner-centered everything – for example, by amplifying learner stories, needs and insights, and empowering the education community with resources co-created with learners.

Facilitated by: 

  • Randall Fullington, Director of Program Development, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Christopher HaynesDirector of Learning Experience Design, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Rachel Reed, Student, Organizational Leadership, Arizona State University
  • Brent Scholar, Professor and Leadership and Diversity Consultant, Arizona State University

8. Mirror, Mirror: Encouraging positive mental health & wellness practices

How do we teach students to be aware of and respectful of their own physical wellness and mental health, and that of others? How can we encourage them to make this a lifelong practice?

Teaching lifelong learners to be aware and respectful of their physical and mental health is essential; so too is crafting systems that enable and support the wellbeing of learners, educators and staff. Join us in designing an actionable output to further mental health and wellness in living and learning.

Facilitated by: 


6. The Shining of the spotlight on DEI (Diversity Equity Inclusion) in education

How do we reshape our education systems to be antiracist?  How can we bring an antiracism lens to course design? What can we do as individuals and people with influence in systems, policy, design settings?

We’ll explore how we can reshape our education systems to form places where learners have access to learning that is inclusive of all and helps learners of all backgrounds thrive.

Facilitated by: 


So, what did we do with these Wicked Problems?

Great question! On Days 3 & 4 of the Unconference, we workd together to address these specific Wicked Problems by developing actionable outputs, resources and products. By doing this, we are seeking out ways to become antifragile in living and learning — to move beyond resilience to thriving through disruption.

On Thursday, July 22, Wicked Problems Working Groups gathered virtually to discuss their complex challenge and decide on what actionable output they wanted to develop and shared their conversations at the end of the day. Read the full transcription of the Share Out's graphic facilitation below:

Day 1: Group Report Out

Invasion of the Degree Snatchers 
  • Stacked Multicredentials v.s. Traditional Degrees 
    • It’s a mess… shared language? 
    • DEI Infused 
    • What higher ed things it does…What Industry needs “Hellooo”
    • What are they worth? 
      • Employer
      • Student 
Frankensteining Strategy into Tools 
  • Indefatigable University 
  • New Approach
    • Competency-based content
    • Increase accessibility
    • Enhance and diversify students 
  • Too...Many...Tooooools…
A Quiet Place 
  • How to better engage virtual learners and avoid burnout
  • Making sure it’s equitable and accessible
  • K...Anybody...There?
  • Multimodal
  • Engagement is not just hands on...it’s minds on
    • Organic connections -> higher engagement -> inclusion privacy
Mirror, Mirror on the wall , whose voice is not being heard at all? 
  • Voice + choice + community building for lifelong learning 
    • Voice + choice Ecosystem > empowerment, voices, choices
      • Toolbox
      • program/practice/policy
      • Human library
  • Encouraging positive mental health and wellness practices
Silence of the Students 
  • Why we need to prioritize voice and choice for lifelong learning 
Speak your mind, even when your voice shakes -Maggie Kuhn
The Shining of the Spotlight on DEI
  • Supporting Diversity Equity Inclusion in Education
  • Reaching students who don’t normally work with success coaches 
Nightmare on Accessibility Street 
  • Creating a space and place for all online 
  • AR experience to facilitate compassion
    • Whoa…
  • Competition
    • Solving disability-related barriers 
  • Macro pressuring publishers to create accessible content 
  • DEI
365+ Days Later 
  • Post-pandemic best practices 
  • History is gossip well-written
  • Sharing stories
  • visuals - videos - blogs 
  • Expand the range of voices  
  • How might I shift my mindset? -> community, faculty & beyond
Brainscan 2021:
  • XR, deepfakes, and gamified experiences 
  • Nuts and bolts -> ethics
VR is a human experience
  • Collective and collaborative
  • Morals in VR vs “real life” 
  • Where are the leverage points? 

On Friday, July 23, the Wicked Problems Working Groups re-assembled to develop their outputs and resources and share them with Unconference attendees at our Town Hall: the big reveal. Read the full transcription of the Town Hall's graphic facilitation below:

Day 2: Final Group Report Out

“Invasion” of the Degree Snatchers 
  • Stacked multicredentials v.s. traditional degrees 
  • Need: comprehensive strategy for job-ready skills 
    • Administrative
    • Students
    • Faculty
  • Community of practice > tool kits for > faculty
Frankensteining Strategy into Tools 
  • Too...Many...Tooooools 
  • We developed a recruitment strategy -> climate disruptions! -> guide book
  • Fund alternative connectivity
  • Explore high/low tech fusions
  • Learning communities 
A Quiet Place 
  • How to better engage virtual learners and avoid burnout 
  • Define engagement *personal* > creating strategies 
    • K...Anybody...There? 
  • Creating strategies -> group -> multiple ways to engage, transferable skills for life -> team! 
  • Beware of burnout! 
  • Needs = students instructors institutions
Nightmare on Accessibility Street 
  • Creating a space & place for all online
  • How might I shift my own mindset? 
  • Roadmap -> Gathering existing resources -> accessibility is good for everyone (and their wallets) -> accessibilityadvocate.org
365+ Days Later 
  • Post-pandemic best practices 
  • Can we interest you in some free virtual beer? 
  • Antifragility 
  • Concerns > Solutions > actions > tags > examples > resources 
Brainscan 2021: XR, deepfakes, and gamified experiences 
  • Responsive web resources
    • I’m here to…
      • Learn 
      • Get started 
      • Share 
  • Bringing others along
  • Data who? Why? What? > proof of concept pedagogy > student voices > accessibility 
Mirror, mirror, spotlight on the wall, whose voice is not being heard at all? 
  • Voice + choice + community building for lifelong learning 
  • Authentic sense of belonging
  • Breaking power barriers! 
    • Empowerment
    • Sensitivity
    • Self determination
    • Advocacy
    • Allyship
  • Mobile toolbox = academics, technologies, wellness and health, community and culture 
    • What already exists? > what’s missing? > what can be scaled?