by Alison Hewitt, DLCoach, Teacher-Librarian & IB French teacher, REMSS.
Neil Stephenson’s take on formats of inquiry on November 4th sparked a good discussion around our table. I found myself nodding when Neil spoke of the effectiveness of guided inquiry, thinking of various “inquiry” projects in our school library where students were let loose and those where they were guided in their research process. Some of my tablemates were more excited about free inquiry as a more personalized, engaging learning process.
It seems to me that the four formats Neil discussed (structured, controlled, guided, free) are valuable depending on the purpose, scale & timeframe of the inquiry, as well as the learning context and a student’s stage in the learning process. But I do also see that there is a risk of misinterpreting free inquiry as giving full reign to discovery learning without providing opportunities for skill development. As we engage students in these experiences, we also have to hone our guiding and questioning skills.
Nutshell quotes are sometimes useful tools for understanding. Neil quoted David Perkins’ metaphor that I also found helpful when I facilitated a workshop on inquiry: that students need a chance to “play the whole game”, or a least a version of it, not just learn about the rules and the equipment.
In second language classes, we now refer to language users rather than learners, to put the emphasis on the “whole game” in authentic contexts. We have always known that student engagement soars when they can talk to “real” speakers of a language outside the classroom and providing real-life language experiences nested in the target culture has become infinitely easier with communication technologies. But even when we work on specific language skills & structures (grammar), the inductive approach can be like a small-scale structured inquiry. Students are exposed to multiple examples and need to recognize language patterns themselves before they replicate, apply and use them to express their own ideas in new situations. When they figure out for themselves the structures they need to express certain ideas, their own powers of observation frequently lead them to that satisfying aha moment. If they first describe the patterns and then discuss their findings, they remember more easily than if they are shown the rules.
By the way, if you haven’t yet had a look at the Calgary Science School’s teacher blog Neil talked about, it’s worth the time. There are some really inspiring ideas. < http://calgaryscienceschool.blogspot.ca >. I’ve been following it since I discovered its richness a couple of years ago and just recently pulled out this following links for our English teachers to check out as we look at fostering the joy of reading:
by Kirk, DLCoach @ RE Mountain Secondary
Audacity: a willingness to take bold risks.
synonyms: boldness, daring, fearlessness, intrepidity, bravery, courage.
I've officially made this my word for the year. Often recognized for its negative meaning, I think it nicely defines our role as leaders of educational change.
When Sandra first asked me to present at the November 4 meeting, my initial reaction was to refuse. I believe that how I teach is rooted in a strong understanding of learning, how technology can contribute to learning, and the changing needs of our students in the 21st century, but standing up in front of 200 or so educators (most of whom have much more teaching experience than I do) is a vulnerable place to be. What if I can't find the words to effectively communicate my ideas, or even worse, what if my entire presentation merely states the obvious?
Two thoughts drove me to telling Sandra "Sure!" First off, the theme of "obvious to you, extraordinary to others" was very reassuring. I think this needs to be the mantra of anyone taking a risk and sharing a piece of them self with others. The QR code piece specifically worried me. There are many fantastic teachers doing awesome things with QR codes in their classrooms and I didn't want to come off like a salesman selling a typewriter to a room full of web-based authors (does that simile work?? Haha). I feel differently now. The feedback and response from teachers and admin in our district has been very reassuring. This tweet in particular alleviated many of my insecurities.
It felt great knowing that someone took inspiration from an idea I shared.
The second piece that game me strength was my word of the year. I feel strongly that meaningful educational change will not come easily. Tradition in education sticks deep, and people who deviate away from tradition will often be questioned (or worse, ridiculed). As educational leaders, we must be audacious. We need to realize that even though there is a struggle ahead, our educational system must change because society has changed. Content is everywhere now, our students need different skills now than they have in the past, and technology has given us the power to do amazing things with learning. I challenge you to be audacious in your own schools. Take risks and challenge tradition because our educational system, and most importantly our students, are worth it.
Thanks for your time, Kirk
Langley's Digital Literacy Coaches
DLCoaches from each school will be sharing a blog entry about their staff & students' digital literacy experiences.
Blogs by Content or by School: