8 Google Resources to Spark Inquiry-Based Learning

The best inquiry-based essential questions spark more questions!

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Inquiry-based learning often begins by posing scenarios or questions in which students investigate the collected artifacts to determine more questions, as well as research directions in which they will pursue to gain further knowledge on the concept or topic.

In he article titled The Many Levels of Inquiry by Heather Banchi and Randy Bell (2008) the authors clearly outline four levels of inquiry.

Level 1: Confirmation Inquiry
The teacher has taught a particular concept, theme, or topic. The teacher then develops questions and a procedure that guides students through an activity where the results are already known. This method is great to reinforce concepts taught and to introduce students into learning to follow procedures, collect and record data correctly and to confirm and deepen understandings.

Level 2: Structured Inquiry
The teacher provides the initial question and an outline of the procedure. Students formulate explanations of their findings through evaluating and analyzing the data that they collect.

Level 3: Guided Inquiry
The teacher provides the essential question for the students. The students are responsible for designing and following their own procedures. Students communicate their results and findings.

Level 4: Open/True Inquiry
Students formulate their own research question(s), design and follow through with a developed procedure, and communicate their findings and results.

One “Best Practice” in teaching is Gradual Release of Responsibility. GRR provides a scaffold for learning in which as the teacher’s support lessens, the student independence increases. Aligned to this practice, Banchi and Bell (2008) explain that teachers should begin their inquiry instruction at the lower levels and work their way to open inquiry. Open inquiry activities are only successful if students are motivated by intrinsic interests and if they are equipped with the skills to conduct their own research study.

Consider the following Google resources to aid in inquiry-based learning.

A Google a day – Typically used as a bell-ringer or to reinforce search skills. A Google a Day could provide the spark in inquiry-based learning. New questions are posed daily. 

Google Feud – Google Feud compiles algorithms for most commonly search words and phrases and places the answers on a “Family Feud” type board. Google Feud not only sparks the inquiry into algorithms, but also has students consider bias in on-line searches based on location and history of your previous searches.

Smarty Pins – Smarty pins incorporates Google Maps and “drops” you anywhere in the world. Your charge is to guess where you are based on context clues found around you. Smarty Pins would be a great resource in Social Studies classrooms, begging the students to wonder – Where am I? How do I know?

Google Night Walk – Explore the sounds, streets, and soul of Marseille on this immersive digital Night Walk with GoogleAlthough Google Night Walk only as one adventure in Marseille, the sounds and sights make students wonder – What is this telling me about Merseille? How does the backdrop of night change perceptions? How can I create a Google Night Walk based off of my own location.

My Maps – My Maps is allows users to create and share customized maps. Located in your Google Drive, My Maps is perfect for literature tours, geography, history, etc. Connect multiple locations together and allow students to explore the world, gathering questions as they go. 

Solve for X – Solve for X is a community of scientists, inventors, engineers, artists, thinkers, doers, the young, the wise, men and women from every background across every geography connected by a shared optimism that science and technology can cause radically positive things to happen in the world.

Google Experiments – Google Experiments is a “showcase of web experiments written by the creative coding community”. Not only will students get lost for hours in the awesomeness that lives on this site, but it also allows students to develop questions as to how and why these experiments were developed.

Google Science Fair  – Google Science Fair is an online, global science competition for students. Not only can students design, test and share study results on through this competition, but they are able to hear from past winners.

Improving Digital Literacy: 3 Google Games to Tickle Your Dendrites

Technology allows one to create and share in ways that once, only existed in theory. And while many blog posts focus on creation in a technology-rich educational environment;  computing devices also offer a variety of tips, tricks, and best practices to help our students improve their digital literacy skills. The average student spends much more time searching the internet for information than they do the stacks in the local library; because of this, it is essential to model and scaffold the search-savvy methods. By doing this, we, as educators, help diminish the misinformation consumed by our students; instead creating independent, discerners of information, able to locate reliable and relevant information.

Most recently, at Googlefest in Montana, I shared a plethora of digital tools (Slides found here) to aid in formative assessment; including 3 Google Games that are engaging, relevant, and provide practice for students to hone digital literacy skills.

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A Google A Day – Improve student searches by having them solve “A Google a Day”. Students Google their way through the internet in search of the answer to a new question posted daily.  (Check out the “Tips and Tricks” tab, full of useful searching terms everyone should know).

Google_Maps_Smarty_Pins_Putting_Trivia_On_The_Map-630x377Smarty Pins – A Google Maps trivia game. Select one of six topics, anything from “Sports and Games” to “History and Current Events”. When you start the game, a trivia questions pops up, along with a “hint” button for extra help, and a “pin” to drop on the Google Map to signify your guess.

Just like today there are many online games you can play, but there is this online casino game that is best known in Canada. So if you need further details you may check our site.

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Google Feud – This fun, but surprisingly difficult game has students guessing the top “searches” that are used in their search engine when Googling. A lively discussion on algorithms, trends, or simply “Why” would ensue.

Undervaluing Teacher Perception in Assessment

Peter Reynolds, author of The Dot, ish, and many others; recently released his animated short entitled The Testing Camera. Described as a “whimsical poke at high-stakes, standardized testing,” The Testing Camera, paints an all-true reality of education today.

Teaching to the test, students measured by the test, teachers evaluated by the scores their students receive on the test; with this constant focus in today’s education systems, is it any surprise that: teachers have began to question their own professional perceptions? Undervalue their day to day interactions with students? Rely solely on the test score to dictate curriculum, label and track students, and justify their own strengths as an educator?

Most recently, during a writing workshop training, a teacher expressed the joy and affirmation the framework, specifically small group instruction, has provided her in terms of formative assessment. Identifying a student need; providing examples, practice, and opportunities for improvement; targeting a specific writing skill the student is on the cusp of mastering; and continuous checks to follow-up on goals are not done through standardized testing. Instead; this type of formative assessment/observation allows the teacher to differentiate in the moment, make professional decisions based on individual students, and demonstrate the power of good teaching. Hearing this reflection simultaneously made me happy and sad. I was thrilled that this teacher regained her professional voice, but was saddened that it was lost in the first place.

This post is not intended to debate the necessity of standardized testing; instead, it is to draw attention to this culture and provide an alternative view highlighting the value in and the ease of formative assessment can in our contemporary classrooms.

Jim Knight refers to formative assessment as a GPS to “gauge how well students understand what is being taught.” As part of the Big 4 to Improve Instruction, developing and using formative assessment effectively provides insight into gaps in content planning and/or pedagogy thus allowing teachers to target learning. The formative assessment GPS allows teachers to see what direction students are heading (are they way off course, or close to the goal), which pedagogical practices were effective with which students, and a map for navigational purposes to determine teaching style (inquiry, modeling, example, etc.).

While it is clear the benefits to the learner that formative assessment provides, the ease of crafting and administering such “checks” in today’s technology-rich classrooms further add to these for both the learner and teacher. In a recent blog post by Jeff Zoul, entitled “Reimagining Learning,” Zoul reflects upon the paradigm shift in teaching and learning in a ubiquitous technology education environment. Citing Richard Culatta in his identification of challenges in education and the role in which technology can help to solve these, Zoul touches upon assessment, writing, “We can provide real-time feedback to students, an ‘LPS’ version of a GPS system in which we—and our students—know where every individual learner is currently at and where each needs to go next. We can tailor the pacing of instruction to the needs of each learner.” These two specific points align with the benefits I outline below.

Technology Assisted Formative Assessment Provides:

  1. Real-time glimpse into students’ understanding
  2. A space for all voices to be heard and recognized
  3. Opportunity for immediate feedback and differentiation of instruction
  4. Data narrating the students’ learning journey
  5. A transfer of ownership of learning back into the hands of the student

Savvy educators understand that technology tools are only as powerful as the content they are paired with, the student choice given in the unit, and the cognitive demand placed on the learner. With this in mind, I offer the following tools for exploration:

Technology Tools for Formative Assessment

forms-iconGoogle Forms

Google forms are adaptable and provide a plethora of question types to meet needs. An Exit Ticket is a common use of Google Forms. Student answers are automatically collected in Google Sheets and allow the viewer to see responses in a variety of ways. In essence, results can be cleared, and the same Form could be used each day. Paired with a script, such as Flubaroo or Form Mule, Google Forms can provide immediate results and feedback to students.

logoSocrative

Socrative is an interactive platform, where students answer questions in real-time and receive immediate feedback. Socrative is device friendly, accessible from tablets, laptops, and smartphones. It also reports individual students, as well as whole class reports which appeal to many educawtors.

imagesKahoot

Kahoot is a game-based response system where students are motivated to be on the top of the leader-board. To play along with the facilitator, a student may use any device with a web browser (no account is needed).Kahoot encourages the teacher to blend the learning experience by constructing a social, game-based assessment while folding the learning in between interactive questions.

imgresNearpod

Nearpod brings the interaction to the student’s screen. Interactive, engaging, and customizable in both creation and response, Nearpod provides monitoring of student’s progress. Control of when and who sees the questions provides a different alternative to Socrative. There is also a “draw” response option, perfect for those sketchnoters.

images-1TodaysMeet

Although not a new tool, TodaysMeet, is the prime backchannel for the classroom. Ease in setting up a room (virtual space), real-time capabilities, readability, and the option to save the transcript; TodaysMeet provides a voice to even the quietest student. Recently added features now allow moderation of content, private rooms, and longer lengths in room reservations.

imgres-1Poll Everywhere

A favorite with students, Poll Everywhere is an audience response platform that promotes interaction, ease, accessibility, and a visual of the responses. Poll Everywhere is another tool that has been around for years, but has recently added improvements to the site. Additions include: differentiation in visualizing the responses (wordcloud is one), embed a voting widget on your site, as a student, access a single webpage where the questioned are “pushed” to you. Answer questions via phone, twitter, or webpage. Poll Everywhere is a perfect tool for a bell ringer, diving into the material immediately or connecting to the previous day’s learning.

 

 

Thank you to Jeff Zoul, Mike Jaber, and Leslie Pralle Keehn for contributions to this post.  Appreciate you!

 

Digital Literacies: Multimedia Projects as Mentor Texts

Multimedia Projects provide students a different alternative to demonstrate their learning and understanding of a concept or theme. Traditionally, students demonstrated knowledge by taking a test or writing a paper. These unimodal demonstrations do not equip students with the necessary skills and understandings of their literary reality.

Currently, our students live in a time with multiple digital means of communication. From videos to blog posts, students consume most of their daily reading digitally. As educators, it is necessary to not only explore these multimodal literacies in the classroom; but also hone student skills needed to enable them to create and communicate their message in multiple forms.

As a literacy expert, I have found the need for Mentor Texts within my classroom. Everyone needs mentor texts to become better writers/communicators. Mentor texts are those pieces that we return to again and again. They provide a myriad of possibilities and are full of curriculum potential. Mentor texts are not pieces that are used once for specific demonstration, instead they can be approached by the reader from multiple angles.

I believe that mentor texts can also be in the digital form. Digital Mentor Texts are a collection of videos, infographics, blog posts, websites, etc. that provide students inspiration by asking the question, “I wonder if I can do that too?” When teaching digital modes of meaning, I like to refer to the work of the New London Group for consideration, and approach the Digital Mentor Text from the Linguistic, Audio, Spatial, Visual, and Gestural Design modes of meaning (image below). These Digital Mentor Texts are visited multiple times throughout the course, offering a new possibility for improvement when applied to a students’ own work. Whether it is storyline, camera angle, graphics, or music; requiring students to produce high-quality, multimedia products is possible with the inclusion of Digital Mentor Texts.

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When choosing a digital mentor text it is important to remember 5 things:

  1. You (the teacher) must love it!
  2. Show, not just tell.
  3. Contain multiple examples of awesomeness
  4. Students need to be able to connect to it
  5. Promotes out-of-the-box thinking

Any type of digital communication can be used as a Digital Mentor Text, the only qualifier is that it must contain richness in multiple forms. As a recommendation, start collecting Digital Mentor Texts to use in the future when you stumble across them. This way, students will be provided with inspiration in multiple modes, not just an example to copy!

Reimagining the Writer’s Notebook

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In a Writing Workshop classroom, the Writer’s Notebook  serves as the heart of the community. The notebook is a gathering spot for inspiration/brainstorming, recording learning gained from minilessons, along with many other purposes.

Traditionally, this notebook has been concrete, filled with blank paper eagerly waiting to be filled. The writer’s inkblood poured onto to it’s pages, scotch-taped quotes and pictures hung out from the edges, practice examples, quickwrites, rough drafts; all filled the emptiness. Depending on the teacher’s philosophy and preference, these sacred notebooks, NEVER, EVER… EVER left the classroom; in fear they would be lost, damaged, or forgotten at home.

Working in a district where all students were provided laptops demanded me to reimagine the traditional Writer’s Notebook to one in a digital form. My goal was not to be a paperless classroom, in fact, many of the images contained within our Digital Writer’s Notebook were first done on paper.  Instead, I wanted to:

  1. Increase student enjoyment in writing.
  2. Move all writers forward.
  3. Consume and create traditional and digital literacies.
  4. Share their writing with the world.

A Digital Writer’s Notebook allows the freedom to incorporate a multitude of mediums. The accessibility allows the writer to add inspiration to this collective spot via multiple modes (phone, computer, tablet) at any time and from anywhere. Freedom in text, embedding videos, or inserting images provides the writer choice in communication.

All of these advantages proved to encourage students to write more and think more about writing. They began filling their Digital Writer’s Notebook, not because it was the designated class time, but because they were inspired! And those students who chose to sketch, draw, or keep a paper Writer’s Notebook (I am a firm believer in student choice) uploaded pics of their notebook (if they chose).

Using a Google Folder students were able to organize their Writer’s Notebook into different “Sections” or documents. Using Google Drive allowed students access from any device and the ability to set the document to work offline for times when there was no internet access.

Example of a Writer’s Notebook “Inspiration/Brainstorm” found here.