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Making Sense of Inquiry

Dr. Shelley Robinson, Assistant Principal

I still grapple with making sense of inquiry-based learning, and have discovered that thinking about inquiry in the following ways, helps me to better understand it as an educator and a parent.

Inquiry is the process of seeking information through questioning. The levels of questioning can vary depending on the type of knowledge being sought after and the degree to which a student must understand.

CSS Library: "Little Blurts of Info"

Ian Brown just won the coveted Charles Taylor Prize for literary nonfiction, and before that, for this same book, the National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction.

During his acceptance speech, Mr. Brown was quoted in The Globe and Mail Feb. 09/10, A(2) referring to online reading as “little blurts of information”.

Do we approach online research differently than print research? Technology does offer fast food information. Do we go deeper when needed? More importantly, do we structure our teaching and inquiry projects to lead students to search deeply, question sources and relevancy of information offered, or do these little blurts of information suffice?

Historical Ditigal Storytelling Presentation

One of our Humanities Teachers, Chris Dittmann, recently gave a presentation at the South Western Alberta Teachers Conference (SWATCA) on a grade 5 digital storytelling project.

The project has previously been explained on this post.

Here's a copy of the presentation given by Chris, with one of the full examples of grade 5 student work:

CSS Library: Digital Immigrants teaching Natives

Donna Alden, Teacher-Librarian

What assumptions do we as educators (digital immigrants) make, while planning for inquiry-based projects for students who are digital natives?

As an educator, library professional and digital immigrant, what do I need to consider in a school with a one-to-one laptop project underway, with students who are indisputably digital natives? As a constructivist, I approach teaching as a “facilitator/scaffolder”. With Wiggins and McTigue’s ‘“understanding by design” format engrained in my thinking, I consider what students need to learn, and develop activities for students, working from what they know and understand, to what has been identified as needing to be learned.

My task is to consider what the teacher (as the key curriculum professional) has identified as the important curriculum outcomes in an inquiry project, and match those to some information literacy outcomes the students require in order to locate, select, synthesize and communicate their inquiry project’s findings. At this point we identify one or more related information literacy outcomes those students in this project require some integrated instruction on, in order to be successful. But what are we assuming those students already know, or are skilled in?

To understand that topics develop from general and broad to specific and narrow, and to be adept at generating alternative search terms, are easily demonstrated and learned when using print resources. But, they are also necessary skills for searching online library catalogues. When those skills and understandings transfer to students’ online searches, aren’t they more skillful searchers and consumers of online information? My knowledge base includes what resources are best sources for specific searches. Is that necessary in the digital information world? Is there a schema in our students’ approaches to locating, selecting and synthesizing relevant information? Is it the same as mine? Doubtful. Mine was developed from a print-based setting- our students’ from a digitally based setting. What implications does this present when we plan, implement, teach and evaluate a simple research project, or an inquiry project?

CSS Library: Changes So Far...

Donna Alden, Teacher-Librarian

What changes in the school library program and collection have I already made in response to the 24/7-technology access our students have at this school?

For sure, over the past two years, when planning learning activities with teachers, I’m putting much less emphasis into instructional strategies for accessing information in print resources, and more on introducing and providing opportunities for students develop knowledge and skills associated with online information sources, including online databases and Internet sites. What stays the same is that these learning activities remain embedded in project activities, and are not separate or isolated “library lessons”.

Google Docs versus Wikis

Here at the Science School, I would say that Google Docs has become one of the tech tools that has had the greatest uptake across our classrooms. Over the last couple years, students and teachers have begun using this tool to take collaborative notes and study guides, peer edit across classes and grades, make group presentations and have shared planning sessions with other teachers.


A couple of our classrooms have also begun to design work using wikis as the tool for collaboration, rather than Google Docs. Wikis are a type of webpage that are easily created and edited by anyone you give permission to.