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Learning Tools and Technology: Why More Work is Needed

   Galileo Educational Network    December 15, 2016    Dimensions of Inquiry and Focus On Inquiry Research Series

Improved collaboration, in-depth communication, and emerging understanding of how and why discipline-based inquiry practices lead to authentic knowledge: This marked much of the teacher feedback from the Focus on Inquiry study.

When Galileo researchers gathered comments, classroom observations and artifacts of task design, they saw many teachers understood and embraced the eight dimensions of discipline-based inquiry. Briefly, they are:

  • Authenticity
  • Academic rigor
  • Quality assessment practices
  • Work that has relevance beyond the school
  • Effective use of technology
  • Active exploration of the topic/task at hand
  • The opportunity to connect with experts in the field of study
  • Using elaborated forms and methods of communication.

These eight dimensions describe changes to classroom practices that are needed to support the development of discipline-based inquiry. It was the foundation of the Focus on Inquiry study.

The effective use of technology is one area where researchers noticed more work is needed

Although use of technology in the classroom is not new, many teachers reported fine-tuning its integration and effectiveness is an ongoing challenge. Learning how to use technology effectively means teachers need to think carefully about the topic of the inquiry and the
disciplines it requires or what technologies the discipline uses to analyze data or information, model data or information, synthesize findings, collaborate with others and communicate to others. As one researcher has said, “(technology in the classroom) is about engaging students with questions they can explore, rather than only answers we want them to absorb.” (Beairsto, 2011)

As mentioned in the Focus on Inquiry digital resource, things like tablets and laptops are not mere tools – when used with purpose, technology provides learning opportunities that otherwise, would be impossible.  Students can use technology to demonstrate new ways of thinking, working and doing. It is important students learn about which technologies are most appropriate to the task or the discipline and for collaboration and communication. It is also important that technology is used in both process and product and closely linked to the ways technology is used authentically in the field to advance knowledge.

In the video below grade 4 students in Deirdre Bailey and Amy Park’s classes were challenged to design an authentic science experiment that would identify variables that have the greatest impact on the rate of fruit decomposition.  They wanted their students to understand the biological cycles of decomposition in deep and meaningful ways. Students learned to take careful measurements of the fruit and vegetables as they decomposed. Mirroring the work of a lab scientists, students conducted their experiments, recorded quantitative and qualitative data, and digitally documented their findings in order to share with a broader audience.