when we speak about inquiry based learning

When we speak about why modern technology enables a transformed inquiry -based learning is far more desirable and effective model for our schools than the transmission of content, we still need to clear about the role and place of content.

Larry Sanger has recently written a piece on why content is still important and why inquiry-based learning is folly. I’m not sure if Larry is deliberately try to mislead the discussion but it serves as a reminder for those of us who are championing a pedagogy and curriculum that uses modern technology to enable inquiry-based learning, that we need to clearly articulate the role of content in the learning process.

1. Students learn content and facts as they undertake inquiry-based learning but the content is needed.  This has the major benefit over the transmission of facts as it provides a context and a opportunity to validate the learning.  The context also gives indication of what is needed to be learnt.  The design of inquiry-based projects are therefore crucial. This is not to suggest that content is the only goal, learning how to learn effectively and autonomously is also the goal.

2. Instruction from experts still has a role (although to much lesser extent) with inquiry-based learning, there are still non-negotiable instruction that needs to occur as determined by the teacher.

Do education systems really resist innovation?

An article on Techcrunch today explains that Technology Cannot Disrupt Education From The Top Down suggesting that the US “education system resists innovation at every turn.”

Or could it be that the “innovations” given as examples are not really innovations at all, just people trying to sell stuff?

The challenge for all stakeholders is to demonstrate and clearly articulate, how the innovative use of modern technology can change the nature of how students to learn together.

Technology changes the nature of what we can achieve together

I’ve been looking into group project management/communication applications, so far Asana and Do seem really interesting.

Why are they so interesting, well as Justin Rosenstein (of Asana) says near the start of the video below, its not just about being faster and more productive but that technology “changes the nature of the kind of projects we can take on together”. I agree, and I believe that there is great scope for students using collaborate and social project management applications in their inquiry-based learning.



Why I don’t think we fully appreciate social networking

Gary Stager pointed to Joe Bower’s post on why he doesn’t like the edublog awards, I don’t like them either but to me it is a non-issue as I don’t think any sensible person takes any award seriously. Awards generally measure vanity metrics, and by doing so trivialise the object of the award, in this case blogging and the power of modern technology.

When reading the comments one of Gary’s statements caught my eye.

Gary writes “Social media IS junior high school. It’s all about counting followers, “friends,” retweets and the number of comments” I think social media is far more than, sure some people might act like that but unlike high school we don’t have to interact with them.

Social media/networking allows learners to achieve beyond what they could without modern technology. Social media takes knowledge construction from being individual and personal to being collaborative and collective. Social media enables self-directed learners to better informed and therefore make better choices. Social media radically changes the nature of projects and inquiry-based learning.

Yes, people can get caught up in follower counts, but to reduce social networking to that is to miss the power and the point.

Some thoughts on creating a more ambitious vision for our schools

Note: I’m participating in a discussion about BYOD in a few hours, these notes are an attempt to somewhat prepare!

I believe that modern technology is disrupting and transforming both the way people learn and what they learn. And I believe that schools and school communities need to face up to fact that we need to radically change our pedagogy to leverage these wonderful opportunities, because if we don’t then education of our students will be compromised.

BYOD is a bad idea for a number of reasons:

1. BYOD focuses on the wrong thing from which we will most likely end up with policies and technologies that are unambitious and inequitable. I won’t go over the ground that Stager has about dumbing down to the lowest device and inequality between the rich and poor but let me say schools and teachers need to be the drivers and informers for what and how technology is used in their classrooms. By asking our students (and their families) to drive technology use in our schools we are running up the white flag and admitting we don’t have a clue about how modern technology should be best used in formal education. Rather we need an ambitious vision for learning with modern technology, an ambitious vision that is determined and articulated by informed, qualified educators.

2. For all of the problems its proponents claim it solves, there are better solutions than BYOD. Despite the fact BYOD may appear to “fix” some bad schools policies, for example over restrictive technology policies, in reality it doesn’t fix these problems but rather provides a work around. In most cases the policies will remain with the erroneous core beliefs still in place, and other bad policies still in effect. Instead, we should tackle these problems head on, so that the effectiveness of use of technology in schools is maximised. Anything less is a compromise for our students’ learning.

3. BYOD allows school leaders who don’t want to face up to the realities of learning with modern technologies, a way out. BYOD allows schools to say they have a role for modern technology without really having one, it is a Claytons solution. By allowing a 1 to 1 program to be set up with little “buy in” from the school community as whole, maybe skilled and technology passionate educators can operate successfully, but there is no way we will see systematic change unless the ambitious vision is owned by the whole school community. As more and more schools are thankfully undertaking a move towards a technology rich learning environment I think we need to be clear and strict describing what the pedagogical vision is for our schools and whether BYOD (or for that matter iPad/tablet programs) are an end-point or rather a transition because proper 1 to 1 is currently too hard for us.

4. We need an ambitious pedagogical vision, one in which modern technology offers disruptive and transformative possibilites for learning that is inquiry-based, self-directed and socially constructed.


I imagine that many might argue that I’m being too ambitious and unrealistic given how schools must operate within current curriculum and assessment demands. I’d be more convinced by this argument if those advocating and evangelising for “devices” and BYOD hadn’t experienced new ways of learning with modern technology. However, the most of the people visibly promoting BYOD (and its unambitious vision) use modern technology in radically different ways in their own personal learning. While these evangelists continue to advocate for learning in schools which is different from their own personal learning (with modern technology), their students will continue to experience a compromised education.