Inquiry-Based Exploration & Technology Use in a K Classroom

“The power of an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning is its potential to increase intellectual engagement and foster deep understanding through the development of a hands-on, minds-on and ‘research-based disposition’ towards teaching and learning. Inquiry honours the complex, interconnected nature of knowledge construction, striving to provide opportunities for both teachers and students to collaboratively build, test and reflect on their learning”(Stephensen, Neil, Introduction to Inquiry Based Learning).

After completing my course on Adapting Innovative Technology to Education, I feel prepared to use technology and a block of time within my classroom for student-led inquiry and exploration as opposed to continuous teacher-led learning. I feel that this individual time to be creative and explore allows students to guide their own thinking. Then, students can make errors, adjust their thinking accordingly and draw conclusions that they are likely to have not made during a teacher-led lesson. This additional student control leads students to grapple with the content themselves without requiring their teacher to do it for them. Ultimately, this is likely to lead to a greater degree of content retention for the student doing the exploring.

For example, students could use a variety of technology to demonstrate understanding of a particular topic. Students could publish digital stories, record their voices on computer screens to reiterate a math concept or create a SmartBoard lesson as a project to be presented in front of the class. While the options and varieties of technology to be used in the classroom are limitless, the goal remains the same. We need to provide students with higher-level thinking tasks that are cognitively demanding. By doing so and ensuring technology is used during this exploration or for the assessment component of a particular lesson, our students are able learn more deeply through hands-on experience and exploration. Additionally, various technology that may not be specifically created for the classroom can often be easily incorporated into pre-established lesson plans as an extension or additional practice for high and/or struggling students. See my lesson plan using the Makey Makey for a kindergarten syllabication lesson here.

In addition to my use of the Makey Makey kit, it could be used in the very same manner as I suggested using it in the syllabication lesson but to teach a variety of different topics. Students could use the Makey Makey to determine the value of coins, to choose from a variety of answers (a., b., c., or d., etc.), to count and demonstration cardinality and one-to-one correspondence. With an easy-friendly, multi-purpose Maker Kit like the Makey Makey, teachers can reuse the technology repeatedly and allow students themselves to use it as a component of inquiry-based exploration and assessment already occurring in the classroom.

As long as students can demonstrate proof of their thinking and provide explanations for their work/creativity, technological assignments can be graded just as easily as traditional pencil and paper tests can be. Teachers can use Google docs/drive to easily organize and share assignments or ask students to share their assignments in small groups or for the class as a whole. Although time for hands-on exploration and technological use to better understand classroom content may not be specifically stated in the kindergarten standards, pushing students toward critical, high-level thinking certainly is. As long as I encourage students to think independently and critically while engaging in exploration, I will be meeting both the standards and the specifications of my job as a kindergarten teacher. My school demands a tremendous amount of rigor from classroom lessons and expects high expectations for all students. In fact, we are taught specifically how to ensure that students are doing the “heavy lifting”/heavy thinking. We are encouraged to view our job as facilitators and prompters of thinking not simply providers of knowledge. I fully believe that inquiry-based exploration and technology use can help me to accomplish this very task in my classroom.

References

Stephensen, N. (n.d). Introduction to based learning. Teach Inquiry. http://www.teachinquiry.com

Txafmama. (Oct. 12, 2010). Inquiry-based learning. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLQPXd8BiIA

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