Everything that we do, we need to be conscious that we don’t teach software, rather we teach learning and using the learning tools needed. This area is traditionally just information literacy.
Four aspects of the Inquiry capacity include:
Access – We need to know how to get to information. Where the teacher, textbook and encyclopedia were once the sources of access to information, we now have:
Professional/Personal Learning Network (PLN) such as twitter
Skype an expert
in addition to previous sources
Once we have access to the information, we need to Gather and Organize
Ten years ago this meant students found a ‘good’ website and printed it, then organized the paper before starting to write. Today students can use a myriad of tools to help focus on the ideas and concepts. My personal favourite is graphic organizers; Graphic organizers allow me to put in nuggets and organize the connections. Software like Inspiration also facilitates flipping to paragraph view if needed.
It is important to log your sources, but the previously foreboding task of a bibliography can now be fully automated. The gift of this is changing the focus to giving credit to our sources, rather than how to list our sources.
During the Access, Gather and Organize phases information is being processed; however, once a critical mass of information has been organized, it is easier to synthesize, make connections, and ask further questions. This step is building personal meaning from the information.
I am not suggesting that all inquiry needs to be presented, but there should be some process where the learning is identified and shared. This could be through: reflection, self assessment, peer review/discussion, conversation, or an actual product. The stages are cyclical or recursive as students may start organizing to present and find they need to access different sources of information. Presentation should not be confused with writing an essay or creating a slideshow. Presentation is about sharing the learning in a format designed for viewing. I am a huge fan of digital storytelling and believe that traditional essays are dead (or should be.)