It was back in October 2011 that I shared a post titled More About Teachers as Inquirers, introducing a fabulous PD opportunity (Teachers Are Inquirers) organized by the Learning Council at my school, Lincoln Community School, Accra. We, the elementary teachers, were embarking on a unit of inquiry with the Central Idea “Inquiry is the pedagogical approach used across the curriculum”. In the meantime, we have completed our “official” inquiry (but then there is never really an end to inquiry, right?) and I want to share a bit more with you about the process and outcome.
As part of the Technology Inquiry Group, I looked into how iPads can be used to support struggling and reluctant readers. Enthusiastic about the topic, I jumped right into the Finding Out phase, reading how iPads were used by other schools and libraries and what apps they recommended. But then I had my first important lesson: while I was discovering excellent resources around iPads in education in general, I suddenly realized that I had lost sight of my main inquiry and found myself completely confused. Fortunately, my facilitator Sarah Pickles and the guiding questions for each phase of the inquiry model helped me to get back on track. It made me realize what an important role the teacher/facilitator plays during inquiry, helping the learner to stay on track by constantly reconnecting to the Central Idea.
I felt very much back on track as I was sorting out what I had discovered and made sense of what I was learning at the same time. I realized that most probably the most powerful element in the use of iPads with struggling readers is that they turn reading from a task into a fun activity. Of course, there are several features within the apps that support the reader in various ways, e.g. reading the text or individual words out loud. I began to wonder how I could best put my learning into practice.
These new tensions and wonderings provided the basis for the Going Further phase during which I tried to find additional answers and put some of my new knowledge into practice. However, I had to make a change to my original plan since the first opportunity I got to use the iPad with readers was with a group of confident KG students for whom this would provide an extension of their reading experience. The idea came from their teacher Miranda Rose (she is one of the facilitators of this PD inquiry and her reflections are available on this blog under “Teachers as Inquirers – Reflections from a Facilitator”). Until this point, I had never considered that iPads could be as beneficial to high-performing readers as well as to those struggling.
While Drawing Conclusions, I not only summarized my findings regarding the use of iPads with readers but also my experiences in going through an inquiry cycle as a learner. I think these were the really powerful outcomes of this learning experience for me, gaining a better understanding of my role as a facilitator while experiencing the challenges the learner is faced with. I therefore want to share all of them with you as I recorded them on my wiki page (by the way, the wiki page also represents my summative assessment):
- There never seems to be enough time to get everything done, that we would like to do.
- Answers always create new questions and it’s okay that the inquiry somehow never ends.
- It’s important to keep the fluidity of the inquiry cycle in mind, there are no strict boundaries between the individual stages (I have experienced that sometimes I am finding it challenging to say exactly on what phase I am, e.g. is it already Sorting out or still Finding out etc.).
- The role of the facilitator is extremely important in keeping the learner on track/on task and re-connecting to the Central Idea constantly.
- No matter how big or small the initial question or wondering, the inquiry process can always be applied. Often we go through the process without being aware of it.
- Inquiry requires personal initiative and engagement – you can’t expect that everything gets done in the allocated time. Thinking about students, wouldn’t the ideal be that they follow up in their own time too?
You can read more about my journey through this inquiry cycle on Tanja’s Page of our Technology wiki.