Effective Integration of Technology in Inquiry Learning: Themes and Examples

Effective Integration of Technology in Inquiry Learning: Themes and Examples

Lisa J. Lynn (University of Illinois at Chicago, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3476-2.ch041
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Abstract

For education leaders (teachers, professors, curriculum designers, and administrators), there are well-documented benefits to using inquiry learning in a wide variety of grade levels, content levels, and contexts. Besides promoting deep learning and critical thinking, inquiry learning is readily adaptable to 21st century skills such as information and communication technologies literacy. However, the combination of sophisticated pedagogy and cutting-edge technologies can be overwhelming to education leaders when planning an inquiry learning curriculum. Faced with a wide variety of technology options, education leaders have little research-based guidance for choosing the ones that are best suited to an inquiry learning curriculum. This chapter reviews recent findings on the use of technology in inquiry learning and provides suggestions and guidelines for incorporating technology in inquiry learning in order to maximize the pedagogical affordances of technology.
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Background

For education leaders (teachers, professors, curriculum designers, and administrators), there are well-documented benefits to using inquiry learning in a wide variety of grade levels, content levels, and contexts (Barrows & Tamblyn, 1980; Dochy, Segers, Van den Bossche, & Gijbels, 2003; Hmelo-Silver, 2004; Hmelo-Silver, Duncan, & Chinn, 2007; Walker & Leary, 2009). Besides promoting deep learning and critical thinking, inquiry learning is readily adaptable to 21st Century Skills such as information and communication technologies (ICT) literacy (Trilling & Fadel, 2012). Thus, curricular resources are maximized as students learn about a content area, practice thinking and reasoning skills, and practice using technology, all within the context of an inquiry learning setting.

Inquiry learning is learning that is driven by curiosity, the intrinsic desire of a learner to know something. It does not necessarily require technology to enact, and it has existed for at least a century (Barrow, 2006; Dewey, 1913). Inquiry learning begins with a question and requires students to develop solutions, ask more questions, solve problems, and actively build their knowledge (Savery, 2006). Ideally, inquiry learning uses an authentic, relevant question; students work collaboratively to investigate by collecting data, developing explanations or solutions, and communicating their ideas; the teacher in this setting is a facilitator of learning, not a sole source of knowledge (Hmelo-Silver et al., 2007). The specific procedures of inquiry learning vary across contexts. For instance, in project-based learning, the goal is to develop a pre-determined artifact, such as a computer program; students may be free to choose what the program should do and will solve problems along the way to developing it (Savery, 2006). Problem-based learning takes a slightly different approach: students receive a problem and the goal is to solve it, but the solution can take any form. One group might design a computer program as a solution, while another designs a board game (Savery, 2006). In all cases, the questions or scenarios used in inquiry learning are meant to inspire curiosity and drive the process of inquiry, and a key feature is that students build knowledge in an active role rather than passively receiving it.

Key Terms in this Chapter

21st Century Skills: The necessary knowledge and competencies for success in a world of constant change and lifelong learning: life and career skills (e.g., cross-cultural skills), learning and innovation skills (e.g., critical thinking and problem solving), key subjects (e.g., language arts, mathematics), 21 st century themes (e.g., global awareness), and information technology skills ( Trilling & Fadel, 2012 ). Note this term is sometimes used to refer to a specific framework and sometimes more generically to refer to modern literacies and competencies.

Wiki: An information website that is shared among users, who continually and collaboratively update and add to it. An important feature for education is that wikis track revision history, which allows students and teachers to view and discuss the processes of writing and knowledge building.

Augmented Reality: An experience that contains elements of the physical world and context-relevant virtual/computer-generated elements ( Wu, Lee, Chang, & Liang, 2013 ). Unlike virtual reality, in which the user is immersed in a completely computer-generated scene, augmented reality includes and interacts with perceptual information from the real world.

Computational Thinking: Uses the terminology of computer systems (algorithms, iterations, etc.) to express the skill of conceptualizing a problem, developing a solution, and testing and refining the solution ( Wing, 2006 ). Computational thinking refers to a cognitive skillset and does not necessarily require computers or any other technology.

TPCK (or TPACK): Technological pedagogical content knowledge is the integration of tools, teaching methods, and subject matter that is required for teachers, leaders, and instructional designers to effectively use technology in educative settings ( Koehler & Mishra, 2005 ; Mishra & Koehler, 2006 ).

Inquiry Learning: Learning that is driven by the learner’s need to know. Specific definitions vary, but generally inquiry learning includes steps of conceptualizing a problem or question; generating, testing, and evaluating solutions, and reflecting upon learning.

Scaffolding: In education, scaffolding refers to support that a person receives in doing a task they are learning. In most cases, the support is temporary and is gradually removed (or “faded”) as the learner becomes proficient. An example is a child and adult reading together, with the adult available to help with difficult words; as time goes on the child only needs help with the most difficult words and eventually needs no help at all. Scaffolding is crucial to effective inquiry learning ( Hmelo-Silver et al., 2007 ).

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