20 Questions To Guide Inquiry-Based Learning

See on Scoop.itEducational_Resources_Technologies

Recently we took at look at the phases of inquiry-based learning through a framework, and even apps that were conducive to inquiry-based learning on the iPad.

During our research for the phases framework, we stumbled across the following breakdown of the inquiry process for learning on 21stcenturyhsie.weebly.com (who offer the references that appear below the graphic). Most helpfully, it offers 20 questions that can guide student research at any stage, including: . . . .

20 Questions To Guide Inquiry-Based Learning

See on www.teachthought.com


Bletchley Park to offer cyberspace security advice

The home of Britain’s World War II codebreakers, Bletchley Park, is to offer internet safety advice to children.
Bletchley Park Trust, said: “The work undertaken at Bletchley made a real difference and helped to change the course of history.”
With this project “We hope to inspire the next generation of potential codebreakers and cybersecurity experts to keep us safe in the digital world.”

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Guest Post: Digital Game Based Learning

This is a guest post submitted by Silvianne Buttigieg a PGCE Computing (2012/13) student  at the University of Malta

Digital Game Based Learning helps learners interact and differentiate much more than with previous media. It helps students to view and solve problems through higher thinking skills and learn in the process by providing a truly authentic and attractive experience. Video games, besides being entertaining, are well structured tools, which increase engagement in learners and develop higher-order problem-solving and social skills through genuine learning experiences. Rather than read and listen, in these games students actively see and do, which makes them more involved in what they are doing.

Video (and educational) games present challenges to learners at a level at the outer edge of their ability (Gee, 2005). Well designed games are tailored to keep leading to harder challenges and continue this trend until the learner has mastered the skills needed, which fits perfectly with Vygotsky’s theory of the zone of proximal development (ZPD). Eight out of eleven studies showed that memory retention is better when using DGBL. Optimally, the players will be “pleasantly frustrated,” but not so frustrated that they give up and stop trying (Gee, 2005). Failing in a game leads to increased motivation to try a different strategy, which enhances problem solving abilities and stimulate more creativity. Moreover, by giving learners an environment in which it is acceptable to fail, DGBL games take away much of the anxiety that accompanies traditional teaching methods. Game-based learning can increase learning abilities and enhance system thinking (Shin 2012). It has also been discovered that students who practiced arithmetic problems using games did better than those who did not. Various scientific researchers have also found:

  • Gamers of all ages perform better than non-gamers on tests of attention, speed, accuracy, and multi-tasking.  (Trudeau, 2010)
  • Children who spend more time playing videogames score higher on tests of creativity. (Jackson, 2011)
  • Massively-multiplayer online role-playing games improve cognitive function among elderly players, and can help stave off age-related dementia. (Reports, 2012)
  • Playing videogames gives us the ability to control our dreams and stop our own nightmares – and therefore are being used to treat post-traumatic stress. (Hsu, 2010)

(McGonigal, 2012) I think the elements in this framework are highly present in DGBL:

  • Positive emotions
  • Engagement with challenging work and activities that require us to use our personal strengths
  • Relationships or strong social connections with friends, family, peers
  • Meaning or a sense of being a part of something bigger than ourselves or being of service to a larger group or cause
  • Accomplishment or the chance to learn, get better and achieve

Humans feel motivated and empowered when they control powerful tools (Gee, 2005). In my three week teaching practice I realised that most students regarded programming as ‘difficult’, ‘boring’ and ‘useless’, which confirms my opinion that the current approaches to introduce programming to youths are too difficult and uninteresting. By introducing  the simpler  Scratch  system of animations, games, stories etc., children’s creativity is pleasantly enhanced. Indeed as children program and share Scratch projects, they begin to develop as computationaI thinkers. Resnick, the developer himself, describes the process of learning using Scratch as a spiral …… where barriers are reduced. Indeed…. Scratch succeeds very well in fostering creativity and in social sharing of the multi-media products (Maloney. 2008). I believe we should aim to promote and introduce Scratch as part of our curriculum.

Guest Post: The Politics of Lifelong Learning

This is a guest post submitted by Prof Peter Mayo, a Professor in the Department of Education Studies, Faculty of Education, University of Malta

The Directorate for Lifelong Learning earlier this year organised an extremely well attended seminar in connection with the EU Agenda on Adult Learning. The great turn out for this meeting provides some indication of the general interest in the field, certainly as far as service providers are concerned.  The country has certainly come a long way since I first worked in the field in 1988. In many ways, the emphasis placed by the EU, through its funding structures, on Lifelong Learning must have served as a catalyst over the years.

There is however one worrying aspect of the current discourse that often makes it a far cry from the UNESCO espoused concept of Lifelong Education of the seventies and eighties.  The switch from lifelong education to lifelong learning is not innocent.  It places less emphasis on structures and entitlement and more on the individuals taking charge of their own learning, often at considerable expense.  It is an insidious discourse that minimises the role of the State and leaves everything to the market. Education is therefore turned from a social into an individual responsibility. Policy documents promoting these fashionable ideas should be the subject of constant critical scrutiny by discerning educators.

It was heartening to hear most of the stakeholders at the seminar focus on education as a public good rather than the consumption good that the shift in discourse, from that of UNESCO to the OECD and, to a certain extent, the EU, has brought about. Great emphasis was placed on free and genuinely accessible provision as a citizen entitlement. What was however worrying is the by now very conventional emphasis on ‘employability’, on ‘learning to earn,’ which renders what was once an expansive concept of education (Lifelong Education) rather reductionist in scope. This prevails throughout the educational discourse worldwide.

I find it disheartening to hear trade union officials, such as the UHM representative at the seminar,  speak more of investment in training of ‘human resources,’ that is ‘learning to earn’ and become employable, than of revitalizing that long standing trade union tradition of adult education known  as workers’ education. To my mind, this area represents one of the richest dimensions of the field.   It was rich enough to attract quite a range of leading 20th century UK-based intellectuals such as Raymond Williams, Richard Hoggart and Edward P. Thompson to engage in and write about the field. They wrote not of ‘employability’ but of employee empowerment and access to various types of knowledge.  This would allow them to develop beyond being simply producers and, I would add, consumers, these days, to becoming social actors, fully capable of contributing, individually and most likely collectively, to changing the world around them.

‘Employability’ is at the heart of the European Union agenda for lifelong learning, never mind the fact that employability does not necessarily mean employment.  In Europe, it is particularly fuelled through ESF funding on which many organisations in adult learning are increasingly becoming dependent. Rather than admitting to the failure to create sustainable employment, spokespersons for industry and policy makers place the emphasis on people lacking the necessary skills – a ‘jobs’ crisis’ couched in terms of a ‘skills crisis.’ The truth is that, in many parts of Europe, youngsters are gaining greater qualifications than their parents ever dreamed of obtaining and yet cannot enjoy their standard of living. This has been a recurring battle cry of the many indignados occupying various parts of the diminishing public spaces in Europe and across the Atlantic. The whole idea of lifelong learning, as currently promoted, gravitates around the notion of a ‘knowledge economy’ which might not lead to the level of employment and financial rewards being anticipated, given the global competition for the few high paying middle class jobs available.

That there should be some link between adult education and the economy is understandable. The setting up of the Employment & Training Corporation (ETC) and the re-establishment of the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) are steps in the right direction. Among other things, they provide state assistance to firms in developing their personnel requirements.  We all know the difficulties experienced by small companies, lacking economies of scale, to render ‘in house training’ a viable option; there is also the danger of poaching by rival firms.

It is however still worrying to see the dominant, all-pervasive discourse regarding adult education, in the context of lifelong learning, worldwide, reduced to simply learning for work. If anything, what we really need are forms of education which enable persons to learn to engage critically with work. This is the kind of education I would expect trade unions to be providing. It has been the staple of workers’ education in the past.  The narrow ‘employability’ view of lifelong learning, which attaches lots of importance to old and new basic skills (most laudable) but which ignores the very important notion of ‘critical literacy’, that is learning to read the world critically, as well as its construction through the media (critical media literacy), ignores a larger, albeit repressed tradition of adult education. This tradition serves to emphasise the role of the citizen as social actor. It also emphasises the role of adult learning as a vital activity within social movements, including labour movements. There is more to adult learning than is internationally celebrated at present.

Furthermore, an increase in investment in adult education or all education for that matter, with economic returns in mind, without a corresponding reciprocal investment in the economic sector, perpetuates, and probably exacerbates, the situation of ‘education for export’ that has been a characteristic of colonial and neo-colonial policies to date.

Guest Post: Even three years olds can inquire in Science! Experiences from the Pri-Sci-Net project

This is a guest post submitted by Prof Suzanne Gatt, a teacher trainer in Primary Science and Primary Environmental Education at the Faculty of Education, University of Malta

Imagine three and four year olds observing everyday how much a plant has grown, or mixing different substances such as sugar, coffee, breadcrumbs, flour with water to test what happens each time. Children are capable of asking questions, testing their opinions, and based on their observations, to draw their conclusions about how the world works. Yes, young children can inquire, be insightful and draw conclusions on evidence gathered. This is what science education with young children in the primary years should be – children actively inquiring about authentic problems which they encounter. This is what the 3 million FP7 project Pri-Sci-Net, funded by the European Commission is aiming to achieve in as many primary schools across Europe.

The Project Pri-Sci-Net, pioneered by The Malta Council for Science and Technology with the direction of Prof. Suzanne Gatt, a science educator, is working to promote inquiry-based learning in science in both local and European primary school classrooms. With a total of 17 partners in 14 different countries, the group will in the next three years be providing opportunities to schools and teachers wanting further training and resources for inquiry.  It will provide 45 science activities using IBSE which will be available in 15 different languages, organise national and international courses as well as two international conferences. The project will also  set up a virtual platform where teachers an upload and share the science activities.

Pri-Sci-Net also wants to recognize teachers’ work through a Certificate of Excellence. It also has opportunities to fund teachers to travel to the international activities being organised. It is hoped that all these efforts taking place will change science education in primary schools across Europe.

Interested teachers and other educators wanting to avail themselves of the free resources and opportunities offered through this project, e.g. access to the European networks, national and participation in international courses and conferences, should contact The Malta Council for Science and Technology for further details or visit the project website http://www.prisci.net