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e-Learning as inquiry | An Enabling e-Learning event

Started by Karen Spencer 11 Jul 2012 9:37am () Replies (20)

Enabling e-Learning teaching logo Are you using technologies in your classroom? Trialling a blog? Testing out an iPad? How do we know what is going well, and what needs to change?

The teaching as inquiry process, described in the New Zealand Curriculum, offers a clear process for thinking about what to focus on, why, and whether it was successful, based on how our students are learning.

What does this look like in an e-learning context?


This thread aims to feature stories, examples and guest teachers - Claire Amos and Mark Herring - who have walked the path already. We're looking forward to hearing about how you have tried to inquire into the way you use technologies, and how it went.

Meanwhile, here's a wee video from Claire to whet your appetite:





  • Karen Spencer (View all users posts) 16 May 2013 10:10am ()

    Just connecting you all to this great post from Hamish Chamers, shared this week in the ICTs in English forum. He reminds us of how we can provide improved support for each other's inquiries by finding out a little more about students' needs and teachers' context before we suggest a technology that might suit:

    "Often in teaching and learning (and I guess any profession) fundamental processes that initially appear quite straight forward can reveal some important and necessary shifts in our mental models. This has been the case for me this year as I’ve been involved in Teaching as Inquiry, my own and that of others. These experiences have illustrated a number of recent shifts (at least for me) in how we give each other advice and assistance. Particularly when we suggest possible ICTs to others that we’ve used and had some success with in teaching and learning.

     A couple of the shifts Teaching as Inquiry has prompted for me has been around how we consider issues, problems or needs in our classes and how we go about finding ways to address these. Because we work in teaching and learning communities where we often (rightly so) help each other out with our practice, there may also need to be changes in how we communicate our own (hopefully relevant) expertise to others it could help. 

    In the focusing inquiry it’s really important that we’re considering multiple theories about why something might be happening and our colleagues can help critique and challenge us here. It would seem obvious that we should choose the theory that has a combination of the most weight (they’re usually all true to some degree) and that we have the most ability or power to change.

    When it comes to settling on an intervention or way to address this in the teaching inquiry, we really want to consider a bunch of different options and pick the one that best fits our context and the one that will give our students the most chance of improved learning outcomes.

    Now all of this seems pretty obvious when laid out in the abstract but as we often find in the craziness of teaching life these things don’t always pan out in the best way possible. As we discover ways to better do our own inquiries and assist others with theirs however, we can maximise the chances of us picking the best theory, one we reasonable control over and then finding an effective intervention to address it.

    One way we can help each other out with effective focusing and teaching inquiries is to be aware of the way we give each other advice and guidance. Often when using digital communication mediums we have gotten used to (twitter-style) restricting our requests or explanation of our needs to somewhat short and sweet explanations. This is totally understandable and fine in many circumstances and the resulting assistance and advice we get is often similarly concise. We do this when we give a quick explanation of what we’re after, eg: “I’m looking for a web-based tool to help students with speeches or writing” or “I need an ipad app for quizzing students” and don’t always have the time to explain the context and situation of our students. The resulting, much appreciated offers of what’s worked for other teachers can be similarly concise, eg: “I used XXX and it worked really well for my students!” or “I’ve heard that people have used XXXX for that really successfully.”

    While there’s no particularly horrible consequences to this manner of communication (worst-case scenario we might find something someone has suggested didn’t work for our students and we move on to try something else instead) we could be missing some potentially awesome learnings for us as teachers and for our students!

    If we can find a few extra moments to explain our intended learning outcomes and a little about our context, potential advice or suggestion givers might be able to better suggest a suitable ICT for us to use.

    And if we’re going to offer some ICT advice or suggestions, giving others an idea of the context we’ve used or seen them used in and even a few pros and cons with their use is more likely to help someone select something that fits their students and what they need.

    I wonder if we’re used to providing this extra detail with other pedagogical practices and techniques but not so much with ICTs. Perhaps the enthusiasm we’ve gained from seeing them work for our students means we don’t always realise the context-specific variables that made them successful for us. And it may even be that some of the ways e-learning has been delivered in schools in the past can stop us from realising the need for contextual and ICT-specific information when considering or suggesting them for teaching and learning uses.

    Whatever the reasons though, next time you have a chance to help someone else out with a focussing inquiry, a teaching inquiry, take some time to find out about their context. Or even if someone does just give a quick rundown of an issue, take a minute or so to find out a little more about their context and hoped-for learning outcomes. And when it gets to the suggestions part, give them a quick summary of the learning intention you had in mind if you used it and perhaps even a snappy pros and cons summary to help them go into it with their eyes wide open."

  • Catriona Pene (View all users posts) 22 Aug 2012 12:09pm ()

    Hi all, one really powerful way we improved the sharing and transparency at my school was to increase the opportunities for teachers to work "across level". This meant that

    *we had mixed levels of teachers in each group (better vertical alignment of expectation / experience)

    *that the same people weren't always sharing together, allowing different voices to be heard and removing the roles that teachers sometimes fall into when they are overly familiar with who they work with.

    The conversations and transparency of practice has been phenomenal and we have used it for great pd sessions as well as sharing inquiry. 

  • Karen Spencer (View all users posts) 22 Aug 2012 11:56am ()


    You raise a really important question here, Mark, about the way we not only inquire into how we each raise student achievement using technology - but also how we de-silo those conversations so that the inquiry isn't just happening at classroom level, but also at school level.

    The e-Learning Planning Framework (professional learning) reminds us that we need a safe, shared learning community to do this, and there is plenty of research (such as that from Fullan, and NZCER's recent future-focused report) on how important it is to share what we do. Mark Osborne recently shared one way in which they share inquiry at Albany.

    So, how does a school work towards creating this kind of culture? How have you tried to make it happen at your school?


    [image source: LicenseAttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by furiousgeorge81]

  • Mark Herring (View all users posts) 10 Aug 2012 4:09pm ()

    We had a great chat in our staff meeting this week with one of our teachers about her T Inquiry. I had an 'open conversation' with her about how things were going and where she was going next. The feedback afterwards was about how powerful that modeling of reflection was for our staff. While it was pretty brave of her to allow that to happen (she was put on the spot and did an amazing job at articulating her thoughts) it showed us the importance of a collegial culture within your school.

    It's so enriching to have people share what is helping them move towards their goal - and how do they know it's working (or not).  BUT, it does work better when we have a level of transperancy and trust amongst the staff - sharing is the key! It's so enriching for everyone.

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 10 Aug 2012 11:04am ()

    Megaphone Sharing stories of effective practice, can really help if schools are starting out with teacher/student inquiries. As well as examples from Claire (Epsom Girls Grammer School ICT PD resource bank and Mark (ICT2LRN Cluster - Southland resource bank), other ICT PD clusters have shared reflective summaries about 'inquiry with an e-learning lens'.


    With a literacy focus in 'teaching as inquiry':


    • The Aoraki Rural cluster has a large bank of resources that profiles a ‘teaching as inquiry’ focus on using e-learning to improve: achievement in written language, motivate students to write, children’s oral language skills, engage reluctant writers, to improve reading comprehension as well as ‘integrating ICT into the inquiry process'.


    Using e-learning tools as part of 'teaching as inquiry':


    Two clusters share how they have used Google sites as a tool to promote teachers reflection:


    Professional learning culture with a focus on 'teaching as inquiry':


  • Karen Spencer (View all users posts) 06 Aug 2012 6:45am ()

    Hi all,

    I am linking across to a great post from Hamish Chalmers (running in the ICTs in English forum), in which he explores the way technologies can help capture data around students' understanding in straightforward, as -it-happens ways. Here's a taste:

    "A few weeks later on the way to school Lafawnduh was thinking about her inquiry. Her head was buzzing with possible efficient ways to get data on the impact of her interventions and what amazing ICTs she could use to manage it. She wondered about using google forms or moodle to collect feedback from her students or perhaps even a poll on facebook....". Read the full post here....

    Thanks, Hamish:-)

  • Anne Sturgess (View all users posts) 05 Aug 2012 7:44pm ()

    The teachers in a school I'm working with have chosen to use the dimensions of the e-learning planning framework for their personal professional Inquiries. Following on from a school-wide analysis of e-learning, these teachers (and leadership) are using student achievement data to help them pose questions about how their 'dimension' contributes to student achievement and what the next steps are to continue to move student learning forward. Although inquiries focus on their own practice and students, staff meeting time is set aside for teachers to share their learning and discuss how this might contribute to schoolwide e-learning development. The school-wide Inquiry then focuses on the questions:

    What do we need to know, learn and do most urgently to make a significant difference to our students, particularly those in the target groups?

    The Teaching as Inquiry model and the eLPF have been very useful in this process. Teachers are also keen to look at how to use e-portfolios to support their professional inquiries and the VLN has provided a wealth of information.

    What will improved student achievement look like? (This question relates back to the school-wide targets)

    How will we record the learning and process, not just the outcome - for future learning & to share with whanau?

  • Diane Mills (View all users posts) 03 Aug 2012 8:13am ()

    Thank you Mark for sharing your inquiry template - it is important for teachers to have an understanding of the process  or cycle , so supporting teachers with a 'blueprint' is an integral part of the process.  Claire has shared her starting point above too.  Liz including students as part of the process is an important issue too - building the capacity of students to understand their own learning and what next steps are needed can only help with student achievement and engagement.  

    In terms of key questioning to challenge and enrich inquiries, I go back to a talk I heard by Jan Robertson.  She maintained that teachers should be able to answer (not in relation to Teaching as Inquiry though, I might add)....'This is what I believe'...;  'This is why'...; and 'This is the impact it will have on children and learning'.... These could however be changed to suggestion prompts at a shared reflection to: 'This is what I now believe'...  'This is why'...  and 'This is the impact it had on children and learning'....  The latter statement supported with evidence of course.

    One of the real values in carrying out inquiries is the feedback sessions to other staff members with the conversations, questioning and clarification that should then prompt more thinking and new possibilities for all attending.

  • Tracy Bowker (View all users posts) 02 Aug 2012 2:56pm ()

    Great thread...

    One brief example from a secondary school.....after situating themselves on the e-Learning Planning Framework (ELPF), the school identified priorities across the five dimensions. It was clear to see there were common trends/ideas coming through so a school-wide inquiry question was formed based on this data. ‘How can e-Learning be a stronger part of department planning to support and influence better use of assessment data, especially to target students who are underachieving? This inquiry was broken down and discussed at the individual and department level and developed according to context. Templates were designed to help support this process and student voice was collected. There was a lot more to the process than described but the use of the ELPF to help support and identify teacher inquiry was invaluable.

  • Mark Herring (View all users posts) 02 Aug 2012 11:31am ()

    One of the things that we talked a lot about when planning and working through our inquiries is to make our goal focussed on raising achievement and not the tool. We're finding it helps teachers to have 'Improving engagement in reading,' or 'raising student's achievement in their basic facts,' as the target - rather than, 'how can I use efolios to improve... etc' I've found that sometimes our pre concieved ideas about what might work in our classes are not as beneficial as we might think once the inquiry begins. It gives us the flexibility to start with an idea but switch or change strategies if needed (the beauty of a true inquiry, I think). This is one approach that we find useful

    We've also used templates with key questions to help guide the process, Diane. They have questions like, 'what strategies are working well?' and 'How do you know?' Here's a link to an example of reflection templates we offered to teachers to help guide them through.

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