Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Next steps: getting ready for inquiry

Although we are still adjusting to the routines in our literacy centers, we are ready to begin using the iPads in our content area instruction and inquiry. A little background: our faculty has both studied and been featured in a book/DVD series by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey "Smokey" Daniels entitled Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action. Inquiry-based learning has led to increased student choice and engagement, deep and meaningful questioning, and real-world advocacy and action. Our iPad grant proposal centered around incorporating the iPad into all the stages of student inquiry for our first and second graders, in addition to supporting their literacy development. Now that we have a good foundation for using the iPads in literacy centers, we are ready to integrate them into into content area instruction.

Our first step will be to use multimedia to inspire student questioning and build background knowledge. Teachers are preparing slide shows and selecting web sites about their upcoming content area units, and these will be used alongside print resources in the classroom to help guide students as they wonder about the content and plan their learning. First and second graders are visual learners, and the iPads bring them the ability to access, manipulate, and think about images at their own pace. Images inspire wondering and questioning. Questions build student interest and frame future research. Questioning is a key component in the inquiry process, and I think the iPads will make it a richer, more engaging experience for the students.

Students will be using the app Simplenote to list the questions they have as they view the images and slide shows. I have become a little obsessed with Simplenote today -- as the name implies, it's incredibly simple. Students can create their own notes on individual iPads, and the teacher can view them all in real time in a single browser window. I'll post again once I see how it works in practice, but my test runs have been left me very optimistic. And best of all, it's free!

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