After a year of mainly online-only PD for me while in Argentina, I was excited to get together with my colleagues, many of whom I had not seen in several years in other roles, and to learn more about the current emphasis on inquiry-based learning. Although today's sessions focused primarily on the new SSHG curriculum document, many themes presented could easily be integrated into other curriculum areas, and I was eager to clarify some of the understanding I had begun to build as I was reading and preparing for interviews this past spring.
There seems to be a lot of talk about "inquiry" these days... everywhere you look, from the Fullan report to the revised curriculum documents emerging, "inquiry" is the order of the day in terms of what moves learning forward.
In an effort to clarify my own thinking on this matter, I had decided back in March to develop a graphic organizer to compare four recent ministry documents:
- Creating Pathways to Success
- The Revised Social Studies Curriculum 2013
- Ministry of Ed Monograph, 2013. Inquiry-Based Learning
- Monograph, 2011. Getting Started with Student Inquiry
I attempted below to link the inquiry process definition in each, and consider practical implications for the classroom.
After a keynote by Jill Colyer, whose new book we were all given a copy of (thanks, Bev!), we separated into smaller sessions. The first one I attended was about integrating technology into the various phases of Inquiry Learning.
My first session was co-facilitated by an elementary Instructional Coach and a Secondary Instructional Resource Teacher; they helped us consider some technological tools that could be used to augment, modify and redefine how we teach the different phases of inquiry. I've listed a few that stood out for me:
Padlet (they used a QR code to take us to a padlet they had created in advance!)
Gather and Organize:
Pic Collage (I made one tonight on my iPad to send to some friends!) and One Note
(sort of got distracted with some colleagues I'd not seen in a while during the middle, sorry...)
In addition the usual blogs, wikis, video journals and e-portfolios, the facilitators encouraged us to use programs like piktochart or infogram to create infographics with our more visual learners, or to have students consider their audience and post youtube videos.
So the Royal Geographical Society of Canada has several GIANT maps that teachers can book; they are delivered to your school for a three-week period, along with a treasure box of instructional activities that range from tracing and measuring the migratory routes of various animals, to describing patterns of the Canadian Boreal Forest!
Perhaps some of the best PD came after the official day was over: A colleague and I headed over to the local Starbucks to talk shop and work on some technology projects. It was here that I learned about Kidrex, a type of kid-friendly Google, and Blendspace, a way for teachers to gather and prearrange a set of online resources in advance of a topic-specific student research project.
After such a long break, it was really good to be back with my colleagues, experiencing real live, in-person professional learning.