Utilising ICTs to Enhance Inquiry


I’ve recently read an article by Elizabeth Buckner and Paul Kim documenting their research on the implications of Integrating technology and pedagogy for inquiry-based learning using the Stanford Mobile Inquiry-based Learning Environment (SMILE).  While this particular study examined the influence of SMILE on inquiry-based learning in developing countries, it raised several factors for consideration by any school wanting to integrate ICTs in an inquiry-based learning environment.  

The Integration of ICTs and Pedagogy

Schools around the world are increasingly adopting technology into their classroom environments and boasting one-to-one or mobile device programs.  While these initiatives are essential in twenty-first century learning environments, what we are yet to hear about is exactly how effective ICTs are in enhancing the learning in a classroom.   Learning using ICTs incorporates more than putting these devices in a classroom or the hands of our students, it must involve an integration between pedagogy and technology by supporting the incorporation of meaningful educational content and contextualized pedagogy (Buckner & Kim, 2014, p.100).  This may include for example, considering what effect placing a mobile device in the hands of every student in a classroom will have on their ability to collaborate and problem-solve.  There is argument here that, without appropriate pedagogy, this would actually decrease the way dimensions mentioned in the Australian Curriculum General Capabilities, particularly the ICT Capability, are met by students in their learning.  

While effectively, mobile devices broaden the learning environments and opportunities students are exposed to, as educators, we are focusing too much on the type of technology we provide, instead of the pedagogical techniques designed to utilise this technology appropriately.  

Student and Teacher Training in ICTs

It may seem obvious that educators must have a strong knowledge of the technology and devices they are using with their students. However, Buckner & Kim suggest that often, this is the biggest factor in decreasing the ability of students to learn using ICTs. Educators who feel uncomfortable with the use of ICTs or are scared of losing authority and control when students use ICTs in the classroom, greatly decrease the opportunities of students to question, problem-solve and learn (2014, p.102). This factors supports the notion that schools must begin to provide greater support for staff in their use of ICTs and place greater focus on the skills they need to use their in their teaching and learning – not the programs.  

ICTs and Mobile Devices role in enhancing Inquiry Learning

As educators, we are well aware of the potential of ICTs and mobile devices to increase engagement in the learning of our students, however, we must pay attention to the effect our pedagogical practices has on this.  Simply providing a student with a Mobile Device to type their work instead of write does not automatically increase engagement in learning.  Instead, we must consider how we can change our teaching and learning in relation to ICTs and Mobile Devices to promote, “a pedagogical shift from didactic teacher-centred to participatory student-centred learning” (Looi, Seow, Zhang, So, Chen, & Wong, 2010, p. 156). In their article, Buckner and Kim examine the use of the SMILE model to promote the questioning involved in an inquiry-based learning environment through several different case studies across many countries.  The video below provides an accompanying overview of the SMILE method used in the research of Buckner & Kim.  

Whether or not the SMILE method is adopted in your school, Buckner & Kim lead us to acknowledge the importance as educators, particularly those who adopt inquiry-based learning practices, to consider exactly how we are using and integrating pedagogy AND ICTs to improve teaching and learning in our classrooms.  

Reference List

Buckner, E., & Kim, P. (2014). Integrating technology and pedagogy for inquiry-based learning: The stanford mobile inquiry-based learning environment (SMILE). PROSPECTS, 44(1), 99-118. doi:10.1007/s11125-013-9269-7

Looi, C. K., Seow, P., Zhang, B. H., So, H. J., Chen, W., & Wong, L. H. (2010). Leveraging mobile technology for sustainable seamless learning: A research agenda. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(2), 154–169.

Why do teachers like to collaborate about practice but teach in private?

Education: turning mirrors into windows

I have been wanting to start blogging about my professional practice and ideas for a while now, however, was unsure of my exact purpose and direction.  As a future-forward educator I absolutely love the ability we have in the twenty-first century to remove the walls of the classroom and consider learning as something we can do in any location, at any time.  What I have been struggling with for a while is the question of why there are so many educators who don’t get excited about this notion?  I attended the Middle Years of Schooling (MYSA) conference last week and one of the speakers touched on the topic of vulnerability and how it can affect many educators.  This really hit home for me. Why, as teachers, are we so excited about collaboration, yet too scared to actually open up our classroom to others? There are so many reasons why teachers could feel threatened about removing the walls of their classroom, including feeling judged, scared, threatened and so on.  However, if we are going to be educators of the twenty-first century, we need to be transparent in our practice as well as being collaborative.  It’s no longer realistic to expect that teaching will open happen inside the four walls of our classroom.  If we are providing our students with learning experiences and skills that will prepare them for an unknown future, we need to embrace the notion that learning happens beyond our physical environment.  This helps me to articulate to the purpose of my blog, I can preach about transcending the walls of the classroom all I want, but nothing will change unless I provide ideas and examples on how this can happen.  Hopefully, this will assist us in changing the mindset that what happens in the classroom is private.

Most days I wake up and want to change the world of education in one foul swoop, but today I know it has to be with one small step at a time.  Watch this space to see how exactly how educators can begin to remove the walls of their classroom.. one brick at a time. Welcome to the future of learning.