Not much

As previously blogged, I’m doing Inquiry-based learning with my Year 11 Information Processes and Technology (IPT) class. Our topic now is Analysis and our focus question is “What price a dream?”.

The class has been working on this for a few lessons now and yesterday I asked if they felt they were learning. One responded with “Not much“. I didn’t take offence because it is literally better than “nothing” (what they used to say until I got them to reflect regularly, i.e. stop long enough to think of what they have learned). Besides, the relevant syllabus content really isn’t difficult; if I were to teach it lecture-style, I would cover in 1 lesson, what has taken us 4, so far.


I got thinking…..

and this is what came of it…..

I started the lesson with this on the board:

Inquiry-based learning

  1. contextual (inquiry)
  2. self-directed
  3. personalised

I told them that when I started, I found them unmotivated and disengaged (also mentioned in my Inquiry-based Learning post). I mentioned that doing Inquiry would perhaps get them engaging more with the content. So the first one was on Cloud Storage and this one now on a life dream for Analysis. Many students nod at this stage realising that indeed they engaged with the syllabus content within the said contexts as well as that their inquiry journeys were largely self-directed and personalised.

I then drew this, explaining as I went:

For all those examples, I named names. I identified students who were showing learning the syllabus, extending their learning, and even abstracting. Seeing individual faces light up as their little gems were acknowledged is priceless!!! (#youmatter) As it turned out, students loved these “shout-outs” (as they call it).

It’s probably best to just “quote” myself here:

If you think you haven’t learned much, it’s because you haven’t pushed yourself enough. My job as a teacher is not to just tell you about things but to give you contexts for learning, opportunities to learn, challenge you and give you feedback. Self-directed learning requires discipline and motivation.

I’m here. Are you asking enough questions? When you ask questions, I answer back – often with a question. But, I meet you where you’re at. Some of you work harder than others, and that’s ok. And those of you who’ve sought my feedback have learned more.

So, are you asking enough questions? Because really, if you’re curious enough, there is no limit to what you can learn.

To be honest, I lost a few along the way but many stayed with me through my mini speech cum reflection cum challenge. One even applauded. Not surprisingly, it was the one who said ‘not much’ yesterday; and today, he got more than he ever expected to learn in an IPT class. In fact, he even asked if I had different approaches for different classes (sounds familiar, yes?) I answered him and added, “Inquiry seems to be working best for me and that means this class“. One of these days, I will post about the “how” I’m doing this with my year 11s.


What’s your (teaching) style?

Today, one of my year 12 students asked if I taught all my classes using different methods.

Serendipity right there as I was thinking of blogging about the different teaching styles (the term pedagogy gags a bit) I’ve been using with 3 of my classes. In fact, I’ve blogged about all of them already:

Project-based Learning (PBL) – Year 12 Information Processes and Technology

Inquiry-based Learning – Year 11 Information Processes and Technology

Games-based Learning – Year 9 Information and Software Technology

Apart from PBL, I’m a newbie to the other two styles and totally loving the whole experience. It feels good to try different ways of teaching and expanding my pedagogical (gag) repertoire. I do believe a diversity in approach keeps me interested and ditto for the students. A win-win in my books.

I have no preference as such, as each approach has its strengths. I think what makes them work in my meagre experience is that each one is all about the learning, fostered through a regular dose of feedback (teacher-student, student-teacher, student-student). It is a community built on relationships built through constant connection. All approaches focus on the instructional core: student, teacher, content – and the interactions thereof.

I do not see myself as an innovative educator – that really is  not my aim. I daresay I am a learning (vs learned) teacher, with an eclectic approach to teaching and learning. Yep, that’s my style. What about you?

I like this “doodle” by Giulia Forsythe. Though I don’t claim to to pursue innovative pedagogy, there are some interesting points here methinks.


Is this Inquiry-based Learning?

One cannot have a conversation with Edna Sackson (@whatedsaid) and not be excited about the potential of Inquiry-based learning. Excited I am, for sure. Trouble is, I don’t know much about it really other than that learning is driven by inquiry.

So, that’s what I tried to do, ie. design a unit around a driving question (DQ). It had elements of Project-Based Learning (PBL). I borrowed ideas from Bianca Hewes (@BiancaH80) through her blog, PBL workshops and edmodo.

I found my year 11 Information Processes and Technology (IPT) students rather unmotivated. Filling in for another teacher for a few weeks, I did not have the luxury of getting to know them well enough to be confident in designing something engaging around their new topic Storing and Retrieving – a topic I personally found rather tedious. I thought, “If I can’t even enthuse myself, how on earth will I get these kids on board?

It was truly an inspired moment when I hit on the driving question of : “Can we trust the cloud?”

The task in a page - Can we trust the cloud?

Inquiry as context for learning

In just over 2 weeks, we studied our topic via the DQ: Can we trust the cloud?. The students went on to explore various aspects of cloud storage. Groups of 2 or 3 looked at several services: DropBox, iCloud, Google Drive and the internal Sharepoint-based intranet. They analysed the hardware and software involved as well as the issues relating to their chosen service provider. It was not surprising for them to conclude anyone’s personal data storage strategy should include more than one approach, ie have a variety of options such as portable hard disks, etc.

Ultimately, we covered everything in the syllabus and more besides. In fact, they also learned about the:

  • issues of working in groups
  • challenge of presenting in front of an audience
  • opportunities to teach and learn from each other
  • benefits of regularly reflecting on one’s work
  • benefits of regular feedback from the teacher as I checked in on their progress (I asked lots of guiding questions)
  • collaboration via the wiki
The wiki was another inspired move. None of them have ever contributed to one. So, I set up a sandbox version first, called About Me. I put my own entry as an example and got them to create their own pages. This allowed them to play with the Sharepoint wiki features as well as give me a quick way to get to know them. The lesson allocated to this “play time” was well worth the benefits. It was a good investment. In the end, the class had shared notes on the topic that each of them contributed to (granted in varying degrees of quality).
For a task that had no grade attached, I was pleasantly surprised and moved at the level of engagement. They worked; some harder than others but they all worked. Can they do better? For sure! I am so happy with and for them.
But my question remains, is this inquiry-based learning?
Is that question even important?