Oct 25 2022

How to Leverage Ed Tech for Inquiry-Based Learning in K–12 Schools

The key to inquiry-based learning is leading with questions and scenarios that spark curiosity from students. Technology can help facilitate these moments.

As schools look for innovative ways to engage students and navigate digital learning environments, active learning is becoming increasingly popular. This is especially true in K–12 districts, where educators are aiming to prepare students for this approach in higher education. Active learning has been found to be successful in many online and in-person learning environments, and one approach is inquiry-based learning.

Ramsey Musallam, a teacher at California’s Sonoma Academy and an adjunct professor of education at Sonoma State University and Concordia University, has developed inquiry-based learning environments for his students.

“My research interests are really at the place where curiosity and cognitive load meet — creating learning environments that are structured and predictable but also guided by curiosity,” he says.

Musallam works to find tech-focused solutions that facilitate inquiry-based learning. Consider these insights to leverage ed tech for inquiry-based learning in K–12 schools.

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What Is Inquiry-Based Learning?

Inquiry-based learning aims to trigger students’ curiosity by posing questions, problems or scenarios before presenting straightforward information. It’s the inverse of a more traditional learning approach in which teachers present facts and information upfront that lead to student questions and open-ended discussion.

To Musallam, there are two tenets of inquiry-based learning: inquiry, or the concept of questioning, and the concept of delaying the knowledge transfer from teacher to student.

“Lead with questioning, so the question is actually the engine of the learning experience,” he says. “The lecture, or information transfer, is in response to student questioning rather than directing.”

How Can Schools Create Inquiry-Based Learning Environments?

The key to inquiry-based learning is to present questions to students or provoke them into asking questions. Educators can accomplish this by presenting them with discrepancies and perplexing problems or challenges.

Ramsey Musallam
Lead with questioning, so the question is actually the engine of the learning experience.”

Ramsey Musallam Teacher, Sonoma Academy

“Then use their questions to guide a process where students are tunneled into their misconceptions. Once that happens, the responsive instruction occurs,” Musallam says.

By creating information gaps to spark curiosity, this form of instruction boosts student engagement and motivation.

How Can Tech Solutions Facilitate Inquiry-Based Learning?

Musallam says he uses technology to strategically facilitate those sparks in curiosity.

He takes advantage of the ease of screen-sharing multimedia, often embedding YouTube videos into Google Slides. He then uses Google’s tools to edit the video to obscure or hide information in some way; for example, by trimming it to a shorter clip or removing the sound. Musallam also uses editing software to remove certain elements of a video or image to present only a part of the story. He shares Google Forms so students can ask questions anonymously.

The goal is to teach students in a way where enough information is withheld to make them curious but not demotivated.

Additional ed tech solutions can bolster these efforts. Educators can use Promethean interactive as a touch screen, or to show audio and video and share files from their devices. In many instances, students can wirelessly cast their screens to the panels too.

Promethean takes a device-agnostic approach to ed tech solutions, says Paul Naser, the company’s head of professional development projects. With its ClassFlow software, students can connect with each other across platforms, while teachers can run polls and quizzes, share their screens and set up virtual activities such as crossword puzzles and memory games.

LEARN MORE: Untether tech in the modern K–12 learning environment with these expert insights.

How Can Your District Adopt Inquiry-Based Learning?

When adopting inquiry-based learning practices, Musallam recommends that districts and their technology partners have workshops with educators to understand their teaching goals, uncover possible inefficiencies in lesson plans, and find out how inquiry-based learning and ed tech solutions may address the inefficiencies. It’s about presenting staff with solutions, not selling equipment.

“Ask, What is your mission statement for your use of technology, keeping in mind your personal pedagogy?” Musallam says. “Then you’re talking to teachers about their teaching practices, not selling them on technology.”

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