Posts Tagged inquiry-based learning

All Aboard the BYOT Train

Guest Post by Cassie Shoemaker @CShoeITS3
Instructional Technology Specialist – Chestatee Elementary School

Train3As an Instructional Technology Specialist at a Title 1 elementary school, one of my roles is to coach teachers on how to integrate technology into the curriculum.  In our current digital age, this is not optional.   Classrooms must reform to prepare students to become successful for careers of the future.  We are already 13 years into the 21st Century!

So how do we get all teachers on board?  The first step is to build community within the school and within each classroom.  This is the foundation to getting any program to work – especially something as new as Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT).   Everyone should be comfortable learning as they go, and knowing that mistakes are okay, as long as knowledge is gained from them!

Train1The next step is to focus on instruction – technology should always come later!  Providing professional development on higher order thinking, project and inquiry based learning, differentiated instruction, flexible grouping, driving questions, different levels of technology use, the 4 C’s of digital age learning, etc… is the most important step to ensuring that technology integration is being utilized to enhance instruction and take kids to places they’ve never been before! After educators have solid instructional skills, technology integration will truly be effective.

Providing professional development opportunities for teachers such as using the latest tech tools, doing walk throughs into other classrooms to see BYOT in action, and having people walk through their rooms and provide feedback are essential!  Having administration, other teachers, and instructional technology specialists walk through classrooms and give honest feedback and suggestions has been a huge catalyst for change!  Train2Let teachers know it is okay to learn from the students.  Encourage the students to show what their devices can do, while the teacher focuses on the curriculum.  Teachers who focus on the devices and feel like they must know how to use it before allowing it into the classroom will always be swimming upstream.  Devices and software change constantly.  Teachers must accept that and let that fear go.  Educators will be amazed to see how much easier t eaching becomes when control shifts and students are allowed to have choice to be the experts of their own devices.

Technology in the classroom is one of the fastest growing movements that have ever occurred in education.  When it is utilized appropriately, children are truly becoming prepared for the real world, and isn’t that the purpose of school?  The BYOT train is only going to go faster, so it’s time to jump on, or risk being stuck behind while everyone else has reached new places!

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Supporting Inquiry with BYOT


Kim Simshauser describes the 4 C’s Cafe

Learning at Liberty Middle School in Forsyth County, Georgia, begins with a focus on inquiry in its newly remodeled media center. Through a combination of school funds and the ingenuity of the instructional technology specialist, Kim Simshauser, the media center has been reimagined into a hub of digital age learning.  In fact, Kim refers to the new space as “The 4C’s Café” in reference to the skills of collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking evident throughout the school.  Students are welcomed into the media center to begin learning before the start of the school day.

inquiry1School personnel and volunteer students act as baristas (much like Starbucks) and serve up hot chocolate, decaffeinated beverages, and instructional advice while students browse the book collection, use their personal technology tools for research, study individually or in groups, or watch the news being streamed over two monitors.  Kim notes that since the changes have been made that the learning environment is being used more than ever by teachers and students, and now the media center is packed with activity from morning until the end of the day.


Principal Connie Stovall explains the iTeam

The classrooms at Liberty Middle School also support inquiry through guiding questions and learning projects that are facilitated by the students’ personal technology tools.  Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) has been implemented school wide.  Students are encouraged to bring their own devices to school, or they may use the school’s technology resources to develop their digital age skills.  Principal Connie Stovall provides a scaffold for this emphasis on inquiry by working with her staff and students to develop an inquiry-based team or iTeam.  The teachers and students in this seventh grade team applied to participate as trailblazers in the school’s inquiry initiative.  They work with each other, their students, and Kim Simshauser to plan lessons that empower the learners. The iTeam students realize that they have a big responsibility to be leaders throughout the school, and their teachers were recently named Team of the Year by the Georgia Middle School Association.  In the 2013-2014 school year, the seventh grade team will loop with their students to eighth grade, and new sixth and seventh grade iTeams will be added.  The eventual goal is to implement inquiry-based teams throughout the school.

inquiry4Teachers and students at Liberty Middle School discover that inquiry can be more easily facilitated when students bring their own technology tools to school.  Guiding questions can lead to in-depth research, and students can explore new ways to show what they have learned about a topic.  These explorations surpass typical standards-based performance tasks and content.  They become authentic representations of real-world problems in context.  One goal of inquiry is to lead to more questions that become even more relevant to students as they become interested and passionate about a subject.

Here are some additional links and resources related to inquiry-based learning:

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