Friday, February 21, 2014

Web 2.0 and IBL

            As I continue to explore the world of Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) the amount of materials that allow for creative instructional lessons is seemingly limitless.  Over the last week I have been exploring the idea of incorporating Web 2.0 resources into my classroom.  Web 2.0 is, “a second generation of Internet-based learning services that emphasize online collaboration and sharing among users.” (Discovery Education) These resources range from simple blogs for the students to share their thoughts, to full on video creation.  What is truly exceptional about these resources is that that they allow the students the flexibility to demonstrate their learning in ways that are not possible with more traditional methods.  Dare I say, that gone are the days of simply writing an essay or giving a presentation to the class.

            Speaking from firsthand experience I have used a number of these resources successfully in my classroom.  The web application Voicethread is one of my favorite resources, because it allows those students who have difficulty writing their thoughts down, use their voice to give their reports.  Students simply upload an image and then record themselves talking over that image.  This has proven especially successful with my ELL students who are fluent in English but still struggle with the written part of our language.  My other new favorite is to have my students create wiki’s for a project topic.  The flexibility of the wiki allows for students to present their information however they see fit, and also to embed a number of other resources that would not be possible in other formats.  This all leads me to the main question, why use Web 2.0 resources for IBL?

            As I have learned, a IBL lesson must engage the student and allow them the flexibility to explore the topic however they see fit.  As they explore and learn the student must be able to communicate their knowledge in ways that are comfortable and authentic to the student.  Today, 96% of all students engage in social networking and 57% of teenagers create online content. (Discovery Education)In all honesty there is only so much flexibility in a traditional project of creating a poster, presentation or paper.  These staples of education allow for the student to present their knowledge, but in a very limited fashion.  As I have found from teaching, students when given the opportunity will more often than not surprise you with what they create.  By providing them the opportunity to create a product using the Web 2.0 resources out there, their creativity is exploited, not stifled.   

            This leads me to the next burning question that I have about successfully using IBL in my classroom.  My concern is, how in this digital age can an educator successfully use the tools available while also staying within a school districts outdated technology policies?  I teach an a very technology oriented district that supports and encourages the integration of technology resources into lessons.  Yet, even my district blocks a number of websites that would be beneficial to students because of security threats.  I am not talking about threats from hacking or viruses, instead these are threats posed to my high school students because they are posting things online.  For example, Google sites and Google docs are blocked from student access because the district cannot control the content being posted to this resource.  Youtube is another resource that students cannot access from school, yet sometimes this does provide valuable resources for the students to use.  My fear is that a great resource will become available, only to find that it is not supported or blocked by my district.  Which, in my opinion, defeats the entire benefit from Web 2.0 activities and hurts the student’s chances and opportunities for IBL lessons.


Discovery Education, . N.p.. Web. 20 Feb 2014. <>.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Changing Views on Inquiry Based Learning

In my last blog post I left you with this statement, “Despite all of this I am still left wondering how successful the IBL process is when it comes to differentiation.   I can picture making the assignments and activities more difficult for your higher achieving students, I just am left wondering how to accommodate for those students who have pretty severe learning disabilities and accommodations on their IEP’s.”  Well I feel as if that question has been answered. 

                As I continued to explore and gain a deeper understanding of Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) I stumbled upon the three types of inquiry possible within a IBL lesson.  They are Teacher-Directed, Teacher-Student Shared and Student-Directed.  As I wrote my last post I was unaware of the different types of direction that can go into a IBL lesson.  I was focused entirely on the student directed model, which is why I had my fears and doubts about the use of IBL in a classroom that has a number of different ability levels.  Yet, if the teacher where to develop a lesson that could be both student directed, for those highly motivated and high achieving students and also provide accommodations through the other two models, then differentiation in the classroom would be both easy and highly beneficial to the students.

                In a student directed approach the students could explore the question how they wanted and reach their own conclusions.  However, for this to be successful the students must have the necessary process skills in order to succeed.  These skills have been identified in a number of places, but I have found those skills outlined by the Center for Educational Policy Research to be the most helpful.  This list provides readers with the process skills that are necessary to succeed in today’s colleges.  While these are important skills to have as students, it is necessary to understand that some, if not most, of our students are not at this point yet.  That is why the other two types of lessons available to IBL are so important.

                With teacher-directed or teacher-student shared there is the possibility of differentiating the instruction to fit the individual needs of the student.  This is exactly what my fear was in my prior blog.  By having more guidance from the teacher, or other students, those students who need the extra support will be able to receive it.  This scaffolding approach to IBL allows all students in the classroom to pursue the passion for learning, which all humans have.  The accommodations that can be made could be as simple as a graphic organizer for the student to the teacher picking the resources and providing all of the materials for the student.  Despite the level of accommodations provided, the student is still receiving the benefits of IBL and all of the soft skills that go along with this type of activity. 

                I leave you today feeling that my previous questions about differentiation look silly and childish in retrospect.  With a successful IBL lesson differentiation is built into the activity and required to take place.  So those students who are off and running on every project can race ahead and explore whatever they find, while those who are slower can be provided the resources and support they need to succeed.  Hopefully you have found this entry helpful and I encourage you to try IBL in your classroom.


Conley , D. Association of American Universities, (2003). Understanding university success. Retrieved from Center for Educational Policy Research website: