Inquiry Based Learning

As a newly graduated Teacher Librarian (although without a Teacher Librarian position!) I am very interested in Inquiry Based Learning. We live in an information age, and the problem for students today is not accessing information, but accessing the right information, at the right level, at the right time. Whereas once students researched from the encyclopedia and several non-fiction texts, today students can access an unlimited number of resources via the web, as well as a great number of additional resources via state, local and school libraries.

So the challenge is, how do we teach students to deal effectively and critically with this information overload, so that they can synthesise it and add this new knowledge to the knowledge they already posess? The answer? Teach them through doing, and start early!

Inquiry based learning is well supported online. Anyone new to the idea can find numerous websites that support both teachers and students. Even early years’ students can successfully begin to develop information literacy.

A very indepth website that offers a fully developed workshop that covers exploration, demonstration (via video clips of real classroom activities), explanation and implementation is .

This site is really cool, and has everything a teacher needs to begin including an inquiry based approach in their classroom.

Another well known information literacy tool is the Big 6. The founders of the Big 6 are Mike Eisenberg and Bob Berkowitz. Taken straight from the very informative Big 6 site is this description:

The Big6 is a process model of how people of all ages solve an information problem. From practice and study, we found that successful information problem-solving encompasses six stages with two sub-stages under each:

1. Task Definition
1.1 Define the information problem
1.2 Identify information needed

2. Information Seeking Strategies
2.1 Determine all possible sources
2.2 Select the best sources

3. Location and Access
3.1 Locate sources (intellectually and physically)
3.2 Find information within sources

4. Use of Information
4.1 Engage (e.g., read, hear, view, touch)
4.2 Extract relevant information

5. Synthesis
5.1 Organize from multiple sources
5.2 Present the information

6. Evaluation
6.1 Judge the product (effectiveness)
6.2 Judge the process (efficiency)

Using a process such as this, teachers can help students draw from a mass of information what they really need and what is the best to answer the question, and to formulate it so that the information is presented in a format that they not only understand, but own.

One day I hope to be able to initiate this process as a teacher librarian, but for the meantime, I will continue to try to influence the curriculum of my school towards this goal – have you had success with inquiry based learning? Let me know! I always love to learn more!!


The kids we teach….

I have some friends whose five year old is working with his Dad to build his own computer.  His mum told me that he cried one day when he couldn’t pause the free to air television so he could get a drink – free to air television was such a foreign experience that he couldn’t comprehend why he didn’t have control over it like everything else he watched online and on his Xbox.

This is the future. Granted, this family are early adopters. They live and breathe technology, and so it is natural that their child does also. However, it will not be long before this is the norm,and quite frankly, school is not designed to cope with it.

Even at the most well resourced classrooms, access to technology is limited. Limited not only by cost, but also limited by the current curriculum, which was written in a pre-digital age. And I am not sure what the answer is, as I don’t think any of us know what a curriculum written for the digital age will look like. Even the most savvy teachers struggle to cover what is expected without adding what is actually needed.

There is a danger that we will assume that ‘digital natives’ as Marc Prensky calls children will ‘teach themselves’ about technology, and that teachers will only need to pick up the slack in less technological advanced areas. However we cannot make this assumption. Kids pick up what they need to know, and teach themselves to a certain extent, but just like those children who came to school knowing how to read, having just ‘picked it up’, we still need to teach them formally, to ensure there are no ‘gaps’ in their knowledge. The problem is that where we are relative experts in the area of traditional literacy, we are virtual beginners in the areas of information and technological literacy, and how this develops in the young learner….. so many issues to consider….

That’s my rant for today!!

Have fun. Kay.

I’ve been slack, but look at these great resources!!

I apologise for not posting for a long time..I admit I have been slack, and have been revelling in my new found freedom from study (having recently completed my Masters in Education).

However… do I have some sites for you….

Ever wanted to do some mindmapping but haven’t had the software to do so?? Check out….. it is truly the coolest free mindmapping you will ever find@@

Need a calculator for advanced math?? (well, I don’t but some people might…) check out – the Coolest calculator on the web….

What’s wrong with conventional calculators?

Let’s take the windows calculator as an example.

  • What’s the deal with drawing buttons for each digit on the screen when we have such buttons on the keyboard?
  • You can not type into a number. If you forgot a digit, you have to erase all last digits and retype them again.
    Try to type 12345, and then change to 19345.
  • You can perform just one operation at a time, no “complex” arithmetic like (2+3)*4
  • Why is there no history of previous calculations? The entire memory is 1 number (good old M+ and MR). PCs come today with megabytes of memory, why limit to one?
  • It’s inconsistent. Try this: runs the windows calculator, Select View | Standard and type 1+2*3=. You should get 9 as the answer. Now change to View | Scientific, and type again 1+2*3=. This time you get 7.
  • No unit conversions. Does your current calculator know how many feet are 100 meters? How many Fahrenheit is 32 Celsius?
    How can I replace my windows calculator?

Need some help with your Shakespeare?? Check out SparkNotes – for free online study guides…

Want to write your bibliography?? Take the pain out of the most painful part of an assignment with EasyBib:

Taking notes, and are a fan of Facebook?? Check out the newest facebook application, Notecentric,  a web based note taking application. Notecentric keeps your notes organized and readily available online. Your notes are always in one place, so you don’t have to worry about synchronizing them. Check it out at

More ideas coming your way, the next free half hour I get!!

Alan November: a guru

Want to find out where it is really at when it comes to technology and education? Visit and read anything that Alan November has put out – and you will be greeted by down to earth, practical and useful information about how it is important for educators to change their approach to the classroom and technology, and how we need to take advantage of rather than shy away from the huge world that technology opens up for us. So who is Alan November? This is from his blog:

Alan November is recognized internationally as a leader in education technology. He began his career as an oceanography teacher and dorm counselor at an island reform school for boys in Boston Harbor. He has been a director of an alternative high school, computer coordinator, technology consultant, and university lecturer. As practitioner, designer, and author, Alan has guided schools, government organizations and industry leaders as they plan to improve quality with technology.

Alan is well known for applying his humor and wit to inspire us to think about applying technology to improve learning. His areas of expertise include information and communication technology, planning across the curriculum, staff development, long-range planning, building learning communities and leadership development. He has delivered keynote presentations and workshops in all fifty states, in every province in Canada, and throughout the UK, Europe and Asia.

Alan was named one of the nation’s fifteen most influential thinkers of the decade by Classroom Computer Learning Magazine. In 2001, he was named one of eight educators to provide leadership into the future by the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse. His writing includes dozens of articles and the best-selling book, Empowering Students with Technology. Alan was co-founder of the Stanford Institute for Educational Leadership Through Technology and is most proud of being selected as one of the original five national Christa McAuliffe Educators.

You can keep up with Alan November’s thoughts and work through his blog at and you can also read a number of his very informative articles and find his suggested useful websites through this site:

As usual, there is far too much to read, and not enough time to do it, but by even subscribing to his blog using rss, you can at least take the time to see through the summaries of his entries where his thoughts are at … and who knows what this might inspire??

Until next time!


Keeping in Touch with Netvibes

This unique mashup allows you to capture all of your information needs in one place. By registering (it’s free) you get your own page that you can design however you choose. You can include your email account, your blog/s, any number of cool widgets, ALL of your rss feeds and heaps more! You can even include ‘universes’ that have pages devoted to celebrities and other interests. I have included a screen cap of my netvibes page so you can get the feel of it… I have a main page that has basic info that I would use like email, blog, news feeds, weather widgets, to do lists, photos from flickr etc, then several other ‘tabbed’ pages that have all of my rss feeds grouped according to category eg Japan, Education, Web 2.0 as well as my delicious page and other delicious pages that I manage or am interested in. It is a great little tool for keeping on top of everything – try it out!

(click on the thumbnail for a full size screen capture)

Kay.Netvibes screen capture

Everything is Miscellaneous…..

I don’t know about you, but it seems like every day there is more to know, more to read, and not enough hours in the day to do it. I spend countless hours on the net, surfing, discovering sites and tagging them to read ‘later’ – but ‘later’ never comes – each day brings yet more sites to read and discover, and I seem to never catch up on those ones discovered previously.

Obviously others are feeling the same way, as the publication of the book ‘Everything is miscellaneous’ by David Weinberger explores just this topic. He argues that we need a change in thinking, and that this change is already on the way. A blurb from Amazon neatly summarises the book:

Human beings are information omnivores: we are constantly collecting, labeling, and organizing data. But today, the shift from the physical to the digital is mixing, burning, and ripping our lives apart. In the past, everything had its one place–the physical world demanded it–but now everything has its places: multiple categories, multiple shelves. Simply put, everything is suddenly miscellaneous.

In Everything Is Miscellaneous, David Weinberger charts the new principles of digital order that are remaking business, education, politics, science, and culture. In his rollicking tour of the rise of the miscellaneous, he examines why the Dewey decimal system is stretched to the breaking point, how Rand McNally decides what information not to include in a physical map (and why Google Earth is winning that battle), how Staples stores emulate online shopping to increase sales, why your children’s teachers will stop having them memorize facts, and how the shift to digital music stands as the model for the future in virtually every industry. Finally, he shows how by “going miscellaneous,” anyone can reap rewards from the deluge of information in modern work and life.

From A to Z, Everything Is Miscellaneous will completely reshape the way you think–and what you know–about the world.

Sounds to me like a book to have…. you can find it on Amazon by clicking on the title above.

Until next time!! Keep tagging!

Web 2.0 – it’s moving faster!

Feeling like the world is moving at an ever- increasing pace? Is your head spinning just trying to keep up with the changes our modern world presents on a daily/hourly/minutely (?) basis? Then don’t worry – you’re not alone!! I read in the newspaper yesterday that at the age of 42 we become less able to engage with new technologies, and more likely to ask for assistance from younger family members when adopting or engaging with computers, mobile phones etc. If this is true (and I don’t believe everything I read!) then I am 11 years away from this marker, and already I feel left behind!!

However I felt much better when I came across the following list (which was much longer… I have edited it to about three quarters of its original length) of all of the new types of ‘2.0’ webpages that are being developed. These are basically interactive webpages that either combine (mashup) previously used pages or provide a new way to interact with information and other web users. For each of these headings, there are at least 50-100 examples online – there is just no way to keep up!

I’m keeping my eye on e-learning 2.0, knowledge 2.0 and tagging 2.0 – sites that deal with how we learn and share knowledge, and how we manage to make some kind of order out of it!

An example of tagging 2.0 is the wellknown site – basically an online bookmark collection that allows you to store all of your favourite sites in one place that can be accessed from any computer. I think I’ve mentioned it before:

For more info about web 2.0, try this link:

– I’m going to spend some time looking through what it has to offer. Anyway, enjoy the list below – don’t get too overwhelmed!!!

 Better sign off… need to keep surfing!!






* IDENTITY 2.0* IMAGES 2.0  * KNOWLEDGE 2.0 * LEGAL 2.0 * LIST 2.0


* R&D 2.0 * RATE 2.0 * RSS 2.0* SEARCH 2.0* SOFTWARE 2.0* STATS 2.0 

* STORE 2.0* SURVEY 2.0  * TAG 2.0



Sorry about the huge gap between posts…. I have been busy with a change of jobs and all of the associated issues and work!! I have also been working hard on assignments for my Masters.

However a couple of requests have jogged me into action – on the topic of webquests!

I could spiel about webquests, however why settle for second best – let’s go to the expert, directly to Tom March, the ‘guru’ of webquests! He has a number of articles and web resources on webquests that are easy to access and understand, and heaps of examples that are ready to be used in the classroom!

Tom March points out that there are lots of webquests that are not actually true webquests – that is, they ask students to access information online, and require them to present their findings in some sort of technologically assisted format, but they do not require students to take that information and transform it into their own understandings – that is, take it in, understand it and reformulate it in their own way.

Anyway, go to the blog of Tom March to get the goss on webquests:

and also check out the links he includes!

For an easy to use webquest creation tool, try – a site called Filamentality. Filamentality is a fill-in-the-blank tool that guides you through picking a topic, searching the Internet, gathering good Internet links, and turning them into online learning activities.

Have fun! if you lodge your webquests online, leave a comment with the link so we can all share in the richness of each other’s talents!!

Visual Search Engines

Inspired by a hit placed on the OZTLNET forum, I decided to explore the concept of visual search engines. This was a little difficult for me, because I am NOT a visual person. Reading text, yes. Looking at pictures, interpreting diagrams, seeing things mapped out – no. I love linear text – ok, so I can totally click all over the place on the internet, but to see something in a visual way does not make it any clearer for me


for many people, visual responses to searches are a Godsend. If you prefer to see something mapped out in a type of cluster, KartOO, Grokker and Mooter are for you. Check out these links to see what I am talking about:

Here is an example of the results that you can expect as displayed by KartOO:

Another cool search engine is retrievr – select a picture, either from your hard drive or from a website, and retrievr will find many, many images that match the one you have selected according to the most pronounced shapes and slabs of colors – ideal for when you are doing a collage or wanting to build up a theme – it can be found at .

So have fun!

Oh, and if you wanted to know where the name ‘Grokker’ came from – Wikipedia tells us :

The name Grokker is inspired by the 1961 Robert A. Heinlein science fiction classic “Stranger in a Strange Land,” in which Grok is a Martian word meaning literally ‘to drink’ and metaphorically ‘to be one with.’ To grok something is to understand something so well that it is fully absorbed into oneself. It is to look at every problem, opportunity, action, and point of view from any and all perspectives.

One day I hope to grok the internet!!!


Using the net wisely

Like it or not, the internet is here to stay.

And there are an amazing array of resources out there to support learning, and to provide information that has never before been accessible at such a simple click of the mouse.

Nowadays, students are more likely to go to google for their assignment research as the library, and they are able to access so much information, that not only could they be overwhelmed, they are likely to decide that if someone else has already done the work, why should they??

However, unlike textbooks and other published resources, the internet has no editor, and anyone can publish whatever they like. And as this blog will testify, even those with very little knowledge of html, programming etc can create a very professional looking site, the authority of which can for all intents and purposes look very credible.

However as adults, we all know that is not true, and that critical literacy is more vital than ever before. There are so many great resources out there for teaching critical literacy and the skills required to be websavvy, but below are some particular gems that I have recently come across:

‘I’m working on a history paper about how the Holocaust never happened. I read about it on a Web page at Northwestern University.’ What would you tell 14-year-old Zack if he came to you with this? Written by Alan November in September 1998 for High School Principal Magazine : click on link below:

How Do I Know Stuff on the Internet is True? or How to Evaluate and Validate Information from the Internet: click on link below:

Grazing the Net: Raising a Generation of Free Range Students by Jamie McKenzie:

The theme of this article is the value of raising young people to think, explore and make meaning for themselves. Click on the link below:

On a slightly different tangent, we know that children accessing the internet may be vulnerable to risks from predators and scams – a second part of critical literacy is awareness of what we as publishers place on the internet – the following links may help in this regard:

Australia’s Internet Safety Advisory Body: Practical advice on Internet safety, parental control and filters for the protection of children, students and families.

Discover the risks for children online such as chatting online, cyber bullying, online predators or online scams and find solutions to these problems and more. Click on the link below:

Internet Safety Education for Primary Students:

A number of materials have been developed to assist you with teaching and learning about online safety. To complement the CyberQuoll interactive learning program, NetAlert has a suite of materials to help you teach internet safety. Click on the link below:

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