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Real and Genuine Learning Through Digital Inquiry

Posted by admin on Jul 26, 2019 8:56:34 AM

Find out what Stephanie Harvey had to say about the new book by Julie Coiro, Elizabeth Dobler, and Karen Pelekis, From Curiosity to Deeper Learning: Personal Digital Inquiry in Grades K–5.


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You’d be amazed at the number of classrooms I’ve visited where kids are scattered around the room alone, devices in hand, earbuds wired for sound, eyes laser-focused on bright screens, thumbs filling in bubbles and blanks at warp speed. There is a rising backlash against the situation that is reflected in headlines across the nation, Silicon Valley Parents are Raising their Kids Tech Free. . . .Parents in Overland Park Kansas Fed Up. . . .Get Kids off Screens. . . .Cupertino, CA Parents Petition Schools to Limit iPad Use. . . .The Kids Look Like Zombies. . . .And several of these concerns come from the very places that conceived and developed digital devices! It’s no wonder many parents, teachers and kids have thrown their hands up in frustration with these worksheets on the screen and this notion of personalized learning. If you are looking for a guide to that kind of personalized learning, you may as well close this book.

However, if you want an in-depth exploration of what real and genuine personal learning is all about, you’ve come to the right place. Julie, Elizabeth, and Karen understand what the three words in the title, personal, digital and inquiry, represent. Personal is the belief that powerful learning springs from close personal relationships and experiences with human beings not merely with devices. Digital is the idea that the thoughtful use of digital texts and tools can take learners on journeys that print alone could not accomplish. And inquiry is the understanding that true education involves wondering about the world and believing that kids’ questions are absolutely vital. As the authors state, “All that is needed to implement personal inquiry is space and time for learners to actively reflect, collaborate, and engage with personally meaningful ideas.”

Personal Digital Inquiry (PDI) emphasizes personal relationships and collaboration, not solitude. In an era where personalized learning is often associated with isolated one-to-one device technology, we thirst for this personal, constructivist, and collaborative approach to digital inquiry. Technology guru, Alan November, reminds us that the term one-to-one is a misnomer. He notes that when every child has a device, “It is not one-to-one. But rather one-to-world.” The role of technology is to connect people, not to isolate them.

Our authors suggest four practices for building a culture of inquiry within PDI. These include wondering and discovering, collaborating and discussing, creating and taking action, and analyzing and reflecting. As kids ask questions, they are given time to address them and discover answers. As they work collaboratively, discussions naturally emerge. As they create new ideas and share them, they want to act. Ultimately, they analyze their findings and reflect on them. The collaborative and organic PDI process stands in stark contrast to the solitary personalized learning movement. The PDI process is not rigid and linear, but rather dynamic, recursive, and even messy.

Messy yes, but not chaotic. This type of inquiry does not happen through osmosis. Too often when teachers jump head first into the inquiry process, chaos ensues. Our authors understand this and have found that careful planning will keep chaos from running rough shod over the most creative ideas. For example, Chapter 6 includes an accessible planning guide to PDI. This guide includes ideas for teachers to set expectations for teaching and learning, plan authentic opportunities for PDI, and make purposeful choices about digital texts and tools. Using this guide helps to move us ahead with inquiry and to resist the urge to contain the chaos and revert to traditional (and boring) state or animal reports.

When digging into classroom teaching, I need to know “how to do it.” One of my favorite aspects of this book is that each chapter begins with a chapter overview and a bulleted list of the chapter’s strategies, practices, techniques, and tips. Chapter 4, “The Nuts and Bolts of Creating a Culture of Inquiry” is a great example of this. In this chapter, the authors share ways they make time for inquiry, organize space, foster collaboration, teach foundational routines, and use text, tools and technologies to facilitate inquiry. They share inclusive language and model explicit phrases for working together. As a reader, you will find new ways to encourage kids to adopt and adapt our teaching language as their learning language. How exciting it is when we hear kids using the language with each other that we have modeled and shared!

From Curiosity to Deep Learning: Personal Digital Inquiry in Grades K-5 is all about the importance of student voice and choice, the significance of personal relationships, the power of collaboration, and the role of technology to enhance learning and the need for continuous analysis and reflection. As this book shows, if curiosity is at the core of our curriculum, inquiry-based teaching and learning can and will flourish. As Sir Ken Robinson says, “Curiosity is the engine that drives creativity.” This book is a prime example of that. I wish you the best as you read and wonder about the pages within.

Yours in curiosity,

Stephanie Harvey


Topics: Classroom practice