shallow focus photo of toddler walking near river

My Inquiry

At the beginning of this course one of my learning goals was to explore the ways in which technology can best support myself and my grade 2 students with inquiry-based research projects. Last year I attempted to guide my learners through independent inquiry projects about Canadian provinces/territories. Even though all of my students had created a successful product in the end, the learning process was chaotic and left myself and my learners feeling lost/overwhelmed. Emily shared a similar experience of her own trials and tribulations with inquiry so we decided to team up to explore technology-supported inquiry together. Our learning journey in this course has allowed to us to research and understand what methods and technological resources can best support the inquiry process with young learners.  Additionally, our engagement with other educators has shown us that learning is chaotic at times and that the chaos does not deem learning as unsuccessful.

BC Curriculum

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Through weekly discussions with my learning pod, Ashley, Emily and I kept circling back to feeling of being overwhelmed as educators to address all mandated curriculum, while also trying to prioritize our learners interests and curiosities. From our own reflections and the exploration of scholarly research, we realized that our preservice teacher training taught us to schedule every minute of our students learning, when really the redesigned BC curriculum truly supports inquiry-based education. Within the redesigned curriculum there are different curricular areas to target learning, including the big ideas, content, circular competencies and core competencies. I have noticed that many teachers at my school view the big ideas and content areas of the curriculum to be the most important faucet and therefore develop the majority of their lessons around these outcomes. The North Vancouver School District, however, is currently piloting many initiatives to transition educators mindsets to switch their focus to teaching core competencies (Thinking, Communication, Personal and Social). Teaching through the core competencies creates the necessary freedom to allow our students to explore their interests whether or not their interests happen to be perfectly aligned with prescribed grade content. Throughout this term, it has became evident I can create personalized inquiry-based learning for my students while still following the curriculum regardless of the specific content their curiosity pairs with.


Image result for levels of inquiry

When Emily and I first begun our exploration of inquiry-based pedagogy we both felt the term “inquiry” was used differently by educators and scholarly articles to describe a vast range of learning methods. This image created by Trevor Mackenzie helped guide us to understand how different levels of inquiry can be represented. I realize now that at the beginning of this course I was seeking to understand how to immediately implement Guided Inquiry or Free Inquiry in my classroom without providing the necessary scaffolding for my students. Through out this course, I have learned that initially beginning with Guided Inquiry is generally too overwhelming for learners who have not yet been given the opportunity to freely explore their curiosities in formalized education. Through a video conference with Trevor Mackenzie, he recommended that Emily and I that we begin with Structured or Controlled Inquiry to scaffold our students learning. He also recommended sharing his “Types of Student Inquiry” image with our students so they can also understand the various types of inquiry. Trevor emphasized the need to support student inquiry to bring value to young learners innate curiosities and wonders. He additionally shared the successes he has experienced with teaching an inquiry-based model and how technology has supported his pedagogy. With the knowledge of the steps I needed to take to incorporate inquiry within my classroom, I begun a further investigation into the best-suited technology that is available to support young students (which is outlined later in my reflection).


For the purpose of Emily and I’s formalized paper, we sought out pedagogical theory to support our findings on inquiry-based education. We found the following theories aligned with supporting inquiry and agency within the classroom:

  • Sociocultural theory
    • The societal content in which one lives influences ones personal development and understanding of the world. The classroom environment acts as a small society that similarly shapes learners. Supporting student agency within the classroom advocates to learners that their curiosities matter.
  • Constructivism
    • Students use prior knowledge and lived experience to construct their own understandings. As students inquiry into their own interests they are constructing their own knowledge of the given topic. Technology furthers supports constructivism as it allows learns to assess multiple perspectives and narratives.
  • Multimodality
    • There are many ways students express their understandings, including through the use of technology. Technology transforms the ways in which students can share their learning.

Technology Resources to Support Inquiry

Throughout this course, I discovered the following research which outlined recommendations for aligning inquiry and technological use with young children:

1. As stated by Wang, Kinzie, McGuire, & Pan, 2010 (2010) technological resources used to support inquiry should:

    • (a) enrich and provide structure for problem contexts
    • (b) facilitate resource utilization
    • (c) support cognitive and metacognitive processes (p. 382)

2. According to the SAMR Model, technology should predominately be used modify or redefine a task.

3. While Mackenzie and Bathurst-Hunt (2018) argued that technology should only be implemented in the classroom if it is transformative and some facet.

With the knowledge of what technology research states to incorporate in the classroom, I have accumulated various websites and apps that I am excited to begin in my classroom.


Research Tools and Child-Friendly Search Engines

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Swiggle is a child-friendly search engine that displays pictures along side words for even search results. It is one only search engines I found that had very limited distracting advertisements Since it is an UK website the search results my not be tailored to Canadian students.



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KidRex is another child-friendly search engine however it does have a few more advertisements which may be distracting for learners.



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Read and Write Tool

Read and Write is an extension that can be added to your browser in google chrome. This tool could allow students to research their individualized inquiry with the much needed support to assess the information available. Read and write has options of text to speech, picture dictionaries, dictation and much more.


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Readability Test Tool

This website allows you to copy and paste a URL and it will generate the average level of readability for the given website. I am excited to utilized this website for quick reference when locating online resources for my students.



Documentation of Learning

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Fresh Grade

Fresh Grade allows students to document their learning through text, videos and pictures. Emily shared her successes of using Fresh Grade with her students.




Related image




Seesaw, similarly to Fresh Grade, allows students to document and share their learning. I have been using this platform for 2 years now with my students and I am thoroughly enjoying it.



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This app was introduced to Emily and I by Trevor Mackenzie. It allows students understand their voice matters. I am especially interested to start using this app  with my young learners.



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This app allows students to combine their images to share their learning. Again, this app is suited for young learners and requires minimal need for reading.


Moving Forward 

This course, has only just begun my learning journey of implementing inquiry into my classroom. The inquiry structure of this course not only allowed me to pursue a topic relevant to my teaching, but also furthered my understanding of a student’s role within inquiry. Moving forward, I recognize that the technology I am introducing to students needs to be developmentally assessable while also transforming the learning process. Additionally, I recognize that integrating technology into my classroom might feel chaotic at first but that it is okay for learning to look “messy” at times. I am excited to begin using the technological resources I have discovered in this course to support my students inquiries.

Bye for now!

Mrs. Phillips



BC’s New Curriculum. (2016). Retrieved from

MacKenzie, T., & Bathurst-Hunt, R. (2018). Inquiry mindset: Nurturing the dreams, wonders, and curiosities of our youngest learners. Irvine, California: EdTechTeam Press.

SAMR Model: A Practical Guide for EdTech Integration. (2017, October 30). Retrieved from

Wang, F., Kinzie, M. B., McGuire, P., & Pan, E. (2010). Applying technology to inquiry-based learning in early childhood education. Early Childhood Education Journal, 37(5), 381-389. doi:10.1007/s10643-009-0364-6

**The use of Trevor Mackenzie name was used with his approval.

Assignment #2 – Promoting Student Agency and Inquiry Through Technology


The purpose of this essay is to explore the ways in which educators can promote student agency and inquiry through the integration of technology. British Columbian educators have the responsibility of encompassing the Core Competencies in their pedagogy, meaning learners are constantly developing their thinking, communication, and personal and social skills. By engaging with the Core Competencies, students are granted a sense of agency when inquiring into the Big Ideas. Firstly, the theoretical framework will discuss the topic of sociocultural theory, and how the classroom environment acts as a society that shapes agentic learners. Next, we will draw upon constructivism to describe how students access prior knowledge to inquire into, and explore new content. Finally, we will discuss how multimodality explains the ways in which learners express their understandings, both through technology, and unplugged. 

Theoretical Framework

Sociocultural theory 

Sociocultural theory looks at how society contributes to the development of the individual. In looking at student agency through a sociocultural lens, learners are situated in complex and dynamic contexts that are mediated by individual actions, other learners, and the teacher (Vaughn, 2014, p. 7). The learning environment is a space where the teacher scaffolds learning, and students are active participants who engage with the context of the instructional situation. As such, learners are shaped by their participation and nonparticipation at school. 


According to Piaget (1954), learners construct knowledge and develop an understanding of the world through their lived experiences. In connection with sociocultural theory, this meaning-making can take place individually or collaboratively. Within the constructivist framework, learning is viewed as an active process in which students are constructors, responsible for directing their own curiosities. Students access prior knowledge to grow an understanding about novel concepts, thus formulating their own perspectives and worldviews. In connection with inquiry-based learning, a constructivist perspective centers knowledge acquisition on exploration, invention and discovery. 


Once students have constructed knowledge, multimodality theory recognizes the various avenues in which learners can communicate and express their learning through different forms of media. As stated by Kress (1997), “children  act multimodally, both in the things they use, the objects they make; and in their engagement of their bodies: there is no separation of body and mind” (p. 92). The development of technology in the 21st-century has introduced new modes, means and materials through which learners can represent their knowledge. Consequently, this offers different “affective,  cognitive and conceptual possibilities,” as noted by Kress. Student agency is honoured when educators value the voice of the child and advocate for learners to express their thinking through their chosen representation. In our current digital age, technology as a communication tool has the power to support, enhance and disseminate learners’ thoughts and ideas.

Student Agency

In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire (1970) viewed agentic learners as human beings who act upon their capacity to make a difference in their world. As aforementioned, student agency is socially-mediated and constructed. Instructional methods can either detract from or support children’s voices and interests. A study done by Vaughn (2014) looked at the role of the teacher in promoting that sense of agency, and data analysis indicated that in one classroom in the Southeastern region of the United States, opportunities for supporting and promoting student agency were overlooked by the educator. When educators do not hone in on meaningful, student-centred learning engagements, it “burries a lifelong learning stance and [sends] the message to students that their thoughts and actions are unimportant” (p. 13).

Why do some educators fail to honour student voice and choice?

Generally, classrooms are fast-paced environments where a large number of curricular topics are covered over the course of the day, and are fit into scheduled, time-constrained windows. During teacher formation programs, the pre-service teacher is advised to lesson plan down to the minute. This prescribed approach is then solidified through educational ministry guidelines, which can further limit opportunities to individualize student learning and to adapt the curriculum. In Vaughn’s (2014) study, the teacher in focus was constrained by standardized assessments and district-wide mandated curricula. The fact that she often “overlooked” student voice does not define her aptitude as a teacher, as within her school she was perceived as a strong educator with many years of experience.

Agency in BC classrooms

It is important to note that curricula around the world vary, and learners in our province are fortunate to explore a curriculum that promotes posing questions, interacting with others, and positioning oneself in their community and in society. These skills are done through the integration of the three Core Competencies which guide everyday instruction: Communication, Thinking, and Personal and Social, respectively (BC’s New Curriculum, 2016). 

The role of technology in supporting student agency 

With the flexibility of the BC Curriculum and the goals outlined within ADST among other subject matter, technology can be used to support or enhance students’ natural curiosity, ingenuity and inclination to create and work in practical ways (BC Ministry of Education, 2016). In the early years classroom, there is a lot of emphasis put on foundational literacy acquisition each day, and society’s conceptions of what it means to be literate has shifted over the past three decades. McLean (2013) argued that a mutually beneficial relationship exists between technology and literacy, and that we need to reconceptualize our perception so that technologies are viewed as conductors for communication (p. 31). The educator plays a role in mediating children’s use of, and experience with, technology, as acknowledged by sociocultural theory. Adults have the power to mediate language acquisition, and this can be done through the medium of technology (p. 31). When the agentic learner is provided with access to different communication tools that go beyond pencil, paper, and print media, their needs are able to be met in an individualized way. As such, technology is employed to substitute, augment, modify, or redefine how the learner communicates their thinking, based on Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s model of technology integration (“SAMR Model”, 2017).  

Inquiry-Based Model

Within an inquiry-based approach, learners ask questions and explore their environment to better understand the world around them. Through the process of exploration, students develop a multitude of skills to enable them to become lifelong learners. Within this process, the educator’s role is to foster students’ questions in order to ignite young learners’ innate curiosity,  so that it can continue to be cultivated and nurtured (Wang, Kinzie, McGuire, & Pan, 2010). Mackenzie and Bathurst-Hunt (2018) argued the importance of recording students’ questions as it creates a physical manifestation of a child’s wonder and displays our commitment as educators to honour their inquiries. Within inquiry-based learning, students are active members of the learning process, which means students construct their own knowledge as they explore and research any given topic. In comparison, within a traditional teaching model, information is disseminated to the learners directly from educators. This top-down approach to teaching negates the opportunity for students to develop various perspectives on given topics. An inquiry approach to education allows children to develop a richer understanding of the world and grants them the opportunity to construct their own meaning within the context of their life. 

The role of technology in supporting student inquiry 

Research has showcased the various benefits on child development when using technology to support inquiry-based education, including conceptual and cognitive development, literacy skills and mathematical reasoning (Wang et al., 2010). Technology provides students and educators with the unique opportunity to construct virtual models and representations of concepts that are challenging for young learners to conceptualize, such as the vastness of outer space (Gerald, Matuk & Linn, 2016). Through the use of such technological tools, students are able to represent their knowledge multimodally while also obtaining skills that promote higher-order thinking and metacognition.Wang et al. (2010) recommended that when considering which technology to incorporate within the inquiry process with young learners, the resources should “(a) enrich and provide structure for problem contexts, (b) facilitate resource utilization, and (c) support cognitive and metacognitive processes” (p. 382). Technology can be utilized to enhance tasks and provide a richer learning experience by offering more complex problems. When selecting technology resources, the available technology should not only facilitate access to various perspectives but additionally assist learners in efficiently locating and processing information from multiple sources. Gerald, Matuk & Linn (2016) additionally discussed how technology can be viewed as a partner for educators, by providing tools to follow students’ inquiries and their progression throughout their learning journey. Lastly, with the ability to track student progress, technology can also be used to streamline the assessment process by monitoring students learning formatively throughout their inquiries. 


Based on the theoretical perspectives outlined, as well as the literature which has been drawn upon, student agency and inquiry are enhanced through the use of technological tools. The makeup of educational systems can influence educators’ capacities to provide a learning environment that is rich in student voice and choice. In BC, the curriculum is mandated to foster the development of critical and creative thinking skills so that learners can communicate their understanding by means of their chosen medium. The way in which communication takes place in BC schools can be enhanced and supported through the use of technology. Further, inquiry-based learning can be facilitated through resources that augment problem-solving contexts and foster metacognitive development. The interrelationship between agency, inquiry and technology creates a mutual, symbiotic process in which the student and educator learn collaboratively.

**This paper was written in collaboration with Emily Lacock.


BC’s New Curriculum. (2016). Retrieved from

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder.

Gerard, L., Matuk, C., & Linn, M. C. (2016). Technology as inquiry teaching partner. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 27(1), 1-9. doi:10.1007/s10972-016-9457-4

Kress, G. R. (1997). Before writing: Rethinking the paths to literacy. London;New York;: Routledge. doi:10.4324/9780203992692

MacKenzie, T., & Bathurst-Hunt, R. (2018). Inquiry mindset: Nurturing the dreams, wonders, and curiosities of our youngest learners. Irvine, California: EdTechTeam Press.

McLean, K. (2013). Literacy and technology in the early years of education : Looking to the familiar to inform educator practice. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 38(4), 30-41. doi:10.1177/183693911303800405

Piaget, J., 1896-1980. (1954). The construction of reality in the child. New York: Basic Books.

SAMR Model: A Practical Guide for EdTech Integration. (2017, October 30). Retrieved from

Vaughn, Margaret. (2014). The role of student agency: Exploring openings during literacy instruction. Teaching and Learning: The Journal of Natural Inquiry & Reflective Practice. 28. 4-16. 

Wang, F., Kinzie, M. B., McGuire, P., & Pan, E. (2010). Applying technology to inquiry-based learning in early childhood education. Early Childhood Education Journal, 37(5), 381-389. doi:10.1007/s10643-009-0364-6

Technology as a Partner

two girl's in blue coat walking road beside trees


With the lack of available professional development, educators can view the integration of technology as an additional element to implement with their classrooms. Within the article Technology as Inquiry Teaching Partner, Gerard, Matuk, and Linn (2016), seek to argue that technology should be viewed as a tool that works alongside educators. When technology is viewed as a teaching partner, educators have the opportunity to transform the inquiry process.

Within the inquiry process, students can be at all different stages at multiple times, while also studying various different topics. Gerard, Matuk, and Linn (2016) argued that technology can assist teachers in monitoring and tracking student progress throughout the various phrases of their inquiry. Similar to this course, we used Trello to track and identify the steps of our learning journey. With young learners who are just beginning to read and write, how would this monitoring occur? Would a video log be a possible option to support younger learners process?

Independence and Agency
The use of technology in the class can help create independent learners who are able to address new problems based upon their prior knowledge. Gerard, Matuk, and Linn (2016) described autonomous learners as “individuals who possess self-awareness; an ability to identify and critically evaluate resources necessary to advance their own learning; and who are able to deal with new, complex problems that may arise in their lives” (p. 3). Fostering the growth of autonomous learners promotes students to feel agency over their learning.

Virtual Models
Technology transformed the learning process through the unique opportunity of creating complex visuals and virtual scientific models for young learners. Often complex scientific concepts are challenging for our youngest learners to conceptualize as they not concrete. Take learning about an atom for example. Young learners may not be able to fully understand the concept as they are not even able to see atoms since they are so small. When I taught a unit on matter and atoms, two years ago, they most common question I received was “how can they be real if see can not see them?”. Virtual models may help students visualize what they otherwise fathom to understand. Such models could be useful for educators to create and as well as the students themselves to showcase their understanding. The National Science Teaching Association provides teachers with science and engineering practices of creating and developing models in relationship to elementary curriculum. What applications have you used to create virtual models with students to represent their learning?

Gerard, Matuk, and Linn (2016) additionally stated that technology can be used to embed assessment within the inquiry process directly. If educators are already using technology to monitor student process, their argument is to use this data to formatively assess students. I believe there would be value in identifying and monitoring the progress students have have made throughout their inquiry; however, I am not sure if it fair to assess students’ learning process when learning within inquiry is not stagnant. Additionally, this form assessment negates the students voice. If educators are seeking to create student agency through inquiry, then the students also need to be a part of the assessment process as well.

Gerard, L., Matuk, C., & Linn, M. C. (2016). Technology as inquiry teaching partner. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 27(1), 1-9. doi:10.1007/s10972-016-9457-4

Inquiry Mindset – Interviewing Trevor Mackenzie


Trevor Mackenzie kindly took the time to meet with Emily and I on video chat to discuss his research and published work about inquiry. Trevor has been a high school English teacher for 18 years and practices an inquiry based teaching approach daily in his classroom. He has also now become a consultant who travels the world to engage with educators about inquiry-based teaching. He has taken his daily teaching practices and research and reflected upon them in both of his books “Dive into Inquiry” and “Inquiry Mindset”. “Inquiry Mindset” was of particular interest to Emily and I as it explores inquiry-based education through the natural curiosity and wonders of younger learners. 

Reasons to Use Inquiry-Based Learning

  1. Nurture student passions and talents 
  2. Empower student voice and honour student choice 
  3. Increase motivation and engagement 
  4. Foster curiosity and a love for learning 
  5. Teach grit, perseverance, growth mindset and self-regulation 
  6. Make research meaningful and develop strong research skills 
  7. Deepen understanding to go beyond memorizing facts and content 
  8. Fortify the importance of asking good questions 
  9. Enable students to take ownership over their own learning and to reach their goals 
  10. Solve the problems of tomorrow in the classrooms of today 

(Mackenzie & Bathurst-Hunt, 2018, p. 14) 

Scaffolding Inquiry


Trevor emphasized that the key to successfully inquiry teaching is to adequately scaffold the inquiry process with your students. Indicated in the diagram above are the various types of inquiry students can engage in. During our conversation Trevor indicated that many teachers tend throw their students into the deep end and begin with Free Inquiry, leaving students feeling overwhelmed and underprepared. Beginning with Structured Inquiry or Controlled Inquiry can allow students to explore their passions and curiosities with support so they can eventually begin taking on more control over their learning. Trevor suggested introducing the different types of inquiry directly to the students for them to understand their own progression through the inquiry process. 

10 Phases of the Inquiry Cycle 

When using any of the aforementioned types of inquiry Trevor indicated the phases students work through in the inquiry process. These simple 10 steps break down the inquiry process into manageable stages for students and educators. The 10 phases are as follows: 

  1. Determine your focus 
  2. Start with an essential question 
  3. Brainstorm questions 
  4. Brainstorm topics 
  5. Select a subtopics
  6. Access prior knowledge 
  7. Identify wonderings 
  8. Research
  9. Make cross-curricular connections 
  10. Perform, reflect and revise 

(Mackenzie & Bathurst-Hunt, 2018, p. 24) 

Sparking Inquiry

Trevor described the importance of validating young students curiosities about any topic or subject  within the classroom or outside of it. Trevor detailed many practical suggestions on how to prompt deeper level thinking with young learners including wonder buckets, curiosity jars, wonder journals, and wonder tables. OPEN HIGH-RES VERSION

  • Wonder buckets – pails where students are prompted to write a wondering down 
  • Curiosity jar – students can write down their ideas at any time of the week. Teachers would then pull out curiosities and explore them with the class. 
  • Wonder journals – a space where students can record and document their wonderings 
  • Wonder table – similar to provocation tables in which teachers lay out materials to spark wonder and curiosity

The key to any of these strategies is to emphasize to our young learners that their curiosities matter and that we as educators are committed to honouring their wonders. This is a vital faucet of inquiry-based education for students as it allows them to see the journey in which wonders transform their learning and create more autonomous education.  


Once we have the process of inquiry structured we need to look at how it is executed. Technology can play a vital role in inquiry as it provides a vast range of resources for students to access information. Additionally, technology provides various platforms for students to represent their learning. Trevor argued to only use technology in the classroom if it is transformative in some faucet. Some of his suggested apps were Flipgrid, Seesaw and Freshgrade. Trevor suggested Flipgrid as it advocates for students to find their voices through sharing their thoughts and opinions on a safe platform. Seesaw and Freshgrade also allow students to share their learning in a safe space, while also inviting their families into their learning journey.

MacKenzie, T., & Bathurst-Hunt, R. (2018). Inquiry mindset: Nurturing the dreams, wonders, and curiosities of our youngest learners. Irvine, California: EdTechTeam Press.

Sparking Curiosity Through Technology

girl holding sparkler at nighttime


Wang, Kinzie, McGuire and Pan (2010) claimed that inquiry has been recommended as the basis for early childhood education instruction, particularly in science and mathematics. In the context of inquiry-based education Wang et al. (2010) explored the effective aspects of implementing technology into the classroom. The research showcased the various benefits of child development when using technology, including conceptual and cognitive development, literacy skills and mathematical reasoning. It was also noted that utilizing technology also has been shown to facilitate metacognitive thinking and aids higher-order thinking. Additionally, technology has been proven to increase student motivation while also structuring the inquiry learning process. Over the years, there have been an increasing number of interactive games developed for early childhood education; however, the large majority of these websites or apps are tailored toward rote learning. There appears to be a gap in educational resources available for early childhood that focus on the development of skills and concepts that often lead themselves to inquiry-based learning. It is important to consider that this article was published 9 years go and that more resources may now be available. 

What resources should teachers use? 

Wang et al. (2010) recommendations for inquiry-based technological tools are as follows: 

  1. enrich and provide structure for problem contexts
  2. facilitate resource utilization
  3. support cognitive and metacognitive processes

(p. 382) 

Technology and Problem Solving

Traditionally problems presented and selected by teachers are often more static than the problems learners encounter in their real life experiences. Wang et al. (2010) stated that technology can begin to address this issue as it can be used to present problems that are related to children’s everyday lives. Additionally, technology can present similar problems in a multitude of different scenarios, which allows learners to understand how to problem solve by applying their knowledge to new contexts. 

Traditionally teachers were seen as a wealth of information and their role was to share their knowledge with students. As society has evolved, our world has become rich with accessible information. With all this available data, there is no possible way every teacher can know every detail about every subject their students wish to learn. Fortunately, technology provides a unique opportunity of allowing students to video conference with experts in the field to acquire new knowledge. Similar to this course, we were asked to reach out to experienced professionals to assist us with our inquiries. This year, one of the teachers at my school sent a video of a  student’s inquiry about light from the sun directly to her brother who happens to work of NASA. Her brother was then able to quickly send a video back that answered this student’s question. In a classroom, if students are working on a Free Inquiry with various topics, video conferencing different experts could wonderfully assist young learners with their questions. Similar to this, students can use online virtual tours to experience a place/location more authentically. Students could explore virtual tours of museums, art exhibits and other countries from around the world. Has one had success in using virtual tours with their young learners? 

Wang, F., Kinzie, M. B., McGuire, P., & Pan, E. (2010). Applying technology to inquiry-based learning in early childhood education. Early Childhood Education Journal, 37(5), 381-389. doi:10.1007/s10643-009-0364-6

Conducting Research with Safety in Mind 


Deubel (2017) addressed concerns about the manner in which elementary school students typically conduct research. It was found that often Wikipedia is one of the primary websites students will use for research, especially since it is generally one of the top search results even when using kid-friendly search engines, such as KidRex. Not only was Deubel (2017) concerned about the credibility of information sourced from Wikipedia but there were additional apprehension around the advanced reading level of text the website uses. Once Deubel began researching the following questions became predominant: 

  1. How is the research process introduced to elementary students, particularly for using the internet? Are learners provided an age-appropriate online tutorial?
  2. Is there a standards document indicating skills that students should be developing in elementary grades for using technology to conduct research? 
  3. What guidelines/templates are students provided for developing their projects?
  4. Are they provided a checklist/rubric for how projects would be graded?
  5. Who sees their projects? 
  6. How do you make parents aware that their children will be doing internet research and that their children’s “online safety” has been considered? (p. 1)

Teaching Research Methods

Before beginning research it is vital to directly teach students skills and strategies associated with researching. According to Deubel (2017) some school districts provide resources detailing ways to teach research methods. I wonder if my school district, North Vancouver, has any accessible resources for this topic. Lankau, Parrish, Quillin and Schilling (2004) created an instruction guide for teachers called the Research Project Guide: A Handbook for Teachers and Students. The guide illustrates the “Super 3 and Big 6” research models. The model tailored to primary students is the Super 3 model, which leads students through the 3 simple stages including, Plan, Do, Review. The model allows educators and students to be introduced to the planning process, identifying resources, establishing questions based upon students inquiries, detailing credit of sources and assessing final projects.  

Safe Websites

Deubel (2017) discussed the vitality of finding safe, age appropriate websites with an appropriate reading level. There are numerous subscription-based platforms available including:   

  • Britannica School
  • EBSCO’s Explora for K–12;
  • Infobase Learning’s Facts on File subject-specific databases for middle school and up
  • Capstone Publishing’s PebbleGo for pre-K–3 researchers
  • Gale’s Kids InfoBits for K–5 research (p.2) 

In addition to the subscription based sites there are many free sites available as well. Some of the sites that Deubel recommended were  DKfindout, Kidtopia, and SweetSearch. Dkfindout provides information about animals, nature, the earth, English, history, math, the human body, art, music, literature, science, space, sports that is accessible to young learners. There is small amounts of texts on each page and multiple pictures. This site would be a great starting point for student’s inquiries; however, learners would be additional sites to explore topics in greater detail.  SweetSearch is another kid-friendly search engine powered by Google. The sites found through this engine have all been approved by research experts, librarians, and teachers. Deubel (2017) recommends that students should be instructed to utilize more than one search engine and to not depend solely on the information obtained from the first search result. The various safe search sites appear to vary in reliability of the generated material depending on the topic that is being searched. This proves the necessity for teachers to introduce multiple search engines for student use. 

Enhancing Project-based Learning

According to Deubel (2017) Buck Institute for Education is one of the top resources for project-based learning standards. The BIE model includes creating the following elements: “a challenging problem or question, sustained inquiry, authenticity, student voice and choice, reflection, thoughtful critique and revision, and creating a public product” (p.4). It is also noted that the quality of student work greatly increases when learners are provided with checklists and rubrics. The institute also emphasizes the importance of learners receiving feedback throughout the learning process to allow students to adapt and improve upon their work as they learn. BIE standards also encourage students to share their projects beyond the learners in their own classrooms to add “real-world relevance of their efforts” (p.4). These research projects may begin very simple at a young age and may only include locating facts about a given subject. Deubel (2017) stated that learners are more likely to remember the information and facts they have researched when they create a project that is valuable to them.    

Deubel (2017) provided a wealth of resources available to research with support young learners. With all of this information it is time to explore each one in more depth to further see what resources would best support my learners.

Deubel, P. (2017). Conducting Research-based Projects in Elementary Grades with Safety in Mind. The Journal: Transforming Education through Technology. Retrived from:

Online Research Tools for Young Learners

Through my learning pod discussions, Emily Lacock and I realized we are both experiencing the same challenges with our students when incorporating technology to support inquiry projects. We have now joined together in the search of examining best practices for facilitating inquiry projects with young learners. We began by exploring Christopher Lister’s MEd project “A Framework for Implementing Inquiry-Based Learning in the Elementary Classroom”. Lister’s project centred around inquiry-based learning with intermediate students rather than our pinpointed interest of the primary level; however, it provided a good starting point. Lister compiled a list of available resources to support children with online research (p. 90). I have begun looked through the resources and analyze how each tool could help support my learners.

The Readability Test Tool

One of the main challenges I have experienced with researching with young students is their varying levels of reading capabilities. The readability test tool allows you to copy and paste a website’s URL to determine the approximate reading level of the sites text, including which grade level the text is appropriate for.  This tool would be particularly useful to assist educators to locate websites that can best support student while remaining at their appropriate reading level. When considering the varying levels of inquiry described by Trevor Mackenzie, this tool would best support structured or controlled inquiry as students would still not be determining resources independently. 

Image result for levels of inquiry 

To move towards guided or free inquiry educators need a tool that allows students to freely search while still limiting the content so that it is age-appropriate and accessible to their age level. 


This suggested kid-friendly search engine would help support guided or free inquiry. KidRex is powered by Google and is formatted similarly to google. The beginning search page is simple; however, search results are filled with distracting advertisements generated by GoogleAds. The search engine also only appears to filter out what is inappropriate content for young children but does not necessarily provide websites that are suited for young students reading capabilities. 

These resources are a good start to supporting students inquiry with technology but both still have limitations. Are the resources available that limit content based on reading level and appropriate material? What resources are available that block distracting advertisements so children are able to simply focus their research? 

Lister, C. (2015). A Framework for Implementing Inquiry-Based Learning in the Elementary Classroom. Retrieved from

Multimedia E-Learning

Mayer (2017) referred to multimedia instruction as facilitating learning through the use of pictures and words in an intentional and purposeful manner. Words can been expressed verbally, such as narration, or in a written format, such as online text. Pictures can be presented in a static format, such as images, or dynamically, such as animations or videos. The underlying rationale of the multimedia principle is that students learn most affectively when words are used alongside pictures rather than words alone (Mayer 2009). In considering multimedia instruction Mayer created (2017) twelve principles as guidelines to create meaningful learning. Traditionally spoken language has been most validated form of instruction; however, these principles display the value of incorporating visuals in a meaningful manner. The e-learning principles are as follows:

  1. multimedia principle – use words and pictures in combination
  2. coherence principle – exclude extraneous material
  3. signalling principle – highlight essential parts of text or graphics
  4. redundancy principle – use narration and graphics opposed to graphics, narration and on-screen text
  5. spatial contiguity principle – printed words adjacent to graphics 
  6. temporal continuity principle – simultaneously narrate with corresponding graphic  
  7. segmenting principle – chuck information into segments 
  8. pre-training principle – pre-teach key elements 
  9. modality principle – use spoken words over printed 
  10. personalization principle – use conversational language rather than formalized 
  11. voice principle – spoken in a human voice rather than a machine-like voice
  12. embodiment principle – use high-embodied on-screen agents opposed to low-embodied

With the consideration of these principles, I began reflecting upon my own practice. With my students we use a number of apps quite frequently, including Seesaw and RazKids.

The Seesaw app aligns with some of Mayer’s (2017) principles. When students seek to post on their e-portfolios they have to first chose the media format in which they would like to display their learning. The screen is set up with various options all of which are listed with text and a corresponding graphic (multimedia principle). Additionally, following the spatial contiguity principle, the text is written directly below each graphic.

On the other hand, the app uses animal graphics to correlate between individual student profiles. The cartoon animal graphics appear to be extraneous material as they do not relate to the students themselves nor do they relate to portfolios. With the intent of these graphics being to assist young learners in recognizing their accounts, would it be more meaningful for the app to allow student photos instead? 

RazKids is an app I use to support literacy in my classroom. Again RazKids uses irrelevant icons (shapes and colours) to represent student profiles. Then once students login the apps display is focused on a space theme which is irrelevant to the students literacy and appears to be adding extraneous material.

The icons in the “Reading Room” follow the multimedia principle and spatial contiguity principle, similarly to the Seesaw app. The graphics are related to the text that is listed below to allow young learners to easily access the available options. 

Reflecting on these two apps are just the beginning of the ways in which these principles can begin to inform my teaching. With these principles in mind, it is time to start critically addressing all my teaching materials and how they can best support my students learning.

Bye for now!

Mrs. P


Mayer, R. E. (2017). Using multimedia for e‐learning. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 33(5), 403-423. doi:10.1111/jcal.12197. Retrieved from:

Mayer, R. E. (2009).Multimedia learning(2nd ed.). New York:Cambridge University Press.

Supporting Inquiry Projects with Young Learners

teacher teaching children raising hands in classroom

Teacher: “Who needs help with their inquiry project?”

Class: Everyone raises their hand…

It is undeniable that there are numerous learning benefits of creating student centred inquiry projects, but how can teachers support all students at the same? Last school year I lead my grade 2 students through an inquiry project focusing on a Canadian province/territory of their choice. This project was then scaffolded into a larger project later in the year which focused on a country of their interest. Both of these projects created high levels of student engagement and were by far my student’s favourite part of the school year. That being said, both experiences were beyond stressful and exhausting for myself as a single classroom teacher. Although I loved witnessing my student’s eagerness and drive to learn, they had very little ability to independently research and needed one-on-one support throughout the entire process. With up to 22 students to assist, I felt unable to adequately support all my students simultaneously. When I met with my learning pod this week, Emily Lacock also expressed experiencing similar challenges with her supporting her grade 2 students. She additionally noted added complexity of teaching inquiry at a French immersion school.

During these projects last year, my students used a mixture of books and technology to conduct their research. The books allowed my students to access text of an appropriate reading level; however, they provided limited information and the content was not always directly linked to my students inquiries. When the students were using technology they were able to access so much information that it was often overwhelming. Additionally, the text was generally far beyond their reading capabilities. Through this course, it is my hope to find ways technology can mediate these challenges with inquiry driven projects. What online resources are available that are designed for young learners to conduct semi-independent research? What video options are available that could benefits young learners with limited reading capabilities? Are tools or applications available to read text aloud to students with a low reading level? 

In my exploration for the various MEd projects, I have found two that directly corresponded to inquiry based learning at the elementary school level. These projects focused on a larger age range than my narrow focus of early childhood; however, they continually supported the benefits of inquiry based learning. Kristin Holland’s project, “Learning Through Inquiry”, described that the goal of inquiry is to create life-long learners through building upon their natural curiosity. Holland also noted the challenges teachers face when implementing inquiry-based learning. From the results of the Hertzog (2007) study, one of the major barriers for teachers was the amount of time in relation to the number of students in a classroom. I found this study closely aligned with my own challenges with conducting inquiry. The recommendation of the study was to establish more professional development related to inquiry in the classroom. I agree that there is little professional development available which directly addresses how to solve the challenges teachers face when implementing inquiry-based approach. 

Christopher Lister’s project, “A Framework for Implementing Inquiry-Based Learning in the Elementary Classroom”, focused on the benefits for students when engaging in inquiry-based learning, including “long-term knowledge retention, curiosity, problem solving, and collaboration” (p.16). Additionally, Lister similarly detailed the challenges teachers often face when conducting inquiry projects. One of the challenges mentioned was teacher ability to manage the needs of the classroom.

Reading through these MEd projects help reaffirm the wonderful benefits that an inquiry-based approach has to offer, but also allowed me to understand that many teachers have experienced the same challenges that I have when conducting student-centred projects. With multiple professional development days approaching this month, I wonder if there are opportunities to connect with other teachers to further explore available solutions for creating an ideal space for inquiry in the classroom.

Holland, K. (2017). Learning Through Inquiry. Retrieved from

Lister, C. (2015). A Framework for Implementing Inquiry-Based Learning in the Elementary Classroom. Retrieved from

Learning Goals

Hello everyone!

My name is Trisha Phillips and I am teaching a grade 1/2 split class this year. I have taught at the same school in the North Vancouver School District for the past three years at the primary level. As a primary teacher, I seek to create fun and engaging lessons that are based around my student’s interests and passions. 

Through this course, I am eager and excited to begin exploring the various ways that technology can foster inquiry based learning with young learners. So far in my teaching career, I have incorporated technology in small, isolated ways where lessons have solely focused on the use of technology as opposed to creating opportunities for technology to aid and support student learning across the curriculum. These lessons have included direct instruction of technological tools and often have been limited to a few apps, including Seesaw and Scratch Jr. While the technological use in my classroom has been centered around fundamental usage, I have tried to empower my students to use apps for coding, reading strategies, and documentation of their learning. I use the word “tried” because I feel my students are more capable than the simplistic avenues I’ve allowed them to explore via technology. As a new teacher, it is overwhelming to consider curricular expectations and how much needs to be accomplished within any given day. When teaching technology in isolation, it creates an additional unit that requires time which could be allotted to other subject areas. 

In this course, my goal is to view technology as a teaching and learning tool as opposed to an additional curricular outcome. It is my hope to learn new ways in which I can use technology to help create a more student-directed, inquiry-based educational program for my students. I recognize that integrating technology creates an ideal opportunity to engage all learners with their individual access points in mind. In young primary classes it can be challenging to create individualized, research-based projects when students don’t have the fundamental technological skills to navigate new tools nor the ability to read complex text.

 Last year I attempted to support my Grade 2 students through individual inquiry projects about Canadian provinces, as well as countries around the world. While the process proved to be very challenging for me, my students were very engaged and would constantly ask when it was time for Social Studies to continue working on their projects. I believe part of this excitement came from the personalization of their projects but a large part of it was the opportunity to use technology. Considering my class this year and their current capabilities, I would like to learn ways to make projects like these more realistic for primary students without the demand of one-on-one teacher support. Additionally, I want to explore sites and apps that may be available to best support young learners with simplistic text and accessibility so that they are capable of navigating their research semi-independently. Lastly, I would like to further investigate different ways in which technology (e.g. Seesaw) can support the needs of various learning styles and expressions of said learning, whether this be through photos, audio, or text.

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