What constitutes a highly interactive, inquiry-based learning environment?
Inquiry learning is defined as "educational activities where students investigate questions, issues, and problems and propose answers or solutions based on personal research" (Maloy, 2011).
A student is able to explore an idea in their own way which should heighten their interest in a subject. A student no longer has to be limited by the information relayed to them by a teacher standing at the front of a classroom reciting facts they are expected to memorize.
Technology can be used by teachers to create an interactive, inquiry based learning environment through the use of class websites, online web quizzes, interactive learning games, and using the Internet for research. The possibilities for using technology in the classroom are almost limitless.
Roger Schank is an educator and author of the book "Teaching Minds". He is openly critical about how our current classrooms are no longer working. He created the Story Centered Curriculum as an alternative to traditional classrooms. Carnegie Melon is already utilizing his programs in their masters degrees. While the professors confess that it was difficult to adapt at first, they had the best results of their careers, and the students admitted that while it was the most intense curriculum they had experienced, they retained more information than ever before. Within a highly interactive online classroom, students learn through story based curricula centered around engaging stories where the student plays a central role and works toward completing objectives. Story Centered Curriculum's are an extreme example of using inquiry based learning but provide proof that incorporating technology into the classroom can only benefit learners.
How Stuff Works is a great resource for teachers trying to include technology into their lesson plans. One of the articles I found to be useful was "How to Connect Your Computer to Your TV". Most classrooms these days have access to a television, but some schools may not be able to afford to install the equipment necessary to project what is being seen on the computer onto the wall. Teachers can use this article to show learners movies and demonstrate how to use computer programs among other things. Another great article was "10 Useful Google Tools" which lists resources such as GMail, Google Calendar, Google Earth (which is much more interesting and attention getting than a map on the wall), and Google Docs. All of these resources could be of great value to teachers. I know I would have paid much better attention in geography class if Google Earth was involved. More articles can be found at How Stuff Works
Technology is a part of our children's worlds, so educators have to find a way to teach in their worlds to keep the lessons relevant. The goal of school is to create well rounded, productive, working members of society. When today's children become working adults, they will need to be able to use these essential tools to survive. The last time I applied for a job, every application was online. That meant that my resume had to be electronic. My education prepared me for this by teaching me how to use a word processor and Internet skills. This won't be enough for the next generation. They need to know how to do more, and we have to be able to teach them how.
Maloy, Robert W.. "Glossary." Transforming learning with new technologies. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2011. 333. Print.
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