I’m honoured to have been invited as a guest on Classroom 2.0 Live this Saturday morning, September 29th, 2012. I joined the Classroom2.0 Ning back in 2007, and I think it is a wonderful network to help new and seasoned teachers engage in a meaningful social network.

[UPDATE: Here are audio & video recordings of the show:

 Inquiry Learning and Empowering Students

and the accompanying slide show is embedded below.]

I’ll be talking about Inquiry Learning inspired by our new Inquiry Hub school, (more on the school here and here). However, the Inquiry Hub has deconstructed the school day, getting rid of class blocks and it also provides online blended learning opportunities that most schools simply could not duplicate. That said, much of what we are doing can be done in any classroom. So here are seven key aspects we are exploring at the Inquiry Hub that can help transform any classroom into a more engaging, and student-empowered learning space.

"7 Key Inquiry Hub Aspects"

1. Inquiry

(Give learners choice.)

Inquiry based learning is a key tenet of the Inquiry Hub. When students get to choose their own topics, with guidance and support from their teachers, peers and community members, these learners will produce thoughtful, rich and compelling answers.

By helping students connect, create and learn together, we will encourage them to look outside of their box and seek a world of potential.

* Transforming Classrooms with Inquiry: It starts with educators asking really good questions. There are a lot of resources on Inquiry Learning, here is a great list of resources to get teachers started. The Calgary Science School’s Exemplary Learning and Teaching posters are excellent examples of the resources shared in the list. Which of these resources will help you develop more inquiry based lessons?

2. Voice

(Give learners a voice.)

Neon Mic' by fensterbme on flickr

When students explore their interests in-depth, they will often discover insights worth sharing with others. At the Inquiry Hub, we believe that an integral part of learning is the ability to share what you’ve learned with others in meaningful ways.

* Transforming Classrooms with Voice: Be it a presentation to a small group, the entire school, the local community or online (with the world), work with students to craft their message in thoughtful, well represented ways. How can you use recording devices, now available on almost every phone and on every computer, to get students prepared for presentations or to get students to share their work publicly?

3. Audience

(Give learners an audience.)

An important skill to learn is how to ‘write to a specific audience’, and there is no better way to promote this than to give learners a legitimate audience for their work.

* Transforming Classrooms with Audience: Through the use of blogs, wikis, digital portfolios and social media tools, you can invite the world to be a participatory audience in the work that our students do. An Authentic Audience Matters! What can you do to increase the audience of your students’ work beyond the class or just you, their teacher?

4. Community

(Give learners a community to collaborate with.)

Collaboration is a learned skill that is essential in today’s world. Our goal will be to have students collaborate on projects that matter, in many different communities.

* Transforming Classrooms with Community: Provide opportunities for projects to extend beyond age-group peers to include younger and/or older students, parents and teachers, community members, subject area experts, and students from around the globe. Who do you know in your community (or your online network) that can share their expertise with your students?

5. Leadership

(Give learners opportunities to lead.)

“In a learning organization, leaders are designers, stewards, and teachers.” ~Peter Senge

At the Inquiry Hub, students will be provided with many opportunities to be designers, stewards and teachers. We believe that every student has the potential to lead!

* Transforming Classrooms with Leadership: Buddy up with students in younger classes. Create activities and events which truly allow students to ‘run the show’. Here is a resource I developed for teaching leadership and developing a school-wide leadership program. How can you create more authentic leadership opportunities for your students in your class?

6. Play

(Give learners opportunities to play.)

We can learn a lot from (and within) play. Play promotes discovery and invites the idea that we can have fun learning, even from our mistakes. From the MIT Media Lab’s advocation of ‘Lifelong Kindergarten‘ to Google’s promotion of employees getting 20% of their work week dedicated to personal-interest projects, it is quickly becoming apparent that ingenuity and creativity are both sparked from an environment that incorporates play into learning.

* Transforming Classrooms with Play: There is a lot of pedagogy in play (at all ages). Do we provide “gaps” in our teaching? Time and spaces where students can be creative beyond the scope of the content we are teaching? Watch this interesting slide show, think about how ‘Game design’ invites creative play, and question how you can embed some of these ideas into your lessons?

7. Networks

(Give learners digitally connected spaces to learn.)

A key principle in the new learning theory, Connectivism,  considers networks to be a central metaphor for learning. The theory suggests that ‘learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions’. The COL Inquiry Hub will use a hybrid model that blends classroom, community and online experiences, and so students will be exposed to a multitude of learning networks.

* Transforming Classrooms with Networks: Skype is a great tool to bring classes from across the country or across the globe together. Who can you connect your class with, and what tools can you use, beyond Skype, to connect the learning that’s happening in other physical and digital learning spaces?

– – – – – – – – – –

Our principal, Stephen Whiffin, came up with the Inquiry Hub’s slogan:

Connect | Create | Learn

* Learning is social, and connecting meaningfully is vital.

* Creating stuff that matters is what students remember in the years after they leave your classroom.

* Work that Matters, shared publicly and meaningfully, inspires authentic learning.

How will you (continue to) transform your classroom into an

inquiry-driven, collaborative, and engaging learning environment?

(Link to the Blackboard Collaborate recording, andalso to the Classroom 2.0 Live! Webinar show page.)

"7 Key Inquiry Hub Aspects"

Images by iStockphotoexcept for:
‘Voice’ – Neon Mic by fensterbme on flickr, and ‘Play’ by me, David Truss.

 [Cross-posted on Connected Principals]

37 comments on “7 Ways to Transform Your Classroom

  1. It’s so exciting to see iHub come together. I joined Stephen last week with 10 principals from Denmark as he toured them through the iHub school site. I think it’s a good thing that you’re starting with a small cohort and will grow from there. Gives you an opportunity to experiment and learn how this approach will best work for kids. Good work Dave, excellent description in this blog post too of this adventure in learning.


  2. As an educator, I believe it is very important to teach material that is important for the future of the students. When inventing my math and memory system Brainetics, I wanted to focus on new subjects and innovative methods to teach. By teaching for the 21st century, students will be more prepared in the future. It seems like so many aspects of today’s society centers around the digital environment and teaching should be altered to adapt.

    Great article,

    Mike Byster
    Inventor of Brainetics, Educator, Author of Genius, Mathematician

  3. David,
    This is a wonderful post that I will definitely be consulting regularly when planning asynchronous units for my classes.
    Great job, and thanks again!

  4. The 2 main ideas I took away – kids should get more involved in the learning and be able to teach teachers – bring some new insights to the topic and teachers should be prepared to weave ideas kids have into the subject to further explain it or broaden what it can mean and show how things fit together.

    Also, technology is just tools – like chalk, paper, pencil – and the focus should be what we can do with it rather than what we use – though I understand since lot of it is new or changing, it is easy to get caught up in the view that its new. The sooner we get comfortable with this, the easier it will be for the back and forth flow of insights from teacher to students – students to students – students to teacher, etc.

    Kids know so much more even in unorganized ways, in todays world than before (they learned it on their own, from others, from parents, etc.) and more can come from them which can inform teachers how to handle their teaching approach with ‘these students’

  5. Dave,

    A great outline/framework for this approach. I think key for those first foraying into this is to start small and learn to give students the time/space to discover. I also think asking our students to teach others is fundamental to this premise – what you outline as having students share and connect.

    Although implicit in all these principles – I think it should stand alone as an 8th – Purpose. What is lacking in most classroom activity is a link to “the real” and that things are done because they matter and not because it gets a grade or the teacher said so or, or, or …..


    PS. Comment field needs formatting work …

  6. David,
    This comment response is overdue! I’ve referenced your insight on ‘Purpose’, yet kept forgetting to come back here and thank you! (Just quoted you in my comment here: http://thejourneyisthegoal.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/authenticity/ a few moments ago).

    These 7 Ways were inspired by this post: http://pairadimes.davidtruss.com/transformative-or-just-flashy-educational-tools/ with a 6 item list. The 7th, ‘Play’, came from a David Warlick comment. Now, if I were to redo this list, I think I’d combine ‘Voice’ and ‘Audience’ and either lead off or end with ‘Purpose’.

    Thank you for contributing to my learning!

  7. The above all points are really great and covers all possible methods to make the learning more interesting. The only thing that could maintain the interest of students towards learning, is their constant involvement.

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