Created by Ruth Elliott

Welcome! Join me as I reflect on my learning journey with Web 2.0 tools. I'm sure I will find bandwagons to jump on along the way. Let's enjoy the trip.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Part 1, The Sharing Phase of Inquiry Learning: Introduction

Sea sponge from KrapanjImage via Wikipedia

The Sharing Phase of Inquiry Learning is very important. I liken it to a sponge which is saturated with water. However, if no one ever squeezes the water out of the sponge, it will eventually turn smelly and old as it simply sits in the sponge. Students, who have worked through all the other phases of guided inquiry, will generally look forward to sharing their learning. In the next few blog posts I will discuss the aspects of that sharing. I felt that neither of our class texts provided much information on this topic. So I decided to ask the journalistic questions of Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How in order to drill down into the concept of sharing one's learning. I feel that there is some overlap with the Creating phase of the Inquiry Process. In both phases, students must be aware of their audience. I am leaving the research essay on the creating side of things. However, the essay may be the foundation for the sharing which takes place next. In fact, in many science or heritage fairs, students are asked to have their research essay available. Most people do not read it though since they look at the display or model or artifacts shared by the student.

Over the past few weeks, as I have been preparing to write about the sharing phase, I have also been preparing to share my learning as the presenter of a Twitter workshop. Since July 2009, I have been on Twitter--in effect, doing my own inquiry learning about how it works. Yesterday, I presented the workshop to four adults. I went through all of the stages of this sharing process. I will tell you a little about my experience of sharing as I wend my way through these blog posts.

The next blog post will address the Who and the What of the sharing phase. (Click here.)Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Part 2, The Sharing Phase of Inquiry Learning: Who and What? : audience for "Prediction M...Image by (nz)dave via Flickr

Who is involved in the sharing phase of inquiry learning?

Both the student(s) sharing the learning and the audience (viewers, listeners) are part of the "who". Students may have worked alone on a project so that the sharing phase is a solitary venture. However, sometimes the individual inquiry projects may be brought together for the sharing phase so that students can begin to synthesize learning. (e.g. Students working on a biography project create a timeline of important events in a life. Teacher then brings small groups of students together to design a presentation which intermingles the people's lives. I did this project with Grade 5 students. The groups shared a movie and two skits which brought their individual biography subjects together.)

The project may have been collaborative from the start. Students may work in pairs or small groups. (One aspect which teachers of the inquiry process may need to spend more time on is building those social skills and collaborative skills if asking students to work together. In the biography project above, some students almost came to blows because they clung to their own ideas and refused to listen to the rest of the group. I had to spend more time on group skills to support their inquiry learning work.)

Recently there has been a push to do inquiry learning within e-collaborations. Kim Cofino of the International School in Bangkok, Thailand has written this blog post ( to give teachers support with setting up groups which will collaborate digitally.

The other "who" of sharing is the audience. In the past, students shared the product of their research (generally a research essay) with only the teacher. (Kuhlthau, 2007) With inquiry learning, the goal is to create a community of learners who engage with the learning products together. Students may share their learning with one other student, in a small group of students, to the whole class, or to the whole school. Students may even be invited to go outside of their school to share in a different venue. With online communities, students may be sharing their learning (especially in the form of a blog post, VoiceThread, or video) with a group of strangers that they never meet. Recently, Kim Cofino (teacher mentioned above) had a parents' morning. Parents brought their laptops and Kim taught them how to use an RSS feed (Google Reader) to aggregate all the class and school blogs. Suddenly those blog posts have a wider audience and students will be encouraged to do a better job on them. (Check out Kathy Cassidy's Grade 1 blog site.,%20 She is a teacher in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. People stop by from all around the world to read her students' blog posts. She recently used Skype to do Readers' Theatre with a class from the United States.)

The most common audience for student sharing is a group of people in the same room with the speaker. The student needs to be aware of background knowledge that the audience may possess. I recently attended a Web 2.0 workshop in which the presenter repeatedly checked in with the audience (who were strangers to her) to ask about basic concepts. Then if we already knew about the concept, she moved past it. In my Twitter workshop, I first thought that my audience would be pre-service education students. I thought about what their motivations may be for learning about Twitter. I planned a short get-acquainted activity before the workshop began. However, when no education students signed up, I was not sure who my audience would be. I had four people attend (three were teachers and one an ESL student). I had to revise the focus of my presentation because of my audience. I wasn't well prepared for the ESL student who at one point tweeted: I'm lost. Know your audience! (For some questions to ask to prepare for the audience go to

What is involved in the sharing phase of inquiry learning?

According to the book Guided Inquiry (Kuhlthau, 2007), the sharing phase of inquiry learning includes both a product of learning and the action of sharing that learning. The product may have been created in its final form during the creation phase. However, many projects involve the creation of a research essay which can not easily be shared with an audience. Therefore students will need to create something which can be shared with an audience. (e.g. Grade 6 students did research essays on the birds and animals we might see at camp. Then they created posters for the bird or animal they researched. At camp, these posters were on display. Throughout camp, each student gave a short speech about their bird or animal.)

The product may be decided at the beginning of the inquiry process (e.g. Grade 4 Science - amusement park rides) or may arise more naturally throughout the inquiry process. With students who are new to inquiry learning, teachers may tell them what they will share ("we are making powerpoints or posters to share our learning") while with students more experienced in inquiry learning, they may choose their own unique final product.

When students are choosing how to share, Multiple Intelligences thinking could be part of the process. Teachers who are suggesting various products could think of the various Multiple Intelligences when designing the projects. There are some helpful worksheets within the Appendices of Focus on Inquiry (See A, B, D, & E) which could help students understand their preferences in selecting products of learning. Here is a list of possible products of research (not all will be appropriate for sharing with an audience). Here is a list of digital tools for creating projects

Speeches: One of the most common ways of sharing learning is through a speech. The speech may stand-alone or may include visuals, a poster, or a powerpoint slide show. Students who have never given a speech may be very nervous. In my classrooms, I have always had students take turns leading opening exercises. This seems to help them in developing those skills in public speaking. Students should practice making eye contact, speaking clearly, using gestures, and organizing content well.

List of public speaking resources:

5th Grader speech (Excellent--eye contact, enthusiasm, humour, 3 points, gestures)

Many resources for public speaking

Tips from Craig Kielburger (video)

Adorable video of 3 year old Chinese boy public speaking (watch for what he does right: gestures, eye contact, enthusiasm, brevity. Wrong- too dependant on notes. But what can I say, reading and speaking at three.)

Animated training for giving a speech

Powerpoint: If students choose to use a powerpoint as their means of sharing their learning, there are various considerations. If the powerpoint will be presented along with a speech, the latest guidelines for powerpoints are that they should contain little text and more pictures. (See Joyce Valenza's blog post Powerpoints can be uploaded to Slideshare for other people to view. I think that if the powerpoint is a stand-alone vehicle for sharing, it does need more text on each page. Most students will use it in combination with a speech and then less text will be best.

Videos: Resources for those making videos

Posters: Ideas for creating poster displays (intended for older students) a display board for science fair

Debates: Students may use a debate as a way of sharing their learning. (After my grade 6 students had researched and presented on alternative forms of energy, I had them face-off and debate on why their form was better than the other person's form. This type of debate can lead to higher levels of thinking.) Resources for debate:

I know this section has been long. My goal has been to include some of the resources I have discovered that can be used by teachers and students in creating some of the products that they will share.

For my Twitter workshop, I used a data projector and a handout for each student. I actually had one of my students who was new to Twitter demonstrate step-by-step how to open and use a Twitter account. Her actions were displayed on the screen and I talked about the process as we went along. My presentation was very hands-on and interactive since every student sent two tweets and followed other people and replied to a message. At the end, I talked about the value of Twitter.

The next section is about the When and Where of the sharing phase of inquiry learning. (Click here.)
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Part 3, The Sharing Phase of Inquiry Learning: When & Where?

When does the sharing phase of inquiry learning take place?

This is related to time. At what point during the inquiry learning process do students share about their learning. Obviously, most of the sharing will come at the end of the process as the student shares with an audience about their new knowledge. However, it would be valuable for students to share at various points throughout the process as well. (One teacher has set up a Google Docs survey form so that students can easily report about their learning as they go through the process.) We are not only trying to expand the funds of knowledge about the focus of the research. We are also seeking to expand the understanding of the process of research. Therefore it would be helpful to share in a metacognitive way with small groups of students.

Another aspect of sharing, that is related to time, is the idea that the products that students share will become increasingly more complex as the school years go by. In Focus on Inquiry (2004, p. 32-35), suggestions are given for the expectations for those new to inquiry all the way to those who are very experienced with inquiry. For the newcomers to inquiry, the teacher has more control and gives a lot of direction. However, as students learn the process, they have more and more choice with topics and ways to present them. The Galileo Learning Network provides this rubric with increasing complexity as students develop their inquiry skills. (

For my Twitter workshop, I could not have given it until I knew a lot about how Twitter worked. I guess learning about Twitter was like an independent inquiry project for me. At one site about how to do inquiry learning, this question was asked: "When is it time to report? Since learners are dealing with self-directed questions that have highly personal value, they should report when they are satisfied with the answer." By that measure, I reached the point of being satisfied with the answer. (Maybe my question was: Does Twitter have value for me as a teacher?) Then it was time for me to share my learning with others.

Where does the sharing phase of inquiry learning take place?

If the sharing is taking place in a physical setting ( a classroom, an auditorium), logistics must be part of the consideration in planning the sharing. Teachers will usually be the ones to take care of this. I have set up many heritage fairs and science fairs in my classroom. I would need to set up for the traffic flow through the room. I also needed to prep the students to stand up to give their brief speech about their project since our room usually became very noisy during these fairs.

If the sharing is taking place online, then technology becomes part of the scenario. For example, when I watched some of the Skype session that the Grade 1 Moose Jaw teacher, Kathy Cassidy, shared with the teacher in the States, there was a lack of audio clarity. This is a technical issue.

When I shared my learning about Twitter with the students in my Twitter workshop, we were in a computer lab. This was an ideal setting since I wanted all of them to create Twitter accounts right away. Sometimes the venue for sharing will change from one presentation to the next. Students and teachers will need to be flexible about making each location work for them.

The next blog post deals with the Why and How of the sharing phase of the inquiry learning process. (Click here.)

Part 4, The Sharing Phase in Inquiry Learning - Why and How?

Why is it important for students involved in an inquiry learning project to share their new understandings?

By this point in their inquiry learning process, students have become very knowledgeable about their topic. They may have created a research essay or a powerpoint presentation. However, as they grapple with the issues of how to share their new knowledge with an audience, it will consolidate the learning that they have done. Depending how they choose to share, they may receive feedback which will help them to improve their learning process or product. (For example, if they posted a powerpoint presentation on Slideshare, they could ask for people to make comments on the presentation. If they created a video and posted it to YouTube, people could make comments.) As students work on sharing about their topic, it moves them to begin the process of transfer of inquiry skills into other areas. In a science inquiry process using open inquiry, Knodt (2009) discovered that as students met regularly for inquiry projects, they began to transfer the language and habits of thinking into other subjects. They were able to reflect using metacognition.

Another reason for sharing the learning is in order to build the class into a community of learners. Kuhlthau (2007) suggests that as students collaborate and then listen to each other's presentations, rich funds of knowledge are created for that community.

As I shared my Twitter workshop, it helped me to understand my own practice of using Twitter. Things I had only understand intuitively, I was able to put into words. As well, my Twitter workshop helped to build my community of learners as I encouraged the class to begin to discover the value of Twitter.

How does the sharing phase of inquiry learning take place?

This aspect of the sharing is interconnected with many of the other question words. However, I am choosing to look at how the teacher supports the learning to share process. The teacher will be discovering along with the students (especially when it comes to using new technologies like Prezi or Voicethread). The teacher will need to scaffold learning and provide just the right amount of support. Part of this learning may be the provision of rubrics to help students see all the requirements for various ways of sharing learning. For those new to inquiry, the teacher may simply give them the rubrics. However, as students become more adept at inquiry, teacher and students together can create the rubrics. (
Create Rubrics for Project Activities

The teacher may also provide models for students to refer to in making their sharing creations. I mentioned earlier the posters that my students created to take to camp. I made a poster ahead of time to determine how much information and how many pictures could be included on a small poster. I showed the students the poster as a model. Part of the sharing (and later reflecting on the sharing) process is to reflect on the presentations that other students have made. I did this several times after Science Fairs or Heritage Fairs. After I had marked all the displays, I invited the class to come on a Gallery Walk with me. I took them to the top 3 or 4 displays. Then I asked them what they noticed. They shared their observations. Then I mentioned anything that they had not touched upon. When students returned to their own displays, I could hear them reflect on what they had done well and what they could do better.

Sometimes during the sharing phase of inquiry learning, teachers will need to encourage students to revisit some of the other phases. Inquiry learning is a recursive process. More information may need to be retrieved or a new product created especially if a new audience will be coming in. (During Science and Heritage Fairs, my students noticed that they needed to adjust their mini-speeches depending on the age group visiting their displays.)

For my Twitter workshop, I did look at information that other people had shared about teaching Twitter. I noticed that sometimes instructors of Twitter workshops would say, "Please welcome Ms. White to Twitter." When I would click on Ms. White, she would have no tweets. Even those students who had a tweet, had followed no one. So I learned from others and structured my Twitter workshop in order to address these concerns.

Visit blog post entry #5 for the discussion questions and reference list for this look at the Sharing phase of inquiry learning. (Click here.)

Part 5, The Sharing Phase of Inquiry Learning: Discussion Questions and Reference List

Chicago, the graphic novel - let's see if we c...Image by kern.justin via Flickr


Through this presentation, I have learned much more about the sharing phase of inquiry learning. I wanted to create a resource for myself and others to use when their students reach the Sharing phase. Only as the sponge is squeezed out (remember my image from the first blog post) can others benefit from the refreshment that comes from the sponge. Students who learn how to share their learning will be welcome anywhere. As well, as the sharing takes place, a community of learners is formed.

Throughout my search for information on sharing learning, I came across some amazing projects. I was really impressed with both of the following projects. Both involved authentic learning and both projects made a difference as they were shared within and beyond the immediate community of learners. I am using references to both of these projects to frame the questions for this Sharing Phase of Inquiry Learning.

According to Focus on Inquiry, authentic learning “involves going beyond active learning to challenge and solve complex problems and construct new meaning that is grounded in real-world experience. Students are challenged to create new knowledge, to answer a question, to develop a solution or to support a position or point of view based on real-world problems” (2004, p. 109)

The young people on this video were involved in real-life learning as they studied their run-down neighbourhood in Chicago. The YouMedia project at the Chicago Public Library gave these teens a place to hang out, mess around, and geek out. They joined inquiry projects and borrowed equipment from the library to capture and share their new knowledge.

Question 1: As you watch the video, what are the various ways in which their new learnings are shared? How do they show an awareness of their audience?

World Habitat Day Presentation from YOUmedia on Vimeo.

Question 2: A teacher at King Middle School in Portland, Maine which created the Fading Footprint video below (viewing optional) said that "Every kid has their own finish line" when it comes to inquiry learning. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? How would this concept impact on the sharing phase of guided inquiry?

Fading Footprint Video from King Middle School, Portland, Maine

(For more about this project, visit


Alberta Learning (2004). Focus on inquiry: A teacher’s guide to implementing inquiry-based learning. Edmonton, AB: Alberta Learning. Available at

Knodt, Jean. (Oct. 2009). Cultivating Curious Minds: Teaching for Innovation through Open-Inquiry Learning. In Teacher Librarian, Vol. 37, Iss. 1, pp. 15-21.

Kuhlthau, Carol, Maniotes, Leslie, & Caspari, Ann. (2007). Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. London: Libraries Unlimited.

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