How do you use technology to support student inquiry? Please add any software, lessons ideas, or great websites to support Inquiry Based Learning

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Just in case there was anyone out there who does not think technology should be used to support inquiry based learning, here's some research that discusses its positive impact on students as well as the need to move away from purely lecture type settings and incorporate technology to help our students engage in learning at a higher level.

The role of technology in inquiry based learning can vary greatly depending upon the individual and the concepts they approach technology with. According to author, Nicholas Carr, in his book The Shallows: he states that “Intellectual Technologies….include all the tools we use to extend or support our mental powers” (p. 44). In a similar vein, author Clay Shirky comments that “we have to rethink the basic concept of media: it’s not just something we consume, it’s something we use” (Cognitive Surplus, p. 52). This is the view of technology that will be taken in regards to inquiry based learning. The technology is a tool that is used to support learning and increase inquiry; technology in itself is not the end goal of a project.

Looking at how others have utilized technology in inquiry based learning can give us a further idea of how to incorporate this tool into our own projects. In an article from “The Reading Teacher” journal, the authors discussed ways in which to use technology to enhance learning as the end assessment of their inquiry project. In this instance, the tool of technology allowed students to creatively display the knowledge they had gained over the course of the project on art and architecture. Through the creation of their own websites, they were able to synthesize the many concepts that had been learned through their own independent studies.

In another article by Bruce and Levin out of the University of Illinois, they began to research the potential uses of technology within their own classrooms as they saw that their students were coming in with increasing knowledge and ease of use with these tools and that schools were not keeping up with this advanced knowledge of students. In a similar manner to those view stated above, these authors saw all types of technology (social networking, websites, wikis, blogs) to be used as tools within the classroom and that through this usage, “bringing all these media together means that we can vastly expand the range of learning experiences, opening up the social and natural worlds” to students (p. 82). They found that by allowing students to use the tools they interacted with on a daily basis, they could increase the inquiry based learning going on within their own classrooms and allow students even more freedom to develop individualized learning experiences.

In another book addressing the use of technology with “Net Geners”, the authors Diane and James Oblinger discuss how education must keep up with the needs of this new generation of technology users. Teachers and staff must start to incorporate these tools into their curriculum design plans so that students reach optimal levels of engagement. For those teachers that insist on only following the traditional lecture course design, this will mean students will disengage even further from the class and not learn to their fullest potential. By incorporating technology and especially collaboration, students will engage with the subject matter at a deeper level according to the authors.

Arthur L. Costa, a co-director of the Institute for Intelligent Behavior in Berkeley, California discusses his thoughts on inquiry based learning in the following interview session. Click on the following link to hear his thoughts on the role of technology in inquiry based learning.


Bruce, B. C. & Levin, J. A. (1997). Educational Technology: Media for inquiry, communication, construction, and expression. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 17 (1), 79-102.

Carr, N. (2010). The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc..

Costa, A. L. (Interviewee). (2004). 10. Concept to Classroom [Interview Audio File]. Retrieved from

Hester, J. L., Owens, R. F., & Teale, W. H. (2002). Where do you want to go today? Inquiry-based learning and technology integration. The Reading Journal, 55 (7), 616-625.

Oblinger, D. G. & Oblinger, J. L. (2005). Education the Net Generation. Available from

Shirky, C. (2010). Cognitive Surplus: Creativity & Generosity in a Connected Age. New York, New York: Penguin Group.
Stephanie, thanks for sharing these terrific resources! Looking at your Bloom's taxonomy comments below I wonder if you've seen the revised one, which (like in the breakdown of each Level always did) adjusts the Cognitive Behaviors to be active verbs. So instead of "Knowledge" we have "Remembering," etc. This graphic/verbage from Old Dominion U makes the adjustment plain. It helps me when thinking about acting on Blooms.
OH and when did Arthur Costa go from Harvard to Berkeley?
Thanks Jane for the comments. I have seen the further verbs for Bloom's taxonomy and really should have added more in to the post. Feel free to add in anything to the topic that would be beneficial and thanks again for the reminder.
Stephanie, I want to state at the outset that I support the use of technology-based tools in inquiry-based learning, unequivocally. As an instructional technologist with training and experience in various inquiry-based models I regularly promote the use of technology within them.

That said, the brief, somewhat displaced quote from "The Shallows" serves to make your point, but it diminishes Carr's thesis, which is that we are trading our ability to think deeply and profoundly as we come to increasingly rely on the disjointed, superficial, and immediate experience that the internet offers. And, we are doing so, unconsciously.

I don't mean this as a criticism of your response to the post, simply that "The Shallows" is substantially more a critique of digital technologies than an endorsement. Fundamentally, this is lost in your reply.

I just finished reading it and consider it essential reading for educators, and in particular educational technologists like us.
We can examine Bloom’s taxonomy to see how technology can be specifically incorporated into inquiry-based learning. Within this taxonomy, Bloom discusses six areas of learning: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Within these realms, the use of technology is endless.

Knowledge, according to Bloom, encompasses such areas as order, arrange, define, recall, and label; technology could be used in the forms of word processing pages and excel pages to order and arrange information. Different web 2.0 tools and programs such as Webspiration and Wordle allow students to order and recall different objects and materials.

With comprehension, students discuss, locate, report and select appropriate types of information. Web sites and Internet resources allow students to select materials for different projects. Online social networking sites and web 2.0 tools allow students to collaborate and comment on each others works and projects.

Application is also useful for technology. In this area students demonstrate, illustrate, schedule, and sketch to show understanding. Programs like SumoPaint allow students to sketch their own ideas, as does ComicLife. Students can also illustrate their own cartoons using ToonDoo, another web 2.0 application.

Within the realm of analysis, analyzation, calculation, compare/contrast, experimentation, and questioning are used. Geometer sketch pad can be used for calculations within math classes. Other programs and software can be used for experimentation to find different outcomes for different scenarios.

Synthesis addresses students ability to assemble, collect, compose, create, design, write, and develop. Online music notation software allows students to compose their own music, much like Google Sketch-Up allows students to create and design their own 3-D models.

Finally, in the area of evaluation, students discuss, debate, compare, judge, predict, value, and evaluate. Again web 2.0 tools and social networking sites allows students to compare ideas, discuss and defend their views with others and critique others work and end products.

The ways that technology can be integrated into all areas of Bloom’s taxonomy are limitless to educators that are aware of the possibilities available to them. Technology, therefore, can play a huge factor in inquiry based learning when directed by someone aware of the programs and their capabilities.

o Application of Bloom’s Taxonomy using Technology (
The Florida School System has developed a resource for supporting the integration of technology in the classroom. I have found it to be extremely helpful as the matrix associates 5 levels of technology integration with each of 5 characteristics of learning environments. It also takes into consideration various levels of technology access (1 computer in the classroom? 1 computer for each student?). Each cell of the matrix includes sample lessons with tutorials. I have found this particular matrix to be one of the most substantial resources available. Check it out! Technology Integration Matrix
Thanks Julia! Great to see FSS helping their teachers with tools like this matrix.
Yes Julia, I was looking for something like this. Can I use it with my teachers?



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