Guided Inquiry and Our I Tech Initiative

by Cindy Castell

 

Norman Public Schools is experiencing a year of great change.  From the previous sentence, I would like to emphasize the word GREAT.  Change is happening in all kinds of ways.  Our buildings have all been updated and are fabulous learning spaces, and we have implemented our 1:1 technology initiative in grades 6-12 in addition to having 4-5 devices in every elementary classroom. This is thanks to our citizens overwhelmingly passing bond issues and to the vision of our district leaders.  

So I mentioned in my Day 1 post that I have a new job this year.  I am one of the six new I Tech Coaches.  Each of us is assigned to one secondary school where we are housed and 3 elementary buildings.  Overall, our main purpose is to help teachers integrate technology in a way that transforms learning from the traditional. From the NPS ITech website, “In the past, students attended school because that is where information was found.  Today, technology has made information accessible anytime, anywhere and offers vast educational resources for learners.” So even though NPS has not been a “sit and get” district for many years, people like Kathryn Lewis, Director of Media Services and Instructional Technology, have researched and sought out programs that will help our students.  By using the research-based ISTE Standards, Kathryn and other leaders in our district wanted to support students and teachers with sound practices.  The SAMR Model was also instrumental in setting the goals NPS had for technology.  They did not want the new computers to be just a substitution of what we were already doing, but instead a “transformation” where students are asking their own questions, collaborating with others, and sharing their learning with a broader audience. SAMR model explained: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=us0w823KY0g

So this year and in the years to come,  we have the opportunity to help teachers design and implement lessons that integrate technology in a way that transforms learning.  Guided Inquiry is one of the best models to do that with. We are thrilled that as Instructional Technology Coaches,  we get to work with our librarians to be part of the extended team.  We are off to an exciting start.  Even though Guided Inquiry has been going on in our buildings since 2015, we now have information, experts, and ways to communicate our learning right at our fingertips.  I am again grateful for how Guided Inquiry will play a major role in how our students across the district will use the technology.  We hope that districts around the country have the opportunity to share Guided Inquiry with their students.  We know that it will benefit all of our learners as they move through their education and their lives.  

Training to Be a Guided Inquiry Trainer

by Cindy Castell

 

 

So as I mentioned in my first post this week, I feel very fortunate to be one of the first 8 people trained to be a Guided Inquiry Trainer for Norman Public Schools.  As the interest in our district has grown, Leslie Maniotes and our leadership worked together to come up with a plan to train as many of our teachers as possible. 

 

Why Trainers?

The passion for Guided Inquiry is spreading in our district as teachers return to their buildings and start working with students on their prototype units.  It was decided that 4 elementary trainers and 4 secondary trainers would work with Leslie to help to carry this into the next several years and train as many teachers as possible.  I am a member of the Secondary Training Team as seen in the above picture.  

 

Do you want to be a District Guided Inquiry Trainer?

We were all contacted by our District Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Shirley Simmons and asked if we would be interested in training with Dr. Maniotes to be a District Trainer.  We were then invited to the upcoming Guided Inquiry Institutes in March to just watch and take notes as Leslie led the teachers through the Institute.  

Step 1 — Watch, Note, Question

The new trainers met before the institute and Leslie shared with us that she did not want us to participate as we had in previous training, but instead, sit, watch, and take notes on each slide noting how she handled different questions and situations.  It seemed at first that it may be a bit awkward, but it was such a great time of learning.

As Leslie conducted the institute, we were able to each write what we saw, heard, and question how she handled each situation. She would walk over and explain her techniques and reasoning to us for each section of the Institute.  We would meet during lunch and after the institute each day to discuss what worked and why.  On day 2, she had two of us at a time sit in on the conferences and listen to how she coached each group with their prototype unit.  The groups during this institute had very diverse topics and issues to deal with, so the training was very thorough.  We had the opportunity to provide feedback as well to the groups and participated on day 3 in the sticky note activity as groups presented their units.

Step 2 — Preparation

At the end of the March Institutes, we were told that in July, we would be presenting the summer institutes with Leslie there to coach us through it. So as the summer began, we found a time to get together to go through the training and see which parts each of us would do.  We went through the slides and then went home and studied some more.  Finally, the institute was coming soon.  Leslie provided support by sending us messages offering help as we prepared.  We met again and went through the whole Institute slide by slide.

Step 3 — Our Turn with Coaching

The week of July 19, we were on with Leslie right there with us.  I have to admit I was a little nervous.  I have been a trainer before, but never with one of the authors, researchers, etc… right there watching.  However, my mind was quickly put at ease.  Leslie Maniotes is a teacher.  She is kind, giving, and an amazing coach.  As each of us got up, she took notes, added ideas to the slides, and did some “side-by-side” coaching.  In a smooth flow, she would make sure we added pertinent information or phrase something a certain way.  Throughout the day, she would meet with us on breaks and share that each step of the institute (down to very small details) are in there for a reason and help lead the participants to their own thoughts.  

Personally, I had two instances that stood out as growth moments. Leslie pinpointed that as I would raise my hand to get the group back together to not start with a fully extended arm, but instead to start at my elbow, so I have somewhere to go if they were not coming back together.  WHAT A SIMPLE, COOL idea that I had never considered.  She also caught my phrasing when I would ask, “does anyone have anything else?” She pointed out that the language I used closed a conversation.  If I would change that phrase to “what else?”, that would open and invite the conversation. At the end of the institute, she also met with each of us individually.  She offered great praise and wonderful suggestions for growth.  What an honor it was to be coached by her!

So the three days were a great time with an amazing group of teachers.  We made it through with support from Leslie, and the teachers did incredible work.  

Here is the fabulous group we worked with:

In conclusion, the thought of all the students this year who will have the opportunity to learn through the Guided Inquiry process is exciting. The work that Dr. Leslie Maniotes has done in Norman Public Schools is transforming how our students learn. What an honor it is to be a part of helping to spread this amazing program!

Tomorrow, I will share what is coming this year with Guided Inquiry in Norman Public Schools.

Movers and Shakers — Being a Guided Inquiry Trainer

Hello from Whittier Middle School in Norman, Oklahoma.  My name is Cindy Castell, and I have been at Whittier for the past 25 years.  I am currently in a brand new position, I Tech Coach (Instructional Technology Integration Coach). I will explain more about this on day 3.  I have also served the past four years as our school’s Gifted Resource Coordinator, where I served over 500 students in our GT program by providing enrichment opportunities and supporting teachers in developing differentiated instruction.  Before that, I was a seventh-grade language arts teacher for 21 years.  

In a quote about lifelong learning, Brian Tracy said,  “Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.”  As with many of you, my career in education has been defined by finding what works best for students.  I want them to walk away from my class, or the classes I support, with the ability to continue to grow and learn.  To me, that is what education is all about.  

My initial Guided Inquiry training was in December 2015.  I was in the second group of many who have been trained in our district. Norman Public Schools strongly supports Guided Inquiry in all classrooms K-12.  It has been so exciting watching it grow and hearing all of the success stories with students of all ages.  I was just looking back at my reflection journal from my initial training, and this is what I wrote:

I am super excited about this approach. For the past few years, it has become apparent that teaching facts and even basic skills are not preparing our students for the future. Our kids need to be able to move on and learn without us, but they need to have guidance on how to be good consumers of knowledge that is out there. I have been reading, subscribing to groups like MindShift, Edutopia, etc., and just trying to find everything available on how we move from standards-based to inquiry-based. I believe the skills will come as we have meaningful learning happening as I see this will be the case using Guided Inquiry as a structure.

In my career, we have been through “the cycles” that we often talk about in education.  The cycle of drilling and testing has been a time of great conflict for me as a teacher.  I know students have to have connection and meaning to truly learn.  Guided Inquiry met my philosophy of teaching along with the structure to guide students to be well-trained consumers of the vast amount of information they have access to as well as developing the skills they need to be educated, contributing members of society. It is the structure I didn’t realize I was missing when I had students researching topics.  I was hooked when I realized this Inquiry-Based learning model provided the structure that all of us really use or truly need to be consumers of information.  

Over this week, I am excited to share with you a unique experience of being one of the first Guided Inquiry Trainers.  With building capacity in our district, Dr. Leslie Maniotes agreed to train 4 Elementary librarians and teachers and 4 Secondary.  I am thrilled to share with you the journey that led to being a Guided Inquiry Trainer and what we have learned through the process.  We are positive that we will be training teachers to cultivate the “Movers and Shakers” of the future.

Intentional Practice

 

Focused reflection is what allows us to pause and mindfully ask ourselves the tough questions, think about different strategies and approaches, and then implement change where needed. Building in time for the teachers to reflect during the GID process gives space  for individual thoughts and individual processing time.  Reflection opens an opportunity to conversation.  Finding the time to reflect can be a challenge and collaboration can be really hard. During collaborations emotions, expectations and vulnerability have the potential to collide at any given moment. In my last post, I mentioned the 3 things that I keep in mind when collaborating.  I am intentional with reflection in all collaborations, but especially in GID.

Typically my reflective practice is quick sticky notes of thoughts that occur to me during a class with students. I later journal about my observations.  The observations are typically first about what I could’ve done differently to engage, to assess learning, or to be more transparent to students about the objectives of the lesson or activity.  It’s typically not until after I’ve processed these observations myself that I approach my colleague. In this way, I am able to articulate better as to what I think the pluses and deltas are.  Approaching a colleague with this type of discussion can be challenging for both parties.  A level of awareness of self is truly important to a successful interaction with colleagues and especially when it involves a long term collaboration.  Framing the conversation around student learning and the goal of pushing the learning deeper allows the conversation to be reflective about improving teaching practice.  

This past year, a colleague and I were able to move this to a deeper understanding of collaboration within the digital context.  As we have collaborated for several years now, we are able to be authentic with each other and openly ask for feedback regarding our collaborations.  Bringing it to the digital context was a helpful layer of reflection for each of us. Because it’s in a document that we can both access, it becomes a place that we can begin our next collaborative conversation.  It’s also a judgement free zone, where we are sharing thoughts but not placing blame. Establishing this understanding is helpful to moving forward with building GID units.  Each student, class and teacher are different.  Being able to bring the reflections to conversation allows us to think about what could be different next time and to discuss what we each noticed.  Bringing in the pluses and the deltas allow us to keep the good and shift the not so good.

Here are some things that I’ve personally learned from my own reflections about working with students and Guided Inquiry Design:

  1. Teaching with this process does not mean that instruction is unnecessary and that expectations are lessened. Instead, scheduled check-ins for students allows for personalized engagement during the process. Creating an Inquiry Community builds these into the learning process and allows teachers to personalize the necessary instruction and support for each student. It also ensures that students know that you are aware of their work and effort throughout the process.
  2. Giving students the ability to establish a reflective process before beginning Guided Inquiry allows students to transition easily from research to reflection and to develop an understanding of the complexity of reflecting. If students have not spent time thinking about their thoughts prior to GID, they will struggle with the reflective writing and the inquiry circles.  Reflective practice at other times during the class give students the ability to learn strategies that will transfer.
  3. Determining the habits and attitudes that individual students will need to be effective with GID is beneficial to developing appropriate instruction for each phase of the process. Integrating inquiry, information literacy, digital literacy, and ethical practices in other areas of instruction will prepare students.
  4. Allowing students ample opportunity to discuss their learning throughout the process will keep students passionate about their topic. These opportunities could include interactions with students, teachers, administrators as well as digitally.
  5. Students crave an authentic way to share their research. Finding  ways that help them do so opens opportunity for engagement, motivation and learning. Authentic sharing may be in the school or beyond.  Allowing other teachers to interview the students gives purpose to the research. Showcasing the work digitally creates a wider audience.

 

These ideas and thoughts are just some things I am thinking about as I prepare to work with my colleagues this school year.  Allowing opportunities for engaging with complex ideas and to make meaning of them brings a deeper understanding of the intellectual process to our students.  To me, Guided Inquiry Design is the avenue that gets our students there.

 

Anita Cellucci

Westborough High School

Follow me on Twitter – @anitacellucci @librarywhs

 

Hello again from Westborough, Massachusetts – In the Arena

I’m excited to be blogging again for 52GID.  Last year I posted about some of my adventures with Guided Inquiry Design and I’m happy to say that teachers from my school and district have also joined in to write about their experiences. Overall, it’s been a lot of fun over the past several years creating GID curriculum, co-teaching, uncovering new ways of using the process and learning with colleagues and students.

Our town is in central Massachusetts, we have 1140 students and I am grateful to be the teacher librarian at the high school.  This year is my 8th year in Westborough.  I am proud of all that we continue to accomplished with GID.  As a teacher librarian, I rely on trust within my relationships with teachers in order to bring new ideas to the table.  GID is quick to point out what’s working well in the classroom and where there is room for growth.  I am happy to say that the majority of the content teachers I work with are knee deep in the growth mindset of education. And although it’s sometimes messy and uncomfortable, there is always time to reflect on what we may want to do better as well as how we can integrate our teaching styles, our  teaching philosophy and our personalities.

Here are a few things that I am mindful of with GID collaborations:

  • Meet teachers where they are:  Trying new things while we are in the midst of another wildly busy school year is scary, overwhelming and time consuming.  I listen to what the content teacher is saying – their projected outcomes, their hopes for their students and their worries about making a mistake. GID can look different from class to class, and that’s okay. I reassure, model, jump in where necessary and remain positive.
  • Leave my agenda at the door:   Collaborating with content teachers isn’t about me or what I may want to accomplish, but instead it’s about that individual teacher and their classroom of students. I don’t pretend to know their students better than them. I am not an expert – we are growing together – and we do. Every time.
  • Keep it real: Teaching is challenging and all consuming.  We can get caught up in how much we want our students to learn, what assessment must look like and how everything should be. Even in high school, kids need to know that we care about what they are interested in.

 

Over this week, I hope to share some examples of what I’ve learned from GID collaborations with high school teachers and students.

Image result for brene brown quotes about growth

Anita Cellucci, Teacher Librarian 

Westborough High School

Follow me on Twitter – @anitacellucci @librarywhs

Guided Inquiry Design & Curriculum Reform in Croatia (3)

Photo by, Mario Fajt (sobrecroaCia.com.)

 

School librarians in Croatia are interested in Guided inquiry. One of our leading experts in information science, Prof. Stricevic I mentioned before, advocates for it at our professional education events. She keeps saying that GI is the model of learning that best suits the needs of contemporary students. Guided Inquiry is recommended in IFLA-s guidelines for school libraries as well. So, why do we not use GID more?

The problem in Croatian education system is that we are stuck in our curriculum reform. Most teaching in our schools is traditional, there is no real collaboration between teachers, not to mention that teachers are not satisfied with their social status and many of them are not motivated to learn new things. The fact is, with traditional method of teaching, where teachers are lecturing and students are reading just their textbooks, there is no actual need for information literacy. If the only goal of teaching is that a student remembers what a teacher says to him, there is no need for collaboration between a teacher and a school librarian.

So, the question is – what kind of schools do we want? How do we prepare our students for their future life? Two years ago, it seemed that serious improvements in Croatian education system are to be made, but the change of political power stopped that. A New Committee for curriculum reform was appointed, but we still do not know any concrete results.

So much time and money is lost in the political struggle. Unfortunately, our students cannot wait, they are left at the mercy of their teachers. There are excellent schools, libraries, teachers, but they are excellent despite the system, not because of it. That is why, on the average, our students do not perform well on international testing (like PISA, PIRLS, ICILS….) nor do they achieve splendid results at their final high school exams.

We desperately need GID in our schools. We should have the books available in Croatian. We should educate teachers and librarians to apply it. There is no straightforward way to do this, I am aware of this. But, however futile it seems sometimes, we librarians, have our duties to perform no matter what are the circumstances. I have seen that GID works in my school. Students love learning through Guided Inquiry. I am aware that my colleagues and I made mistakes in our first attempts at it. But, the change in the classroom is enormous compared to traditional teaching. Students are motivated to work, they do not notice the bell ringing, and everybody is active, not just a few designated to answer all the questions. The students are learning, thinking, making conclusions based on evidence. Therefore, at the beginning of this school year I am going to ask my colleagues to join me in planning and preparing more GI units. I think this is my humble contribution to education winning in the race with catastrophe.

Best,

Gordana Sutej

Duga Resa, Croatia

Irrational Perseverance and Our Unit on Children in Wartime (2)

Irrational perseverance

You will need a good dose of irrational perseverance to stick to GI” and implement it in your curriculum,” say the authors of Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21 Century. After seven years of trying, I must say it is perfectly true. You need perseverance to learn all the time, perseverance to endure futile tries to convince your colleagues to collaborate with you, but most of all you need perseverance to monitor you students and make changes in your practice when you see that what you are doing is not helping them learn. But perseverance I have, because I believe Guided Inquiry is the best model of learning we, school librarians, can use to help students grow.

Guided Inquiry is in accordance with my personal mission to do everything I can to sustain children’s natural enthusiasm for learning. Have you ever seen a small child who is not eager to learn? It breaks my heart when I see how this eagerness withers as children grow older, and by the middle school they end up hating school because it is boring. The answer is, I believe, in constructivist approach to learning. Guided Inquiry is the answer. D. H. Wells once said that civilization is a race between education and catastrophe. Guided Inquiry is such a powerful tailwind for education. It makes learning meaningful for students, gives them skills to use for further learning, it helps them to gain deeper understanding of the curriculum.

After carefully reading and rereading and studying the books (one mentioned before, Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School and Guided Inquiry Design in Action: Middle School) attending free webinars held by Leslie at EdWeb, I gradually started applying GI in my teaching.

First, I applied some of the tools in our ongoing school projects. I talked about GI at our school staff meeting. There was a language teacher who proposed that we give it a try together. We asked history teacher to join in for our first GI unit. My colleagues did not read about Guided Inquiry, so it was my responsibility to explain the concept to them. They were familiar with KWL framework and project based learning which made me easier to explain GID. However, it took a lot of patience and persistence from all of us.

I was grateful to them they were willing to try something new and I took care not to make them feel uncomfortable in the process. Our first GID unit was not perfect, but I think we did excellent job. We connected literature (Bruckner: Sadako wants to live – this is obligatory book for 8th graders which most of them never really read), history curriculum – WWII, and civic education (Human Rights).

Photo -3rd grade students preparing for sharing what they learned about healthy food and habits.

Our big question and concept was: “What happens to children in wartime?”

The Open session was rich. It took place in the library. We managed to acquire beautiful posters and brochures about contemporary Japan from the Japanese Embassy. After discussing that we watched two minutes video from Hiroshima Memorial Museum and an excerpt from a documentary about atomic bomb survivors. Our discussion helped students to better understand the book, which was the task for Immerse.

Deciding what is important to share with the rest of the class

In Explore sessions they had a lot of material, both print and digital to go through. After that they had to pick a role to prepare for, because the create and share phase were preparation and staging of a mock trial in which all the children had to play a role of a character in a book or a role of a court official (judges, attorneys etc.). Students were engaged and motivated during the process. There was so much to talk about. They studied the period described in the book to the detail, but they also draw connections with current affairs. Unfortunately, the topic of war is familiar to them. Although they are the generation born after recent wars in our part of the world, they hear it discussed in their homes, in school and in the media.

Next school year, I made another presentation about GID for my colleagues in school, presented the concept again, together with our last year’s experience. I asked for volunteers again. There were more teachers who were interested this time. Next year, a few more. My goal is to enable every student in school to experience Guided Inquiry. So, there is still a lot of work to be done.

In the meantime, I had several opportunities to share the experience in GID with my follow librarians at the district, but also at the national level. The last one was a workshop at our Spring School in Trogir in April 2017 which was very well received.

Gordana