Design Thinking

Dream, design and Do or Make!

As students develop their own question, they are asked to think deeply and compassionately about their topic.  During our most recent session, students were read the story Turtle Turtle Watch Out by April Pulley Sayre.  We brainstormed questions as we discussed the story, and then compared different types of sea turtles and the issues they face in their ecosystems.  Students then shared their learning on Flipgrid based on their research using WorldBook, Vancouver Aquarium, and safe Google searches using search engines.  

 This coming week we will work on designing a protective solution for turtle babies in their habitat.  I look forward to seeing our students in action next week sharing their amazing creations, their research and their critical thinking!  Part of their sharing next week will include peer feedback based on the core competencies in our standards.  

Pippa Davies

Director HCS Blended LearningCommons

Heritage Christian Online School

Twitter:  @PippaDavies

Identify and Gather

What Makes a Good Question?

The next step was to discuss the validity of questions.  Ground rules were created to encourage students to ask good questions about each other’s presentations, and to move away from a focus on getting the right answers.  We debated open and closed questions, worked on this at home, and then shared good ideas for why open-ended questions are so much more interesting than closed questions.  We have a strict rule that no question is a bad question, but all good questions lead to more questions!  

It was tough for me to take a step back and wait while students took needed time to shift from answer to question.  Initially, they copied each other’s questions, but slowly the conversation opened up to more interesting questions as I role modeled a few of my own questions.  There were a few students who wanted to give answers, but we had to rein ourselves in and come back to the driving questions around ecosystems.  It was definitely a learning curve to move away from the ‘googlable’ answer to understand what we wanted to research further.  

Students were then encouraged to use Pebble Go as a launching base to further their research and examine more about their topic.  Again, they shared their learning using Flipgrid. Some presented beautiful flowcharts, others used the cool iPad app which comes within the Pebble Go, whilst others made their own dioramas or research reports on the biodiversity of ecosystems in British Columbia and beyond.  Again, the focus was on asking questions about the research, as well as learning from the students who were co-teaching their peers.  We touched on the socio-emotional learning as well with questions reflecting how they were feeling as they researched.  Most students enjoyed the process of researching what they wanted to discover.  Some students shared that making their inventions in the first week was difficult because they could not get the right results.  The time taken for producing was perhaps not conducive for further learning.  I had given a framework of one hour per week to work on assignments, but am discovering we may need more time.

Pippa Davies

Director HCS Blended LearningCommons

Heritage Christian Online School

Twitter:  @PippaDavies

Virtual STREAM Book Clubs Grade 3


My book clubs are ten week sessions, and we meet virtually using Zoom technology.  My class is limited to 15 students because I want each student to have time to present their learning every other week.

I will share some of the success and challenges of running my primary book clubs online from a guided inquiry, and design thinking perspective.  My intention is to scaffold inquiry and engage students to become active problem solvers, to dream big, solve authentic problems and research with passion!

Facilitator and Presenter Roles

The teacher role has now changed from “sage on the stage” to FACILITATOR, and the student has moved from the role of consumer to one of producer or PRESENTER.  In terms of initiating the teaching parts of the guided inquiry, the teacher needs to hook his or her students in with an essential question or focus.  This year I am using our BC new curriculum grade 3 science standards including the essential question, “What is an Ecosystem?”  My role is to get students excited about the topic and big idea, and channel their thinking into further questions about ecosystems close to home or outside of their community.  I also hope to role model the importance of what makes an essential question in science so important, and praise skills as opposed to content!


How did I do this?  The first week, I worked with parents and students to understand the shift in pedagogy, and invited them to read some of these lovely picture books on Overdrive e library which would create the movement towards creative responses, and growth mindset.  These books were used as “hooks” to bring in the discussion about art in science, engineering and PBL, and being curious about the world, as inventors and creative designers.


I encouraged students to be inventors of their own questions and design something right off the get go.  Each student came ready to share the following week either in our virtual class or on Flipgrid.  Flipgrid allowed our students to present using video technology, and also view and comment on their classmates’ work.  We spent a full hour listening and praising work effort with our student presentations.  The socio-emotional learning was very evident when things did not turn out right.  Check out this video of our student Davis sharing his Egg Picker Upper.  He did eventually get it to work using some extra ideas and appendages. One of my students who experienced challenges with sharing orally presented his learning authentically using a sock puppet and shadows.

Pippa Davies

Director HCS Blended LearningCommons

Heritage Christian Online School

Twitter:  @PippaDavies

GID in a Blended Learning Commons in British Columbia

Pippa Davies

Director HCOS Blended Learning Commons

November 19, 2017

Our book clubs have been a huge success at our distributed learning school, Heritage Christian Online School.  We serve approximately 3000 students all over the Province of beautiful British Columbia as an independent partially funded K-12 school.  Our students learn with the support of an accredited teacher, using the British Columbia mandated curriculum from a Christian perspective.   

We are blessed to work with a large special needs group of students who are also included in our book clubs.  

Presently we have 5 book club moderators who run book clubs from a guided inquiry approach either using Lit Circles, or STREAM (Science, Technology, Relationship, Engineering, Art and Math) as a framework.

Everything we do in our learning commons comes from our vision of “Encouraging Christian community through discipleship, literacy and innovation”.  We believe in high tech with high touch!

Pippa Davies

Director HCS Blended LearningCommons

Heritage Christian Online School

Twitter:  @PippaDavies

Apps that promote Inquiry

I believe in Inquiry because I believe it fosters a self-directed and self-driven desire to life-long, continued education.  A child/student who learns to intrinsically ask questions and seek answers through a research driven process such as GID will most likely become an adult who continues to learn, question, research.  I further believe that GID is much needed, to discourage and discontinue the current trend towards believing fake news, false information, scams, etc.

Because of my beliefs, I am always searching for ways to encourage student driven Inquiry.  Most recently at my campus, I have begun to find and publicize technology apps and programs that either promote Inquiry, provide a great platform for Inquiry or can easily be integrated into a unit of Inquiry.  Apps and websites such as and recap provide a safe place for students to wonder, ask questions and seek answers.  Other technology can be used to promote shared note taking (Google docs is one such technological advantage in this area).   Technology can also be used to organize ideas, and present findings (such as movie making with iMovie or screencastify).

I would not say that any one app or website has become widely used across grade levels at my campus.  This is another example of an early stage plan to widely promote GID at my campus.  Therefore, I would love to learn more such apps and websites from all my GID colleagues.  If you have an app or website your campus uses, please leave me a comment with the name and description of use!  I look forward to adding to my list!

Tara R.

GID and Google Classroom

Howdy again from the Lone Star State!  My name is Tara Rollins and this is my second year to post to the blog.  You can find my previous entries in October 2016 (last three entries)

It has been an interesting year in Houston.  We started school this year on the day of the solar eclipse.  The next week, we were inundated with 51 inches of rain during Hurricane Harvey.  We were out of school for over a week and many areas of town are still in recovery mode.  Needless to say the year has been a little bit hectic.  However, we have lots of good inquiry projects ongoing and in the planning stages!

When I last spoke to you, I mentioned the time constraint that many of us face in continuing a unit of inquiry.  Over the summer, a collaborative effort was made to begin to place some units of inquiry into Google Classroom.  These classrooms can be shared with teachers and/or students and can be used in technology centers throughout the units in groups, pairs, or alone.

Of course units have to be flexible, so needless to say the “Open” we planned in July for the 2nd grade Natural Disasters Inquiry needed to be changed from the picture below due to our experiences during Hurricane Harvey in August.  What a difference a month can make in planning and implementing GID!  However, having it on our Google Classroom platform made it as simple as changing a picture/URL.

I do not mean to imply that all of our inquiry is done in centers, nor is it all completed or implemented through technology.  The Google Classroom option is merely one tool that I have added this year to encourage teachers and students to push on with inquiry even when the librarian is not able to co-teach each lesson.  It also is a great way to share what’s going on with parents (although that has not been implemented as of yet at my campus).

Open for Inquiry into Natural Disasters


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:

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.  

Guiding Students to History Day: An Honest Reflection

At the start of the History Day project last September, the single biggest challenge I confronted was designing instruction to assure that all students ended up choosing a workable topic for a project about a subject they were passionate. At the same time, I wanted them to be open to learning about new things, so I did not want them to select something entirely familiar either. I wanted to see an increase in passion and interest as they progressed in their research.

As I mentioned before, the History Day timeframe allows for an unprecedented amount of time to develop a thesis, and I wanted to maximize this time. Still, my instructional time with the students was only 6 days of 45 minute periods from the open and introduction of the NHD theme and the due date of the Thesis.

I consulted numerous sources for ideas, including the GID Design book and a blog post by Buffy Hamilton regarding “pre-search” strategies.  I was completely overwhelmed with the task of fitting stages of GID from the Immerse to the Gather stages or the full pre-search lesson cycle in the time allotted, so I tried to identify the essential ingredients of both and put a lot of emphasis on reading outside of class.  I wanted the students to begin with the entirety of world history and pick and single individual or group that they felt met the HND Theme criteria for “Taking a Stand” and the stand should be meaningful to the students in a deeply personal way.

Additionally, I was looking for ways to truly individualize and differentiate the instruction so that could guide each student or group toward a better topic and better reading material on their topic.

My plan combined formative assessment strategies using Google forms to checkpoints in the form of worksheets that asked students to back up their current thinking with credible sources of information.

Another aspect of my plan involved a 30 minute meeting with each group. The students would set an appointment with me using appointment slots on Google Calendar. In these meetings I could help groups with any number of issues, ranging from group dynamics to locating suitable sources. This was the most useful strategy albeit a very time-consuming one.

These meetings with students were incredibly revealing regarding the success of my teaching strategies. The truth was that half of the groups did not do nearly enough outside reading on their topic to constitute real inquiry on their part. With the other half of students, I was satisfied that they read broadly enough to select a good topic with sufficient evidence to support a thesis aligned with the NHD theme.

What were the shortcomings of my plan?  While it is tempting to blame the students for being too lazy to do outside reading, I must admit that the students did not all have intrinsic motivation and a clear purpose for reading. My plan certainly lacked good scaffolding for the vital Immerse and Explore stages of Inquiry, and my initial library lessons emphasized skills for the Gather stage.  I also put Gather before Identify.

In spite of my instructional shortcomings, I was immensely proud of the students’ work and can’t wait to see what next year’s group does. Here are a few of the judges favorites.

Webiste: Henry VIII Divorcing a Religion

Film: Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

Film: Alan Turing: Untold Hero of WW II

I am writing this blog post as a means of reaching out to fellow inquiry fans who are interested in National History Day.  I sincerely hope I have inspired some of you to undertake History Day next year and I would love to have dialog with the GID community refine teaching strategies that help students find a compelling topic and go deep within that topic and create an inspiring NHD project. Thanks for reading.  Please connect via by email or Twitter or LinkedIn.


Neil Krasnoff


Highland Park High School

Getting STEAMy with GID, Alexander Calder, & Balance and Motion

For our final post, we wanted to share about a unit on which we have actually collaborated! Carole, our fabulous fine arts teacher Carrie Howes, and myself came together to create an integrated science unit. While it is still a work in progress, the students (and teachers) have learned a lot and are incredibly passionate too!

The beginning:

On the same day, both Carrie and I talked with Carole about presenting at the HOT Schools Summer Institute. This week-long experience brings together other HOT school teachers, artists and many others for incredible learning opportunities. This summer, the focus is STEAM. The idea of collaboration between the Library, Art room, and classroom was born. As we began planning, GID was a natural fit. The three of us met several times during lunch breaks to brainstorm and lay the foundation for this work.

Carole shared about the concepts and curricular areas that her class would be focusing on. I suggested and found a copy of The Calder Game book to spark the curiosity of the students. Always on the lookout for STEAM connections, I also wondered if sphero robots could add to this unit of study with their connection to motion. Carrie began to research the works of Alexander Calder and connected the concepts of the mobiles to balance and motion, the underlying curricular theme. She also collected and gathered materials for the students to use when creating their group mobiles. Carole created the student groupings and loved every moment of researching the art, science, and technology that would make this unit come to life for the first and second grade students. In addition, our technology teacher Bridgette Schlicker has been partnering with us. We became so excited about this unit and will indeed be sharing it during the HOT Schools Institute!

As with anything, the GID process for this unit has not been linear. One of the hallmarks of HOT schools is student voice and choice. So while some of this unit could be planned, at times we worked flexibly as students helped decide the directions we would go.

Here are the steps in the GID process and how they worked with this unit.


Carole used several items for the Open phase. The class read aloud is The Calder Game. Together with biographical information on Alexander Calder and pieces of Calder’s art, students were immediately hooked!


Much of the immerse phase took place in the classroom. Students watched YouTube videos of Alexander Calder’s mobiles, museum exhibits, Calder working in his studio, and his circus. Students selected a focal art piece to display in the classroom and spent time looking at Calder’s stabiles. In library class, I had curated as many websites as possible using Symbaloo and students explored these sites. All of this added to their knowledge of Calder and his work. Throughout, the ideas of balance and motion were discussed, although they were not the focus yet.

Image from


Again, much of the explore happened in the classroom. Students made stabiles out of paper with partners. They explored balance scales and weights. While reading The Calder game, students drew a five piece
mobile. Extending this further, students then added a numeric value to the pieces to make a balanced equation. An Art Farm performance of the Little Apple Circus continued to expand students’ knowledge and understanding of balance and motion concepts.

In library, we worked with Sphero robots to gain experience with moving them around the room, first using the app to just drive the Spheros and then using the Tickle app which utilizes coding to move the robots.


The identify phase has probably been the most difficult. These are first and second grade students and they have constant questions and also this unit almost has two areas of focus, balance and motion and Calder. In library, we created a list of questions about Calder together and then learned as much as we could. I don’t think that these questions were as deep as they could have been. However, I believe that when Carole and her students began to think about balance and motion concepts, these became those deeper types of questions. This works well because the balance and motion is the major focus of the unit.



In the library, the classroom, and in technology class students collected all kinds of information. We used this Gather phase to integrate some information literacy, such as citing sources and note taking.


A variety of creations are happening with this unit. Carole began to have her students create Calder curations. She asked them to select three favorite pieces using Safe Search. Students then created a Google doc with an explanation and reflection of each art piece. This was begun in the classroom and continued in library. The Eli Whitney Museum is nearby and students used kits from the museum to build a balance and motion circuses. Mobiles are being created collaboratively with inspiration and information from our art teacher as students focus on craftsmanship. These 2D mobiles will (we hope) be made into 3D objects to use in the share that we are imagining.

Collaborative Mobiles


Carrie Howes, art teacher, creating mobiles.



At this time, we are planning to create the “Four Ring Circus” with each group programing a Sphero robot which will be used to show balance and motion concepts. They will also use the elements from their 2D mobiles and translate them into 3D objects in the ring for the “circus act” to engage with. This work will be shared in part at an Assembly (which are held each Friday afternoon) and in whole for the school wide Share Fair.

Image from:


The students will have a rubric to complete for each “circus act”.  They will search for evidence of balance and motion, Calder inspirations, and technical use of the Sphero as they watch each performance.

Final thoughts

From the classroom: If time allows (we are getting very close to the end of the year!) the students will be able to design an individual balance and motion experiment to further test one of their “big questions” about this concept. By combining GID and STEAM elements together, this project has become totally purposeful and engaging for everyone involved.  All learners were able to shine in a strength area with their group as there were so many styles of learning that were needed for the different stages of learning.  So much of the work was hands on and experimental which also raised engagement. The kids were using the language of the 4Cs of collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity to describe this work. Students had to push their thinking further in each step. It was astonishing that not one group struggled to balance their mobiles. Because of the groundwork, they have a great conceptual understanding of how to construct a balanced mobile!

From the library: I have loved every minute of this process. While there are days when we literally go by the seat of our pants, the learning has been amazing. Echoing Carole, the student engagement has been so much fun to watch. In the future, I would like to be more intentional about the information literacy skills that are embedded and also assess those more. I would also like to include more student reflection throughout.

We will update this post with pictures of the circus that I am confident will take place!!!

Thank you for learning with us!

Jenny and Carole



I was struggling to decide what my theme for this, my final post, should be, and it occurred to me that I should probably write about the thing that had the most impact on my students- and on me- during this unit.  Thank, my Guided Inquiry friends, is technology.

I have strong feelings about the use of technology in the classroom.  I’m a firm believer in its power as a tool for engagement, as a tool for differentiation, and most importantly, as a tool to unlock inquiry learning for infinitely more students.  However, I’m also all too aware of the power of technology to turn even the most confident teacher into a red-faced, flustered mess.  We’ve all been there- with our perfect lesson plans, SO pleased with ourselves for incorporating technology, and then no one’s password will work.  Or all the laptops are dead.  Or the wifi is being plain old vindictive.  We should have seen it coming, but we didn’t, and now there are thirty eighth graders looking at us expectantly like, “Hello? You’re a teacher. Can’t you fix it?” And no. No, we can’t.

If that sounds personal, it is.  I just finished four weeks of doing daily battle with the wifi (hence the title of this post).  I had cords and ports and work orders and IT people galore, or so it seemed, and the wifi was still about as predictable as a moody teenager.  And believe you me, I had days where I wanted to lock it all up and throw away the key, and unearth a collection of Encyclopedia Britannica. But I couldn’t do that, and there are a couple of reasons why.

The first is that teaching students to be smart and successful in a digital world becomes more important quite literally EVERY DAY that we live. As teachers, we just love to talk about teaching the whole child and for better or worse, this is now a part of that. Our ultimate goal as educators isn’t just to turn out competent readers or mathematicians, but to develop responsible, contributing, global citizens who are equipped with the tools to be lifelong learners- and technology is now a basic fact of that existence.  So if I gave into my urge to shut it all down, I would be doing such a disservice to my students.

The other reason I can’t put it away and never get it out again is because of what that would teach my students about learning.  When students see us, as teachers, struggle, we’re essentially teaching them how to learn.  If we shut down and shy way and refuse to try when it gets hard and messy and complicated, that’s exactly what they will do. As an inquiry community, it’s especially important that we don’t do that- and I’m talking to myself too here- because inquiry learning (at least in my experience) is messy and complicated- but ultimately SO worth it.  So if I want my students to take the risks involved, I have to be willing to take risks as well, so they’ll know what that looks like.

So the encyclopedias stayed- I don’t know, wherever they are (although I did have a great selection of WWII books, courtesy of the WMS library), and we persevered.  We learned how to troubleshoot and change networks and to plain old turn it off and turn it back on again.  And the results were more than worth it.

Thank you SO much for letting talk your ear off this week, and huge thanks to Leslie for giving me another chance to hijack her blog.  I LOVE sharing and can’t wait to read the about the other great stuff you all are doing in 2017!


–Paige Holden