CALRG Conference: Personal Inquiry

Liveblog of two presentations in a row at the CALRG conference.

Personal Inquiry: OU experience

Cindy Kerawalla and Mark Gaved on OU view.

OU/Nottingham collaborative project funded by EPSRC/ESRC TLRP. Developing a toolkit (nQuire) to support personal inquiry learning across formal and informal settings – launch event next month. Very much an iterative approach. KS3 students – 11-14. Seven trials, 300 students, 7 teachers. Coming to end of third and final year.

Kit consists of: Eee netbooks with toolkit loaded on, plus other equipment – sensors from ScienceScope (humidity, temperature etc), cameras, GPS devices. (Tongue-in-cheek Hint: Give students small memory cards, limits the photos you need to analyse!)

Structuring an inquiry process, task sequencing and orchestration, enabling collaboration.

Four trials at OU – mainly geography. Two on urban heat islands (2008, 2009), with whole-year GCSE groups. Comparing walk across Milton Keynes and Northampton. Toolkit enables hypothesis, data collection, collation, and export. Another on Microclimates (2008), around school playground, collecting data. Again supported by toolkit. Final study after-school club on sustainability of the food production cycle – interested in packaging and storage (rotting!). Less formal context.

Conclusions: supports process of making familiar strange; flexibility; joint negotiation, personalisation of inquiry. Supports informal settings, cognitive engagement, and organisation/monitoring of activity.

Next steps: further analysis, rollout of toolkit nQuire (after launch event mentioned above – currently redirects to PI project page), trials on difference mobile devices, and application to FE/HE.

Shailey Minocha: How adaptive is the toolkit?

Cindy: Can choose data, measures and so on.

Mark: Initial work on structure, but now emphasis on flexibility.

Personal Inquiry: Nottingham experience

Stamatina Anastopoulou presents.

Process is a bit different from OU version; more explicit mention of the stages in the process.

Trial in Nov 2009 – Noise pollution and birds’ eating habits. Year 8 students (13-year-olds). Whole class development from initial views, expert ecology prompts, to research question. Set of learning activities designed to support sense of ownership of investigation, multiple phases of inquiry, multiple data collection methods, individual, group & class orchestration of activities. Field trip to nature reserve, took sound sensor, GPS, photos (GPS-linked). Then visualisation of data using Google Earth. Site has a lot of noise – train tracks, M1, East Midlands airport. Then at school collected similar data around school grounds. Found that in noisy areas, most food was eaten (counter to prediction) – was because one big bird there was unaffected and ate the lot. Smaller birds ate at other feeders and ate less.

More controlled investigation in a garden as an experiment. Set up feeders – one on a quiet tree, and another with a radio next to it as source of noise. Less food eaten by the noisy tree.

Much data collection – pre/post questionnaires, log files, video, interviews, artefacts, observation notes.

Successes around collecting data, seeing data and children’s responses showing understanding.

Concerns around the time taken, and continuity of teaching.

Critical incidents analysis – children need to understand science practised differently in different contexts; transitions between learning settings are potential source of breakdown. Also problems with institutionally provided devices.


Patrick: Different tools between Nottingham/OU? Did you look at other sequencing tools like IMS, LAMS etc.

Stamatina: Was different, now the same. Did look at other possible tools.

Mark: You saw slightly different versions of the tool, has been developed across project. Local instantiations were different. Have web-based authoring tool, so can create different structures for different experiments. Localising the tool was necessary – e.g. to match language used by teachers.

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Author: dougclow

Data scientist, tutxor, project leader, researcher, analyst, teacher, developer, educational technologist, online learning expert, and manager. I particularly enjoy rapidly appraising new-to-me contexts, and mediating between highly technical specialisms and others, from ordinary users to senior management. After 20 years at the OU as an academic, I am now a self-employed consultant, building on my skills and experience in working with people, technology, data science, and artificial intelligence, in a wide range of contexts and industries.

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