Tech This Out!

An Online Digital Toolkit of Resources for Teachers

Wondering, Questioning, Thinking, Investigating

What Does It Mean to be an Investigator?

"In small groups, we are smarter. In well-structured groups, we leverage each other’s thinking. We learn more not just because we all bring different pieces of the puzzle, but because, through talk, we can actually make new and better meaning together."
—Stephanie Harvey and Harvey “Smokey” Daniels
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Inquiry Circles

There is nothing more exhilarating then to watch little minds at work. We've all been there, either on the viewing side of it or, fully immersed ourselves in free exploration and discovery. For me personally, the thrill comes when students start to take their "wonderings" and begin gravitating towards deeper exploration of a topic, not realizing that they are taking their first steps towards becoming an "investigator." What's even more powerful is when they realize that someone else, in their very classroom, is actually wondering the same thing! It's the perfect recipe for collaboration and to be honest, there would not have been a more authentic way to match it up. And so...Collaborative Inquiry Circles are born!


But what exactly is Inquiry? The better question might be what is it not. It's NOT Inquiry if:

  • Students know what results they're "supposed" to get.
  • The question and steps are predetermined for them.
  • The teacher is working harder that the students.


For most, it naturally makes sense to investigate deeper into Science and Social Studies content but what about during literacy? After reading the book Collaboration and Comprehension: Inquiry Circles by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels I had what some people call, the "aha" "Flash of Light" hit me smack in the face. This book was screaming at me how student "wonderings" while reading a selected piece of text, or even better yet, different texts, could actually lead to further inquiry all while deepening their comprehension! That, was just the "aha"! The "Flash of Light" came when I realized that both Harvey and Daniels were suggesting students work together to investigate common "wonderings" during Literature Circle Inquiries stressing the importance of student collaboration and using inquiry as a "vehicle to increase comprehension and deepen understanding."


So, Why Inquiry Circles? Well... Harvey and Daniels both suggest that Inquiry Circles:


  • Engage students in reading text (all kinds of text)
  • Push students to be seekers of knowledge
  • Foster thinking skills
  • Allow students to explore areas of interest
  • Promote ownership of learning
  • Deepen comprehension
Teaching Elementary Reading with Inquiry Circles

The Role of Technology in Inquiry Circles

So, what does this all mean anyway? Or, more importantly, (at least in this newsletter) how does this relate to technology? It's important to remember technology is merely another tool for learning and or a means of accelerating learning in order to enhance the learning outcome. Naturally technology plays a roll in student learning throughout the research stage of investigating but, what about the organizing of thoughts, the gathering of details or capturing the path it took to "get there"? Ultimately there is "end in mind" so, how do students go public with their findings? Someone out there wants to hear what they have to say! Someone out there is willing to comment and provide feedback (a real live authentic audience right?!) So, what tools are the best tools to accelerate such investigations and, what tools are best to enhance the learning outcome? While the following tools will most certainly shine a light on these questions, it is important to remember that Inquiry Circles certainly don't need to rely solely on technology. For example, students can also share their new learning publicly by building models, performing, using art, etc. Such a great reminder that giving kids lots of options to research and share learning is key to 21st Century Learning.

Canvas In The Elementary

Mrs. Park's 1st Grade Class & Canvas

A New Learning Experience!

This is an exciting time for both you and your students as many of you begin to embed new devices into your classroom and into the hands of your students. However, you might be wondering, what is the best use for all of these new learning tools or more importantly, how can you organize, manage and deliver all of the great resources out there so that your students can access them? Insert Canvas! Canvas is a Learning Management System (LMS) similar to My Big Campus (only better) that allows teachers to create and deliver content online, monitor student participation and assess student performance all in one space.


Currently Noblesville Schools grades 6-12 are implementing Canvas into the learning experience. However, it has recently made its way into the Elementary setting in all grades K-5! If you are interested in seeing what great potential this tool has to offer for both you and your students, you can enroll in our very own Noblesville Schools Elementary Canvas Challenge! This challenge is filled with step by step guides and video tutorials that walk you right through all of the Canvas features. Including:


  • Setting up your Classroom Homepage
  • Creating Pages, Assignments, Discussions, Rubrics and Quizzes
  • Gathering Materials and Organizing your Files


Look to see highly effective examples of K-5 Canvas Implementation in each upcoming Tech This Out! Newsletter.

Elementary Canvas Challenge Sign Up Form

Click here, If you are interested in joining your other Elementary colleagues in the Challenge!

Teacher Spot Light! Using Ideaboardz to Support Reading Claims

Being able to support a claim with evidence is a life long skill that we will use in every aspect of adult life. As educators, we also know that this is a valuable reading skill as well. According to Dr. Rozlyn Linder, author of the blog post Teaching Students to use Anchor Standard #1: Textual Evidence in the Common Core Classroom

"Textual evidence does not want to keep the text a secret when students discuss or answer questions about their reading. Textual evidence demands that readers engage with the text and share what specific aspects of the text influences their thinking." Fifth grade students at Hazel Dell Elementary were challenged with this task in teacher Dan Brown's classroom. Instead of asking what the central idea is, Brown relied on the addition of three words: How do you know? In essence, what proof did his students have to support their claims about several questions asked while reading a novel?


In order to organize their thoughts, Brown's students used Ideaboardz, a place where all of the students in his class could see a thinking model from one another. Students thoughts were organized all in one place where they could go back and revisit at any moment in time as apposed to having used sticky notes that stayed with each child's individual book. Students could simply reference back to the specific page number listed along with each claim.

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Courtney Cohron

Tech This Out Archive - Click below to see previous month's newsletters


December's Issue

January's Issue

Scheduling a Coaching Chat

I would love to sit down and chat with you about all of the wonderful things that you are doing in your classroom. Let's discuss why technology would be a great enhancement and brainstorm ways to integrate it into your learning environment! -Courtney