YES to Guided Inquiry

image by ExplorerBob, downloaded from pixabay

I absolutely believe in the necessity for information literacy in the 21st century. The development of the Internet and mobile technologies have given us access to a complex and changing information environment – an environment where we have instantaneous and ubiquitous access to vast amounts of unfiltered, and often unsubstantiated, information. Our students need the capability to navigate this information environment successfully – they need to be information literate.

There are many models for teaching and scaffolding information literacy (see this post, but literacy is not pedagogy (Wocke, 2018). “Literacy needs a pedagogy to develop it and give it meaning” (Lupton 2012). Inquiry-based learning provides teachers with that pedagogy and curricular framework. Inquiry is an approach to teaching and learning, where learners are active participants who feel and think and act (Kuhlthau, n.d.). Learning is central to the inquiry process, the teacher facilitates the process and challenges students’ inquiry journey through the design of inquiry tasks, resources use and the use of teaching spaces (Murdoch & Claxton, 2015, pp. 14-15).

Kuhlthau turned her successful model for information literacy, the Information Search Process (ISP), into pedagogy when the Guided Inquiry Design (GI)process was developed. “Guided Inquiry is planned, targeted, supervised intervention throughout the inquiry process” (Kuhlthau, 2010, p. 20). GI frames the process, the thoughts, feelings and actions in clear understandable words that can help our students understand their learning better.

Having just finished reading this article Kuhlthau (2010) wrote about Guided Inquiry, I want to say:



Yes, we need a new way of learning for the 21st century.

Yes, school libraries should be the dynamic learning centres of schools and school librarians as vital partners in the inquiry process,

Yes, inquiry that is guided by a flexible, collaborating instructional team will enable students to gain understanding and knowledge and be self-directed in their learning.

Yes, the third space is where learning will be the most meaningful.

Yes, assessment throughout the process makes the most sense.

Yes, to information literacy, learning to learn, content learning, literacy competence and development of social skills.

Yes, to connecting with what they already know.

Yes, to putting our students in the centre of learning.



Yes, but… many schools do not have the freedom to experiment in this way because of standards and curriculum constraints and requirements.

Yes, but… many schools do not have fully qualified and dedicated librarians and libraries and technology that provides equal access to online and print resources

Yes, but… there are such prescriptions about assessment and reporting practice that restricts how teachers teach and assesses.

BUT, this is  a worthwhile model for all TLs to know and implement, even if it cannot be in its purest form. Our students deserve a new way of learning and we should do our best to guide them and support them as best we can.




The video below, by Karen Bonanno, provides a worthwhile introduction to GI (Eduwebinar, 2016).


FitzGerald, L. (2015). Guided inquiry in practice. Scan, 34(4), 16-27.

Kuhlthau, C. C. (n.d.). Information search process. Retrieved May 1, 2018, from
Rutgers School of Information and Communication website:

Kuhlthau, C. C. (2010). Guided inquiry: School libraries in the 21st century. School Libraries Worldwide, 16(1), 17-28. Retrieved from

Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K., & Caspari, A. K. (2015). Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited,
an imprint of ABC-CLIO.

Lupton, M. (2012, July 10). IL is dead, long live IL! [Blog post]. Retrieved from Inquiry learning website:
IL is dead, long live IL!

Murdoch, K., & Claxton, G. (2015). The power of inquiry. Northcote, Vic: Seastar Education.

Wocke, G. (2018, April 26). Information literacy Models [Blog post]. Retrieved from Gretha Reflecting website:

The Digital Learning Environment

The disruptive nature of current technological advances is forcing us to re-evaluate, and in many cases re-design, re-invent or at least adapt many aspects of our society – the learning environment is no exception. A learning environment is no longer a classroom where students quietly sit, all facing forward, while the teacher delivers content from a printed textbook (Graetz, 2006).

A digital learning environment (DLE) is an environment where learning is facilitated and supported through the affordances of digital technology. The DLE consists of all resources: hardware, software and educational content, that the learner and teacher employ to facilitate learning. Because the DLE is “digital”, connected and networked, it is not bound by time or space. Learning can happen 24/7/365 and outside of the physical restrictions and constraints of traditional learning environments, just-in-time and on-demand. Learning can not only take place when we want, but where we want, with and from whom we want and about what we want (Richardson & Mancabelli, 2011, p. 2). Learning in DLEs are not restricted to the group of students in a class but can naturally extend to include experts and communities of interest and practice, allowing for more authentic, “situated” or context-dependent learning experiences (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989, p. 39).

photo by rawpixel, dowloaded from pixabay

Digital learning environments include, but are not exclusive to, learning management systems (LMS) or virtual learning environments (VLE).  These environments should be intentionally designed, allowing for personalised, empowering, learner-centred and learner-directed learning (Veletsianos, 2016, pp. 246-7). DLE should make the most of Web 2.0, media and tools, which are open, social and participatory –  allowing learning through communication, collaboration, co-creating and sharing of knowledge (Conole, 2013, p. 47). The DLE is hyper-connected and allows for learning that is dynamic and fluid, a blend of formal, informal, experiential, problem-based and inquiry learning.

The existence of a DLE does not guarantee maximisation of learning. Intentional steps must be put into place to ensure that students and teachers develop the skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century, as well as the behaviour and attitudes needed to learn and socialise safely, ethically and effectively in these environments.

The DLE in our school is complex, but none the less reasonably effective, focussed on supporting the teaching and the learning of our students in a collaborative and transparent environment. We use Managebac as learning management system, a good choice – from an administrative point of view, since it is tailor-made for our IB school. Managebac creates a transparent online DLE where teachers, students and parents have – at all-time – a transparent overview of curriculum, learning objectives, learning tasks and assessments. Much of the active learning activities take place in the Google Suite environment, where tools are integrated, and collaboration is easily facilitated and monitored through sharing of digital artefacts. Students have access to Managebac and the Google environment at all times, at school, home and elsewhere, and can easily share access to their work with peers, teachers and parents. Other Web 2.0 tools are often used for specific learning activities. In my grade 6 Digital X (technology and design-based course) , for example, students are experimenting with free online tools to create audio recordings (Twistedwave), video recordings (WeVideo) and photo manipulation software (Photopea). The artefacts that students create are showcased in an ePortfolio, which is a Google slide presentation. Assignments, grades and assessment comments for tasks in the ePortfolio is published on Managebac.

Our course notes describe a DLE as “the tools, skills, standards, attitudes and habits for learning while using technology and accessing digital resources” (Lindsay & O’Connell, 2018). All of those elements are important in creating a successful learning environment, but the skilful creation of authentic and challenging learning opportunities by the teacher, is needed to ensure that our students thrive and grow.


Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32-42. Retrieved from JSTOR database.

Conole, G. (2013). Designing for learning in an open world. New York, NY: Springer.

Graetz, K. A. (2006). The psychology of learning environments. In D. G. Oblinger (Ed.), Learning spaces. Retrieved from

Lindsay, J., & O’Connell, J. (2018). Topic 1.0: Introduction to the digital learning environment. Retrieved March 3, 2018, from ETL 523: Digital citizenship in schools website:

Richardson, W., & Mancabelli, R. (2011). Personal learning networks: Using the power of connections to transform education. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Veletsianos, G. (2016). Digital learning environments. In N. Rushby & D. Surry (Eds.), Handbook of learning technologies (pp. 242-260). Retrieved from

Adapting to “a new culture of learning”

Thomas and Brown rightly states that 20th century teacher-centred and classroom-based learning environments do not adequately facilitate 21st century learning.

In the relative stability of the 20th century, education slowly and orderly adapted to changes in society and information was relatively scarce. This has been replaced by an environment characterised by constant connectivity to an expanding networked infrastructure; seamless access to ubiquitous information and new social and participatory media formats. These profound changes were brought about by converging developments in information and communication technologies (ICTs). An information society, characterised by accelerated continual change evolved. In the information society learning is no longer only formal, static and discrete, but also informal, continuous and fluid – not bound to teaching or classroom.

The fundamental shifts necessary for the world of education to adapt to the needs of the information society (and stay relevant) includes a change from teaching-based (passive) education to learning-based education:

  • with the emphasis no longer on teaching about the world, but learning through interacting with the world;
  • learning no longer viewed as an individual activity, but as social – happening in collectives, or communities of shared interest, and through peer-to-peer collaboration;
  • education does not react to change, but embraces change;
  • students do not prove successful information transfer, but ask questions and embrace what they do not know;
  • students do not learn from teachers (in classrooms only), but teachers act as mentors while students learn from the network of information sources that is the information society.

Thomas and Brown proposes “a new culture of learning” that cultivates learning in the 21st century information society. This type of learning requires unlimited access to a network of resources, as well as a structured environment that allows for unlimited agency to question, build and experiment within the boundaries of this environment (Thomas and Brown, 2011, p.19). Much like in the case of “games” and their “rules”, passion and imagination are harnessed to work within the constraints posed by the boundaries of the learning environments. They see play, questioning and the cultivation of imagination as the bedrocks of their “new culture of learning” (p.20), rather than the traditional educational metrics of efficiency, outcomes and answers (p. 118).

Thomas and Brown are not alone in their fundamental understanding of the shifts that are needed in education, see for example this blog post and this essay about the Connected learning movement, which proposes a different, but fundamentally related model for the reformation of education.

How does Thomas and Brown’s new culture of learning reflect my own experiences as an educator and learner in the past two or three years?

As an adult learner, my experience of 21st century learning is similar to this “new culture of learning”. I am convinced that learning has broken through the walls of formal, classroom education for ever. As learners, we are in control of our own self-directed learning. Learning is social and active and ongoing. Learning does not only happen out of textbooks or from a teacher. Experts and specialists as well as communities of interests, peers, social communities and various new forms of information production are all valuable sources of information and catalysts for learning.

As an educator in a school, I fully agree that learning should be learner-directed and –centred and not be bound to content, classroom and teacher. I am also convinced that younger learners need carefully constructed environments in which to learn. I am unsure of how they can safely and responsibly benefit from external collectives and communities of interest. I believe our students need much guidance in developing digital and information literacies and in traversing the information networks.

I have seen significant movement towards collaboration and peer-based learning in our school, but the general experience is still very different from “a new culture of learning”subject-based and result-oriented teaching is still very prevalent as we are primarily focused on preparing students to produce grades that will ensure entry into tertiary educational institutions.

The transformation of traditional education has begun, much remains to be done.



TEDX Talks. (2012, September 12). A new culture of learning, Douglas Thomas at TEDxUFM [Video file]. Retrieved from

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.

The digital age and possibilities for re-imagining our educational system

The convergence of computing, information and communication technologies into one device, affordable and usable by most, has resulted in the development of a transformed information-rich world. With these mobile devices, we became nodes points in a global information ecosystem, socially connected in interactive knowledge environments that transcend the restrictions of our physical world.

Almost every aspect of our personal, professional and societal lives has been transformed by the tools and products of this digital age. Two important examples should be emphasised:

• New participatory media formats use web-based technologies to enable recipients of information messages to be active participants in knowledge creation. Interactive platforms allow experts and voxpop voices to join, in creating, discussing and distributing user-generated information products in many formats.

• Cloud computing makes improved productivity and knowledge building possible through immediate communication channels and tools for collaboration. These improved data storage facilities make digitisation of our collective societal knowledge and cultural heritage possible in online digital repositories.

The new digital age is having a significant impact on the learning environment: on when, where and how we learn. Multi-formatted online resources and participatory media enables self-directed, self-paced, individualised, personal and differentiated authentic learning. The role of teachers is changing from deliverers of content to creators of context (Thomas, 2012). The classroom, where learning was traditionally initiated by teachers, has expanded beyond walls, lectures and textbooks and can become truly learner-centred. Connected learning provides an existing model that makes use of the products of the digital age to re-imagine our traditional education system.

While some educators suggests that the students of today are intuitive and “native” users of new media formats and tools, we need to better understand the competencies and proficiencies that are required of learners to be literate in this digital age.

What now is the role of school libraries in this digital age? Libraries should support learning where and when it takes place. This means a dynamic, physical learning space and an equally well-designed virtual space, where librarians meet the information needs of teachers and students through curation of digital resources and tools and help students develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. How we will get there… THIS is the challenge that I hope to meet through my studies!

A VERY critical reflection on what I have learnt this far:

I am fascinated by the reading provided for Module 1. While the content was not new, I was challenged by so many of the authors to imagine how this digital world can transform our educational institutions and our thinking about learning. I am inspired, but that is the positive side…

It took far too long to read and grasp the required reading. I hope that as I become more familiar with the concepts and academic writing again, that I will be more efficient.

I have not participating in the online discussions yet, because the reading and setting up of the blog took too much time (I will do so this week). I believe as I find my voice I will be bolder, less worried about seeming ignorant and more comfortable with the tools we have been introduced to. I am very excited and in the right place, but still getting up to speed.


Thomas, D. (2012, September 12). A new culture of learning [Video file]. Retrieved from