Return to categories

Inquiry: Near-Real Investigations

Teacher/Librarian Role: act as expert, guide and learner to scaffold, facilitate and experience inquiry learning
Learner: seen as an apprentice practicing disciplinary thinking in an engaging and realistic context (potential for all levels of Bloom's Taxonomy)
Software: models, scaffolds and enhances inquiry thinking (Bloom's Taxonomy Levels 2-5: application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation), may use authentic disciplinary tools
Assessment: is authentic and explicit

Example Purpose Tools
Collect data by creating and editing a poll or survey Survey Builder
Poll Builder
VTSurvey (open source)
Discussion Game A modifiable simulation in which individual responses to a question are recorded, then the issue is discussed in a variety of groupings.  Debriefing discussions analyze how opinions change over time, the influence and the growth of leadership, and the manner in which ideas spread. PDA game software (MIT open source)
Assessing Web Information Use a survey to develop critical thinking. FormSite
The Historian's Sources Sequential inquiry-lessons on primary sources, with assessment of understanding through application, matched by support for teacher. Parallel Web pages provide teacher with lesson plans and pedagogy, with links to primary sources.
Smog City Students and general public use an interactive simulator to model the effects of variables (individual choices, environmental factors, land use) on air pollution. Simulation using Java, real data and Web pages with images
Force and Motion


Students participate in simulations using teacher data inputs to learn about inquiry processes Scaffolds inquiry simulations
Mac-only software
Whaling (web pages)

Great Gatsby (blog)

A sequential framework of tasks scaffold thinking about a real world question or problem. Web Quests template for Web pages and links

Manila blog

Hurricane Lesson Plan Student annotates video clip frames of real satellite images in response to teaching questions, to explain and then develop more expert understanding of a weather phenomenon. Applies and assesses learning of a process.  

Video annotation tool used to comment on real satellite images (Quick Time) in response to teacher's questions.

Investigations in Environmental Science: A Case-Based Approach to the Study of Environmental Systems

Year-long, inquiry-based linked science units in which students explore, create, and analyze scientific data using geographic data visualization and analysis tools to understand the earth's environment.  Students use My World GIS software to construct interactive maps, then use World Watcher to analyze them.


CIESE Real Time and Collaborative projects




Investigations with online and hands-on components teach the process of inquiry through cycles of investigations of concepts, phenomena and problems.

Scientific inquiry, case-based reasoning.

Lesson plans for teachers and worksheets (Adobe Acrobat) for students on Web pages, with Web links to real data sources, background resources, e-mail and forums.

Software records data selections, maps of students searches and trajectories of student process suggesting points of intervention and providing evidence of understanding the concepts and processes

Thinker Tools Inquiry Curricula General scaffolding of cycle of inquiry and reflection Progress Portfolio and Inquiry Island downloadable Web software.
Visual Ranking Tool In an online, interactive workspace students create, rank and compare lists in order to identify priorities, debate differences and organize ideas. Software enables drag-and-drop reordering of list items, explanations and annotations, comparisons and correlations
Seeing Reason Mapping software allows students to organize the factors that influence or affect a problem and show how these factors interact with each other in cause-and-effect relationships. The tool supports cycles of investigation where students gather what they know, organize that knowledge into a map, and then investigate whether their initial concepts are supported by evidence. It can be used to assess growing understanding by mapping an initial understanding of a problem, midpoint during research as knowledge and insight grow, and finally show students' fullest understanding of the problem. Software enables dragging and weighing factors, color-coding and adding explanations.
Showing Evidence Gives students a visual framework for constructing an argument or hypothesis that is supported by evidence. Using the interactive features, students make a claim, identify evidence, evaluate the quality of that evidence, explain how the evidence either supports or weakens their claim, and then make a conclusion based on the evidence.  Software scaffolds students' thinking as they make a claim, support or refute it with appropriate evidence, consider the quality and strength of the evidence, explicitly link the evidence to the claim and provide their reasoning as to why the evidence supports their claim.


Authentic project in which students learn to gather scientifically-valid data from their local sites, then pool and analyze results for global investigations with other students and scientists.  Directions for measurement protocols (Adobe Acrobat), e-mail data entry, Web pages and database.
Monarch Butterfly: From Egg to Adult Students outline, explain and film for the purpose of consolidating understanding of a sequential process Students used a graphic organizer (Inspiration) to plan poster frames to create the Web page.  They filmed the butterfly's metamorphosis, then added Quick Time video clips.
Turn-of-the-Century Child 


Sequential framework of online investigative tasks teaches historical research using primary sources.  Offline dramatic simulations develop student understanding of the United States between 1900-1929.  Multiple products, including letters, artifacts and writing in a scrapbook, and a digital photograph album, assess understandings. Web pages of tasks and archival primary sources and Web resources, with many offline experiences and products and online JAlbum.
Web Quest Garden "Instructionally solid" design patterns drawn from the best model Web Quests to be used as templates. Quest Garden
Who Killed William Robinson?



River City

Online problem solving process using historical documents teaches historical inquiry. 

Collaborative investigation and experimentation in a virtual world with a river, terrain that influences water runoff, houses, industries, a hospital and a university. Contains digital objects from the Smithsonian, plus "data collection stations" with water samples.  Students identify data patterns and wrestle with questions such as �Why are many more poor people getting sick than rich people?� Multiple causal factors are involved, including polluted water runoff to low-lying areas, insect vectors in swampy areas, overcrowding, and the cost of access to medical care.

Sequential Web pages including many primary source documents.


Multi--User Virtual Environment (MUVE) hosted by Harvard

Global Warming Simulation of a global conference on climate change. Web pages of resources with offline tasks, experiences and experiments.
Telling their Stories: Oral History of the Holocaust*

Plant Database**
Campus environmental restoration project


Students become historians or environmental scientists gathering and interpreting rich primary source data as a service to scholarship and society. These multi-year projects contribute to the intellectual commons, the historical record and the growth of scientific knowledge through a cumulative archives and database. *Oral history contains full video and full text transcripts in Web pages created with Dreamweaver templates and CSS

**Catalog of native plants on Web page entry form and MySQL database

Prince George's County Information Commons Students from Northwestern High School, employees of the University of Maryland, and other community members have conducted an oral history project on the history of desegregation Prince George's County and have begun mapping the assets (interesting places and people) in our community. We are hoping soon to have an arts "blog" (a webpage that's updated regularly with news and reviews provided by local experts), and a project on recent immigrants to the County. Geographic Information System (GIS) for asset mapping

Flash for introduction

Web resources

Cougars and Teaching

BioKids; Kids Inquiry of Diverse Species

Collaborative research on regional cougar populations in rural and suburban settings to better understand cougar-human interactions. K-12 students, teachers and local community members will assist researchers using hand-held computers to log sightings in their schoolyard. Students then analyze the data for class and team experiments. Another salient feature of the curriculum is the Critter Catalog, an on-line animal species database developed by the BioKIDS team. Students use this as the main resource when they write species accounts (conduct research on individual animals). In this curriculum, students use CyberTracker, an animal-tracking program that runs on hand-held computers (PDAs), to log animal sightings in their schoolyard. Collected data is downloaded directly from a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) to a hard drive or system server and then input directly into a Geographic Information System (GIS) database to enhance the visualization and usefulness of the information. Cybertracker software and Handspring Visor PDA's have the capability to attach digital cameras and Global Positioning Units (GPS) directly to the unit without cables
Community Asset and Development Information System (CADIS)


Business, public, and academic initiative Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) to investigate community problems; students are engaged in environmental service learning, archaeology, historical research, even library design. Use collection of technologies (3-D maps, virtual reality, GIS, TerraExplorer) to map assets, land use, population growth, hydrant obstruction, etc. and provide data for decision making

Effective teaching with technology matches the teacher's goals and the learner's characteristics and needs, with tools that enhance understanding.