Artefact of learning

At St. Margaret’s we recognised a need to strive for deeper thinking within our classrooms. We acknowledged that many of our students had a ‘near enough is good enough’ kind of attitude towards tasks and were satisfied with addressing minimum criteria. Whilst they are extremely compliant and kind spirited children, they were not showing self motivation or pushing themselves to go further/deeper. We saw the potential for great success as our students like to engage in new projects and are willing to complete given challenges.

Our goal was to move students towards the deepest level of thinking using Bloom’s Taxonomy as our guide. We wanted to see students exploring different means of creation (the highest level of thinking). Generally, our students were not able to take their work to the level of creating nor were we providing enough time for action.

Our guiding question became “How might we deepen student thinking through the use of contemporary ICT tools?” We planned to use Inquiry as our primary vehicle for this research. We used the NOTOSH model within our Inquiry in order to encourage deeper and more visible thinking.

2014 was a big year for our senior students at St. Margaret’s. We had already made the commitment to move towards 1:1 use of iPad devices. This automatically allowed students to utilise technology at the point of need in a given inquiry as opposed to the rotational use of computers where access was limited.

We planned to use ICT across all areas of the curriculum, exploring the use of research tools at a minimum but moving into the use of apps to record, capture, explain and reflect upon our learning within all subjects. We planned to give students as much choice as possible within the guidelines of a task and to allow students to connect to others’ learning through tools like Google drive and Edmodo. We used the Padagogy Wheel (based on Bloom) to guide us in our use of apps.

At first we weren’t sure what would evidence our success. We knew we would be able to make anecdotal observations and that we would be able to observe students using the tools, but measuring depth of thinking would prove difficult. It was then that we recognised that students would play a large role in analysing success through their own reflections. We developed several tools to gather data based on student engagement and levels of thinking. The first was a student survey aimed at collecting student’s reflections and opinions, the second was a student based rubric and third a teacher assessment rubric based on Bloom’s Taxonomy.

We began by looking at our old planners. We saw the planner through fresh eyes and wanted to create immersion experiences that would create an emotive and passionate connection to the learning. This, we hoped, would ‘hook’ our students and illicit enthusiasm to go further. We utilised Harvard University’s Visible Thinking Routines as a tool to deepen initial thoughts and provoke further questioning. We also used tools such as cross classification charts to make connections between key topics we were exploring e.g. Stolen Generation, the plight of refugees, damage to the Great Barrier Reef. We felt that it was important that students could articulate clearly what were the key issues in each topic that they were exploring. Allowing them to create a Visioning College piece within the immersion gave the teaching team an insight into which topic created a level of ‘passion’ in response to their initial research.

We plotted new opportunities to use our newly discovered tools (both ICT and Design Thinking Tools). The unit followed a logical NOTOSH path and each day presented opportunities to explore new apps, with time to use the app, share the way it was used, critique its success and reflect upon further ways to extend its use. Our experiences are outlined on the Thinklink :


Here’s what happened:

  • students were immediately engaged as they were keen to use the iPads

  • students were pushed by the design thinking tools

  • students took the task seriously, engaging in opportunities to express their reflections on topics

  • students initially found it difficult to engage in deep reflection but were given several opportunities to practice this and enjoyed a better level of success

  • students began reflecting better not only in Inquiry but in all subjects

  • students became more collaborative in their learning

  • students were given the opportunity to become an expert and teach others (App workshops/tutorials)

  • students became better able to verbalise their thoughts

  • students were able to engage with the tasks, no matter their entry level/skill set

  • students were given the opportunity to take action following investigation

Student perspective of our unit ‘Rebel with a Cause!’

What worked?

  • The choice and  variety of topics and modes in which the the students were immersed.

  • The use of apps to organise ideas and thinking. e.g. CC charts and Visible Thinking Routines.

  • The use of Stop Motion to record digitally the development of their Visioning Collage Piece.

  • The further development of the sharing of ideas collaboratively through the use of Notosh tools.

  • 100 ideas in 10 minutes (openness of thought)

  • Students sharing and recommending new apps

What didn’t work?

  • the initial generation of inquiring questions (students needed pushing to gain depth)

  • the first attempts at SQuID thinking and Hexagonal Thinking (but worth persevering)

  • our current rubric (it’s doesn’t yet use the right language to reflect our expectations)

According to our student data 81% of students agree that Inquiry challenges their thinking and 83% of student’s agree that they have noticed a difference in how they work during Inquiry. These results could of been influenced by:

  • the freedom given to them to them to inquire on an area of choice

  • the relevance given by taking their inquiry out to the community

  • the ability of students to choose the app or other ICT based tool to explain their learning and to take their learning out into the community

94% of students agreed that their iPad assisted them as a learning tool during Inquiry which showed that as an contemporary ICT tool it is effective.

ipad survey

Throughout the process we were able to gather a trail of evidence that tracked the learning journey and levels of thinking of the students.This data was both qualitative and quantitive. The combination of students survey data and rubrics gave us an indication as to the higher level of student engagement illicited throughout the inquiry. Digital  records of work samples such as the Visioning Collage allowed for more effective  student reflection. Students were able to collate and organise their work samples effectively on their iPads.  This included graphic organisers such as CC charts and records of their thinking routines. Throughout the inquiry students were able to digitally record personal reflections. Student interviews were also recorded. A teacher rubric aimed at plotting student performance against Lorin Andersen’s taxonomy has been designed for use at the end of the unit.

Survey results

We learned from this unit:

The importance of an immersion that is multi modal, passionate and issue based to create a high level of student engagement.

The importance of immersing students in the focus areas of learning but allowing for individual and group pathways for further questioning, research and autonomous creativity and action.

The value of using the variety of thinking tools in deepening student thinking, challenging individual thought and opinion.

The importance of being creative in the planning process. The value of formative assessment in shaping and reshaping the planning process.

The importance of planning how ICT can be effectively utilised by students throughout a given inquiry.

Successes, challenges and next steps…

 Technology used to enhance learning and teaching at St Margaret’s:

  • 1:1 iPads
  • Student GAFE accounts- enabled students to collaborate on documents and feedback to be easily sought.
  • Hapara- assisted staff to manage and access student generated content.

Next Steps:

  • Acting on feedback from all stakeholders. (Students, Parents and Teachers)
  • Ensure parental involvement in the learning cycle.
  • Ensure students are given to opportunity to maintain the rage with their action.
  • Continue to develop tasks that will enable students to deepen their thinking. Blooms revised taxonomy
  • Blooms
  • Continue to develop and fine tune our Inquiry planning process.
  • Time devoted for students to complete their action and see through work they are passionate about.
  • Reflect on the best time management and how to best cater for our Inquiry Cycle?
  • Rollout the Inquiry Process through the school.