Author Archives: teachkids2research

Dive into Inquiry by Trevor Mackenzie

Dive Into Inquiry                                                                   Dive into Inquiry

By Trevor Mackenzie

I have enjoyed reading this book immensely. It really empowers us as teachers to transform our classroom into an Inquiry Based Learning environment.

I particularly liked Trevor’s methodology into how you can start the process of Inquiry learning in your classroom. ‘Relationships first’. To do this he offers three goals to attain to transform students from passive learners to active learners.

  1. Gradually begin to flip control of learning in the room from the teacher to the learner.
  2. Create an atmosphere of trust on which we can rely on over the coming months.
  3. Begin to unpack inquiry and build the foundation for learning for the year.

Trevor embarks on his journey with ‘co – design learning’, teacher and students together. This gives the students an opportunity of being part of what is taught in the curriculum. The students buy in and are fully engaged in collaborative lessons. This “trust and empowerment strengthens inquiry and builds community.”

Each year Trevor takes his students on an Inquiry Journey. He begins with a Structured Inquiry model, transitions to a Controlled Inquiry, moves into a Guided Inquiry and if it goes well concludes with a Free Inquiry model. I find this type of a journey invaluable especially if it’s the first time students are doing any type of inquiry learning. It would work extremely well for student differentiation. Over a number of years and experience it may be possible to use the four student inquiry models across different year levels. Trevor explains that the ‘must know’ information that is in the curriculum is woven in as the year progresses and must be taught in advance to free Inquiry.

Trevor explains the purpose of taking the students on this Inquiry journey is to give them the learning experience so by the time they do “Free Inquiry they have been reflecting on essential questions, learning evidence, conducting research and understanding by design so they will be prepared for the challenge of free inquiry.”

These are the types of Student Inquiry.

Structured Inquiry – Students follow the lead of the teacher as the entire class engages in one inquiry together.

Controlled Inquiry – Teacher chooses topics and identifies the resources students will use to answer questions.

Guided Inquiry – Teacher chooses topics / questions and students design a product or solution ( addit – any project)
Free Inquiry – Students choose their topics without reference to any prescribed outcome.
Trevor gives some examples of lessons where each of the above are used. He structures his lessons with four main headings. I really like this simple uncomplicated lesson structure for the students and if it was used across all year levels the students would easily recognise it, understand and move quickly into their tasks.

The headings are:

Essential Questions


Learning Evidence

Performance Task

Free Inquiry

Trevor gives 4 pieces of advice when planning an Inquiry Unit of your own.

  1. Start with a structured Inquiry unit.
  2. Start with a topic or unit you have taught before.
  3. Start small
  4. Start with the end in mind.

Trevor offers Four Pillars of Inquiry for students to use in the Inquiry process. He believes that by “empowering students in the direction of their education, we are nurturing an intrinsic motivation with awesome benefits.” I totally agree with this concept and can see the following pillars really engaging students in their learning.
Here are his four pillars of Inquiry.

Explore a Passion

Aim for a Goal

Delve into your Curiosities

Take on a New Challenge

The book goes into each of these pillars in more depth with examples, prompts, questions and ideas for teaching. What is particularly inspiring are the QR codes found throughout the book which take you to various examples of student work.  Just a wonderful way to bring to life some of Trevor’s pillars of Inquiry. After students have worked out which pillar they will be focusing on Trevor introduces the Essential Question.

The Essential Questions

By this stage, students have an inquiry topic they would like to spend time researching and will then need to change the inquiry into essential questions.

To help students formulate the essential questions Trevor offers these steps:

  • Brainstorming and researching their topic.
  • Looking at prior knowledge and finding background and context by answering the who, what, where, why and how questions.
  • Collaborating with school librarian. (a great idea.) Visit the librarian and have them supply data bases, books, magazines, journals and online sites.

Trevor goes into detail discussing what the characteristics of a good essential question are. His big main three characteristics are:

  1. Is your essential question open ended?
  2. Does your essential question provide the depth of study demanded by the curriculum?
  3. How is the essential question meaningful to you?

Once the students have their essential questions Trevor offers 6 parts to planning the Inquiry Proposal.

These are:

  1. What is your essential question? Why is it meaningful to you?
  2. What is your authentic piece? How will you make your learning public?
  3. What will you read, research and study to help explore your essential question?
  4. What are your goals for your free Inquiry?
  5. What learning evidence will you gather to capture everything you are learning about your essential question?
  6. What is your plan? Create a calendar and day to day plan to help your free inquiry unit to be a successful learning experience.

What an exciting Inquiry journey to take your students on.

Thank you, Trevor for your passion for teaching, kindness to share your experience and willingness to mentor other teachers so see our students succeed in life.  I fully recommend this book to read. Gather the details, grab the excitement and begin the journey of Inquiry with your students.

Judy Clark

Primary IT Coordinator / Design Technology Teacher


King’s Christian College, Gold Coast Australia





Safe Surfing

An anchor chart to remind your students how keep safe while using technology.

Safe Searching Safari

Safe Searching Safari

Click on the link above to download the free PDF of the poster.

More ideas for ‘Safe Searching’ discussions

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The Symantec Connect Website offers 10 Safe Surfing Tips.

  1. Don’t give out your personal information – Don’t put personal details such as your home address, telephone numbers or parent’s work address online as cybercriminals can use this information to create a fake profile with your details.
  2. What goes online, stays online – Use privacy settings to make sure only your friends and family can see photos you post. Avoid posting holiday plans as criminals have been known to track your movements.
  3. Check your security and privacy settings – Make sure your social network privacy settings are secured so only your friends can see your personal information and use your privacy settings to restrict who can see your posts, videos and photos.
  4. Password safety – Sharing your password with your parents is a sensible idea, but avoid sharing your password with your friends, even if they promise they won’t tell anyone! Also, when setting your password, make sure it isn’t something people may guess such as your pet’s name. Use a mixture of letters, numbers and upper and lower case characters.
  5. Always protect your mobile device – Make sure your mobile phone is pin-protected so all your personal information stored on it is safe. Download a security app which allows you to remotely wipe any personal data, should your mobile be lost or stolen.
  6. Don’t talk to strangers online or offline – Don’t meet up with strangers and let your parents know if a stranger has tried to get in contact with you online. Often people you speak to online may not be who they say they are so only share your personal details on social media sites with friends, family and people you already know in the ‘real’ world.
  7. Listen to the adults who know – Adults will always be worried about you. Help set their mind at rest and avoid chatting online with strangers or using the internet so long you neglect your real world activities and real world friends.
  8. Be wary of unsecured or unknown websites – When shopping online, use reputable and known retailers. Make sure any transactions you make only take place across secure web pages which you can identify from the padlock sign in your browser address bar and where the address says https.
  9. Be careful what links you click on – Avoid clicking links in an email, Instant Message or on your social network unless you are sure the message is from someone you know. Cybercriminals have been known to hack into your friends’ email accounts and social networks to send emails or post messages claiming they are in trouble and asking you to transfer them money. Don’t believe it if it sounds suspicious or offers something unrealistic.
  10. Make sure your security software is up to date – Security software is now available on all types of devices; mobile phones, tablets and PCs. Make sure you have the latest security software on your devices to stay protected at all times.

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Exciting though all this may be….before launching into their first search on the internet, it is a good idea to ensure that children understand the risks associated with technology.  ‘Think u Know‘ has made available a home contract to encourage discussion and the formation of family values, both necessary for safe surfing.  Find the free download on their site.  Love this!


Some safe browsers for use in the classroom:

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Zoodles is a great browser for children. A place were children learn and play in a safe playground browser environment. There is a premium version of the application ($7.95 per month or $59.95 per year) that offers parents access to special features, including the ability to monitor kids’ activities, block ads, and customize content. Parents can try out the premium version free for 14 days. ( Commonsense Media)

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Kido’z is a kid friendly browser that gives children a safe environment to learn , explore, create and communicate.

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Safe Browser for Education with Parental Controls and Porn Blocking.
This app is ranked as the number 1 for safe browsing on iPads. It has a cost of $4.99US. It is recommended for home and school use.

By MetaCert


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‘KidRex is a kid safe search engine powered by Google Safe Search and Google Custom Search. This is a great tool to implement in the classroom, especially for research type assignments’. Images appear with the search results making this user friendly for less able readers, English as a second language or students in the lower grades.

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Really impressed with the 2016 update of Kid’s Search.  It is crisp, clean and the visual icons for References, Education, Recreation, Tools, Web, Pictures, Videos, Games and More make searching a breeze.  The games section of the site, however, still appears to be under construction.  Scroll down the page to view the Web Safety tips – another great feature!

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 9.01.39 pmKiddle has an appealing layout for younger children and is easy to use.  Once again the search results contain pictures which assists those less able to locate information quickly.


Digital Citizenship Resources

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This 20 yr old website, Childnet, offers a wealth of knowledge that has been divided into the following categories: Young people, Teachers and Professionals and Parents and Care Givers. I particularly like the list of conversation starters they have along with print out family agreement contracts to be found under the Parents tab.

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Edutopia is a website where you can search Core Strategies and Popular Topics, some of which are Digital Citizenship, Internet Safety, Cyberbullying and Digital Responsibility.

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Common Sense Media is one our favourite websites as it rates and educates,  apps, websites, TV shows, videos and more for kids, families, and schools. It offers programs, lessons, videos, PDF’s, webinars posters and lots more. A brilliant resource website.

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iKeepsake,  is a website supported by GOOGLE that has good resources.  We like their take on  Digital Citizenship.  The3 C’s :- Appropriate Contact,  Appropriate Content and Appropriate Conduct. The website has a good guide to Facebook for parents.

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Cyberwise Website gives online safety education for both parents and teachers. We love their opening video talking to parents about the change in current technology. They give three straight forward tips to parents – 1. Talk to your kids. 2. Be a good role model and 3. Make sure kids are learning Digital Citizenship. Cyber Civics emphasises “critical thinking, ethical discussion and decision making about digital media issues… all through role-play, hands-on projects, and problem solving tasks.” They also offer paid courses for adults and paid Cyber civic courses for education.

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South West Grid for Learning Digital Literacy is a UK based education site that has produced schemes of learning for all primary year groups.  We can’t speak highly enough of this find!  Here is a summary taken from the site to provide you with an idea of the wealth of resources found there.

‘These schemes of learning:

  • offer a comprehensive yet balanced approach in addressing safety and security concerns, including ethics and behaviour issues, as well as digital literacy skills
  • provide child-centred, media-rich lesson materials that emphasize skill building, critical thinking, ethical discussion, media creation, and decision making
  • address the whole community by providing materials to educate parents and families about digital citizenship
  • provide additional resources and links and suggestions for curriculum opportunities’

The swgfl provides free downloadable PDFs of lesson plans, and curriculum overviews, for each year level with well thought out ideas and interesting content.  Check it out, it’s worth a look!

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KidSmart has a number of resources for teachers, the best being two downloadable story books that are appropriate for use with younger children.  These books are accompanied by lesson plans and chat questions.  They also have a tips page for parents with ideas to support safe responsible use of phones and internet enabled devices, and suggestions for setting up parental controls on gaming devices.  How often do you hear a parent say at an interview, “I just can’t get him/her off the computer, help!!”  Now when this happens, you know where to refer these parents …   🙂

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Looking for multimedia resources to enhance your cyber safety lessons? UK Safer Internet Centre has a number of videos at your disposal!

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This site provides all the information you will need to qualify as an eSmart school.  The site defines eSmart as ‘a school where the smart, safe and responsible use of information and communications technology is a cultural norm’.

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Cybersmart is an Australian Government initiative from the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner.  This Government site assists both teachers and parents in educating responsible digital citizens.  It has a number of lesson plans, games, achievement certificates and quizzes along with advice for parents.

Understanding eSmart Terminology

Digital Citizenship
Digital Citizenship is the responsible and appropriate use of technology. It is a topic which is widely discussed in schools from Prep through to Year 12. Our children are growing up in a digital world and need to learn how to make the correct choices about their contribution to online content. They are given devices that give them online access at a very early age. Education is crucial.

 Digital Integrity
Digital Integrity is one area that requires focused, teaching. Our definition of Digital Integrity, is always doing the right thing all the time online, even though no one is watching you. It brings to mind morals and character as well as good citizenship. Integrity requires strength of character but can also be taught through encouragement and reward by supportive parents.

Digital Identity
From a young age it is important to teach children about their digital footprint and the importance of maintaining a positive Digital Identity at all times. Schools are joining up and becoming eSmart schools. They are intentionally building a community that teaches students to have a positive digital footprint, or identity, that supports their  future job applications and interviews. It is important to teach responsible online behavior early so it becomes part of normal behavior.

Family Involvement
Partnership between school and home need to be very close. It is the overall responsibility of a parent to maintain a close involvement in their child’s digital world. Although children learn, and use technology at school, and in most cases are given devices by schools, it remains to be said that it is still the parent’s responsibility to oversee the use of that device. Parents often blame schools for the over use and incorrect use of technology, when it is their responsibility to police the device and exercise parenting skills in the home environment. Parents need to have family discussions around the boundaries and use of their child’s technology, as they would a new bike or skateboard on a busy road.

Some questions may be:

  1. What information can I share?
  2. Whom am I sharing it with?
  3. How secure is the information?
  4. How long should I stay on my computer?
  5. Does deleting my content erase it forever?

 Global Community
Education is no longer confined to the classroom. The internet and social media has brought the world closer with exciting educational experiences  and immediate interactions with others, be they be in the next state or on the other side of the globe.

Cyberbullying is where someone uses the internet to bully someone. It may be in the form of text or images and often on social media or via email. The person bullying often posts anonymously and are mostly cowards. Sadly the victim may not be aware that they are being talked about on social media which may be seen or read globally. Commonsense Website have a great “Nearpod” Curriculum which is target to year 5 students upwards.

 “A simple definition of copyright is that it is a bunch of rights in certain creative works such as text, artistic works, music, computer programs, sound recordings and films. The rights are granted exclusively to the copyright owner to reproduce the material, and for some material, the right to perform or show the work to the public. Copyright owners can prevent others from reproducing or communicating their work without their permission or may sell these rights to someone else. ” (Smartcopying website) The Smartcopying website has numerous PDF downloads and clear concise information for schools regarding copyright.

Come Join Our Safari…

It’s 2014 and two teachers are desperately trying to integrate ICT into the Science curriculum. This is when the realisation began to hit that there was no easy way for teachers to structure the safe usage of ICT in research. Thus began our Learning Safari.

To help you avoid the same frustration we experienced we’ve decided to share this journey. Please feel free to add your experiences via the comments.

Julie n Judy