Inquiry-based learning is one of the richest ways secondary school students can develop new knowledge and skills.
It involves students exploring the world around them, asking questions, making discoveries and testing these discoveries to develop new understanding.
Wireless technology can be key to this exploration, freeing teachers and students from the constraints of the classroom and providing access to a huge amount of information and digital resources.
Allowing Students to Work Beyond the Confines of the Classroom
Inquiry based learning involves teachers setting up a project where students explore the solution to a problem or a real world scenario.
Smartphones, tablets and wireless laptop computers can all be used to record and gather key data in the field. Digital apps help to organise and analyse new information, and social media allows students to compare and share new ideas wherever they are.
A great deal of recent research shows that wireless technology helps to make inquiry-based learning possible, changing how students solve problems and helping them to connect their learning to the real world.
Perfect for Science and Geography Projects
Wireless technology has an obvious application when used for inquiry-based fieldwork projects in science and geography.
Websites such as the Personal Inquiry Project (www.nquire.org.uk) offer teachers and students the opportunity to go out into the field and participate in real life scientific investigations using their digital devices.
Students use the apps provided to identify key features of their subject, uploading images, videos and audio observations as they go.
The inquiry helps them to develop their critical thinking skills and discover more about the natural world. Project options include investigating rocks from the moon, looking at a healthy diet, and exploring whether birds are frightened by noise.
Enabling Creative Solutions
But it’s not only natural sciences than can benefit from this approach.
Wifi technology can be key to supporting inquiry-based learning in subjects such as English, design and technology and media studies.
Another innovative project, I am Creative (www.iamcreative.org.uk), offers a series of creative challenges from major UK brands, asking students aged 13-19 to design real advertising campaigns, create public information films or come up with exciting new ways to use digital media.
In the same way as a science investigation, students have to discover the rules of success for themselves using an inquiry process.
They use their wireless devices to help them develop new skills, and use the technology to learn about real-life companies and career paths.
Once they have completed their work, they can upload and share their multimedia campaigns with other students, teachers and the outside world.
Encouraging Greater Autonomy in Learning
No matter what the subject, wireless technology makes inquiry-based learning a richer educational experience.
Wifi-enabled smart devices allow students to work in the field, individually or in groups. This encourages students to be more autonomous, to take on an individual role within the group while working with others to complete the project.
Because students have more autonomy, the learning experience becomes more like a real-life situation. This increases students’ motivation, because they have to use their initiative to gain new skills, skills they will use in their lives beyond school.
Keeping Students Accountable
Another great benefit of Wi-Fi is that it allows teachers to be in constant contact with their students, wherever they are on the school site, or during fieldwork.
Remote Wi-Fi hotspots allow every device to be tracked via GPS, so it is easy to make sure everyone is where they are supposed to be.
At the same time, educational networking sites such as Edmodo provide chat facilities within each inquiry project forum so students can ask their teachers for help or guidance without having to speak to them in person.
Teachers can also hold each student accountable by asking them to post their current work online from their remote location, or by asking them to complete and upload a tracking sheet in Google Docs.
Allowing Students to Share Ideas and Discoveries
Edmodo and other educational networks allow students to share their ideas, questions and discoveries through the chat forum, so they can develop their ideas through the larger group.
At the same time, parents can also log in and keep track of their child’s progress, even if they are using remote Wi-Fi access.
Other social networks such as Twitter and Instagram can be used to allow students to wirelessly share their discoveries with the wider world, giving them an opportunity to receive instant feedback from people across the world.
This can help students to see the real-life applications of their learning, and even inspire them to follow a particular career path.
In this way, Wi-Fi can really make a difference to students’ transferable skills, helping to boost motivation among secondary students.
KBR has more than 30 years’ experience successfully planning, installing and supporting bespoke networks for schools. To speak to one of our team about upgrading your Wi-Fi or how Wi-Fi can help your school, contact us on 0191 492 1492, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.