1 Open Universiteit (NETHERLANDS)
2 Sint Jan College, Hoensbroek (NETHERLANDS)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2015 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 4483-4492
ISBN: 978-84-606-5763-7
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 9th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 2-4 March, 2015
Location: Madrid, Spain
The paper reports about an implementation of an integrated technology-enhanced inquiry based approach to Science learning in the context of secondary education. Technology-enhanced inquiry learning was implemented in a secondary school project on designing a Colony on Mars. Throughout the school year students (n=55, 12 year, K-7 level) do research on a variety of topics from the Science domain and design components for a Mars Colony focusing on topics as Water, Energy, Food and Artificial Environment. In the process they combine individual and group work, school and extracurricular activities (as excursions) that appeal to students' imagination and motivate them to generate questions and find answers through inquiries. Students are supported by an interdisciplinary team of 4 teachers. By implementing this project in the school curriculum the school realizes its ambition to increase students’ motivation for the Science-domain, in combination with developing 21st century skills and applying domain knowledge to real world problems.

The project makes use of a theoretical model of inquiry based learning and a ICT- toolkit developed in a European project weSPOT, where weSPOT stands for Working Environment with Social and Personal Open Tools (1). The weSPOT IBL model is based on the assumption that context and everyday personal experiences feed the natural curiosity of young learners, their “wonder moments”: sparkles of interest that generate internally motivated (research) questions. Another underlying assumption is that the development of inquiry skills should mirror the process of systematic scientific observation and experimentation as well as consistent and critical reasoning that are standard in scientific communities (Protopsalis, 2014). Therefore the inquiry process is modeled through 6 distinct, though interconnected phases congruent with the phases of a scientific inquiry. The model envisages the possibility to focus on a particular phase of the inquiry process instead of the whole inquiry cycle.

This theoretical model guided the development of an electronic environment and mobile tools. The weSPOT environment can be used by teachers who structure and orchestrate the inquiry process of their students (a structured inquiry) or in less stringent (guided) or completely open inquiries in which learners determine their own learning process (cf., Tafoya, 1980). The environment also provides support to teachers in monitoring and assessing student progress.
The weSPOT environment is being developed by means of a cyclic (agile) development, in which feedback by the end users is used to improve the usability and functionality of the environment. The paper will present the initial project design and elaborate on the function of the weSPOT environment in this pilot. Students' introduction to inquiry based learning and technology use in the first half year of the project will be reported.

Evaluation data were collected in the two classes that participated in the Colony on Mars project (re-designed IBL curriculum) and in a general Science class (conventional curriculum). Implications for further development of the weSPOT IBL model and the weSPOT environment and the advantages and disadvantages of the cyclic development process in practice will be discussed.

1) weSPOT Project - IST (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement N° 318499.
Inquiry-based learning, technology-enhanced learning, participatory design and development, science education, STEM.