5 Digital Tools for Inquiry-Based Learning

Technology will not replace teaching. But teachers who use technology can learn more about their students in a shorter period of time than teachers who don't. 

As more classrooms begin to use digital technology, the focus will shift from fun iPad apps to tools that collect, organize, and disseminate information in ways that support learning. 

This is a list of tools that I've used for inquiry-based learning activities. They don't look fancy, but they help me manage responses from all students and present the results for class discussion or cooperative activities.  

1. Poll Everywhere

If you're presenting at a conference or your class is BYOD, this tool provides the versatility you'll need to ensure that everyone can participate. There is a small cost per year, but it's worth it to have multiple response and presentation options. 

I use it to collect thought process questions from my students. It's nice because users can submit via simple message on a smart or dumb phone. For inquiry-based learning, it provides anonymity while responding and a spread sheet of all responses to be analyzed by students on an app like Google Sheets.   

This link is to a post that details how I use Poll Everywhere and Google Sheets as an introductory activity.


2. Google Forms

Like Poll Everywhere, Forms provides anonymity and spreadsheet sharing. These options are crucial for inquiry-based learning because learners are not impeded by feeling exposed and judged as they write the questions that come to mind. 

It works well on computers and Chromebooks. Phones and tablets are often okay, but Forms can be troublesome on mobile devices, especially for teachers and students who are less tech savvy.   


3. Verso App

If you want to unlock powerful thinking from all of your students, this is the tool to use. I love using it with Chromebooks, smartphones, laptops, desktops, or tablets. The best part is the way it collects responses anonymously and makes them available to students for commentary.

This is the only app on the list that is classified as a complete learning management system. Although not in the traditional sense, it takes students from content to progress report with student-centered learning in between.

For the commentary task, I encourage students to identify the questions that the responses raise. This helps students find the gaps in the argument for the purpose of bridging them by sharing ideas.


4. Padlet 

Formerly Wallwisher, Padlet is useful for sharing links to student work and collecting quick responses when anonymity is not necessary. I like the ability to make the background an image that can become littered with questions from students regarding the content.

The ability to customize the URL, embed the wall into a blog or site, and make copies of the wall lends to this tool's versatility when it comes to making and sharing.


5. TodaysMeet 

This web app works consistently because it is so simple. You can use it on any smart phone, computer, or tablet and your Google account will work for sign in. 

I use it to support class discussions when anonymity is not important. There are not limits to responses, like Poll Everywhere, and you can download a transcript, embed the stream into a site, or share a short link or QR code. 

Sometimes inquiry-based learning requires students to read their peer's questions to ask new questions that clarify or connect one to another. The transparency, in this case, facilitates team-building as the question-answer relationships are uncovered and used to further the discussion and collective knowledge.   


BONUS: Remind

I know that this is a messaging tool. But what if you used it to pose questions to engage students in the inquiry process when they're not at school? My students were excited when I promised to use Remind for homework. They even showed interest in downloading the app to use the feedback stamps to indicate where they are in terms of understanding the question.