Research shows inquiry-based learning used with technology enhances education

Inquiry-based learning (IBL) supported by 1:1 technology tools can positively impact student learning, finds a strategic research study led by York University’s Faculty of Education Professor Ron Owston.

Owston was commissioned by the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) as part of the Ontario Ministry of Educations Technology and Learning Fund to lead the study “Transforming Learning Everywhere: A study of the second year of implementation”.

Collaborating with him were education Professor Kurt Thumlert and doctoral candidate Taru Malhotra, as well as two external contract researchers.

The study identified that IBL supported by 1:1 technology tools can: positively impact student learning; increase student and teacher engagement; lead to greater student autonomy; and, promote deep learning opportunities and collaboration among teachers and students.

The study looked at Year 2 of the board’s five-year initiative, Transforming Learning Everywhere (TLE). The vision of the project is to create a culture of engaged students and staff by focusing on instructional practices in classrooms, accelerated by digital tools in order to improve problem solving, critical literacy, higher-order thinking, as well as knowledge and skills required in the 21st century.

“TLE is all about creating innovative learning environments for students that are essential for them to succeed in the 21st century,” said Owston. “Our research looked at inquiry-based learning (IBL) and how the use of technologies in schools such as iPads can facilitate development of digital literacies, critical thinking and life-long learning skills for students.

“The findings were very encouraging as we saw evidence of students learning new skills and changed teacher practices, despite some initial implementation issues.”

HWDSB plans to increase funding of the TLE initiative to meet the goal of transforming learning environments across the school board by integrating instructional practices with innovative technology use, including a 1:1 iPad distribution program to all teachers and students by 2019.

For more information on the TLE initiative, visit the HWDSB website. The research report and an executive summary are available at the Council of Ontario Directors of Education website.

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