Posing Questions in the Digital Classroom
Teachers ask hundreds of questions every week. It is the basis of all enquiry based learning. It is the main way of uncovering each child’s understanding. It can also help to move the learning on or introduce a new topic. Many children are naturally inquisitive too! A classroom can therefore become a breeding ground for questions. With that in mind, my questions are, how do you manage all of these enquiries? How do you make sure that the important asks are answered? How do you keep questioning interesting and engaging? Can technology help to keep the inquisitive quizzical?
The iPad could be the answer I’m looking for. In this blog, I will look at apps that can help teachers to pose and manage questions in the classroom.
This is a great app to display on the board in the morning while the children saunter in from the playground. ‘One Question For Today’ asks a different question everyday. They tend to lean towards a wider and philosophical line of questioning. For example, ‘Do you know what you want your life to be like in ten years?’ The question today (16th of December 2014) asks ‘What are your three main priorities in life?’ This free app can really get children to think or even question themselves. You can read world wide reactions and write your own answer to the daily question. I think that it is a great app to add into a mix of morning activities.
One way of randomising the questions and keeping every child on their toes is through Decide Now. This is a simplistic app that has been mentioned before on this blog. It allows you to populate a spinning wheel with whatever text you like. Therefore you can fill the wheel with the names of each child in your room and spin it to decide who to question. Alternatively, you could place the questions in the wheel and let fate decide what question is asked in the first place. You could be really clever and display two spinning wheels next to each other. One with names and another with questions. This is a very engaging way of asking the children in your class anything.
What about the other way round? How can the children ask the teacher questions? One of best ways of tackling this is through Apple iMessage. If you are lucky enough to work in a school that has one iOS device for each child and teacher, iMessaging could be a way of allowing children to ask as many questions as they like in a secure and manageable way. During a lesson, children could iMessage the teacher to ask questions about the subject matter. Many children feel to embarrassed to flag up a query in front of their school mates. This might be a way of connecting with your class’ at a deeper level.
Some apps are just really engaging. One such engaging app is Tellegami. This is a tool that is well known within the world of iPads in education. It can be used in many different ways. However, I think it works best when it is used within the context of questioning. Tellegami enables you to create an animated avatar that speaks your recorded audio or typed text. You can change the background behind your avatar to an image of your choice. These features make it the perfect tool to pose questions with. The animated character can ask a question and the background image can be used as a point of reference.
Tests are, unfortunately, an important part of schooling. Revision is all about questions and answers. One way of keeping the constant questioning interesting is by employing the help of an app called Quizlet. This app helps children and teachers to make simple quizzes that can be engaged with in a number of different fun ways including matching games and revision cards. Creating a free Quizlet account provides you with a username. You can then create simple question and answer quizzes. Other Quizlet users (like your students) can then search for username and try out your tests. It is incredibly easy to use. I would encourage children to create their own accounts and set up quizzes for their peers. It is one of the best tools around for creating powerful and simple revision resources.
So there you are… These are some of my favourite apps for questioning in the classroom. I believe that it is a teacher responsibility to harbour an inquisitive learning space. After all, questions are at the core of all learning. Without the drive or determination to realise that which we do not understand we loose the will to explore anything. Keeping children curious is more important now than it has ever been. We live in an accessible age where questions can be answered almost instantly. We live in a world where the term ‘Google it’ has become a well known phrase. Retaining information is becoming less and less important. Therefore, we must try to spread a sense of joy and achievement when children find answers for themselves. Our questions need to be as exciting as the answers.