Friday keynote – The Power of Student-Made Questions Bernie Dodge

From the conference description…

The air in school is filled with questions. They’re asked by teachers, they’re found on tests, they’re written on the white board. The most powerful questions, though, are those that come from students themselves. How can we use technology to encourage, organize and improve student-generated questions? We’ll offer some practical suggestions.

Inquiry is a key piece in the eMINTS instructional model. So, Bernie’s talk on student-generated questions is right up our alley. He begins with the idea of the ideal classroom versus one situated to only respond to a teacher’s question. Participants reveal visions that match our model as well of student activity and engagement. Bernie’s talk covers student-generated questions, something new called the Questions Formulation Technique, WonderPoints, WHex, CircuitBoard Games, WebQuests vs SGO, and so what?

Bernie adds a new book to add to everyone’s reading list: Make Just One Change. From the book, Bernie latches onto the idea of teaching kids to generate their own questions; this one simple shift is all we have to do. The authors of the book have established the Right Question Institute. The technique they promote is to establish a question focus, including rules for generating questions. Have students generate questions, categorize between open and closed questions, improve the generated questions, and prioritize those questions.

Bernie demonstrates a process in which questions are acknowledged, lists of questions are compiled, lists are refined and questions are categorized as open vs. closed. Then, students experiment to see how questions can be altered. Once this process is started, it builds on itself.

Bernie introduces Project nGage, promoting smartphone use in schools. His student teachers in Sand Diego use smartphones in the classroom as do their students. Bernie makes a clear distinction that these smartphones are not to deliver learning. Rather, their purpose is to help create an environment for learninng to take place. The idea is to think of them as advanced devices for taking in information, not delivering it.

This initiative is developing an app called WonderPoints where students identify location and boundaries, recording all kinds of data. Students can use the app to post questions for discussion.

Even with such a great tool, open-ended wonder is a hard sell. As with anything in education, it’s an easier to sell when there are boundaries. So, the easy fix is for teachers to limit what students do with these great mobile tools by simply narrowing the questioning focus on particular topics.

Overall, it’s great to have Bernie back once again. We look forward to seeing him at future conferences!

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger with the eMINTS National Center.