About Internet Inquiry

By Donald J. Leu

As you and your students become more comfortable using the Internet, the Internet Inquiry approach can be an effective and high-interest method for developing research skills. Inquiry can be used by individuals or small groups of students.

In Internet Inquiry, a topic or question is identified and researched. This research includes traditional sources (such as encyclopedias, atlases, and biographies) as well as Internet-based resources. Students analyze the information and prepare a report, which is then presented to the rest of the class.

"The Internet allows students to look far beyond classroom walls and see the world in new and powerful ways."

Five phases to Internet Inquiry

1. Question: Students identify an important question they want to answer, usually related to a unit of study.

2. Search: Students look for information to address the question they have posed.

3. Analyze: Students analyze the information they have gathered.

4. Compose: Students prepare a presentation of their work.

5. Share: Students share their work and respond to questions about their investigation.

About the Inquiry phases

To assist students in identifying a question, you can initiate group or individual brainstorming sessions. Another strategy is to set a bookmark for a site that has broad information on the topic and encourage students to explore the different areas of the site for an interesting question to address.

During the search phase, students use search engines to identify useful resources on the Internet. They also use more traditional resources found in the classroom or library.

Next, students analyze all the information they have to respond to the question they initially posed. You can support this phase by arranging peer conferences where students share their results and think about their meanings.

The fourth phase requires students to compose a presentation of their work. This may be a written report, poster board, or an oral report with displays of evidence. You may wish to follow process writing procedures by engaging students in drafting, revision, and editing conferences.

Sharing is an opportunity for students to present their work to others. Some teachers set aside a regular time one day a week for sharing Inquiries as they are completed. You may wish to use a "Web Explorer Chair" (a variation of "Author's Chair") for use during presentations. At Back-to-School night or the end of school, an "Internet Research Fair" allows students to display their work and answer questions as guests circulate around. Consider inviting senior citizens or members of community service organizations to this event.

Internet Inquiry is a perfect vehicle for helping your students think critically and carefully. Students have so many questions about the world around them and there are so many resources on the Internet to engage them.

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