Article | Managing Inquiry Data

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Your students have begun their search for data, information and evidence to answer their initial questions. Fabulous! They are reading and taking notes, talking with their teammates, asking new questions. But what are they doing with all that data? How are they keeping all of that organized? Here are some apps and a few graphic organizers that will help maintain order in the midst of all that great (and sometimes chaotic) learning.

Diigo – Is an easy, intuitive yet powerful tool for personal knowledge management. Students can use Diigo to read more effectively with annotation tools like digital highlighters and sticky notes as they browse the Web, build their personal library in cloud, organize information, share and collaborate on information.

Evernote – Is one of the best note-making apps. Students can make daily subject-wise notes and can save text, audio and images and never lose track of their notes. You can add notes in a number of different ways which can be via the Web, mobile apps, Email or Twitter.

MindMeister – Is an easy and effective mind-mapping tool. It can be used to brainstorm with people in real-time and take notes in a non-linear fashion. Students can use it to memorize all kinds of information and data and to revise the material covered in class. Mind maps can be used for breaking information to highlight key concepts, for working in group projects, creating presentations, reports and to-do lists.

Image representing Google Docs as depicted in ...

Image by None via CrunchBase

Google Docs – Is an online word processing and spreadsheets application, with collaboration features that allow students to work together on group assignments. It can be used to keep track of who’s working on what and collaborate on projects. It is available for free and can be used to access files from anywhere.

Image representing Popplet as depicted in Crun...

Using popplet students can create media based brain storms and mind maps, organized by colour and size, connected with lines. It can even include pictures, drawings and even video in the mind map, something that can’t be done with paper. This would be great for coming up with questions, organizing information in 2D space, and collaborating with a team of people over the internet.

. sundry notes Sundry notes is a note taking app that allows you to type, insert photos, graphs, audio recordings, calculators, charts and drawings. It might be used to make notes more visual and dynamic.  It might also be used in field trips or science experiments to capture audio and visual as a part of documentation and observation.

Dragon Dictation – This is a speech to text app.  You can easily dictate notes, emails, and memos with surprising accuracy. Students may use this to practice their oral speech (in English, French, and a variety of other languages).

Graphic organizers help students keep ideas together, so they can be used as students need them. Organizer1This organizer helps students categorize data based on a central theme. Each section has an area to add more specific ideas. The bottom oval can be used to try to bring the thoughts together in comprehensive statement.

A pyramid chart is great for identifying parts of a hierarchical order – like the feudal system or the order of animal classifications.

Circle charts and Venn diagrams help students group ideas together for similarities and differences. Have students record individual characteristics or ideas on single pieces of paper. Store these in labelled envelopes when not in use. When it is time to organize the data, use small different coloured hoops from the gymnasium. Place each strip in the appropriate circle (category). Where one idea strip fits two categories, students can create a physical intersection set, showing clearly the overlap of data.

These are but a few ways to help students keep data and ideas together while completing their inquiry. Each allows students to categorize, group and regroup bits of information until they are ready to use it. Have your students experiment with more than one app or organizer to see which one fits their style of learning best. Because it works for them, you will find that they return to that method over and over again.

If you have any other ways to help students keep data organized, please share your ideas with us.

Susan Ward

Susan Ward

Retired elementary school principal. Currently a part-time instructor at Faculty of Education, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. I work with teacher candidates placing them in schools and evaluating their teaching skills. I also teach a 20 hour course in social studies curriculum to teacher candidates. I have been an educator for over 35 years and am committed to having the best prepared new teachers we can develop, coming into the field.

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