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Collaborative Planning

Designing a successful learning experience, takes planning.

Identify Audience

Start by discussing the learners in the class.

Identify Outcomes

The teacher and media specialist should work together to identify the specific learning outcomes to be addressed in the lesson(s). It's often easier for teachers to start with their content area standards, then work with the media specialist to see how easily the information inquiry standards blend in. The inquiry activities and assessments must be focused on these specific competencies.

Identify Student Performance

Before jumping into discussing activities and resources, it's necessary to decide how students will be evaluated on their performance. Who will be responsible for assessing student performance, providing feedback, and assignment grades?

Identify Resources

Take some time to discuss the wide variety resources available to for the unit. Although students often run to the Internet first, it might make more sense to use electronic databases, books, or video for the activity. How can resources be used to help address individual needs and differences? If students will be reading a novel, could some students listen to a book-on-CD? Are adequate resources available? For example, it might be nice for every teen to develop their own PowerPoint presentation, but this may not be realistic with only 12 laptops available. Consider a paired project, where the end product is a single PowerPoint presentation that is a debate between the two students.

Develop Teaching and Learning Materials

Both teaching and learning materials must be developed to guide the experience. When developing materials it's important to consider the learning styles of students as well as the teaching styles of the educators involved. This is the mostly likely area of conflict for a media specialist and teacher working together. For example, one educator might be accustomed to a "lecture-style" approach while another might be more comfortable with small group activities. Consider how to meet the needs of both students and teachers through an eclectic approach.

Consider critical and creative thinking activities. Ask students to examine causes, application, relationships, effects, limitations, barriers, incentives, effectiveness, efficiency, appeal, or controversy. Keep them thinking by asking them to compare/contrast, analyze, discuss, distinguish, direct, debate, formulate, or create. Ask them to communicate through writing, speaking, visualizing, diagramming, videotaping, moving, demonstrating, or presenting.

Students need quality learning materials such as handouts containing examples, guidelines, models, and other help. The goals and requirements of the project should be clearly stated for the teachers and the students. It's helpful for evaluation if students develop concrete evidence of their work throughout the learning cycle. These might include notebooks, folders, journals, or graphic organizers.

Teachers need quality materials for guiding instruction including lesson plans, schedules, and support materials. These materials should be used at the "teachable moment" rather than as isolated activities that may be meaningless "out of context".

try itExplore The Research Assignment In English by Cheryl Harvey (English Online). Notice the kinds of print materials she provides for her students. What other resources would be helpful in this type of assignment?

Implement Learning Experience

Both the teacher and media specialist have active roles during the inquiry. Although much of their time will be with facilitation, they must also hold student conferences, do process checks, and provide instruction. A good teacher is need to guide student through the false states, disappointments, and mistakes that are part of the learning process. This requires flexibility and time. The challenge is keeping students on track without providing pressure that causes frustration.


Students need an audience for their work. This audience may be peers and teachers, but it should also be students from other schools, experts from the Internet, or parents and community members. The key is demonstrating to students that the value of a successful inquiry goes beyond a grade.


At the conclusion of the project, everyone including the teacher, media specialist, and students need an opportunity to reflect and plan for the future.

try itExamine the Guided Inquiry - a NetSplore from 2Learn. It takes you through the process of building inquiry activities.

try itTry the the Module Maker from Questioning.org.

video clipView Teaching and Learning Strategies (5:49).

In this video, Annette Lamb discusses teaching and learning strategies, technology as tool, springboard – prior knowledge, information exploration, multimedia rich environment, drill & practice, simulations, tech tools create products – Excerpt from “Integrating Technology in the Curriculum”, Canter & Associates

video clipView Fifth Grade Class 2 (Real Media).

In this video, Bonita DeAmicis (5th grade teacher) explores information on human body including nutrition and the digestive system. – Excerpt from “Integrating Technology in the Curriculum”, Canter & Associates

Use of this video clip complies with the TEACH act and US copyright law. You should be a registered student to view the video.

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