Julie Coiro

In an era that has spawned such terms as “post-truth,” “false narrative,” and “fake news,” how are students to use the internet as a reliable research tool?

There’s a real danger that an entire generation of children will be unable to tell fact from fiction online, says Julie Coiro. The award-winning educator’s soon-to-be-released third book Planning for Personal Digital Inquiry in Grades K-5 raises the issue and provides a framework for how teachers might use technology to their students’ advantage in inquiry-based learning.

“Personal Digital Inquiry is about building curiosity, relationships and using the power of technology,” Coiro says.

In her book, Coiro outlines the Personal Digital Inquiry (PDI) framework, a process comprising four phases of inquiry: wonder and discover, collaborate and discuss, create and take action, and analyze and reflect. The old model of knowledge acquisition, namely lesson then assessment, is augmented by a process that encourages exploration and creation.

“Inquiry-based learning can flexibly move from teachers using technology for giving information and prompting understanding toward students actively using technology to make, assess, and act on new content,” Coiro says.

The process mirrors what has evolved organically at The Summer Institute in Digital Literacy, a collaborative effort between the Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies and the Harrington School of Communication and Media. Coiro co-directs the Institute with Professor Renee Hobbs. What began as a digital literacy workshop has produced a certificate program, has proven a draw for prospective master’s and Ph.D. candidates, and illustrates the potential of the Personal Digital Inquiry framework, Coiro says.

“I want people to understand the power of having people who think differently work together at URI in ways that impact learning and education.”