Guest Review from Ralf de la Mare

I had the pleasure of meeting this #criticalfriend Ralf de la Mare at the EdTechTeam Summit at Anzac Park Public School in Sydney, Australia earlier this year.  Other than being a tall man at approximately 6’7″, Ralf has tall dreams and aspirations to empower his students.  Watch out for this #AussieED inspiration.  He’s up to big things at King’s College in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.  Thanks for the review Ralf!

“Sometimes the biggest shifts come from a small, almost indistinguishable moment. My Dive into Inquiry journey started a bit like that. A small chance. A fleeting moment from a tired conversation in the back of a taxi en route to the airport following two amazing, but brain draining, days at Teach, Tech, Play.

An inspirational colleague of mine, Judy Clark, and I were discussing what our next steps might be. How we could go back to our school and have impact for our students. As we were coming into a two week holiday break, she recommended a few books that I might like to read. One was by an author I’d never heard of… Trevor Mackenzie.

Now, in the interest of being honest, I have to admit that I didn’t jump at the chance at first. I’d like to say that I had an instant ‘ah-ha’ moment and raced off to find this author. But, I didn’t. I went home. I slept. I spent time with my family. I enjoyed the holidays. I even… read other books! 😱

Fortunately, #TTPlay reinvigorated my interest in Twitter, so I connected. I looked up Trevor, clicked through to the EdTechTeam, found my way to EdTechTeamPress and started reading up on Dive into Inquiry. Now, and again to be honest, I already had six unread #edureads at my bedside, some that have been there for almost 18 months. Eeeek! But, I love books! So I figured, why not?!

And so… I waited. And waited. And waited for my copy to arrive. Sometimes it’s frustrating living on the other side of the world. As I waited though, I kept looking into Trevor and started to get an idea of his amazing journey as an educator. The incredible impact he’s had on his students, and is having on teachers across the world. I was getting more and more excited until a package finally arrived… and they’d sent the wrong book! Ha! Fortunately though, I received another great resource in Classroom Management in the Digital Age. But, my wait for Dive into Inquiry continued.

Long story short, the book arrived, but by now, the term had started. I bet you know that feeling. The “I’m so busy sorting out right now, I can’t possibly invest in the future, or myself” feeling. I get that, often, but I try. I did my best to read a page or two at a time. I made a few notes. I tried a couple of things in class, but I couldn’t get as deep as I wanted. You know what, though? Despite wanting to do more, I felt encouraged by the changes I was seeing in my practice, and in the learning of my students. I saw first hand the power of inquiry in engaging and empowering students. And it spurred me on!

It was in this experience that I got the first real sense of the outstanding practicality of Dive into Inquiry – it’s a great pick up and put down read. Read what you can, when you can, and apply what you can. The short, sharp chapters help, chapter one is just three pages long. However, the content and concepts in these short, sharp chapters pack real punch. At about 130 pages in total,
it was also easy to go back and read through in one go once I hit the mid-year break and had some time up my sleeve. This is also a bonus when sharing with colleagues… I just tell them to give it half an hour and let the book speak for itself. I’ve read a lot of books that, like Dive into Inquiry, are based on sound theory. Many much thicker than this one. Many, though, get stuck in that theoretical zone – there’s no visible application to the classroom. This book is very much the opposite, in fact, there are so many practical ideas and suggestions I’d say I made more notes in and from this book than I ever have before! Through this, I’m confident I can incorporate Inquiry Based Learning as a facet of my classroom learning experiences, and my wider school’s for that matter, as this is a truly practical, shareable resource that teachers can pick up and have almost instant positive impact from.

This leads me to my second highlight of Dive into Inquiry, the enlarged, Twitter ready, quotable sections. Throughout the book I was doing a lot of underlining, and more often than not, I’d underline a passage only to find it highlighted in large text further down or just over the page. This gave me a great sensation that I was on the same page as Trevor. That this expert in his field felt this was a part of his book that he especially wanted to highlight. Thinking logically then, by my wanting to highlight it too, I felt that I must be on the right track! I found this very affirming, not to mention handy for sharing via social media.

Finally, and perhaps most useful for me, are the practical examples of Inquiry Based Learning in action littered throughout the book. While many authors have resources available via their website, through subscription or professional development, as does Trevor, I love the incorporation of key images within the book itself. Images such as the Types of Student Inquiry and The Inquiry Process, a literal road map for applying Trevor’s process! He even includes sample timetables and student reflections. Add these to the QR Codes that lead directly to resources and authentic student work, and you have a sensational collection of best practice that help make the leap from theory to application that much clearer!

I’ve always looked at inquiry as a style that I, the teacher, could use to enhance learning. Trevor’s Types of Student Inquiry, and his focus on building toward ‘Free Inquiry’ with the students, have inspired me to empower my classes to have more say in their learning. While this is a direction I have been headed in through Project Based Learning, much of this is still teacher generated at my Primary level. Trevor’s urgings and examples have pushed me past the wonderings of my previous studies into passion projects, genius hour and 20% time. By providing a framework that I am confident I can apply in my classroom, I feel empowered to take on this shift in mindset.

Overall, Dive into Inquiry is a fantastic resource for those looking to “amplify learning and empower student voice”. I’m so glad I (but really Judy) found it! I have big plans for upskilling and resourcing our teachers in order to strengthen our inquiry approach in Prep (Kindergarten) to Year 4, and to add important scaffolding elements to our Project Based Learning program in Years 5 and 6. Get a copy and encourage others to do the same. I’m so glad I ‘took a chance’ on Dive into Inquiry! I hope you’ll join Trevor (and me!) in “changing the landscape of learning” in your context!”



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