EGBERT Ch. 6. Inquiry and Problem Solving
RICHARDSON Ch. 8. Podcasting and Screencasting: Multimedia Publishing for the Masses
Hmmm, I have been thinking about this one. Having taught mostly adults, the content learning is either business-based or involves some kind of awareness of current events such as news, social awareness (the environment,etc.), art exhibits, or even entertainment. I believe some of the role plays (with an information gap or two opposing goals for each "actor") or research for the purpose of creating and giving a business presentation or for an in-class debate would count as an inquiry. As far as critical thinking skills go, these activities would include: distiguishing fact from opinion, assessing the accuracy of a statement, detecting bias, and/or distinguishing relevant from irrelevant information. Also, through some Web Quests or some map-based activities my students have been able to plan various routes, solve specific problems like budget or what to do when a specific problem arises. I'll post a link to my favorite Web Quest on this blog. Another problem-solving activity was when I took my students to the grocery store, and asked each small group of a different level within the classroom to solve a problem or find some information. For example, beginners had to find fruit that was like the fruit they had in their home countries and compare the names and prices of fruit, and the most advanced group had to shop for a week for a family of five within a given budget, and give reason for any unusual choices they made (so they had to persuade their group to concede to buying more expensive brands and so on).
I have also given students some in-depth lessons involving field trips to an art exhibit, an outdoor public park, or a concert, where they are given several things to notice or observe (in the exhibit/show or in the crowd and environment), then are asked focused questions to get them to recall information. Then the students share the information to come up with a complete list or story to answer all the questions (summarizing and synthesizing) or they compare and contrast their observations with each other's and with a third set of facts/opinions (for example, with their home culture or with the classroom).
Because podcasting is available on a wide array of topics, podcasts can very easily fit into an inquiry and/or problem-solving activity as a source of information. The end goal of a lesson could also be to have the students create and edit a podcast to broadcast over the web. I know from my own publishing experience that simply creating and editing something for mass consumption can be a detailed problem-solving activity. Plus, they would have to collaborate and decide what content goes into the podcast and what doesn't. The WillowWeb defined in the Richardson book (pp.116-117) is a good example of this. Plus, podcasting seems really fun; I think students will love it. There is an added motivation for students studying here with families overseas--it is a cheap, interesting, and easy way to let others at home know what you are doing! I wish it had existed in its current easy, breezy incarnation when I was overseas for so long. That would have been sooooooo cool.