Design Studio & the New Literacies Inquiry Project

"Only the curious will learn and only the resolute will overcome the obstacles to learning. The quest quotient has always excited me more than the intelligence quotient." -- Eugene S. Wilson


The philosophy of the New Literacies Institute is based on the time-honored approach of “learning by doing.” As Wilson implies, inquiry is the path to education. Through a project-based inquiry process, you and a partner will create an innovative instructional plan to be used in the classroom that incorporate interdisciplinary content and new literacies prompted by emerging technologies. With an emphasis on collaboration and design, you will explore several emerging technologies in the context of relevant and interesting content, and then critically consider their potential for enhancing instruction. In addition, you will choose specific examples of technology to incorporate into a dynamic instructional plan aimed at teaching specific content.

The aim of the project-based inquiry approach is to provide the opportunity for you to engage in what Newman, Bryck, and Nagaoka (2001) describe as authentic intellectual work. They describe the distinctive characteristics of authentic intellectual work as the “construction of knowledge through disciplined inquiry in order to produce products that have value beyond school” (p. 14). Through a focus on authentic intellectual work, we aim to engage you in learning opportunities that connect to your world. Likewise, elements of project-based inquiry possess what John Dewey referred to as productive inquiry, which is "that aspect of any activity where we are deliberately (although not always consciously) seeking what we need in order to do what we want to do” (Cook and Brown, 2005, p. 62). Our aims are to engage you in intellectual work that has depth, duration, and complexity, and to challenge and motivate you toward knowledge creation that relates to your educational context.

Authentic intellectual work also requires that learners make use of a range of literacy skills as they interpret, analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and otherwise work with materials and information. Authentic intellectual work involves:

  • Construction of knowledge: learning through analysis, evaluation, and other active high-level tasks.
  • Disciplined inquiry: in-depth learning on focused topics.
  • Value beyond the inquiry activity: the production of usable knowledge that has “personal, aesthetic, or social” significance outside of school or professional development.

Your work in this authentic intellectual inquiry will also be framed by the emerging theory of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK). The TPACK theory suggests that concurrent considerations of technology, content, and pedagogy are central to the meaningful use of technology education. Deep and authentic uses of technology emerge when teachers utilize technologies given pedagogical and content understandings. Mishra and Koehler (2006) describe the processes for teachers developing TPACK as necessitating transaction among technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge so that “a change in any one of the factors has to be ‘compensated’ by changes in the other two” (p. 1030). Ultimately, these transactions should result in creative and innovative uses of technology. Engaging in TPACK does not just mean that you are thinking about the consequences of using a technology or trying to determine the procedural steps that might be involved in the process. Instead, TPACK should open the door to new uses of technology that are situated in real-world and meaningful contexts. As teachers, we want technology to enhance and enrich our instructional ideas. Such work will be a primary focus in your inquiry.

Description of the Inquiry Process & Resulting Products of Learning

Your inquiry work will be driven by questions that you generate given your intellectual interests and professional experiences in conjunction with a focus on new literacies. Working in partner dyads during the week of the Institute, you will collaborate to generate a motivating question and complete an inquiry project. Your inquiry may be content or pedagogy focused or some combination of the two. For example, you and your partner might be interested in language concepts and the potential that off-the-shelf video has for teaching language-related content. The inquiry process could involve exploring the potential remixing video has for teaching content. More specifically, your work might involve remixing or mashing up existing historical video to communicate how to use alliteration. An inquiry question related to this topic might be: "How can students use historical video to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of language concepts?"

To facilitate the inquiry process, we will take a Design Studio approach represented in the diagram above.

With a question in place, you and your partner will continue through the steps of the inquiry process outlined in our diagram above and examine technology tools, content, and pedagogical strategies related to your topic. Your primary goal is to create two products of learning that you will share on Friday in the Design Studio Showcase. The Two Products of Learning include:
    • An **innovative instructional plan** reflecting your knowledge of technology, content and pedagogy (TPACK) that will be posted to your institute wiki. As a first step in developing your instructional plan, you will create a short digital video narrative overview conceptualizing your ideas for instruction.
    • A sophisticated technology product that you would use either (a) to facilitate and enhance the teaching of the instructional plan, or (b) to provide an example of what students might create during the lesson to represent their content learning. If you and your partner create a product of learning that is an example for your students, the project should be developed at a level of sophistication and complexity reflective of your own knowledge and skills rather than attempting to represent student work.

Inquiry Process Benchmarks

Use the following Inquiry Process Benchmarks to help you and your partner stay focused on the process and the products of learning that you will share on Friday in the Design Studio Showcase.

  • Do have you an inquiry partner?
  • Have you and your partner agreed upon a compelling question for your inquiry process?
  • Have you considered how to make global connections through your lesson?
  • Have you reviewed the Digital Texts and Tools Sessions?
  • Have you attended Digital Texts and Tools sessions? (Remember, design partners should attend different sessions!)
  • Have you creatively synthesized your content and technology into an innovative instructional plan?
  • Are you ensuring innovative and creative use(s) of technology in your instructional plan?
  • Are you pushing beyond your comfort levels with technology use?
  • Have you critically evaluated and revised your instructional plan? Is it aligned with your state's standard course of study?
  • Do you have a completed innovative instructional plan posted on your wiki?
  • Do you have a technology product that supports your instructional plan or an example/model of what it is you want students to create?
  • Have you blended in elements of online collaborative inquiry, comprehension, or content construction in your project?

Friday (Design Studio Showcase)
  • Have you shared your instructional plan and related technology product with the group?
  • Have you reflected on your learning experiences for the week? What are your take-aways?
  • Have you developed a plan to share your experience and expertise (as a teacher leader) with your colleagues?
  • Will you go forth, make it so, and stay connected with your New Literacies Teacher Leader colleagues?

Post-Institute Activities

In order to apply what you gained from the institute experience, we encourage you to further develop your instructional plan and enact it in your particular context. The goal is to develop your plan so that you evolve it to a point that it represents effective instruction and then create a digital video case that others can view as an exemplary instructional session. Finally, you will include a digital video reflection that describes your process and the evolution and implementation of your instructional plan.

Lesson Plan Template

MNLI Lesson Plan Graphic

MNLI Lesson Plan Rubric

The Fun Theory

The video we showed at the beginning of this session, Piano Keys, may be found on You Tube.


Cook, S. & Brown, J.S. (2005). Bridging epistemologies: The generational knowledge between organizational knowledge and organizational knowing. In S.E. Little & T. Ray, (Eds.). Managing knowledge: An essential reader (2nd ed.). (pp.51-84). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Dewey, J. (1927). The public and its problems. Athens, OH: Shallow Press.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017–1054.

Newman, F., Bryk, A. & Nagaoka, J. (2001). Authentic intellectual work and standardized tests: Conflict or coexistence? Chicago, IL: Consortium on Chicago School Research.

Spires, H., Lee, J., Young, C., Leu, D., Coiro, J., Castek, J. (2009). New Literacies Teacher Leader Institute. Friday
Institute: Raleigh, NC. Retrieved February 8, 2009, from