Ungoogleable Questions Update

By far and away my most read post on this 2 year old blog is a post on Ungoogleable Questions from almost 2 years ago. I have been meaning to update this for quite some time and #28daysofwriting has finally given me the prompt to do so.

Since I ran the workshop with staff and generated the questions shared in my earlier post I have focused on helping students develop their ability to inquire into ungoogleable questions (major shout out here to Ewan McIntosh who set me on this journey). I have used a variety of prompts, provocations and question development frameworks over these last 2 years. I have continued to read blogs (Kath Murdoch and Bo Adams blogs have pushed me in this) and books (Can Computers Keep Secrets by Tom Barrett, The Falconer by Grant Lichtman and A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger being the most influential for me) to further my thinking and practice and it is about time I share my tips now.

Through all of this, the obvious point is that students need practice developing their questions. If students have had years of schooling being taught specific ways and then you ask them to ask more open questions they can be stumped – whether they are 7 or 17. Talking about questions and getting them sharing their questions starts to help with this. Getting students to play with questions moves it a step further. What happens if I change this word? How do I change this word to start the question? How do I change this closed question into an open question – or vice versa?

To begin with, students need to explore a topic. It’s hard to generate questions if you know nothing about a topic. Once they have explored and been provoked by information, images, media etc. they are ready to start questioning. In my experience, the following 4 words/phrases provide the best start for student questions:

  • Should
  • Why
  • What if
  • How Might We

Should questions are great around controversial issues. Diana Hess spoke at a conference I attended a few years ago and since then I have used Should questions in my Social Sciences classes. One of the best examples I have set a class was Should Waitangi Day be our national holiday? Read more on how that series of lessons occurred here. I have found that teenage students are great at generating this type of question.

Why questions hit at the core of issues. They are also probably the questions that occur the most naturally. While reading, watching discussing a topic, something happens that causes dissonance in our brains. When encountering this, our automatic response is Why. If wanting to generate more Why questioning, I suggest using more provocations in class.

What if questions are one of my favourites and as I am running out of my 28 minutes in this post I will refer you to my post on What If from a couple of days ago.

How Might We questions are those used in Design Thinking. The How puts an optimistic spin, a lets try something here. Might implies that it is ok if it doesn’t work, lets try anyway. We shows that it is a collaborative effort, we can work together on this and use each others’ strengths.

Let me know how your ungoogleable questions go!

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3 thoughts on “Ungoogleable Questions Update

  1. Pingback: Ungoogleable Questions | Steve Mouldey

  2. Pingback: #MustRead Shares (weekly) | it's about learning

  3. Thank you for your question starters. I used these over a whole week with my class of 8 and 9 year olds in relation to our art unit and their ideas became really sophisticated. Why does art exist? Should art be made by someone? Why do we have art?

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