LFU & Human Migration Data

What I really liked about this week’s reading was the direct connection between Edelson’s Learning-for-use technology-supported design framework and the parallel with IB Inquiry based curriculum. Edelson notes that for learning to take place, students need to construct meaning. The constructivist approach to teaching and learning is research based and clearly best practice when it comes to engaging students in the learning process. Edelson continues to note that”Knowledge construction is a goal-directed process that is guided by a combination of conscious and unconscious understanding goals.” This to me is exactly what backwards by design thinking includes, teachers and students need to know what exactly they are working towards. Often students are working towards completing projects where they have a general idea of what they need to do, but the most important part is their unconscious understanding of what needs to be found, explored, and only occurs as they continue through the inquiry cycle. Edelson also points out that “the circumstances in which knowledge is constructed and subsequently used determine its accessibility for future use” and “Knowledge must be constructed in a form that supports use before it can be applied.”
When the 3 steps for learning-for-use are woven into the inquiry cycle, student investment in their search for understanding grows. Students as Edelson state require motivation, knowledge construction, and links to previous knowledge.

Understanding the framework lends itself to the IB model of inquiry based instruction, where students guide their curiosity towards understanding. I would consider using this design framework for my migration unit. Not a typical science or math unit, but I see the value in using the My World GIS when connecting math concepts such as distance, longitude and latitude, and overall geographical understanding when students are exploring the patterns of human migration. When students can explore the patterns, areas, and go further in their search for data and understanding do they then become motivated to find out their missing information. This would be particularly useful when students are working towards their summative assessment and then can explore the specific geographical pathway of their ancestors or major groups of migrants. I found it interesting the My World GIS is also partnering with the University of Illinois to teach American History, and bringing Historical Census Data Alive. As Perkins (2010) states, “A spatially literate workforce and citizenry able to access, manage, visualize, and interpret information, also capable of multidimensional thinking, are vital to advance science and technology and address the world’s complex problems.” Therefore, through this hands-on tool, students are not only motivated to construct knowledge, but they are curious to explore the links to previous knowledge of their family and relatives, making the connection to learning even more meaningful. Perhaps with a personal connection to the hard realities of mass human migration, especially today, will students begin to take meaningful action.


Edelson, D.C. (2001). Learning-for-use: A framework for the design of technology-supported inquiry activities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching,38(3), 355-385.

Perkins, N., Hazelton, E., Erickson, J., & Allan, W. (2010). Place-based education and geographic information systems: Enhancing the spatial awareness of middle school students in Maine. Journal of Geography, 109(5), 213-218.


  1. Cristina,

    I completely agree with your reference to Edelson about how the circumstances around the knowledge formation are directly related to if it is useful to the student or not. I think this speaks to the motivation aspect of our reading – provide the students with a meaningful question that they cannot answer but is still relevant to them. They see the need for knowledge and are motivated to find an answer.

    I have done some training on Inquiry based learning but am unfamiliar with the details around IB. Are there any major differences between the two?


    1. Hi Baljeet,

      I would say they are very similar, with the expectation being the vocabulary associated with the IB program. The resources available through IB are great for planning the design of a unit, but of course, is just one method among many. Also, I would recommend looking into the work of Kath Murdoch, she has many resources available about inquiry and will be speaking in Vancouver at a conference in October.



  2. I agree that the LFU model closely resembles IB. I also teach MYP IB to grade 6 and 7 students. I also feel that BC’s new curriculum is heading in this direction too, with more inquiry based learning. I wonder if the ‘flipped classroom’ approach will fit within the LFU model? What would it look like? Thanks for the post.

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