C. Investigation Of Problems

C. Investigation of Problems

In addition to helping students find information, digital tools are widely used in core school subjects to support students' critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making. In language arts courses, for example, students use online graphic organizers, word processors, and media as they read, analyze, and draw conclusions about various texts. They launch discussions on wikis to stimulate a rich consideration of topics prior to class time and to give students who are less confident in face-to-face situations the opportunity to be major contributors. In social science courses, students use databases and spreadsheets to create tables and graphs as they analyze and compare population densities in different historical periods. In science and mathematics, students use spreadsheets, visualization and modeling tools, digital probeware, and presentation tools to gather and interpret data on science and health issues.

This subarea is closely related to the previous one, Information Research, but the focus here is on problem solving and critical thinking as opposed to searching for information. In practice, of course, the two sets of skills will often be applied at the same time, but for the purpose of assessment it is useful to keep them separate.

Schools are society's means of preparing students for the world, and so many of the ways that students use digital tools reflect the way that professionals use similar tools to solve various practical problems, such as environmental issues, political conflicts, and economic challenges. In these cases, digital tools may be used to present the challenge scenario; to guide students in formulating the requirements of the challenge to be addressed; and to allow students to ask and answer significant questions, to exchange views with other students, sometimes in other cities or countries, to collect and analyze data, and then to develop and test various solutions through simulations. Other uses of digital tools in schools involve practical applications designed to prepare students for the responsibilities of adulthood.

Key principles in the area of Investigation of Problems that all students can be expected to understand at increasing levels of sophistication are:

  • Digital tools can be very helpful in generating ideas and solving problems in academic subjects as well as in researching practical problems.
  • Digital models can be used to create simulations and test solutions.
  • Digital tools can be used to conduct experiments and investigate practical problems.

Fourth-grade students should be able to use a variety of information and communication technologies to investigate a local or otherwise familiar issue and to generate, present, and advocate for possible solutions. They should also be able to use digital tools to test hypotheses in various subject areas and to build models of simple systems.

Eighth-grade students should be able to use digital tools to identify and research a global issue and to identify and compare different possible solutions. They should also be able to use digital tools in testing hypotheses of moderate complexity in various subject areas in which they gather, analyze, and display data and draw conclusions. They should also be able to explore authentic issues by building models and conducting simulations in which they vary certain quantities to test "what if" scenarios.

Twelfth-grade students should be able to use digital tools to research global issues and to fully investigate the pros and cons of different approaches. They should be able to design and conduct complex investigations in various subject areas using a variety of digital tools to collect, analyze, and display information and be able to explain the rationale for the approaches they used in designing the investigation as well as the implications of the results. Twelfth-grade students should also be able to conduct simulations, draw conclusions based on the results, and critique the conclusions based on the adequacy of the model to represent the actual problem situation.

C. Investigation of Problems Goals

Fourth-grade students are able to use digital tools to investigate local issues, test hypotheses, and build models. Eighth-grade students are able to use digital tools to investigate alternative solutions to global issues, test moderately complex hypotheses, build models, and conduct simulations. Twelfth-grade students can conduct more sophisticated investigations and simulations as well as recognize their limitations. For all levels the focus is on types of hardware and software rather than on use of particular hardware or software products.

Table 2.12 Investigation of Problems assessment targets for grades 4, 8, and 12

Grade 4 Grade 8 Grade 12

Students are able to:

I.4.7: Use digital tools and resources to identify and investigate a local issue and generate possible solutions.


Students are able to:

I.8.7: Use digital tools to identify a global issue and investigate possible solutions. Select and present the most promising sustainable solution.

Students are able to:

I.12.7: Use digital tools and resources to identify a complicated global issue and develop a systematic plan of investigation. Present findings in terms of pros and cons of two or more innovative sustainable solutions.

I.4.8: Use digital tools to test simple hypotheses in various subject areas.

I.8.8: Use digital tools to gather and display data in order to test hypotheses of moderate complexity in various subject areas. Draw and report conclusions consistent with observations.

I.12.8: Use digital tools to collect, analyze, and display data in order to design and conduct complicated investigations in various subject areas. Explain rationale for the design and justify conclusions based on observed patterns in the data.

I.4.9: Use digital models to describe how parts of a whole interact with each other in a model of a system.

I.8.9: Use a digital model of a system to conduct a simulation. Explain how changes in the model result in different outcomes.

I.12.9: Having conducted a simulation of a system using a digital model, draw conclusions about the system, or propose possible solutions to a problem or ways to reach a goal based on outcomes of the simulation. Critique the conclusions based on the adequacy of the model.