Transdisciplinary Student Inquiry and Numeracy Through Technology

Area(s) of Focus: technology, math, well being, curriculum
Division(s): Intermediate, Senior
Level(s): Grade 9, Grade 10, Grade 11

Our team planned a joint inquiry-based geography and science unit that augments a GIS learning task with primary, quantitative data that would be tied to learning about experimental design within a science ecology unit.

Three assistant curriculum leaders at Harbord Collegiate Institute aim to improve our students’ access to meaningful, transdisciplinary learning experiences, where they can apply and refine their numeracy and inquiry skills. We planned a joint geography and science unit assessment that leverages newly acquired data collection tools and existing analysis tools in an authentic context in order to prepare our students for a world with ever-increasing availability of data collection tools and ever-increasing amounts of data to manage, analyze and interpret. We explored the technological tools and supporting resources and documents ourselves in order to increase our capacity to apply them flexibly and effectively in our programs. We also considered ways in which we could support our other colleagues in making use of these tools. We were joined and supported by our centrally assigned Learning Coach.

Team Members

  • Karen Lew

    Toronto District School Board

  • David Ast

    Toronto District School Board

  • Lindsay Fraser

    Toronto District School Board

  • Theodora Spyropoulos

    Toronto District School Board

  • Avtar Sangha

    Toronto District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

  • Increased our capacity to use authentic situations and problems as contexts for student learning
  • Increased our capacity to support student use of sophisticated data collection and data analysis tools in their inquiries
  • Increased our awareness of the kinds of current tools that are available and affordable for use in our programs
  • Deepened our understanding of the content and skill connections between the geography, mathematics and science curricula
  • Deepened our understanding of the student-inquiry cycle, as it appears in the geography, mathematics and science curricula
  • Increased our capacity to create meaningful transdisciplinary assessments
  • Increased our capacity for multi-site, digital collaboration in a teacher inquiry
  • Interpreted teacher-initiated learning through a collaborative inquiry lens

Activities and Resources

  • Training on the use of a variety of multi-purpose measurement probes, including GPS, pH probes and motion sensors
  • Training on the use of data analysis tools
  • Exploring repositories of teaching and learning instructional materials that are companions to the various data collection and analysis tools
  • Creating a transdisciplinary unit plan with assessments that leverage data collection and analysis tools, in Grade 9 geography and science
  • Documenting our insights, useful resources and the assessments/lessons that we create on a digital collaboration platform (Google Classroom)
  • Leveraging and expanding our professional networks to connect with and learn from colleagues, including centrally assigned teachers, who have expertise in using the technologies we are exploring

Unexpected Challenges

Many of our purchased companion teaching-and-learning materials for our probeware system were inappropriate for intermediate-level students. Moreover, they were not designed with a transdisciplinary approach in mind; that is, they would generally focus on a specific science or mathematical expectation more so than process or inquiry expectations within a scientific or geographic context.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

Our students live in a world with ever-increasing availability of data collection tools such as GPS, motion sensors and accelerometers, and ever-increasing amounts of data to manage, analyze and interpret. And so, now students must practise and develop their numeracy skills to make meaning of the vast seas of data. Through our learning in this project, we have created an opportunity for students to engage with realistic, contextualized data sets. Like practising geographers, mathematicians and scientists, students will select, model and interpret complex data in support of their own inquiry questions. Students will also integrate the data with various platforms for analysis (e.g., GIS and Google Sheets) and for communicating their learning. Furthermore, by applying these tools simultaneously in multiple programs, we will reinforce for students the interconnectedness of their courses of study and facilitate the transfer their numeracy skills between contexts and subsequently to new contexts.


  • We brought in one of our vice-principals to consult with us for, as our plans took shape, we realised that they would need admin support for future staff timetabling considerations and for further OT coverage for field-work days
  • We will be sharing our learning and product with our departments (three of us are ACLs) and working with our ACL of Innovative Teaching and Learning Science/Technology/Mathematics/Numeracy to share our work school-wide
  • One project member is a centrally assigned teacher, who will be reporting the progress of our work to our Superintendent of Education and a centrally assigned principal
  • We will be submitting a proposal for a conference presentation at the Eureka Conference, the annual TDSB Secondary STEM conference
  • We have made our learning visible on a Google Classroom



Project Evaluation

We consider our project to be a success in that we have created an opportunity for students to engage with realistic, contextualized data sets, and we have also increased our capacity to create and support similarly rich learning experiences in the future.

Resources Used


Labquest 2, with built-in GPS and 3D accelerometers

Vernier motion detectors

Print and Digital Resources:

Ontario Canadian and World Studies Curriculum, Grades 9-10 and 11-12

Ontario Mathematics Curriculum, Grades 9-10 and 11-12

Ontario Science Curriculum, Grades 9-10 and 11-12

Investigating Environmental Science Through Inquiry by Donald L. Volz and Gretchen Stahmer DeMoss

Real-World Math with Vernier by John Gastineau, Chris Brueningsen, Bill Bower, Linda Antinone and Elisa Kerner

Physical Science with Vernier, 4th Edition by Donald Volz and Sandy Sapatka

Data Analysis Tools and Classroom Technology:

Geographical Information System (GIS)

Logger Pro 3, Graphical Analysis 4

Excel Spreadsheets, Google Sheets

Labquest Viewer