Webinar: Reflections on Distance Learning Using Inquiry

Thanks to all who attended our webinar yesterday! We asked questions, shared reflections, and explored the directions that distance learning has taken us over the past two months.

We used inquirED's free Together When Apart curriculum as an example of how to design distance learning that is connected from day-to-day. Follow the link above to explore the curriculum. Many of you followed up the webinar with emails asking specifically about the design principles used to create Together When Apart. See my response below! Thanks for your participation during the webinar. I learned a lot from you!

As designers of inquiry-based curriculum, we’ve dedicated our careers to the ideal of inquiry, working to ensure that students are authentically engaged, grappling with real-world content, and taking action to inform and inspire their communities. But the reality of teaching and learning in this moment is anything but ideal.

Over the past month we’ve struggled with the question: Can we realistically design inquiry-based social studies for this moment, when distance creates so many barriers to learning, especially for our most vulnerable students?

As we set out to design Together When Apart we wanted to hold true to inquiry-based values. We also understood that to overcome other barriers it must

  • Require very few resources to complete - often only a pencil and paper

  • Be able to be accessed on a screen or in print

  • Require limited prior knowledge or expertise

Those characteristics sounded suspiciously familiar to us. In fact, without considering the content or task, they sounded like the user experience of a compliance-based worksheet.

So, in the same way that we’ve all found ourselves doing, thinking, and saying things during this pandemic that our past selves would never have thought possible, things like “Maybe, I can just cut my own hair?” or “Should I risk going to the grocery store?” as inquiry-based educators we found ourselves saying: “It looks like we’re just going to have to design a better worksheet.”

We created Together When Apart, as a hybrid of sorts - combining the low walls of a simplified user experience (like a worksheet) with the high ceilings of inquiry-based tasks. Our guiding principles were responsiveness and connection.


  • Asks authentic questions that honor students as experts of their experience of this moment in time

  • Presents open-ended challenges that allow for a variety of responses

  • Provides extension opportunities for going deeper than a pencil and paper will allow

  • Empowers teachers/caregivers with opportunities to adapt the work to their context


  • Provides a throughline between day-to-day experiences

  • Engages multiple skills and disciplines at once

  • Prompts iteration through authentic reflection and feedback

  • Culminates in students sharing their learning

Finally, for those you who were unable to attend the webinar, please watch the recording below.


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