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August 18, 2014 | Tom Ballard

Stuckey took early retirement to help start-up Inquiry Technologies

Inquiry TechnologiesBy Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

Scott Stuckey is such a believer in the universal student learning assessment toolset that Inquiry Technologies, LLC is building that he took early retirement to serve as the start-up’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

The company’s goal is to address an increasingly diverse population of students who learn in very different ways. This reality requires new and more flexible tools to assess true learning.

Working out of the Eastman Valleybrook Campus in Kingsport, operated by East Tennessee State University, Inquiry Technologies is a “true start-up company,” Stuckey says. The company was awarded a $153,500 Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in January.

Inquiry Technologies’ secret sauce is a patent pending product called InquiryCast that is based on an assessment approach called screencasting. It is the first time the latter has been adapted for student use in a classroom setting.

As Stuckey explains it, the tool captures either a video clip or still picture of a computer screen along with an audio track of what the student is saying.

“InquiryCast allows students to capture segments of digital materials they are working with and generate voice-over explanations and commentary,” Stuckey says. “We provide students with a means to think out loud about complexities associated with an activity and enable opportunities to review/replay and improve their recordings at any time.”

The CTO, who is a long-time educator, emphasized the importance of InquiryCast’s ability to document critical thinking processes while students are engaged in actual activities.

“This innovation reduces many barriers associated with memorization, reading ability, language acquisition, and written expression,” Stuckey explained. “As such, it can readily accommodate students requiring individual learning plans.”

In many respects, Stuckey’s decision to retire and join Inquiry Technologies is not totally surprising. The assessment product is based on his dissertation work at Appalachian State University where he earned an Ed.D in Educational Leadership. The research involved more than 200 middle school students.

“We found that students using screencasting were more verbal than written and also provided a lot more explanation,” Stuckey said. “Those that only wrote were more limited . . . just answering the questions and not offering any explanation as to how or why.”

The CTO spent 20 years in K-12 education in North Carolina, evenly divided between being a high school biology teacher and a facilitator in instructional technology.

He retired when the Phase I SBIR was awarded to work full-time on enhancing the technology. An application for a Phase II award is pending

The Phase I research study, conducted with more than 300 middle school science students in May, was just recently submitted to the NSF. Stuckey said the overall results showed that science students and their teachers favored the use of InquiryCast over other assessment strategies and that its use led to significantly higher gains in knowledge integration.

“The study also allowed us to identify particular groups of students where the innovation appears to be especially helpful,” he said. “Most notable are students that rate themselves as being ‘average’ in science, English language learners, children with certain exceptionalities, and among boys where reading levels tend to be traditionally lower than girls.”

InquiryCast is technology and curriculum agnostic and works in the background as a service that is available on demand.

“Our learning facilitation toolset can be applied to any browser-based digital learning materials and can accept student input through any combination of voice, text or screen recording, in real-time or delayed,” Stuckey said.

Stuckey feels that Inquiry Technologies has real potential for helping a tremendous number of students do better in school and improve upon communication skills that will stay with them for life.

“A Phase II award, combined with investments from the private sector, will go a long way in making that dream a reality,” he explained.

For those interested in learning more about InquiryCast, click here to read a summary (InqTch_ProductDescription).

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