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Piquing students' curiosities with

Personal Digital Inquiry (PDI)

Fueled by personal curiosities and needs, Personal Digital Inquiry practices can help connect with people of any age and discover new ways of thinking about living, teaching, and learning.


Meaningful uses of technology can change how you teach and how your students learn. But many teachers struggle with finding ways to incorporate digital tools and texts into their instruction in a way that is focused while also inspiring curiosity.


At the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy, much of our work is framed in Personal Digital Inquiry (PDI) (Coiro, Dobler, & Pelekis, 2019).  We use the PDI framework to help educators envision ways of designing personal digital inquiry experiences that foster collaborative discussions and reflection; in turn, these experiences lead to knowledge building, knowledge expression, and personal action.

But what is PDI?

  • Personal emphasizes the significance of the personal relationship between teachers and students, and the role that students have in the learning process.

  • Digital reflects the important role that digital texts and tools have come to play in both learning and teaching with inquiry.

  • Inquiry lies at the core of PDI, because learners grow and change with opportunities to identify problems, generate personal wonderings, and engage in collaborative dialogue, making learning relevant and lasting.

What core practices are included in the PDI Framework?


The PDI framework is designed to help visualize and plan for regular opportunities for four core sets of practices before you implement these experiences with children.

  • Wonder & Discover: All learners have opportunities to engage with content and experiences that prompt their own questions about a topic and time to explore resources and discover new ideas about the world around them.

  • Collaborate & Discuss: All learners have opportunities to engage in joint conversations around shared interests, discuss interpretations, make connections, and negotiate differences in their thinking.

  • Create & Take Action: All learners have opportunities to express their interests and new understandings through creative work designed to start conversations, raise awareness, take action, or change minds in their learning community or beyond.

  • Analyze & Reflect: All learners have opportunities to analyze content to build their understanding of challenging information and reflect on their choices at multiple points (e.g., before, during, and after) in their inquiry process.

Learners may move through these opportunities in varied sequences with varied amounts of support, but successful inquiry-based projects make room for all four sets of practices.



How do I weave PDI into my curriculum planning?

As you choose to integrate digital texts and tools into your classroom inquiries, a PDI Planning Guide can help you make intentional choices about technology use, depending on the project learning outcomes and your purposes for teaching and/or learning. The planning guide leaves space for you to consider how you might a) identify learning outcomes and related standards, b) create opportunities for four sets of PDI practices, and c) intentionally select and use digital experiences that increase student engagement with deeper levels of thinking.

The PDI Planning Guide and accompanying PDI Questioning Tool encourage you to reflect on the following questions about your teaching to help encourage curiosity and deep thinking:

  • How might the activities you design prompt more or richer questions while offering flexibility in how learning evolves in response to these wonderings?

  • How and when might you intentionally build in time for learners to revisit and fully develop new ideas informed by their questions?

  • What hands-on activities can provide authentic reasons for learners to notice, discuss, collaborate, and share their thinking about these experiences with others?

  • How might you weave in time for observing and journaling to practice analysis and reflection?

  • How might you sequence activities and instruction to help learners actively deepen their understanding by connecting to and building on what they learned previously?


By using PDI, teachers can foster curiosity with a range of digital tools and resources that will create a dynamic classroom for both teachers and students.




Coiro, J., Dobler, E., & Pelekis, K. (2019). From Curiosity to Deep Learning: Personal Digital Inquiry in Grades K-5. Stenhouse. Companion website

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About the author

Dr. Julie Coiro is a Professor of Literacy in the School of Education at the University of Rhode Island and Director of the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy.  Julie is also the lead designer of the PDI Framework, along with her colleagues Beth Dobler and Karen Pelekis. The PDI framework is used to guide and support teachers at the institute. You can follow Julie on Twitter at @jcoiro or reach out via email at

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