‘Vast quantities of information fuel this global society, and the ability to locate, evaluate, and use appropriate information for creation and innovation is essential’ (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007, p. 2). This statement from ‘Guided Inquiry – learning in the 21st century’ encapsulates so much of what we are about in school today, and the onus is on us as educators to ‘develop independent learners who know how to expand their knowledge and expertise through skilled use of a variety of information resources employed both inside and outside of school’ (p. 3).
I have used the inquiry process in my classroom with great success, and Bloom’s revised taxonomy has been a useful tool in enabling students to build on their understandings, fostering motivation and higher order thinking. I have found technology and the internet to be both a source of great help and great frustration in achieving student success in the location of information and the presentation of student learning.
I found working through the Bloom’s resource task for Module 1.2 a difficult task and it was good to be put in the place of our students, and what is sometimes asked of them, with little support. I came away with a number of thoughts that I think are worthy of consideration when planning inquiry / project based learning tasks with the intention of using technology as an integral aspect of the task.
Access to information is key
Firstly, as I had no background knowledge of South Australian ecosystems, and was solely reliant on the web for information, I started off, as many of our students do by ‘googling’ it, with limited success. While information on ecosystems is abundant, the more specific criteria of South Australian ecosystems, greatly limited the amount of relevant information. This highlighted the need for teachers of specific subjects to source what information is readily available for their students on the web before students begin the task. This doesn’t necessarily mean hand the website addresses over to the students, but discussing relevant and specific Boolean search terms with the students may enable them to bring up the relevant information faster than just a google search of ‘South Australian ecosystems’. This is also a situation that would lend itself to class discussion on the diversity of other sources of information available beyond the web: such as databases, non-fiction texts, local community resources (assuming you are focused on South Australian ecosystems because that is where you are located) and scientific organisations.
Higher order thinking tasks are built on the knowledge and understanding already acquired
On the website ‘Mimanifesto – Jaye’s weblog’, the author states her opinion that ‘Knowledge acquisition, or remembering, in this day and age is now not going to be the cognitive base level any more’ (April 2103). I disagree. In the past, it may have been the case that much more importance was placed on knowledge acquisition than what was placed on what was done with that knowledge. Today, I would argue that knowledge acquisition is still important, but we now place more importance on what we do with that knowledge once we have it. How can we create solutions to ecosystem issues if we don’t first understand what an ecosystem is, and how to apply and analyse that knowledge of what it should be versus what it is in 2014?
It is important that we ‘google proof ‘ our questions in order to encourage higher order thinking. It is equally important that we teach our students how to locate information on the web, verify its accuracy, authenticity and authority so that they build their understandings with the correct knowledge.
Build on what the students / teachers are familiar with
I also found this task difficult as I put myself in the position of attempting to locate new apps / web 2.0 tools that I was unfamiliar with and fit them to the task listed. I found this to be a very time consuming and ineffective method. Had I been working in a school for this task, my method would have been different. First, I would have looked at what apps / web 2.0 tools were currently being utlilised by my students ie: what is already available on the school ipads / what the students are familiar with and looked at where they could be used by the students in completing some of the tasks listed. Then I would look at the gaps and investigate what apps / web2.0 tools could be added to enhance the teaching and learning experiences of the staff and students. It is important to remember, especially in the primary school setting, that explicit teaching of the functions of new apps / web 2.0 is essential if we want the students to be able to utilize that tool to the best what it can offer.
There is a time consuming element of having staff and students become familiar with the function of an app, and how it’s features and tools can be utilised to meet learning needs.
Ultimately, we want our students and staff to be so familiar and comfortable with the use of a range of apps and web 2.0 tools that they can choose for themselves, what app or web 2.0 tool they need to best meet their learning task needs, rather than having the TL or classroom teacher define what they need to use.
Use apps and web2.0 tools with flexibility, ingenuity and creativity
I admit that having a webpage like Kathy Shrock’s ‘Bloomin Apps’ is a great resource to be able to tap into when trying to find new apps and where they might in to teaching and learning experiences. One of the issues I have though, is allocating a particular app to a particular stage of blooms. There will always be that staff member or student, who, when you suggest using a particular app to meet a particular stage of blooms who will answer ‘ oh but that app is only for analysis’.
It is essential, that in our role as TL, we emphasis that often the limits of an app or a web2.0 tool are lack of experience from the user. As students and staff become familiar with an app or a tool, they should be able to see the potential for the different tasks and creations that are possible.
For example, should the site www.exploratree.org.uk only be considered as an appropriate tool for creating diagrams in the application phase of Blooms, then it limits the user from exploring what else they could use this site for. It would be more preferable, for this site to be used in a variety of teaching and learning experiences, where the students can see its versatility. Then, when it comes to the situation of considering for themselves, what tools best supports the delivery of their understandings, they posses enough working knowledge to either choose or dismiss this tool as an appropriate vehicle for publishing their thinking.
Be aware of the need to use selection criteria against all apps and web 2.0 tools
While there are many sites that educators can go to for suggestions of apps and web 2.0 resources that can fit into the new Bloom’s taxonomy, it is important that the TL looks into the site, and how students will interact within that site / app to ensure it’s suitability for student use.
Using a specific selection criteria will assist in assessing the sites / apps suitability. For example, on Kathy Schrock’s page ‘Bloomin Apps’, the simulating app suggested in the applying box, links through to Animation Creator HD, a free app, rated 12+ with infrequent / mild sexual content and nudity etc. This app would not be suitable for use in a primary school, where the majority of students are below the age range.
There are advantages and disadvantages to using both of these tools. Apps on school ipads, mean there is not usually issues with connectivity and use, apart from the need to connect to wifi for web based searches or export. The cost involved in provision of apps on a bank of ipads, can be considerable, but generally is a one off cost, with continual connection to upgrades at no cost.
Web 2.0 can be free, but are reliant on the schools wifi access, broad band width and student access when needed. There can often be an issue with needing to register to gain access to tools such as saving, printing and exporting. Advertising can also be a concern. Some apps and web2.0 require payment for full use, though a ‘lite’ version may provide enough access.
So, while it is great there are people who are out there making attempts to curate suitable apps and web 2.0 technologies for use with Bloom’s, and make our jobs that little bit less time consuming, we must be certain to be checking these tools against our school’s selection criteria before use with students, or suggesting to teaching staff.
This was a great activity to do – I am more inspired now to continue my curating of apps, web2.0 tools and shared professional knowledge of all things ‘technology’.
Futurelab. (2007). Exploratree. In Exploratree. Retrieved from http://www.exploratree.org.uk
Kuhlthau, C., Maniotes, L. & Caspari, A. (2007). Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited Inc.
Mimanifesto (April 1st 2013). I’m not really sold on Bloom’s Taxonomy. In Mimanifesto – Jaye’s Weblog. Retrieved from http://mimanifesto.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/im-not-really-sold-on-blooms-taxonomy/
Shrock, K. (2014). Bloomin’ apps. In Kathy Shrock’s guide to everything. Retrieved from http://www.schrockguide.net/bloomin-apps.html