Technology at Its Best
It’s not news that technology plays an important role in modern classrooms. Many teachers encourage their students to use word
processors to format papers, make revisions and do calculations. However, technology can do more than refine students’ projects. When used correctly, technology can help develop higher order thinking skills. In fact, some technology-based lessons do a better job of this than non-technological lessons!
What Are Higher Order Thinking Skills?
According to the new version of Bloom’s Taxonomy, the intellectual behaviors that students should practice and engage in are remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating. The behaviors at the beginning of the list (remembering, understanding and applying) are lower order, while the other behaviors (analyzing, evaluating and creating) are higher order. These take more critical thinking and thoughtfulness.
Analyzing is the observing and breaking down of information in order to determine motives and causes. Teachers can help students analyze by integrating technology into projects. For instance, without much technology, a science teacher could show students how global warming may be affecting the planet. But with the help of online school databases, students could research science articles from particular years, in order to discover and analyze trends in scientific findings regarding ozone depletion. When students are allowed to go beyond classroom handouts for information, forming an analysis becomes a more challenging but authentic task.
Other times, analyzing can be made more interactive through online tools. For instance, the Read Write Think website has a story mapping tool that guides students through the process of breaking down a story in order to think about it. Teachers may also want to consider classroom software like Inspiration, which helps students to visually organize information into graphs and charts. This helps them to compare and contrast, build hierarchies of information, create cause and effect diagrams, etc. (If software like this is not in your school budget, look into the charts and diagrams available on your school’s word processors.)
When students evaluate, they make decisions and then justify them. One example of this is the book review, in which students rate books and explain their decisions. The book review is a great way to help students evaluate, but it can be taught more thoroughly (and written more enthusiastically) using technology. For example, teachers can use actual book reviews found on Amazon as examples for students, asking them to analyze shared elements between reviews. Next, students can write their own reviews and post on Amazon's website themselves. When I switched from having my students write reviews for the class to writing reviews on a real website, I noticed an improvement in the quality of their work. They felt their reviews could help lots of readers across the country to choose a book and this motivated them to be thorough in their writing.
Of course, the Internet is not just for book reviews. For instance, Kathy Schrock use Inspiration software and the Internet to help her 6th, 7th and 8th graders evaluate websites. Lessons like Schrock’s help students to look at things with a more discerning eye, and to justify their evaluations with support.
Creating is the last higher order behavior in the newer version of Bloom’s Taxonomy. In contrast to the other behaviors on the list, creating is the production of something entirely new. Technology offers students great opportunities to create in ways that non-technological projects don’t. For instance, students could create a poster board of information for a math presentation, but it wouldn’t include nearly as much information as a PowerPoint presentation.
Additionally, technology widens students’ audiences, which means more genuine creations. A website like Kid Blog (when carefully monitored by teachers) is one example of how students can share their work with many. Magazines like Teen Ink are now online and take submissions through email, making it easier than ever for students to publish. So by integrating technology in your classroom, you are not only giving students more possibilities in what they can create, but helping them to share their creations with more people.
Most of us use technology in our classrooms every day, whether we are emailing parents or bringing students to a computer lab to type their papers. However, keep in mind that technology integration is also beneficial as it can encourage your students to use their higher order thinking skills to process all types of information and in the long run, will help them to be the great learners and thinkers that will make successful adults.
Overbaugh, R.C., & Schultz, L. (n.d.). Bloom's Taxonomy.