Friday, May 20, 2011

Check out my blog for students!

I've been experimenting with blogging as a way of providing my high school students with information - things like chapter notes, instructions for projects, learning objectives, and other information. I started it before I learned about Wikispaces, so I decided to keep using the blog rather than change while the students were still getting used to the idea of visiting the blog.  It's a little rough - I'm learning as I go - but have a look:  Ms. Pushkal's Blog.  I'd love to hear your comments and suggestions!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Resources for Bloom's Digital Taxonomy

Bloom's taxonomy of learning came up in class last night.  Earlier in the course it had been a topic of discussion on our class's Blackboard discussion board, and it popped up again when were were learning about Udutu, a free online course authoring tool that lets you make online interactive site and "learning objects" (like tests, things to read and do, and other activities).  Udutu's documentation doesn't confine itself to telling you how to use the tool (e.g. "click here to add a picture") - it also discusses establishing learning outcomes and some of the old-fashioned lesson- or course- planning activities that are appropriate to each stage of creating an online (or e-learning) course.  While this made it verbose (and maddening when I was looking for quick step-by-step instruction on how to import a video) I do think I will be reading it more carefully before I charge off into e-learning.

But at any rate, it made me think of some recent modifications of Bloom's Taxonomy that people have been making to adapt Bloom's (a product of the 1950s) to the digital age.

Andrew Churches has written a lot about this.  His article at gives brief explanation of Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning as adapted for digital learning.  Best of all, it provides annotated lists of common digital tasks, organized by the level of the taxonomy they fall under.  Churches article in is useful, clear, and best of all, specific.  For example, under Bloom's level "Understanding," Churches places the following:
The digital additions and their explanations are as follows:
  • Advanced and Boolean Searching – This is a progression from the previous category. Students require a greater depth of understanding to be able to create, modify and refine searches to suit their search needs.
  • Blog Journaling – This is the simplest of the uses for a blog, where a student simply "talks" "writes" or "types" a daily- or task-specific journal. This shows a basic understanding of the activity reported upon. The blog can be used to develop higher level thinking when used for discussion and collaboration.
  • Twittering – The Twitter site's fundamental question is "what are you doing?" This can be, in its most simplistic form, a one or two word answer, but when developed this is a tool that lends itself to developing understanding and potentially starting collaboration.
  • Categorizing – digital classification - organizing and classifying files, web sites and materials using folders etc. 
  • Commenting and annotating – a variety of tools exist that allow the user to comment and annotate on web pages, .pdf files and other documents. The user is developing understanding by simply commenting on the pages. This is analogous with writing notes on hand outs, but is potentially more powerful as you can link and index these.
  • Subscribing – Subscription takes bookmarking in its various forms and simplistic reading one level further. The act of subscription by itself does not show or develop understanding but often the process of reading and revisiting the subscribed-to feeds leads to greater understanding.
And so on for the other levels of Blooms. 

Churches has also published a long but interesting and accessible article on Bloom's digital taxonomy here.  It's dated 2008 - not sure if he's updated it recently.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It's been very frustrating this year teaching AP History where the mandate to "cover" content is merciless. It's purported to be a college level class, but I would never expect my college students to memorize the way students must for AP high school classes. The AP European history essay section - especially the document-based essays in which students grapple with primary sources - is actually quite well-constructed and does a good job mimicking what professional historians actually do. From what I've seen on the AP discussion boards, though, teachers quickly take the rubric and develop formulaic ways of approaching the essay for their students. They have to, to try to get high scores and high pass rates. But it kind of takes all the joy out of it.

A special frustration for me is that the need to prepare for the AP test means I can't spend anywhere near as much time working with students on research papers, which would be so valuable for them. I'm hoping the IT I'm learning to use will help me restructure so we can do more higher-order things (and still get good scores on the test.) For instance, with Proprofs I can put up practice tests, something that would eat up valuable class time were I to do it the old-fashioned paper way. With paper multiple-choice tests, I'd have to grade them by hand, or at very least scantron, so forget re-takes to reiterate the factual recall. But with Profprofs or other web tools like Quizlet or Flashcard Machine I can provide opportunities for the students to re-take and re-visit information many times. I'm looking forward to figuring out ways to use the web to supercharge my course and take the waste out of our precious face time.

About the image: I used BeFunky , a tool I learned about in class last night, to add a European Union flag to an image of a map, then added text.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Oh, dear. Maybe I shouldn't take quizzes late at night. Here's my certificate of non-achievement for a quiz I took on, of all things, research:

It's from an interactive powerpoint module that's aimed at college students and others who have to do research. The interesting thing is the modules are interactive - no "death by powerpoint" here. The stellar results you see above are part of a pre-quiz. Presumably after I complete the modules I'll have a chance to redeem myself and regain my reputation.

I haven't used pre-quizzes much (I know! I know!) partly because they weren't common when I was in school, but having taken a few really brings home to me how useful they are. Some people have to learn through experience, I guess.

Well, here's the test:

I think one thing I learned is to not do these things when I'm tired. But I couldn't resist. That's the nature of the internet, too - keep clicking.