The top teachers in the country are using Bloom’s Taxonomy to structure their online classes. Find out how they do this and why it matters!
Who developed Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy?
Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy (2008) was developed by Andrew Churches as an extension of the original Bloom’s Taxonomy and creates a hierarchy of learning activities in a digital environment. In this post I will provide a background to Bloom’s Taxonomy and its subsequent revisions, list each of the categories in the hierarchy and suggest a technology that can be used at each level to support learning.
Educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom developed a taxonomy of learning objectives in 1956, as a structure to understand the learning process. Divided into three psychological domains – cognitive (processing information), affective (attitudes and feelings) and psychomotor (physical skills) – his taxonomy progressed from Lower Order Thinking Skills (LOTS) to Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS). The levels he identified were: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Bloom’s Taxonomy followed the thinking process with the logic that you “can not understand a concept if you do not first remember it, similarly you can not apply knowledge and concepts if you do not understand them” (Churches, 2008). Forty years later Lorin Anderson and David Karathwohl, former students of Bloom’s, revisited Bloom’s Taxonomy, publishing a revised version in 2001 which reordered the sequence of categories and used verbs rather than nouns to describe each category. It is this revised version that Andrew Churches used to develop his digital taxonomy, keeping Anderson and Karathwohl’s categories of remembering, understanding, applying, analysing, evaluating and creating, but extending them into the digital environment.
In her TED presentation ‘How to learn? From mistakes’ (2010), teacher Diana Laufenberg presents a similar progression in learning styles, using the examples of the schooling her grandparents, parents and she herself received. In the space of three generations, information became more widely available and from more sources, and was no longer confined to the physical school building. It is this progression that fed into her own approach to teaching. Laufenberg is a proponent of experiential or ‘real-life’ learning, encouraging her students to fully engage with a topic and learn through creating and collaboration. This is an approach that allows for failure and encourages learning through doing. Churches’ Taxonomy uses a similar active learning approach, with students using digital tools to complete a learning activity at the various levels.
Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy Levels
Remembering is the act of retrieving knowledge, in this case digitally, and can be used to produce definitions and lists. It is the lowest of the taxonomic levels but is vitally important for the learning process. At this level, the use of basic searches is a relevant task for a student to undertake. They would need to be able to identify a legitimate search engine – such as Google (www.google.co.za), Bing (www.bing.com) or Yahoo (www.yahoo.com) – and understand how it works; that a keyword is entered into the text box and the search button is clicked, following which the user then receives relevant, hyper-linked search results that, when clicked, take the user to further resources. An important part of this task is being able to identify the correct keyword to use in order receive the information required. With access to a vast quantity of information in the digital age, it is not the remembering of information but the knowledge of how to retrieve it that is important. This task tests students abilities to find and access necessary resources and is a skill that is built on and used in all other levels.
The next level in the taxonomic structure is understanding, which is defined as the construction of meaning and the building of relationships. A learning activity at this level could involved the categorising and tagging of bookmarks through a social bookmarking application such as Delicious (www.delicious.com). The student would register an account with Delicious and then bookmark a number of relevant websites or specific web articles. These could, for example, be resources needed for a school project. Once the links have been created, the student would spend some time adding tags to the bookmarks. These tags exist as metadata, providing information about the original data object, and could be specific to the particular resource or be used on more than one bookmark. Tagging becomes useful by creating relationships between the various bookmarks which allows the student to click on the hyperlink tags and view all resources that have been categorised with that tag. The tags can be further categorised through the creation of tag bundles, which are used to group similar tags together. This task allows the student to organise the information they have retrieved, create links between resources and construct meaning from this categorisation process.
Applying is the level where the student applies learned knowledge or processes to a situation. The student implements the skills they have learned to produce a presentation, document or simulation. Here, the editing of a wiki page, such as on Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org), would be an appropriate learning activity. The student would register an editing account with Wikipedia and navigate to an appropriate page to edit. This page could relate to a topic that is being discussed in class or a subject that the student has researched. In any case, the student should have relevant and original information to add to the page. Following the editing guidelines, available from the Wikipedia website, the student would edit the page and add their material to it, keeping a similar writing-style to the rest of the article. If the student has any images, they could upload them and add them to the page. Once the page is edited, the student should then click save. In this task they have used material they have generated, through independent research, and carried out an editorial procedure to add this to a wiki page.
Analysing is the level where the student learns to process data, dividing it into parts and determining the relationships between these parts and the overall purpose of the project. At this level the use of an online survey tool such as Survey Monkey (www.surveymonkey.com) could be an appropriate learning activity. The student would register an account with Survey Monkey and, using the online tools provided, set up a survey. The student would decide on a survey topic and write several questions. These could be open-ended questions that would require the respondent to input an answer or multiple choice or true/false questions, which would require the student to generate possible answers. Setting a closing date for the survey, the student would then invite respondents to participate. These respondents could be members of the student’s class or a wider survey group. Once the survey period has ended, the student would then use the tools available in Survey Monkey to organise the results – comparing responses, dividing respondents into groups and deciding how these groups relate to each other and how they relate to the overall survey topic.
The fifth level in Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy is evaluation. This level requires the student to make criteria-based judgements through the processes of critiquing and checking. A task the student could do at this level would be moderating and responding to comments made on a blog post. In the digital environment there are a multitude of opportunities for discussion and an ease of participation through comments and forum posting. Not all comments or respondents add value to the discussion and the student must be able to critically decide what is relevant and respond appropriately. Using a free blogging platform such as WordPress (www.wordpress.com), the student would write a blog post on a subject of their choosing, encouraging comment and interaction with the ideas presented in the blog post. The student will be alerted via email when a new comment has been made. They will need to evaluate the comment in context and decide if it contributes to the discussion and debate. If it does, they can make the comment publicly visible using the tools supplied by WordPress. They will need to generate a critical response to this comment and post it as a reply in the comment section of the blog post. It should be constructed to respond both the comment and the topic of the blog post. If the comment is not appropriate, then they should delete it using the tools provided. Through this task the student learns to evaluate comments on a blog post using a set of criteria (e.g. does it contribute to the online discussion, and then respond accordingly).
Creating is the final level in Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy and is concerned with taking various elements and creating a new, coherent product. This level draws on all other levels, with the student remembering, understanding and applying knowledge, analysing and evaluating outcomes and processes to construct the end product. The digital environment allows for publishing to take place at an ever increasing rate and in ever increasing formats. The learning activity the student could participate in at this level could be the publishing and distribution of an ebook through the Amazon (www.amazon.com) platform. Deciding on a topic, the student would research and write the text for the ebook. They would need to structure the text in a coherent manner, possibly dividing the text into sections or chapters. Once complete, the student would then decide whether the ebook needed photographs or illustrations to complement the text. If yes, then they would need to source or generate these. Using an application such as Microsoft Word, the student would lay out the text, formatting chapter and section headings and deciding on fonts to use. At this point, they would also add any images they had decided to use. Once complete, the document would be saved. The student would then create an account at the Amazon Direct Publishing website. The student could input the ebook’s metadata (author name, description, etc.) and upload the Microsoft Word version of their book. They would be able to create a cover using the tools Amazon provides and decide on a price for their ebook. The Amazon website’s software would then convert these elements into an ebook format that could be read on the Kindle ereader. Once reviewed by staff members, the ebook would be available for sale. Through this task, the student learns how to take a number of different elements and create a coherent product. The student would have planned the process of content creation and, using various computer-based and online tools, created the ebook.
Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy provides the opportunity for a number of different learning activities for students, using a variety of digital tools. Several have been highlighted above but others could be selected by the student or teacher. The aim of the taxonomy is not to focus on specific tools but ensure that the student progresses through the hierarchy of levels, building on what they have learnt and using these skills as they move from LOTS to HOTS.
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- Churches, A. 2012. Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy. Available: http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/Bloom%27s+Digital+Taxonomy [2014, 19 March].
- Churches, A. 2008. Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy. Unpublished.
- Laufenberg, D. 2010. How to learn? From mistakes. Available: http://www.ted.com/talks/diana_laufenberg_3_ways_to_teach [2014, 19 March].