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.

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 (, Bing ( or Yahoo ( – 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 ( 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 (, 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 ( 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 (, 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 ( 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.

Level Description Application examples
Remembering Be able to retrieve information; find and access necessary resources.
  • Identify a legitimate search engine, e.g. Google ( and understand how it works.
  • Enter a key word in the text box and click on the search button and follow the links to further resources.   
Understanding Be able to construct meaning and build relationships.
  • Categorise and tag bookmarks through a social bookmarking application such as Delicious (
Application Be able to apply learnt knowledge or processes to a situation.
  • Produce a presentation, document or simulation.
  • Edit a wiki page, such as on Wikipedia (
Analysis Process data; determine relationships between parts and overall purpose of a project.
  • Use an online survey tool (e.g. Survey Monkey to set up and conduct a survey and analyse the result.
Evaluation Make criteria-based judgements through the processes of critiquing and checking.
  • Moderate and respond to comments made on a blog post.
Creating Leaner must synthesise past knowledge to create a new, coherent product.
  • Remember, understand and apply knowledge, analyse and evaluate outcomes and processes to construct the end product.

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.


A Literary Guide to KwaZulu-Natal

For several years I was involved in a research project at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, researching authors, their books and places connected to them. We produced a number of author profiles and literary trails over the years (in collaboration with a number of co-researchers), which we published online. Working with UKZN Press, we have taken that research and compiled a literary guide, which was recently published.

Book details
KwaZulu-Natal is culturally rich, offering a wide range of writers – writing mainly in English and Zulu – who are linked through their lives and their writing to this province of South Africa. The writers include, to name just a few, Alan Paton, Roy Campbell, Lewis Nkosi, Ronnie Govender, Wilbur Smith, Daphne Rooke, Credo Mutwa and Gcina Mhlophe. And how better to understand a writer than to know about the places they are linked to? For example, who, after reading the lyrical opening sentences of Paton’s famous book Cry, the Beloved Country (1948) has not wanted to see this scene in reality?

There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it.

A Literary Guide to KwaZulu-Natal introduces you to the regions and writers through word and image, leading you imaginatively through this beautiful province.

This could include following the route a fictional character charts in a novel, visiting particular settings from a story or tracking down the places linked to a writer, whether a birthplace, home, burial site or significant setting. Literary tourists are interested in how places have influenced writing and at the same time how writing has created place.

  • A Literary Guide to KwaZulu-Natal by Niall McNulty, Lindy Stiebel
    ISBN: 978 1 86914 357 2
  • Read a few pages here ...


Innovation Africa 2017

I recently attended the Innovation Africa event in Maputo, Mozambique with colleagues from Cambridge University’s Faculty of Education, Cambridge Assessment, Cambridge University Press's Education Reform and Cambridge University Press's global digital team.

The Cambridge team in front of their stand

Innovation Africa is an annual ministerial conference bringing together African countries’ education ministries, tech companies (hardware/software) and education-support businesses.The event is held across three days; Day one is the 'Africa Leaders Day' and is open to government officials and select private organisations only. Day two and three are the main conference days which take the format of panel discussions in the mornings with short one-on-one meetings scheduled in the afternoon, where service providers can meet directly with education officials to discuss projects.

It appears that most African countries represented have nascent digital plans, with a focus on embedding 21st Century Skills in the curriculum and creating a ‘knowledge economy’-ready workforce. For example, Zambia has a project called Smart Zambia whereby they are creating digital resources to support teaching as well as distributing 75,000 tablets to learners.  Kenya has set up an e-learning cloud with freely available digital resources for teachers and learners. They have distributed over a million devices to learners, assembled in Kenya via a public-private partnership with Brazilian Positive BGH.

At the conference, IBM launched their Digital Nation Africa project, an online digital literacy course curating open education resources into three training streams, the Digital Explorer, the Digital Innovator and New Collar Jobs. This innovative platform is freely available for residents throughout Africa, with the hope that education ministries adopt it as a means to distribute relevant local content in their countries.

UNESCO also used this opportunity to launch their report on accountability in education, providing feedback on the monitoring process they conducted over the past year with a focus on governments, schools, teachers and parents.

TPACK model

For all teachers struggling to integrate ICT in education in South Africa, the TPACK model is a useful tool, providing a way to integrate pedagogy, content and technology in the ordinary course of teaching in the classroom. This model informs how pedagogy is impacted by the use of digital technology and while deceptively simple it is a powerful teaching approach.

See the diagram below for a visual representation of the model and then watch the excellent three-minute explainer video by Royce Kimmons.

How edtech can equip learners with the right skills for the 4th industrial revolution

In recent times there has been much talk of a ‘4th industrial revolution’, as the lines between physical and digital experiences blur more and more. What exactly is the 4th industrial revolution and what skills can edtech help learners develop?

What is the 4th industrial revolution?

It is the rapid advancement of new technologies that is building on the developments of the third industrial revolution (the advent of electronics and automated production). According to Klaus Schwab, the Founder and executive chairman of the WEF, the fourth industrial revolution ‘is characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres’.

How is it changing the world of work?

The increasing intersection between physical and digital technologies is changing the world of work in several key ways. As Schwab says, ‘physical products and services … can now be enhanced with digital capabilities that increase their value’. Today’s worker needs to understand how digital and physical components can combine to create faster, more efficient and effective products and hybrid solutions.

How the 4th industrial revolution is changing the world of work: Uber as example

Take the ride-sharing app, Uber, for example. Its founders saw a gap in the market and combined traditional private transportation services with smartphone GPS capabilities. Using a simple user interface, this gave commuters an ‘always-available’ transport alternative to traditional taxi rides that require more planning and are more subject to availability.

Taxi associations have been understandably shaken due to the competitive element. It is extremely difficult for a taxi operator to compete with an app in which users can see the nearest available car as an overlay on a map of their local area. Proximity-based cab-hailing also meant Uber could have greater area coverage at lower costs since drivers don’t have to travel far to find their next passenger.

Today’s businesses – and, by extension, employees - thus have to be adaptable and conscious of the ways combining digital and physical resources can create solutions that surpass competitors’ limitations.

What are the skills needed to thrive in the 4th industrial revolution?

Collaborative and individual innovation are essential skills in the 4th industrial revolution. As technological advances emerge faster, education needs to equip learners to be able to assimilate new concepts and ideas quickly. In the modern workplace, many employees occupy multiple roles that require higher levels of critical thinking.

Alex Gray, writing for the World Economic Forum, predicts that by 2020 ‘the Fourth Industrial Revolution will have brought us advanced robotics and autonomous transport, artificial intelligence and machine learning.’ In the article, Gray predicts that critical thinking will be the second most important employee skill. The other top 10 essential skills predicted for 2020 are:

  • Complex problem-solving
  • Creativity
  • People management
  • Coordinating with others
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Judgment and decision-making
  • Service orientation
  • Negotiation
  • Cognitive flexibility

How can we use educational technology to teach learners these skills?

Educational technology can introduce learners to environments where problem solving combines digital and physical components. Co-operative elements that are the foundation of multiplayer video games can be introduced to the classroom using gamification. This is where elements of game mechanics (for example ‘unlocking’ content when prerequisite actions are complete) are used in education. The collaborative nature of gamification coordinating with others (one of Gray’s core skills) while also fostering deeper learner engagement.

Innovation in educational technology can provide learners with the materials they need to be literate in the physical sciences as well as the digital world. Much of South Africa’s education system still relies on rote learning. Learners parrot textbooks and are graded for how well they can remember material first and how well they can apply it second.

To truly equip learners to cope with the demands of the 4th industrial revolution, it’s necessary to teach critical thinking that asks learners to develop their understanding of physical as well as digital technologies and how the two increasingly intersect in all spheres of life.