The readings from my COETAIL course this week were quite powerful in their articulation of many of the trends that I have been witnessing in the classroom over the past few years. I did find Mimi Ito’s article “Learning that Connects”, to be very powerful, and this article strongly resonated with me. However, after writing more than anticipated on Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, I will leave my reflections on Mimi’s excellent article for a future post.
This week I was reintroduced to Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy. The revision to Bloom’s Taxonomy isn’t new, having been published in 2001, and I can remember discussing it in a few of my classes when I was working on my M.Ed a few years ago. But as with so many things in our professions (and indeed our lives), sometimes it is worth revisiting something with a greater depth of experience to reflect on. Indeed, this was the case for me this week, as I revisited Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.
What stood out to me most was the “Create” verb, sitting at the top of the pyramid, and this is what I would like to focus this post on. Over the few past years in the classroom I have observed that some of the best learning takes place when students are asked to create a public and/or shared artifact to demonstrate their learning. These artifacts don’t need to be digital per se, but many time they are, which makes them more easily shared to a wider audience, perhaps even outside of the school community. Such artifacts could include screencasts, interactive slides, a digital book/magazine, or any number of digital arenas in which students can connect and share their learning.
My thinking toward classroom instructional time began to significantly shift a few years ago, catalyzed by my experience teaching with, and helping to design courses for, Global Online Academy. (I will endeavor to write in more detail about my experience with GOA in a future post, as I don’t want to get too off track here, but I encourage anyone reading this to visit their site for more information.) When crafting student learning experiences in an online setting, I found that the most engaging and powerful experiences were undoubtedly the ones in which students were creating and sharing their work with their peers.
An example from my time with GOA that immediately comes to mind was the final project for one of my courses (designed around the topic of “Energy”), which was entitled the “Catalyst Conference”. This project was a collaborative effort involving students from many courses, so there was ample opportunity for students to make connections between my course (“Energy”) and other disciplines. Students enrolled in participating courses were asked to create their own online spaces in which they could showcase their learning for that semester. These projects were housed in an online space (the “Catalyst Conference”) and students (as well as instructors) of these courses could look at, and comment on, the work of their peers. It was essentially a virtual seminar, linking students from over 60 schools from around the globe into one shared experience. Student engagement with the project, and motivation to create a well-polished and organized product, were both very high. I was amazed by many of the connections that students were making across disciplines, as well as to contemporary news, politics, events, and societal trends. A key element of this project’s success was that the projects were public, and on display to the whole of the virtual conference. The provision of an authentic audience for students to demonstrate their learning to was an important driver of student motivation and engagement.
In my own “brick and mortar” classroom, I have also clearly seen enhanced student motivation and engagement when they are given a task allowing them to create, and then share their creation. For example, last year in my MYP 7th grade math course, we were exploring geometric shapes and how to calculate angles and area. As a final project for the unit, students were asked to design their own playground, given a list of possible starting materials, a hypothetical budget, and a list of constraints which they had to address in their own way. Students then had to create a screencast to present their design, explain the calculations behind their design, and then share their presentations on Google Classroom.
I was amazed at the high level of engagement in my class. What especially stood out was the level of enthusiasm and motivation from some students who had been struggling with some of the material in the course. In more than just a few cases I witnessed a student who would normally have struggled to maintain motivation become engaged, focused, and genuinely excited to really create something “cool” to share.
As digital technology allows for an increasingly connected and global world, I believe that the focus of how we assess student learning needs to shift, ideally to the act of creation. I am convinced that this is one of the most powerful drivers of authentic learning experiences for students of any age.
I would be very interested to hear about your own experiences regarding leveraging to power of the creative process to foster learning. Please leave a comment below!