Monthly Archives: March 2009

Why This Doesn’t Work- Bloom’s and Technology Pyramid

I was sent this image earlier today and it is very similar to something I worked on1 with Milobo a while back. This image was made to be “a visual representaion [sic] of a Digital version of the new Bloom’s hierarchy.” I want to explain what I see as a fundamental flaw in how this image is presented and why it matters.

In this image the application is static and is represented on only one level. This reinforces the idea that the Blooms level is inherent in the technology rather than a result of its application2.

Let’s take Google Earth for example. It’s on the application level in the image. I’d argue that I can use it just as easily as a tool to create3, or to provide data to analyze4 or evaluate. On a lower level, I could use Google Earth to help me remember specific locations and facts about them or to understand how geography plays a role in military decisions at key battles.

Google Earth does does not lend itself to that kind of limitation that this image forces. I could say the same thing with something a little less obvious like Twitter. I could use it to create Haikus with added character limitations. I saw it used to create a book with multiple authors. I’m not saying these are key uses or even good ones. My only point is that tools are just tools. It’s the one who wields them that decides how they’ll be used. I often use Twitter to jot notes to myself, so i guess that’d fall under remembering. I could go on and on with Twitter and most, if not all, of the other applications.

I also realize that Mr. Fisher is probably not intending to limit these applications to these levels. He’s most likely suggesting places he feels they’ll best fit5. The reason that’s a problem is that this graphic is more likely to limit thoughts on a tool rather than expand them. The focus needs to be on the application and thoughts around the learning goals and process with the subsequent thought of what technology might assist in those goals.

So what I’m saying is we need to think about how these tools might apply to Bloom’s but do it in a different way. Tools will, by necessity, fall in many levels and we need to be able to show why and how that might happen. No doubt that’s a much harder concept and one that won’t display in a graphic easily but I think we (and I certainly include myself in this) may be oversimplifying to the point of obscuring. There’s also the risk of creating a false sense of security. The idea that I’m teaching well and at a high Bloom’s level because I use Voice thread is a dangerous (although popular one -look at me I’m blogging!) one. There are lots of educationally unsound and low level ways you can use Voicethread or anything else for that matter.

I am not, by the way, trying to be rude or abusive towards Mr. Fisher. I think he’s honestly out there fighting a good fight and trying to do good things. I applaud him for that. This just happened to coincide with a larger conversation we’re having in our county that I’m having trouble clarifying. This provided a chance to do that, at least in my mind. Hopefully I did not offend and, if so, I certainly apologize.

1 I’m not holding this up as a good example either. The one positive over the image is that you have applications in multiple levels. What it needs to make sense is examples of the use at various levels and a clearer indication that tools fall in multiple levels. We’ll probably get around to that at some point.

2 I’m not saying Mr. Fisher thinks that, I’m just saying the image lends itself to that concept. I also think the Bloom’s database we made would have this error as well because you can’t easily see that the application falls in multiple categories.

3 Students creating historically based maps (real or fictional) or maps based on literature like Google Lit Trips would be two examples.

4 There’s all kinds of seismographic, weather and other data you could analyze for which would then allow you to evaluate the best places to build, move etc.

5 I disagree on a number of them (I’m not sure where I’d but Creative Commons- Creating maybe?) but that doesn’t really matter.

The real crisis? We stopped being wise. – Barry Schwartz – TED

I loaded up a lot of TED videos for my recent trip. Here’s one which I felt had a number of educational implications.

Now, this video starts a little slowly but you’ll see Mr. Schwartz start to get more comfortable and fired up as things progress. Some of these notes are close to quotes but others are rough translations. My own comments are the footnotes. 1

Here are his (and Aristotle’s) two pieces to wisdom.

  • the moral will to do right
  • the moral skill to figure out what right is

Things a wise person knows

  • when and how to make an exception to every rule
  • ow to improvise (real world problems are often ambiguous and ill defined and the context is constantly changing)- a wise person is like a jazz musician who uses the notes on the page but dances around them based on the location and the people on hand
  • knows how to use these moral skills in pursuit of the right aims- to serve others not to manipulate them
  • a wise person is made not born- wisdom is based on experience but not any experience

    • time to get to know the people your serving
    • permission to improvise
    • try new things
    • occasionally fail
    • wise mentors

Brilliance is not enough.

And here is where we really get into some things that are problems with education.

“We hate to do it but we have to follow procedure”

Rules and procedures may be dumb but they spare you from thinking. When things go wrong we reach for two tools- rules and incentives. Neither rules nor incentives are enough to do the job. Rules may improve problems in the short term but they usually create a worse long term situation. Moral skill is chipped away by an over reliance on rules and moral will is destroyed by incentives to do the right thing.

This reliance on rules and incentives is the equivalent of a war on wisdom.

One example of this reliance is American education. He sites scripted, lock step curriculum and points to some crazy warning Kindergarten teachers have to read in Chicago before reading a book about the bath. Essentially, we know why these scripts are here. People don’t trust the judgement of the teacher.

These scripts, these rules are insurance against disaster2 but also a guarantee of mediocrity.

We do need rules but too many rules results in demoralization and then people lose wisdom or simply stop playing.3

1 Maybe I’m adulterating the message for my own ends. I’d watch it myself if I were you.

2 I’d challenge this positive aspect myself. The same person who’s judgement you can’t trust, can’t be trusted to read this script or read it correctly. All these things really do is provide CYA material for upper levels, while at the same time demoralizing and frustrating the teachers you can trust.

3 Sounds a lot like education to me.

15 Years

Q Fifteen years.

THE PRESIDENT: Fifteen years. Okay, so you've been teaching for 15 years. I'll bet you'll admit that during those 15 years there have been a couple of teachers that you've met — you don't have to say their names — (laughter) — who you would not put your child in their classroom. (Laughter.) See? Right? You're not saying anything. (Laughter.) You're taking the Fifth. (Laughter.)

My point is that if we've done everything we can to improve teacher pay and teacher performance and training and development, some people just aren't meant to be teachers, just like some people aren't meant to be carpenters, some people aren't meant to be nurses. At some point they've got to find a new career.

And it can't be impossible to move out bad teachers, because that brings — that makes everybody depressed in a school, if there are some folks — and it makes it harder for the teachers who are inheriting these kids the next year for doing their job.

So there's got to be some accountability measures built in to this process. But I'm optimistic that we can make real progress on this front. But it's going to take some time. All right?

via The White House – Press Office – Remarks by the President at “Open for Questions” Town Hall.

Some teachers suck1. This ought to be freely admitted. To pretend otherwise is the path to zealotry and madness.

1 What does suck mean? I’ll just go with people you wouldn’t want your kids to have.


Laptops, Education and Common Sense- Really?

This article on laptops from ArsTechnica came to me last night via my dad. It amuses me how hard people are still making certain aspects of computers and education.

I’ll start with the K12 focus-

The 1:1 laptop programs do seem to help with the students’ ability to use the technology they’re exposed to, and a variety of studies show what might be an unexpected benefit: improved writing skills. Apparently, the ease of using a word processor, along with the ability to go back and modify things that would otherwise have been committed to paper, helps students learn how to write more coherent and persuasive text.

So, even with horrific and near sighted implementation plans students are still getting some benefit from laptops? That doesn’t entirely surprise me but it does point towards the resiliency of students and their ability to learn in spite of structures seemingly designed to impede them.

Outside of these areas, however, the benefits of 1:1 laptop availability are mixed. Different studies have found changes in math and science test performance that were inconsistent. In general, the authors argue, the benefits of laptops come in cases where the larger educational program has been redesigned to incorporate their unique capabilities, and the teachers have been trained in order to better integrate laptop use into the wider educational experience. Both of these processes are resource-intensive, and the degree of their success may vary from classroom to classroom even in a single school, which is likely to explain the wide variability in the results.

-emphasis mine

This seems so fundamentally obvious and goes so very well with one of the good (although horribly unattractive) slides from Tim Magner’s ISTE webinar1


So, slapping technology on top of your old concepts and practices doesn’t magically make them better?. It takes a lot of time and effort to get people thinking differently and even more effort/time/energy to get these thoughts to be applied well.

The last sentence makes me laugh- because the author seems almost surprised by the idea that even with all this effort and expense it still, at the end of the day, is up to the individual teacher. This seems to throw a horseshoe in the laptops = or ? learning equation. This was always a stupid conversation based on a really bad logic and driven by the media. The question should always have centered around the idea of good teachers and that good teachers ought to be taking advantage of all available resources to make their teaching better. Now how can we make better teachers or how can we change the structure so that students don’t end up so tied to the fickle fate of being in a certain class2 is a much better use of our time.

And now on to Kindergarten – oh, no- i guess that’s higher ed. I had to include this quote because I had to read it twice to really believe it said what it says.

Outright bans are unlikely to be a long-term solution as students’ reliance on digital technology is only likely to increase. One alternative—wandering the classroom to monitor what students are doing (used both at the University of Colorado-Boulder and West Point)—isn’t going to work in all contexts.

Wow. Banning laptops or having roving monitors to keep you on task. I’m not sure I can muster enough contempt for this kind of stupidity. It is sad to see the infantilization of students now extending into college.

Wandering monitors don’t work in any context. It’s dead simple to hide/show windows and I’d make it my mission to go off task with that sort of insulting nonsense going on.

I just don’t understand why this is so hard.

1 Apparently he’s the former director for the Office of Educational Technology for the U.S. Department of Education. I had no idea we even had one of those.

2 I don’t think I’ve ever seen this talked about. I’ve seen lots of stats showing that the teacher is the most important aspect of the classroom but I’ve never seen the inherent unfairness and unfortunate aspect of this addressed. Would student centered learning change this? I’m not sure.

Can we all just get along?

People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids?…It’s just not right. It’s not right. It’s not, it’s not going to change anything. We’ll, we’ll get our justice….Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to work it out.

-Rodney King

Found this in the referrer logs – and while she gets the title wrong, she is talking about me.2

* To: [email protected]
* Subject: [LM_NET] Gen :Share: blogpost on librarians

“When Good Librarians go Bad” – a post today on a blog I’m not familiar with, by
someone I don’t know.

Please don’t email me about this – I have lots of thoughts, but no time right now
to “talk”. Just wanted you to see what a colleague whom I really admire sent me.
There are several omissions in his thinking; you may not agree with much; you may
get in touch with your inner rage (I’ve got bigger targets right now – Goldman
Sachs, are you listening?) and pick apart the whole thing.

My quick take? He’s got some good points and we all benefit when we see where the
holes are in someone else’s thinking. Especially when there are probably a lot of
people thinking similar things. And I agree that if you take the NEIOG (Not
Everything is on Google) stance as the main justification for librarians, then you
shouldn’t be surprised when people say, “Oh, yeah, well not everything is in

Unsettling, even though he is not talking about SCHOOL librarians (maybe he thinks
of them as media specialists and is not sure what they do).

Melissa Techman, MLS
Librarian/Curriculum Technology Integration Partner
Broadus Wood Elementary School,
185 Buck Mtn. Rd,
Earlysville, VA 22901
[email protected]
Twitter: @mtechman


I’d respond to the “holes in my thinking” were they outlined.

I’m not sure why my earlier post would be unsettling to any librarian or media specialist3.

Maybe Ms. Techman would care to expand a bit on both the holes, what might inspire a release of librarian (or media specialist) “inner rage” and what exactly is the unsettling nature of my earlier post? I know she’s busy attacking Goldman Sachs but . . .

I am honestly curious. I think I’m advocating that the Internet and libraries are both good and ought to be used appropriately. I’m against zealotry on either side. Maybe that’s what’s so unsettling.

1 source

2 I did have this post titled “Attack of the Killer Librarians” but considering how overly zealous things seem to be already, I went the Rodney King route. May Jim Groom damn me for a hippie.

3 By the way, I’m quite aware of what a media specialist is and what they do. I’ll dismiss the condescending nature of that comment.