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.

21 thoughts on “Why This Doesn’t Work- Bloom’s and Technology Pyramid

  1. Funny you should bring this up, because I spent a good part of yesterday evening thinking about this very project. For me, our start on the project has been lying dormant not because of a lack of time (though that’s certainly been a part of the problem), but also because I’m not quite satisfied with the way it’s turning out.

    What I’m struggling to do is not to categorize the application, but the intent and the use of the app. The initial purpose was to help me help teachers trying to select a resource or tool for a particular project. So, if a teacher comes looking for a way to help students create a survey and then analyze the results, I would probably suggest the tools Ask 500 People or Google Spreadsheets and Forms depending if she wanted something that could also easily provide visual geographical data.

    But, I can’t wrap my brain around a way to make a computer do what I do for my fellow teachers and that they struggle to do for themselves – match an outcome to an activity and tool rather than pick a tool and then invent the activity around it.

    That’s what I want someone to create.

    On another note, I wonder where would they’d put tools like a pencil or paper on the Bloom’s Taxonomy?

  2. I agree. It just isn’t quite working.

    Maybe we start the website of my dreams- pimpmylessonplan.com where we ask for lesson submissions (or state standards) and then pimp them (in responsible ways). We record how we brainstorm, what we end up doing and why. Sometimes technology plays a major role, sometimes it doesn’t.

    The lessons are then categorized by Bloom’s and a few other things.

    It could be fun but it’d be fairly time intensive if we got any sort of volume. Maybe do one a week or so?

    Just blue skying.

  3. I like the idea of “pimpmylessonplan.com” — thanks for the laugh! But I’m not laughing much, because there are teachers who need help with this, especially with the avalanche of web 2.0 sites and other apps bombarding the educational toolbox. We are continually introduced to new applications and we try to match them up with activities for lessons as fast as we can. But the entire process has somehow veered off course. What we need to do is stop putting the tool first and remember that the learning objectives should come first. As Michelle so aptly put: we need to “match an outcome to an activity and tool rather than pick a tool and then invent the activity around it.” Blooms pyramid, whether the original low-tech version or this one, is a guide and thought-organizer, not a gospel tutorial. It’s just a way of showing possibilities. Unfortunately, shallow thinkers view the graphic as literal rather than figurative and try to plug all their activities into the proper levels. Insteady, we should put the learning objectives first and maintain academic rigor. Otherwise, we’re just playing with toys! (Please visit my blog post, “What’s your point?” for a similar discussion about putting learning objectives ahead of the tools. http://edutwist.com/elin/2009/03/teachers-whats-your-point/ )

  4. Pimpmylessonplan.com? Count me in. Especially if you’re serious about the “We record how we brainstorm, what we end up doing and why.” Imagine gathering some of the best, most creative teachers you can think of to work on that and then collecting their ideas.

    Or what about another idea we’ve bounced around? An Iron Chef style weekly challenge? Start a group of top educators each with the same outcomes or limits (“I have 2 days to help students understand simile and metaphor”) and having them each develop their own take on how to meet the outcome.

    But go light on the zombies, ok?

  5. Sharon,

    I can understand the frustration. It does seems tools have gotten ahead of the reason for using them. That seems to happen each time we there’s a major technology cycle. It seems to have happened (granted to a much lesser degree) with recording equipment and TV.

    I’m not sure what will calm things down- maybe it just has to play itself out. I guess we’ll see. Until then I’m going to try to keep laughing and do the little things I can.

  6. Tom, if you go back to the visual bloom’s wiki (http://visualblooms.wikispaces.com) and look at the ideas for the visual page, you’ll see that Mike and a bunch of us are struggling with exactly what you talk about here–the intertwining of the tools, depending on how they are used, and the intertwining as well of the Bloom’s levels.

    In fact, we began thinking about how you would assess the levels and began another wiki, http://Bloomsrubrics.wikispaces.com where we are trying to describe the level first and then find an example of it, NOT tying tools to the level, but instead looking at how the tools are USED. I worked on the creating level and used all MY work, so that no one else would be offended, and so that I could explain exactly what I was thinking as to the level.

    The points you make here are ones we have discussed on Twitter, and in some of the work on the two wikis. In fact, we even brought in the research of David Berliner on “experts” vs “novices” and also tied that to the ACOT studies and levels of technology use from those studies. Check the BloomsRubrics wiki out (and the links there) and share your thoughts. 🙂

  7. Another site that is being sent around is the eduorigami site that Andrew Churches put together, with rubrics for the tools. The rubrics truly deal with the TOOLS, not the USE of the tools. Check that one out as well if you get a chance. Tying the rubrics to the tools is even more one dimensional, in my mind, than tying tools to the levels.

  8. Great points all the way around, I love reading a great article followed up with thoughtful, question producing reflections. I think that a “pimpmylessonplan” model would be a great success. Yesterday I was listening to Alan November talk about the quickest way for adaptation in the schools is by having teacher created and teacher used content. The lesson plan idea would help the cause. Wouldn’t it be great to have a resource like that in your school, articulation area or district?

    As far as the Bloom’s I think that the model is wrong, not necessarily because of the placement of the tools, like Tom said in the article, they could be placed all over depending on the assignment, standard etc.

    I think it was Becky Fisher that came up with the idea of the mobius strip with a slider depending on the project. I think that’s where the Rubric could be used productively and visually. It could be rotated and spun aroundto meet the extent or extensions fropm an assignment.
    After all, a grade should come from the standards and objectives addressed which hopefully include more than one Higher Order Thinking Skill, right?

  9. Tom- I struggle as well. There’s a quote that goes something like this – “I can buy the same golf clubs as Tiger Woods uses, but that doesn’t allow me to play golf brilliantly like he does.”

    The genius of this is not in the tool, it’s in the application of the tool in context of learning things that matter most.

  10. One cool thing about technology is its flexibility. As Tom describes, Google Earth is usable at all levels. If we want to use a more familar model like the triangle, would we be better served by describing what kids would be doing at those levels and suggesting some examples of classroom scenarios with a handful of tools that are flexible enough to go from Knowledge to Creation?

  11. Becky, have you looked at the creation rubric? Does that sort of do that?

    Michael, I love your statement about the mobius strip: “It could be rotated and spun around to meet the extent or extensions from an assignment.” Would LOVE to fiddle with
    THAT one!

    And,, check out the examples at Tom Barret’s wikispaces slideshow–join in and share YOUR examples. 🙂


  12. This is what collaboration really and truly is.

    The image that is referenced on this page is simply a brainstorm from an idea I had about 4 weeks ago.

    It has since morphed into the seed of an idea that pretty much abandons the original train of thought. Through conversation, I realized immediately that the image was not only not dynamic enough, but not interwoven to represent tools that could be used on multiple levels.

    To that end, we created a wiki around this and as folks have time, it would be great to have input from many different people. I think it’s important to make connections between the tools and learning and cognitive load, but I don’t think that anyone should take anything I’ve created as seriously as it seems to have been taken here. It’s just a seed.

    I planted it hoping it would “Bloom.”

    And it has.


    PS. I’m linking this post on the wiki. Critical Analysis around this is essential!

  13. I’d like this pyramid as a giant felt board (or Promethean board I guess, but I love felt). Most of my teachers don’t know what these sites are, so it would be a great way to introduce these in a forum they’ve at least been introduced to before (Blooms). As a whole, I can introduce the programs and then WOW them by moving them up and down the scale as Tom mentioned.

  14. I posted this comment on his site, thought it might be useful here, too.

    Hi Mike,

    I think this is a misapplication. Bloom’s Taxonomy was never intended for this, and therefore does not fit. Sure, you *can* create using some of those tools, but creating something out of nothing was not the intent of Bloom’s Taxonomy (nor the Anderson revision, as you’ve used here). The taxonomy was designed to categorize test questions.

    As in, when one learns about haiku poems, the creating section would require one to write their own haiku. An oversimplified answer, but nonetheless valid because it requires the synthesis of the knowledge learned about what constitutes a haiku.

    Me simply creating a wiki and putting digital graffiti on it does not satisfy the requirements of Bloom’s, I’m afraid.

    Not to say the list of applications isn’t useful, but take Bloom out of the picture and just call it a cloud of 2.0 or something.

    Chris Craft

  15. In the creation rubric, is level 1 just “applying a model”? That is, should it even be at CREATE? Can we even think about thinking in the web (2+x) world in terms of levels anyway? The nuances are contextual and may be inconsequential…

  16. @Milobo – I love the Iron Chef idea, especially if you could work in teams and if you made the brainstorming public it’d be a lot of fun. Let me know when you want to play. For real.

    @Michael – I’m trying to think how the mobius strip with a slider would work. It’s hurting my head. Would the slider alter the application or the level of Bloom’s? What happens when things slide around the “bend?” I guess that’d probably have to be made in flash. One of the key things I’d want in something like this would be interactivity and the ability for multiple authors to easily add and alter pieces of the information.

    @Mike Fisher – Glad I didn’t offend. The image was more a catalyst for other thoughts I’d been having and it provided a needed structure to address. You, and the people your working with, get that it’s more than tools. I’m not sure how pervasive that mindset is based on some of the links that led me there. It’s an odd space and time right now in education. A lot of people seem pretty lost. It’ll be interesting to see where this all ends up.

    @Mike H – I’d stick with felt 🙂

    @Paula – it’s interesting to look at your last link- the model and thoughts really parallel aspects of what we did with our classroom evaluations at the start of this year*.

    I’ve been fighting a lot with the idea of creativity and innovation, how to encourage in the classroom and both the need and the means of assessing it. The cyclical nature of these things and their dependence on where the learner is in terms of so many factors (age, experience, etc.) all weigh in and make things pretty complex. I’m happy to read your thoughts on it.

    My two cents for what’s up there would be that the wiki doesn’t provide very good ways to interact with the certain aspects of the information (fine for rubrics but not so good for examples) and if it grows to any size it will get very cumbersome. I wonder if dabbleDB or something more database like would house it better?

    *Un/Fortunately it all needs to be re-addressed and reworked based on what we’ve learned regarding 21st century skills after creating teacher staffdev modules this year.

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