This article about using technology to help ELs create is Part 2 of the Transforming Instruction Through Technology Series.
Veteran educators and newly-minted teachers alike are trained to use Benjamin Bloom’s revised taxonomy to determine how effective an activity is at engaging students in critical thinking (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001). We’re often recommended to start our lessons at Remember and travel up Bloom’s ladder until we reach its summit – Create.
It’s time to flip Bloom’s on its head. We don’t have to start at Remember; we can weave it in elsewhere because lessons that require ELs to memorize content knowledge are unengaging and empty of opportunities to use language authentically.
Instead, some innovative educators in the field encourage us to weave less cognitively demanding tasks such as Remember and Understand within the higher-level ones such as Apply, Analyze, and Create (Wright, 2012; Parris, Estrada, & Hongisfeld, 2016). And weaved within all of Bloom’s levels is the incorporation of technology that fosters critical thinking.
A Technology Case Study
In one 7th grade history class, Mr. James wanted students to learn about the various world religions. He started the topic by teaching about Buddhism because our school is in a predominantly Buddhist country. Initially, he wanted to move up Blooms the traditional way – by starting with a series of lessons that would help students remember facts about Buddhism and understand Buddhists beliefs.
Setting a Context
After we collaborated, Mr. James and I decided to flip Bloom’s taxonomy and have students learn through creating instead. Rather than teaching the basics of Buddhism, we set a context for the unit: the theme of tourism. We explained that tourism is big business in Laos, and that we wanted them to help increase tourism to their country by creating an ebrochure that would explain the many Buddhists sites in Laos.
The best digital brochure would be then presented to Green Discovery, Laos’ first ecotourism business, who will then share the student’s ebrochure with interested tourists. The ELs now had an authentic purpose – to use language to create the brochure – and and we, the teachers, had an engaging task that would develop critical thinking skills.
Teaching Thinking Skills Through Technology
Instead of delivering content about Buddhism by lecturing, we provided videos and articles to help students learn about Buddhism, in general, and Buddhism in Laos, specifically. During his mini-conferences, Mr. James targeted content standards such as analyzing the reliability of the text. And, when I sat with a small group of ELs to teach them how to comprehend the texts and videos, I reinforced literacy development.
As students were creating, they had to evaluate which of the Buddhist sites tourists would find most interesting. Students also had to analyze which aspects of the sites they’d include, such as history, significance to the Laotian people, and connection to Buddhism.
I led a mini-workshop on the visual layout of an ebrochure, and, afterwards, students had to apply that knowledge to structure their own brochures. Mr. James and I also led a mini-lesson where we analyzed tourism brochures, in general, to help students understand the type of language used in brochures the type of content presented. Finally, students had to recall basic facts about Buddhism when creating their final products.
Creating Drives Learning
Notice how creating the product drove all of this complex, applied learning? Also notice how a creating task wasn’t just one where the teacher assigned a task and walked away. Mr. James and I explicitly taught content knowledge, skills, and language throughout the entire project.
At the end of this post, you’ll see an example of an ebrochure produced by one of the ELs using Piktochart. It absolutely looks like a middle schooler’s work, yes, but it also embodies the critical thinking required to produce this brochure. It also demonstrates the level of language the ELs needed to process and to create this complex document.
We don’t have to wait for students to comprehend every detail to invite them to create .If we allow technology to facilitate creativity and self-expression, we open doors for students to engage in a spectrum of thinking regardless of language level.
Creating with technology turns a passive classroom that droops from memorization to one that zips about with critical thinking. ELs’ English skills take root because creating with technology gives them a purpose to actively use language rather than passively memorize it.