Sunday, June 01, 2014

The importance of now

The Importance of Now:

How digital learning can help schools implement the Common Core State Standards and other standards-based curriculums

(Parts of this post are part of a white paper written for TechSmith and used with permission.)
Your curriculum has been mapped to the Common Core State Standards or other standards-based curriculum. Now what? How do you find resources to support the curriculum? How can you ensure students are “getting” it? What evidence are you going to be able to gather to demonstrate student acquisition of content knowledge and mastery? How can you measure student success and failure throughout the process? How can you use digital teaching and learning strategies to help?
These questions are on the minds of educators everywhere, and have been since the start of the standards-based movement. What has changed is both the amount and types of digital tools that can be used for both teaching and learning. With these new tools, educators can begin to think about the “importance of now” in education– empowering students to express their misunderstandings at the point of need as well as easily complete formative and summative assessments that allow the teacher to gauge student progress. At the same time, using these same tools, the educator can provide timely, meaningful and specific feedback to every student, those personalizing the teaching/learning process.
In order to start the process of using digital teaching and learning to support the “importance of now”, a discussion of both the standards documents and the higher-order thinking skills is in order.
The Common Core State Standards and other standards-based curriculum include the many of the same goals:
  • Ensure students are ready for the college and the work world
  • Include standards that are clear, understandable, and consistent
  • Provide rigorous content and application of knowledge through higher-order thinking skills1
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS)documents include standards that embed technology meaningfully across the curriculum and can easily be used as a model for any standards-based curriculum. Technology is not pulled out as a separate subject, but utilized in context. The introduction of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects3 provides a rationale for this methodology:
To be ready for college, workforce training, and life in a technological society, students need the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, and report on information and ideas, to conduct original research in order to answer questions or solve problems, and to analyze and create a high volume and extensive range of print and non print texts in media forms old and new. The need to conduct research and to produce and consume media is embedded into every aspect of today’s curriculum. In like fashion, research and media skills and understandings are embedded throughout the Standards rather than treated in a separate section.
This same document goes on to discuss how our students need to use technology and digital media strategically and capably:
Students employ technology thoughtfully to enhance their reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language use. They tailor their searches online to acquire useful information efficiently, and they integrate what they learn using technology with what they learn offline. They are familiar with the strengths and limitations of various technological tools and mediums and can select and use those best suited to their communication goals.4
However, when looking carefully at the CCSS, the documents do not just utilize the words “technology” and “media” to indicate when technology should be used to support student acquisition and demonstration of content knowledge.
The standards support many of the cognitive skills processes outlined in formal pedagogical models commonly utilized in K-12 school settings. One that is often used to help move students through the thinking skills necessary to master content knowledge is Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.4   This revision, by Anderson and Krathwohl, of Benjamin Bloom’s original work5 on the topic changed the names of the cognitive skills levels to action verbs to label the cognitive skill levels, since it was felt that action verbs indicated engagement. The levels were shuffled a bit to showcase the creation of content as the highest order cognitive process. An illustration of the mapping of the levels in the two models is shown here.
This triangle moniker has led lead to some misunderstandings among educators. It seems as if students need to master each level before moving to the next higher level, but this is not totally true. As students acquire new content knowledge, they have to move down and up this continuum. For instance, one cannot understand until one has some learned vocabulary about the content. And one cannot analyze information without first understanding the content in depth.
Another version of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, which illustrates that all these processes are interrelated, is found in the Cogs of the Cognitive Processes, as shown on my site. The interlocking of the gears highlights the fact all of the cognitive processes are interrelated and still showcase the creating level as the highest order thinking skill by making it a bit larger than the rest of the levels.
The Common Core State Standards documents contain actions that can be mapped to levels of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.
  • Remembering: comprehend, define, list, state, recall, repeat
  • Understanding: classify, identify, paraphrase, recognize, predict, explain
  • Applying: demonstrate, solve, employ, integrate
  • Analyzing: compare, contrast, differentiate, illustrate, question
  • Evaluating: assess, support, defend, value, evaluate
  • Creating: construct, create, develop, communicate
Assessing these skills via a formative or summative assessment can be done via the planned use of technology. In a digital learning environment, teachers are not just transferring the traditional methods of teaching to the digital world. They are utilizing the technologies to teach and help students learn in a way they is meaningful, useful, engaging, and timely. When developing lessons and units, teachers and students need to have a toolbox of options to choose from.  These tools should be content-neutral, easy-to-use, scaffolding, and provide teachers and students with the ability to use them at any one of the cognitive levels.

Formative assessments are not new. Educators have always assessed student acquisition of content knowledge along the way. Quizzes, tickets-to-leave, K-W-L charts, journaling and classroom response systems are just some of the methods used in classrooms to both inform instruction (“Do I need to re-teach the content in a different way?”) and student progress (“How do I easily provide feedback to each student and assign remediation/extension activities based on their level?”)
In a digital learning environment, the concept of formative assessment is the same. However, with the infusion of digital learning tools into the process, assessment becomes more immediate and useful for the student.
When the teacher asks “Any questions?” at the end of a lesson, many students don’t yet know what they don’t know, and may be unable to formulate a question. However, after reviewing their notes, working on the math problem, writing up the lab, or developing the essential question for their research paper, they DO have questions.
With student access to a digital tool that allows them to capture an image or movie of their computer screen, mark it up, provide a narrative as to their points of confusion at point of need, and share this with their teacher, the teacher is able to respond personally to each student. The “importance of now” allows the student to specifically ask for help when they need it to move through the assignment and, by providing their teacher with a visual version of the question, the teacher is easily able to understand their problem and respond. With access to the same types of tools, the teacher can build upon the student’s shared screencast and reply to the student in a similar fashion.
Digital learning and access to digital tools, allows meaningful communication between teacher and student in a way that was previously impossible. Emailing back and forth, instant messaging, and use of social networks to allow students to ask questions has its place. However, having the student, in his or her own voice, both show and explain their question and the teacher personally responding to the student in the same way, can be infinitely more powerful and useful.
When students can get past their points of confusion with help from their teacher and gather the information they need, they can then more easily utilize the higher-order thinking processes such as inferring, analyzing, assessing, and creating.

The implementation of digital learning and access to a variety of tools also allows the student to showcase their mastery of content knowledge via a summative assessment.  Summative assessments can be constructed to target any level of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy. The importance of student narration during a summative assessment cannot be ignored and should be an integral component of any summative assessment. In the traditional classroom, a student would stand up in front of the class and explain their project or read their essay. This was a one-time event and, in some cases, the presentation process was intimidating for the student.  In a digital learning environment, students have the technology tools available to “get it right” ahead of time and also easily share their project with others outside of the classroom in addition to those in their class.
Karen Foerch, in a blog post7 in her blog, Apps in Class, provides some ideas about the use of one type of digital tool — the screen recording and capture tool — as a way to demonstrate content acquisition via a formative or summative assessment. Screen recording tools allow the student to capture all the activity done on a computer or mobile device while, at the same time (or later) adding voice narration.
Karen provides a multitude of uses of a screen recording tool in her blog post. The post deals with a specific screen recording tool for a mobile device, but the ideas can be completed with any tool of the same type.  Link to post:
Find out more about screen recording in the classroom here, with links to apps, software, rubrics, successful practices, ideas, and more!
And please share your creative ideas for the use of screencasting as an assessment option in the classroom!

Daggett, Willard R., and Susan Gendron. Common Core State Standards Initiative: Classroom Implications for 2014. Rep. International Center for Leadership in Education, Aug. 2010. Web. 1 June 2014. < Common%20Core%20Standards%20Paper%20FINAL.pdf>.
National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers. Common Core State Standards. Rep. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington D.C., 2010. Web. 1 June 2014.< the-standards>.
National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers. Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. Rep.National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington D.C., 2010, p. 4. 1 June 2014.<>.
Anderson, Lorin W., and David R. Krathwohl. A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of  Educational Objectives. New York: Longman, 2001. Print.
5 Bloom, Benjamin S., ed. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals. London, WI: Longmans, 1956. Print. Handbook I: Cognitive Domain. Print.
6 Schrock, Kathleen. Cogs of the Cognitive Processes. Digital image. Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything: Bloomin’ Apps. Kathleen Schrock, 2012. Web. 1 June 2014. <>.
7Foerch, Karen. “Educreations: All about Apps in YOUR Classroom!” Web log post. Apps in Class. Apps in Class, n.d. Web. 1 June 2014. <>.