Thursday, September 24, 2009

TicTacToe Boards: Never heard of them before!

This past week I was introduced to TicTacToe Boards as a differentiated instructional strategy. It seems the idea originates with Grace Smith and Stephanie Throne, authors of Differentiating Instruction with Technology in K-5 Classrooms. I must admit at first glance, I was skeptical. I'm not a big fan of creating activities for students that categorize them into groups based on their intellectual abilities. I want students to be able to try different activities that enable them to understand the outcomes that the teacher is facilitating and leading the students towards no matter what their knowledge or abilities or skills are.

We have to be very careful of tiering or scaling what we teach to students because we don't think they are capable of doing the work. All students need to experience activities that facility their success in and out of the classroom. And as I have been stressing in these blogs, technology can be the great leveler!

So in a continued effort to develop a social responsibility course for Credenda, I decided to put together a TicTacToe Board for the course. But before I could do this, I needed to understand how Smith & Throne categorized learning into three intelligences; analytic, interactive, and introspective. These intelligences do not seem to be based on Bloom's Taxonomy or even Revised Taxonomy, but on three simple ways we see people think and learn.

The nine intelligences or SMART's are based however on Howard Gardners Multiple Intelligences. Under each category, the authors determined that we demonstrate intelligence by three different SMART expressions. Under the analytic category, we learn better with activities that center around patterns, logical or mathematical thinking called Logic Smart, or with musical expressions such as dance or singing, which is Music Smart, or with engaging in science experiments or observation, which is Nature Smart.

Under the interactive category, Smith & Throne suggest that we learn better with activities that involve movement or kinesthestic, which is called Body Smart, or understanding relationships and mood, which is the interpersonal expression called People Smart, or listening, reading, or verbal skills, which we call the Word Smart.

Finally, the last category is the introspective column that engages the student in asking questions around values and and philosophical questions, which we call the Wonder Smart, or the visual expression using lots of imagery, which we call the Picture Smart, or the person who connects with themselves and life on a intrapersonal level, which we call the Self Smart.

The way this activity or strategy works is each student is asked to complete three activities either horizontally or diagonally to complete a line that crosses over the three different intelligences. Teachers can modify the order of the Smart lists, which do not necessarily have to be placed in the top, middle, or bottom box, as they are not hierarchical orders of learning. Each student is asked to complete these activities that allows them to work within their interests and in ways that they feel most comfortable learning. In the end, my skepticism was replaced by enthusiasm. I think this is a great way to engage learning across a variety of intelligences and does not limit students from expanding their understanding of the outcomes.

If you wish to see a larger image of the document, please click the table below to zoom in and see the text better.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Revised Bloom's Taxonomy Integrated with Technology

I've been messing around with a little Bloom's Taxonomy these past few weeks, and I've got to say, I like the new categories. While maybe not new, per say, they've been revised since I was in university over 20 years ago. I like the new Revised Bloom's because I think it reflects more accurately what we do with students in the classroom around learning.

The terms themselves are now constructed to reflect active verbs; something I hope we are doing with our students. We want our students remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. So I'm good with the new categories.

Now the challenge is to integrate technology into each of levels of thinking. I've come up with a table of links of Web 2.0 tools that a teacher may want to use with their students to extending the thinking levels with technology. Hopefully they are helpful.

Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy

Technology Tools

Use of Each Tool


Factbook Beta

Listing the countries that fit the third world categories and struggle with poverty, health issues, low GDP, and more


Playing on online environmental game that helps eStudents identify global environmental issues.

Tag Galaxy

Finding pictures on a range of topics using this tool with key word searches.


Classifying and mapping out information gathered from searches on the Internet


Explaining what students found by using this tool that mindmaps images by thinking in pictures


Summarizing the information by paraphrasing and journaling using a blog.


Screencast O Matic

Sharing the information by making a video with this tool that others can view


Editing images found in previous searches for upcoming projects with this online paint tool


Uploading and sharing images, videos, audio files onto a Glogster poster that expresses ideas and information about the topic.



Surveying other students about their views and ideas around social responsibility issues with this simply but powerful tool


Finding out about other students likes and dislikes using this online quiz builder and survey tool


Diagramming and analyzing collaboratively about student ideas and understanding of social responsibility issues.



Reviewing other students posts on the class wiki and commenting about ideas


Networking and collaborating with other students about information and evaluating the strengths and weaknesses the postings possess in conveying an accurate message


Hypothesize and critique other student researchers’ findings or positions by collaboratively working together on solutions to address social issues.



Construct a community with other like minded youth that want to change the world and network ideas with one another.


Create world maps with data and images and share them with others that illustrate visually a clear understanding of the topic


Directing the production of a video that is integrated with music and images that illustrate the topic and achieve a desired effect from the viewers.

By no means is this list exhaustive, because there are so many tools out there. If you have any thoughts or comments, please leave them for me to read. I would love to hear your feedback.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Having Technology Nurture Learning

I‘ve read a lot of research lately about instructional strategies, best practices, and standards. While much of it is interesting and makes you think about how I taught (since I am out of the classroom now), or what I expect from my eTeachers at Credenda as an administrator, there’s a real risk of jumping on a bandwagon with one perspective and not remaining balanced in our approach to learning or learning theories.

Case in point, in Saskatchewan, we have what is called Common Essential Learnings (CEL’S). Great concept. It promotes the idea that teachers always incorporate one of the CEL’s, such as critical and creative thinking, or independent thinking, or technological literacy into the lesson or instruction. There are six of them. However, it’s really tempting to fall into the trap of inserting a CEL concept in the lesson for the sake of the administrator, who may come around and look at the day planner and ask what CEL’s are you using today in your lesson, but really you never really gave it much thought. Does it sound like I am speaking from experience as a teacher? Well, I am.

This is the challenge I have with the 9 Instructional Strategies as presented by Marzano. Once again, it’s a great concept, but there is a risk of using the list to simply suggest that a particular strategy was used in teaching, and never really think about the reason it was implemented. I think that Marzano would agree with me that he wants the list to be guide and not a prescription of how to instruct. Why? Because the list is by no means exhaustive. There are other skill sets that are as equally important to be practiced or used in the classroom. For example, his research shows the instructional strategy of cooperative learning producing a 27% percentile gain, yet some students may respond better and produce higher results due to a particular learning style that fits them better.

Recently, a colleague shared with me that at the beginning of this school year they sat down as a department with the department chair and were told they needed to incorporate the instructional strategy “identifying similarities and differences” into each of the lessons, because as a strategy it produced the highest results in research with a 45% percentile gain. I was shocked to hear this, because I can’t imagine being a student sitting in the classroom having the same instructional strategy thrown at me every day. That is not differentiated instruction. That is one person jumping on the bandwagon and deciding it’s all about best results, not about the students and their needs.

So when it comes to using technology in the classroom to aid in implementing a variety of instructional strategies, it is really important to mix it up. Teachers need to put themselves in the shoes of their students and think about how they might feel sitting there. Just because they may have a preference in how to teach doesn’t mean that the students are learning. The same goes for technology; just because a teacher is using technology doesn’t mean that students are learning either.

But I did find myself chewing over these few facts, this week, about using technology in the classroom from Smith & Throne (2007) as cited in the research from the Center of Applied Research in Educational Technology: Technology improves student performance when the application directly supports the curriculum objectives being assessed; provides opportunities for student collaboration; adjusts the students ability and prior experience, and provides feedback to the student and teacher about student performance or progress with the application; is integrated into the typical instructional day; provides opportunities for students to design and implement projects that extend the curriculum content being assessed by a particular standardized test; when used in an environment where teachers, the school community, and school and district administrators support the use of technology.

I agree that technology is a very good thing to use in the classroom. While it is very good and useful, I don’t want even our virtual high school to be exclusively about technology. In fact, I want it to be more about relationship building. The technology is the servant, the delivery agent; it never replaces the people.

Smith, G. & Throne, S. (2007). Differentiating instruction with technology in K-5 classrooms. Eugene:ISTE.