April 2009

 What is a ‘good’ reader? The speeding surface skimmer or the slower, deep sea diver?  


Of course, the toe-dipper gets the gist of the whole book but misses out on the fine detail, while the skinny-dipper dives in the deep end and gets to savour the meaning of every word.  And, traditionally, it’s the studious skinny-dippers that are seen as the higher achievers while the attention-deficient toe-dippers re perceived as average or below-average achievers.


An interesting thing happened today, which flies in the face of this accepted wisdom: I skimmed through Becta’s 70 odd research publications and reports on Harnessing Technology – (good stuff, though!).  


It seemed at good idea at the time, to:

1) Skim read to organise under headings

2) Read to pull out a plain English summary

3) Share on this blog if useful to others.


4)… and, finally, bask in a pink cloud of feel-good smugness.  (This says more about me than I’d like.)


Dreary and sad as this may sound (it was; I am), I got stuck – the reports didn’t fit neatly into categories – I realised I should have tagged – a rookie mistake in the blogosphere. So I did.  (As you may know, this basically entails identifying keywords so you can search afterwards for all documents/posts/other with the same keyword. Flexible categorising, in effect.)


Have you ever watched yourself as you tag?  I did.  I was using a key critical thinking skill: analysis (breaking down, comparing, classifying and prioritising).


I suppose, to be fair, I wanted to avoid too many tags, and so had to choose the most relevant ones only. So I was being pretty analytical. Bottom line: the initial skim reading and tagging led to a higher order thinking skill.


This was followed by plain, old-fashioned perusal indepth to build a summary = synthesis, another higher order thinking skill.


So …

-The need to tag through skim reading led to analysis.

– The need to summarise through in-depth reading led to synthesis.

– And analysis, synthesis and evaluation represent the highest order of thinking skills according to Bloom’s taxononomy.


So, perhaps we need to change how we think about what is a good reader; they need to both skim and dive.  Next time you ask your pupils to create a blog post, encourage the tagging, and increase the chances of crticial thinking skills, for example, by:

  1. Setting some limits, such as 3 tags max (choose 6 tags and reduce to the 3 most relevant tags) …break down, compare, contrast, prioritise
  2. Pupils to say why … justify, point out, explain, prioritise
  3. Class to decide on best 3 tags … evaluate (summarise, assess, decide, convince, criticise, defend)

Of course, sometimes you’ve just got to tag. But it’s encouraging to discover by accident that a basic social web tool skill, such as tagging, also supports the highest order thinking skills usually only ascribed to Grade A* to C candidates only, isn’t it?


Inspirational meeting with folks from another local authority about learning platforms. Great interaction between all until they asked how we can get teachers to accept the new learning platform technology, if they feel they ‘have everything they need already’.  Stopped the flow like a well-aimed half-brick in the gritty cycle path of educational reform.

Well of course teachers won’t if they think they don’t need it.  They have as much spare time and tolerance for ‘extras’ as the British public have for banking fat cats.

So what’s the problem?  Well, I think it goes something like this …

Isn’t it the transformed  learning that’s the big juicy carrot and the learning platform that’s just the giant tanker delivering it? Or should that be carrot juice and tanker?  This is a somewhat visually alarming metaphor, but you know what I mean. The learning platform is a rather substantial means to a potentially life-changing end for our pupils – transformed learning…

… Which of course we all want, don’t we?

… Because we all fully get what that means don’t we?

… Unfortunately, when Becta did some extensive search they found a ‘scarcity of knowledge’ about how at least Web 2.0 can transform classroom learning.  So, if you do have the inside track on this one, please send your answers on a (very very large) postcard to this blog.

I … ‘m working on wiki which offers instant handle on different types of social web tools. Mainly using Becta research reports as sources to get started. Some amazing stuff.

You … ‘re welcome to suggest other sources.

Thinking about a more useful title for this blog rather than naming it after myself. Dont want the kudos. Would like a genuine sharing of thoughts. So perhaps a heading to reflect some heady outcomes such as …
21C Learning? Learning to learn? Collaboration is queen (source: digidave)?

Well, maybe all true but a bit tired. So if you have a suggestion, PLEASE comment!