Thursday, May 05, 2011

Web Tools Adorn 21st Century Bloom's Taxonomy

Richard Overbaugh's image
Bloom's Taxonomy has a new face. Well, actually it isn't so new. If it were a human, it would be old enough to drive.

Back in 1956, Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues realized that they didn't have the common vocabulary to discuss types of questions that would be used on test or in class. Some questions only required learners to recall the capital of Iowa, while answering others involved synthesizing ideas from multiple sources to create a new opinion. It took them a couple of years to finalize on the 6 groups that they used in Bloom's original taxonomy. Would you believe that they were arguing about whether to put Evaluation or Synthesis at the top right up to printing time and that it was answered with a coin toss?

In the mid 1990s, Lorin Anderson and a team of cognitive psychologists updated the taxonomy by changing all of the nouns to verbs, adding Creating on the top, and folding synthesis into Evaluating.

This is a welcome change where they put the emphasis for learning on the individual to create. It has been reflected in a variety of tools include the ISTE NETS-S.  ISTE placed the emphasis of using technology on Creating with technology instead of Operating the computers.

Recently, there have been a few educators who have been aligning Web 2.0 tools with Bloom's Taxonomy. This is a useful tool to show the variety of opportunities with the available online tools, but it is also a wonderful way to help classroom teachers link the tools with their curriculum.

Schrock's Google Taxonomy

Kathy Schrock's Bloomin' Google.
My favorite arrangement was done by Kathy Schrock. Kathy is always at the head of the pack when it comes to organizing things.  You know, little things like the World Wide Web or the vast collection of Google Tools.  She creates the wonderful instruments and I sit in Awe (just south of Des Moines) asking myself "Why didn't I think to that?"

Anyway, while the image above is linkless - when you go to her Bloomin' Google website each of the logos links directly to the tool (don't click the image above because it won't take you there.) She also is using this as a means for collecting educators' ideas about her creation.  She has included a Google form below the table where teachers can add their "ideas and justifications for why you might have students utilize apps and tools in the cognitive area they appear on the taxonomy"

Penney's Digital Taxonomy Pyramid

Samantha Penney's Digital Taxonomy Pyramid.
While Kathy limited hers to primarily Google Tools, Samantha Penney at the University of Southern Indiana crossed Bloom's Pyramid with over 50 Web 2.0 tools. Samantha says that she created this for some summer staff development. It is based upon Andrew Church's concept of Bloom's Digital Taxonomy.  She used Go2Web20 and Cool Tools for Schools.

Once again, the image above has no working links, but if you venture over to Bloom's Digital Taxonomy Pyramid you will find that each of the logos links to an individual tool. I haven't checked all of them out yet, but there are a bunch that I have used yet.

This is a wonderful merging of theory with practical application. These organizers provide some sanity in the ever-exploding world of Web 2.0 tools.

Which tools are missing? What do you use that you don't see included on one or both of these charts?

Do you disagree with any of these categorizations? There is often a murky distinction between these levels.  Seems that only academics worry about the strict distinctions, but what do you think?

I challenge you to make your opinion known on the comments below.



  1. I enjoyed reading your blog post. As an educator that works with students, teachers, and pre-service education majors, I would also suggest folks checkout Kelly Tenkely's Blooms Taxonomy LiveBinder ( as well as Mike Fisher's (

  2. Hi Dr Z.

    Thanks for another excellent blog post. Allow me say that I enjoy following your blog. I am a network Admin for a 4A school district in Texas. I pass along some of the info I find here to teachers at my school. I do have a counter point/question. I wonder if there is too much emphasis placed on creating in the lower levels of schools. Would it not be better to spend more of that time in the Remembering and Understanding levels of the Pyramid? From my point of view I see the Taxonomy Pyramid becoming something different. It seems to be looking more like a ladder or even an inverted pyramid. I see a rush to create without understanding what is being made or even remembering the information that went into the process. I came across a quote a few months ago that seems to fit what I have observed.

    "An opinion should be the result of thought, not a substitute for it." -Jef Mallett

    I see a push to have students of all ages create. It does not seem to matter what they create, as long as they create something. I know several students who are able to create really sharp looking things, but they are devoid of meaningful content. Please understand it is not my goal to disagree with the emphasis on creating or even stop or limit the use of web 2.0 tools. I am simply taking you up on your challenge. It is my opinion that the long term value of a solid foundation in general knowledge and basic understanding would produce so much more than a short term rush to create with the latest tools. While I totally agree that the ability to create and synthesize should be the goal of all learning. But if you don’t learn the basic facts and understand them, how are you able to create anything meaningful? I see the Taxonomy Pyramid being built over an entire school career (or even lifetime) rather than each grade, course, or unit; although I realize that on a smaller scale it does happen in these smaller units. Anyway, I would love your thoughts on this.

    Thank you,

    Seth Anderson

  3. Hi Leigh,

    Kathys work is great, but I do have to agree with Seth about the pyramid shape though my take is slightly different.

    While it, the pyramid,is a nice shape it implies that the majority of time should be spent on lower order thinking skills that fall across remembering and understanding. In my humble opinion, while this does in fact reflect what happens in many schools, particularly those afflicted with standardized testing, the ideal shape is probably and inverted pyramid.

    Focusing on higher order thinking particularly creativity will always bring with it evaluation and analysis, understanding remembering and application. I believe the starting point to learning should be through creativity - we have discussed the 6D's of solution fluency - Define, discover, dream, design, develop and debrief - each of these is firmly based in higher order thinking skills - core to these of course is creativity and evaluation of process, plan and product.

    Cheers from Down Under


  4. Seth,

    I am sorry that I didn't get back to you earlier. I was in the process of giving a thoughtful response when I was interrupted and never got back to this.
    Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa.

    I appreciate your ideas on pyramid but I don't think that I necessarily agree with them. You are talking about the pyramid as being a ladder. This would lead one to imply that all of the lower skills would need to be mastered before moving up the ladder to the next level. I don't believe that learning happens like that.

    In the case of learning something as definitive as addition, it makes sense if we were to say that learners couldn't be successful at doing 3-digit addition until they knew their addition tables. This is a sequential process.

    Let's consider building a treehouse. If I had to first master swinging a hammer and hitting a nail before I could begin to create ladder steps to climb up a tree so that I could begin to build the foundation for the tree house in the branches, I would never make it up the tree.

    I remember when I was 5 years old and I began pounding nails into boards that I pounded into boards that became my steps up a tree. Sure a few of them fell out as I climbed (ouch) but I was way up the taxonomy when I was analyzing why they fell out or evaluating other ways to be successful so that I could create more efficient steps on the side of the tree.

    You may say that this treehouse analogy is absurd, but I believe that it exemplifies how complex tasks are not sequential. You don't need to master each level before advancing to the next level. In fact, if we limited our tasks to ones where the preliminary levels had been mastered we would not advance very far at all.

    I agree with you that projects that students complete need to have meaning and exhibit certain levels of execution. I can't tell you how many times I have seen videos that were nothing more than conglomerations of pretty pictures and interesting background music that teachers were trying to pass off as innovative technology applications. This is hogwash. Educators'(and students') expectations of students' work should be made explicit at the outset of a project and they should be required to perform at such a level.

    Foundational knowledge is important but it can also be quite limiting if we believe that it is all that should be taught at the lower grade levels. We must challenge even our lower grade students to be innovative and creative in what they do.

    What do you think?


  5. Dr. Z
    I don't know that I really disagree with what you are saying or the original article, rather I was just seeing it from a different perspective. I was just pointing out how I have seen this misused "in the field" so to speak. Let me take the treehouse analogy. You can build a good looking structure in a tree that seems great on the outside, but would fall apart the first time a person tried to get in it. Without at least some basic knowledge of structure and support (or good supervision), you end up with something dangerous, and a false sense of accomplishment. So I guess my point is that using creativity as a substitute for knowledge rather than an enhancement for it is not a good thing. It seems that we are on the same page after all. I guess great minds really do think alike :)


Please share your ideas on this topic.