It is Benjamin Bloom's belief that the entry point to learning is the acquisition of knowledge. He postulates that a solid foundation of terms, facts, theories, and skills is the educational base that will allow the mind to evaluate information effectively and inspire innovation. Our schools' emphasis on and devotion to standards-based instruction and high-stakes testing reflects a desire for students to become proficient at memorizing terms, and facts as well as and mastering various sets of skills.
Yet, we live in an age of "too much information" where facts are readily available on the mobile devices carried in our pockets. Knowledge is now accessible with just a swift swipe of a finger. The level of immediacy that mobile technology offers is changing the landscape of the classroom and the skill set of the future workforce. More than ever, we need a nation of critical thinkers, able to successfully navigate the growing complexities of our world, and not just be proficient at recalling memorized information or using rote skills.
Educators sensitive to these changing needs are embracing the cognitive domain of Bloom's Taxonomy as revised by Lorin Anderson and David Krathwohl. Its clear hierarchy and delineation of learning processes provide invaluable steps necessary for guiding curriculum towards developing higher order thinking.
The Role of Mobile Apps
What I mull over is how instruction using mobile technology can contribute to this type of thinking. That these new, promising mobile devices often house apps offering more of the same drill-and-kill activities we desire to minimize is a limitation. In attempts to integrate mobile technology, educators are left to the mercy of app developers who or may or may not fully understand how imperative it is that our children become critical and creative thinkers.
In this upcoming series, I will highlight apps useful for developing higher order thinking skills in grades K-5 classrooms. Each list will highlight a few apps that connect to the various stages on Bloom's continuum of learning. Given the size and current exponential growth of the app market, I will also assist educators in setting criteria necessary to identify apps that maintain the integrity of teaching for thinking.
Apps that fit into the "remembering" stage improve the user's ability to define terms, identify facts, and recall and locate information. Verbs commonly used to describe this phase include naming; finding, labeling, listing, selecting, retaining, naming, retrieving, recognizing, registering or realizing. Many educational apps fall into the "remembering" phase of learning. They ask users to select an answer out of a line-up, find matches, and sequence content or input answers.
When locating these "remembering" apps, consider the following questions.
Does the app help the user:
- Define information?
- Name facts?
- Recite information?
- List facts or details?
- Recall facts or ideas?
- Locate facts or ideas?
- Retrieve information?
- Describe information?
- Recognize facts or ideas in context?
- Does the app employ playful interactive formats that captivate the user's attention? Making learning "fun" is a very valuable component and if the app is also cognitively demanding, can help learning "stick."
- Does the app include performance summaries? This will make it much easier for educators and learners to share results and target personal instruction needs.
App Reviews for Remembering
Word BINGO helps beginning readers recognize and locate more than 300 sight words. The words originate from pre-primer, primer, first grade, second grade, and third grade Dolch word lists. Using a Bingo game format, the child taps each word read aloud. When they score a "BINGO," they collect a cute animated bug. Other features include spelling practice, an interactive word block tower, and engaging opportunities to fling bugs into a warp zone when a child identifies a word correctly. The settings are adjustable and the report card reflects a transcript of the child's performance. The app can hold to five accounts and one open slot for a visiting "guest." This definitely a fun alternative to flash cards. Mathmateer (formerly Rocket Math)
Last winter, while overseeing the library during recess, I noticed a large number of boys crammed around an iPad. I was immediately suspicious. Why were they all swarming together and furthermore what could possibly be attracting a large number of boys to the library during recess? They were playing Mathmateer! This app cleverly integrates learning math with experimenting with rocket design. Students can practice reciting math facts, counting money, telling time, recognizing fractions, decimals, geometric shapes, number patterns and even square roots. Every time a child completes a task, they earn money that can purchase rocket parts. This appears to be an exceptional motivator! Shake-a-Phrase
Very often, apps ask children to recognize information in isolation and fail to connect the learning experience to a meaningful purpose. Shake-a-Phrase is a bit different. This app asks students to identify adjectives, nouns, and verbs within the context of a sentence. This slight adjustment makes this grammar app stand out from the others. Other features include silly sentences that have a built in dictionary. Hold a finger on a new vocabulary word and a definition appears. There are also "Story Starters" meant to serve as inspiration for creative writing. Shake-a-Phrase is perfect for second or third grade students. Splash Math
Splash Math is designed to help second and third grade students retain math knowledge over the long summer months. As a result, its contents are extremely comprehensive. There are countless opportunities to recall math facts, recognize fractions, identify place value, money, and develop number sense. Individualizing instruction is as easy as adjusting the play mode settings. The app also has a very comprehensive report card that tracks student performance. A separate activity card acts as a journal of daily progress. There are five user accounts to one app. The profile settings include an option to enter an email address. Having this information enables the sharing of performance reports. Children collect points as they complete tasks that will buy cute ocean characters for a virtual aquarium. MindSnacks French, Italian, and Spanish
The MindSnacks language learning apps help users memorize and retain French, Italian, or Spanish words and phrases. The integration of video clips provides a model for pronunciation. The characters and game format is fun and engaging. MindSnacks also responds to the user's performance and alters the difficulty level. Using a spiral method of teaching, they constantly review previously taught vocabulary. The account profile reports on the users current level, weekly activity, accuracy, and the number of challenges and items mastered. There can be only one user account per app. In order to create a profile it is necessary to enter an email address. This feature could be problematic for elementary schools but the quality of the app makes it worth investigating. Vocab Rootology
Vocab Rootology can help upper elementary students recognize common Prefixes, Suffixes, as well as Greek and Latin word roots. Using a flashcard and multiple choice format students can drill themselves for hours. It includes a progress report that gives the user an overall performance GPA. What makes this app stand out is that the sequence of the questions develops the ability to decipher the meaning of a word. The questions address each segment of a word separately, and then the final question confronts the word's definition. Students will walk away from this app able to recall the meaning of word roots and the skills to define new vocabulary. Mental Case
Mental Case is a flashcard app on steroids. The reason why I am highlighting this particular flashcard app is the diverse forms of media it embraces and the wonderful way it organizes your files. Take a photograph with your iPad or iPhone and place it directly onto a card. It is also possible to embed or record audio, import images from iPhoto, and present flashcards to others as a slideshow. Possibly navigating this app is too much of a stretch for an elementary age student. Then consider creating your own deck for students to upload directly from iTunes. Better than that, use Cram.com (formerly FlashcardExchange.com) and access pre-made files! The possibilities and depth in which this app can function is extremely impressive. Mental Case will help students remember anything.