In 1948, the Swiss inventor George de Mestral returned from a hike with his dog covered in burs. After examining how nature designed these clinging bristles under a microscope, it dawned on him that a similar structure could function as a clothing fastener. The synthesis of his thoughts and prior experiences gave birth to the invention of Velcro.
The process George de Mestral used to arrive at a novel solution for fastening a future generation's sneakers is exactly how Bloom defines synthesis. The merging of previous experiences with new ideas, can lead to the unlocking of the creative mind. Using a clear set of objectives, this process asks students to reorganize divergent experiences and sets of knowledge to solve problems.
The Revised Taxonomy differs slightly from the original writing of Benjamin Bloom. Not only is the hierarchy of cognitive processes redesigned and "synthesis" renamed "creating," the focus changes to more of a problem-solving outline. Creating contains three subcategories: the initial category focuses on the generation of ideas, then moves to planning, and lastly targets the production of solutions.
Generating: Production of a Unique Communication
When Bloom first wrote about this sub-category, he discussed how an effective use of communication of ideas and feelings could create a desired response within a particular audience. Bloom addresses the creation of writing, speaking and music composition in particular. The Revised Taxonomy on the other hand centers attention on the generation of ideas. Using set criterion, this phase asks students to generate a multitude of possible ideas to solve given problems. Productive thinking requires fluency, flexibility and the ability to elaborate. The more ideas, the more likely students will develop novel solutions.
Planning: Production of a Plan
Following the specific requirements and task objectives, students design a plan of action to solve a problem. Working together, they propose designs to accomplish a given task. Unlike the first category that is more divergent in nature, this subset is convergent. The goal is to narrow down the options and create a plan that will accomplish certain objectives.
Producing: Derivation of a Set of Abstract Relations
Keeping in mind the distinct specifications of the given problem, students produce a solution. The final products, inventions or discoveries are not necessarily unique as much as they successfully meet the desired functions or objectives of a problem. Although originality may be a valid component for a definition of creativity, it is not a requirement for this cognitive stage.
Thoughts on Creative Potential
Does a healthy democracy rely upon its citizen's capabilities as productive thinkers? Benjamin Bloom believed so. In his original taxonomy, he stressed that a successful democracy relies on an educational system that provides opportunities for genuine problem solving.
"Real problems that face democratic countries here and now, point out that we cannot expect to progress nor even survive unless we develop and draw upon the creative potentialities of the entire population."
Bloom's taxonomy makes a passionate plea to equip all students with the skills necessary to become creative producers. He points out that children of low socio-economic levels often have fewer opportunities to engage in learning experiences that will develop critical and creative thinking. As a result, many students are ill prepared for numerous career choices. Bloom cites Allison Davis' research from 1949...
"We are depriving ourselves of untapped resources of human ability and robbing children of their right to full development."
It deeply sickens me to think that in 2011, this still holds true. In a desperate attempt to deliver a mass consumption of content, too many of our nation's schools are requiring teachers to do little more than parrot published materials. Occasionally, these resources do provide opportunities for students to critique ideas, but rarely do they intend to foster creative thought.
Critical and creative thinking cannot, and will not, happen in our schools unless we unshackle our teachers from the confines of our test-driven curriculum. We cannot expect teachers to promote productive thinking in the classroom, if they themselves do not receive this same opportunity in their schools. It is imperative that our nation respects an educator's professional capabilities to evaluate student performance, and design original curriculum that meets the unique needs of their underlings. Finally, we need to allow teachers to act upon the solutions they propose, even if it steps outside of the scope and sequence of scripted curriculum. Educators will be free to properly empower a new generation of creative producers once we honor their own productive problem solving abilities.
If we want students producing original content, we need speedy transformation. The current generation cannot afford to wait another ten years for politicians, school board members, and administrators to enact change. While they are busy forming committees that place blame, or waste time admiring problems and entrapping themselves in circular conversations of internal power plays, the short-lived years of childhood passes. I see the injection of mobile devices into schools as a game changer. While publishers dawdle over offering digital content, educators have a unique opportunity to sneak change in through the back door and stake claims on a new frontier. As educators we need to become savvy about the ways apps can foster creativity and possibly begin to produce them ourselves.
Apps that fit into the "creating" stage provide opportunities for students to generate ideas, design plans, and produce products. Verbs commonly used to describe this phase include generating; producing, hypothesizing, integrating, re-arranging, brainstorming, designing, modifying, imagining, combining, composing, planning, devising, proposing, assembling, constructing, inventing, and executing.
When locating these "applying" apps, consider the following questions.
Does the app help the user ...
1. Construct designs?
2. Generate possibilities?
3. Compose ideas?
4. Propose hypotheses?
5. Produce solutions?
6. Brainstorm solutions?
7. Design products?
8. Assemble plans?
9. Re-arrange operations?
10. Imagine possibilities?
Toontastic is MUST HAVE storytelling app for every Kindergarten through 5th grade classroom. A few features that make this app stand out from other storytelling apps are it's flexible graphic organizer, tools for drawing unique settings and characters, screen animation, audio recording, and a safe online environment for publishing. As a member of a global audience, students can share and listen to stories on the Toontube site. In addition, a wonderful, interactive globe shows the approximate origin of every story. Toontastic provides fantastic opportunities to generate ideas, construct story outlines, and produce unique communication with a worldwide audience.
Book Creator provides a quick and easy way for students to create eBooks and instantly share them on iBooks. Book Creator fits in perfectly with Bloom's insistence that students produce unique forms of communication. Story creation also provides opportunities to practice designing story structure, assembling content and creating a final product to share with an audience. To watch how easy it is to work with view their promotion video.
Storyboards will help budding filmmakers, and screenwriters produce plans for upcoming movies. An excellent tool useful for the planning and designing camera shot sequences, students can pick from a range of camera angles, action poses, backgrounds, characters, props and costumes.
iMovie is by far the best app for movie creating on the iPad. All aspects of the cognitive level creating exist within this app. Students can merge photographs, film clips, sound tracks, artwork, audio files, and sound effects into unique combinations. The timeline allows opportunities to learn how to construct compositions, and arrange content. When the process is complete, the final product is available for the world to see.
Garageband does for music, what iMovie does for film. With this app, students can generate, compose and produce their own music. There is a wide selection of "smart" instruments within the app, app plugins, and built-in microphones. Students can arrange and design up to eight soundtracks. When finished, email or upload completed songs directly into iTunes. With this app, anyone can play with the band.
TinkerBox HD is a free app that gives students an opportunity to invent machines that capitalize basic engineering concepts. The goal is to manipulate the organization of a wide array of mechanical gadgets so that they solve a given problem. Using trial and error, students can arrange and re-arrange elements until they design a successful solution. The invent mode lets users create their own machines.
iBrainstorm is the perfect tool to use for idea generation and focusing on possible solutions. Sort ideas recorded on post-it notes into groups or hierarchies. Assign colors to each post-it while separating ideas. Electronically collaborate with iBrainstorm with up to four iPhones. Draw or notes additional notes on the background. View video of app in action
Juxtaposer is the ideal way to demonstrate how the combination of divergent ideas can create new products. It is incredibly easy to overlay and merge images. With transparent brushes, stamp tools and layering options, students can playfully generate ideas for story characters or product designs.
123D Sculpt lets users create virtual sculptures. This is another great tool to build products designs and construct models for plans. The app also has an entertaining function that allows users to paint photographic images directly onto a sculpture. This app may be a bit difficult for younger students to manage but is perfect for upper elementary and middle school students and of course, adults.
Faces iMake merges images of everyday items into collages. There are 20 different categories of images (school, food, kitchen, etc), frames, head shapes, soundtracks, and art tutorials. Apps like this can help students develop flexible and fluent thinking necessary for creative problem solving. Consider asking students "How many different images can be created with a pear?" Opportunities to generate as many ideas for the possible use of an image are excellent exercises for productive thinking.