Diane Darrow (@dianedarrow on Twitter) is an information media specialist at Bel Aire Elementary in Tiburon, CA. This is the fifth of a series she's doing on iPad apps and Bloom's revised taxonomy.
The cognitive domain Evaluating focuses on skills necessary to judge the value of ideas, techniques, products, or solutions. Students must evaluate the credibility or functionality of given content with clearly defined criteria and standards. "Only those evaluations which are or can be made with distinct criteria in mind can be considered"1. A student can set their own evaluation criteria or use standards given to them. In order for students to exercise this thinking, skill they need have command of strategies that help them set criteria and implement evaluation procedures. Several apps are useful for developing evaluative thinking or aide the evaluation process.
Judgments in Terms of Internal Evidence: Checking
Bloom divides this cognitive domain into two separate processes. The first addresses the ability to extrapolate evidence from content that can either prove or disprove its credibility. Evaluators examine the material or methods used and look for evidence of accuracy, reliability, effectiveness, or logical consistency. Learning opportunities that require this type of evaluation process ask students to check for reliability, examine efficiency, monitor consistency, search for fallacies in an argument, or examine the probability of test results.
Judgments in Terms of External Criteria: Critiquing
The second cognitive process, Critiquing, refers to judgments based on external criteria set by the critic. Critiquing requires the evaluator to classify content and form judgments based on their individual objectives. For example, this blog is a critique of apps that I believe belong together because they meet my objective for developing evaluation skills. I am comparing apps that fit the criteria of a particular cognitive process. The classification system I am implementing most likely does not match the original intent of the app developers. Critiques such as this judge a product, or procedure based on the critic's intent rather than the authors. This means to end relationship uses evaluation procedures that require set criteria but also possesses an element of arbitrary judgment.
Evaluation relies on set criteria or standards rather than an individual opinion. Bloom believed that opinions primarily reflect an egocentric point of view lacking in conscious thought. "Quick decisions do not consider various aspects of an objective, idea or activity"2. Judgments based on an individual perspective tend to endorse a sense of familiarity, ease of use, simplicity, or personal enjoyment. In order to make an informed decision or conduct a proper evaluation, it is necessary to articulate criteria first.
Bloom's comments about the difference between evaluation and opinion, prompted me to reflect on my experiences with the App Store's five star ratings and examine its reliance on user opinion. Scrolling through the raving reviews I often wonder, "How many of the app developer's friends wrote these?" When I listen to a user rant on and on about a dysfunctional app I find myself thinking, "Is this written by someone I wouldn't want to be cornered by in the grocery store?" As a sense of doubt clouds my mind, I quickly close out the app store tab and turn to lists created by Tech Gurus that I admire and trust. Yet, I still question if the evaluation criteria they are using matches my own. How can I tell if we share the same desired goals and outcomes?
I have found one model of an app review process used by Common Sense Media that has a clearly stated set of standards and criteria. They evaluate a range of media content based on the level of consumerism, the inclusion violence, sex, or drug use elements, educational value, safety and privacy, and ease of use. The goal and objectives of their review process is to provide app evaluations that will help parents and educators make informed purchasing decisions.
Articulation of the purpose for app selection is essential. The Honor Roll (previously Mom's with Apps) creates a catalog of apps classified as "family friendly." Their goal is not to write reviews but to help parents and educators locate apps that target the needs of children. They have created a resource of educational apps organized by subject areas and age groups. Although this criterion is broad, its classification system does target a set group of apps and ease the search process.
Evaluating apps is a daunting task and it is easy to make costly mistakes. As the app market grows, there is an increasing need for flexible systems of measurement. Tools and resources that let teachers set evaluation criteria and locate apps that match their educational objectives are necessary. Creating an app evaluation system that empowers teachers to delineate their own criteria puts curriculum design back into their hands. With effective evaluation support, the app market may offer an escape route from a prescribed curriculum published for robots. There is a definite need for tools and resources that offer educators alternative ways to develop informed judgments about the quality, effectiveness, accuracy, and the appropriateness of apps for their students.
Apps that fit into the "evaluating" stage improve the user's ability to judge material or methods based on criteria set by themselves or external sources. They help students judge content reliability, accuracy, quality, effectiveness, and reach informed decisions. Verbs commonly used to describe this phase include testing; detecting, monitoring, coordinating, critiquing, judging, checking, evaluating, assessing, choosing, defending, contrasting, and appraising.
When locating these "evaluating" apps, consider the following questions.
Does the app help the user...
1. Check for accuracy?
2. Detect inconsistencies?
3. Monitor effectiveness?
4. Evaluate procedures?
5. Critique solutions?
6. Appraise efficiency?
7. Judge techniques?
8. Contrast performance?
9. Check the probability of results?
Side by Side
Side by Side is a free app that allows for simultaneous viewing of multiple browser windows and documents files. Having resource materials directly placed next to one another offers opportunities to compare and contrast content. By using this method, students can practice detecting inconsistencies within source material. The ability to use thoughtful comparisons to judge content is an important evaluation skill. This app can help students learn how detect inconsistencies, question the reliability of a source, and check for accuracy in a document. Managing multiple windows at the same time may not be appropriate for primary age students but is certainly possible in fourth or fifth grade.
Moment Diary is a free app that creates time stamped notes. Students can choose to create notes with words, photos, audio-recordings, video, or camera. This app is useful for documenting observations that test a hypothesis, or determine whether scientific conclusions are correct. The time stamp feature records the date and the precise moment of the note. The timing component will be very useful when judging the effectiveness of procedures or methods. For example, incremental documentation of lunch line procedures can help students evaluate the effectiveness of the process used to hand out milk. These observations can then inform the conclusions made as to whether or not the current system is efficient. They can also provide insight and evidence that will inform the criteria necessary for possible changes. Granted lunch line science may not a subject most classrooms teach, it is an example of how a journal app can provide observations useful for forming judgments.
My Editing Buddy
My Editing Buddy is a writing tool that incorporates the collaborative editing of documents. The built in classroom sharing network encourages students to edit one an others writing. The app also comes with a complete library of editing tools and symbols. Students can practice checking their peer's accurate use of punctuation and grammar. They can also insert comments and suggestions on virtual sticky notes within a document. A school writing rubric is a useful form of criteria student can access when commenting on writing. The app itself does not set the standards for what quality student writing should be, but it does provide an excellent environment for evaluative thinking to occur.
TallyPad is a counting app that can track performance or create surveys. There are four customizable counting areas, multiplying and subtracting features, and an option to use whole numbers or decimals. A simple tap of a finger will record a tally. The value of each tally can be incrementally set. Save data recorded on Tally pad for future reference or to add onto later. Use this app to build quantifiable evidence that can prove of disprove scientific assumptions, track behavior patterns or evaluate performance. The recorded data will also be useful when appraising possible solutions to a problem.
SurveyBoy is mobile surveying tool that students can use while on the go. The app provides premade questions and answers but students will benefit from constructing their own questions. When the survey is complete, view data results as pie charts, or email them as an Excel spreadsheet. The interface is clear and intuitive. Part of problem solving needs include a post-evaluative process. Surveys are a great way to do just this. After students have made the necessary changes that they believe will resolve the given problem, they need to return evaluate effectiveness of their decisions. Surveys are useful for this purpose or when trying to pinpoint the cause of a problem.
Time Timer is an app that can turn the passage of time into a picture. Asking children to monitor the effective use of abstract concepts such as time is tricky to say the least. Time timer offers a visual explanation of what efficiency looks like. Students can observe the red shape slowly disappear as they monitor the progress of clean up time. They can also evaluate what clean up procedures are the most effective or check assumptions about how slow a snail truly is. There are several different graphic representations of clocks and time increments from which to choose.
Lemonade Tycoon is an example of a game environment that demands the use of evaluative thinking. The goal is to produce quality lemonade that satisfies customers and makes a profit. The problem is that the daily weather conditions demand continual adjustment to the lemonade recipe. Failure to properly modify the recipe will have a negative effect on profit margins. Throughout the game, students are constantly weighing their choices, finding alternative courses of action, and appraising every decision they make. There are possible tools and strategies to choose from such as advertising; machinery, staffing and stand locations that may or may not help improve sale revenues. Invite your class to participate in a 30-day virtual lemonade stand challenge. Then step back and observe how often students exercise evaluative thinking skills. You might want to open the Tally Pad app for that.
inDecision is the perfect app to use when critiquing the positive (pro) and negative (con) features of a technique, function or decision. List factors on each side on the T frame and then rate its level of importance. The combined results of all the factors automatically transform into a bar graph with percentage figures. Students will be able to evaluate whether or not possible solutions will meet the desired outcome.
1Bloom, Benjamin S. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals. New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1956. Print.
2Bloom, Benjamin S. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals. New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1956. Print.