Bloom’s Taxonomy in the Smartphone and Tablet Era

Bloom’s Taxonomy, the prism through which many of us have been taught to evaluate learning outcomes, is changing. The general trend is to focus more applications of knowledge, rather than knowledge for its own sake. In the updated version, the act of remembering replaces “knowledge” at the base of the triangle. Progressively more intense higher-order thinking skills are enumerated moving upward toward the peak of the triangle, culminating with learners creating knowledge. The act of synthesis, absent in the revised taxonomy, likely has always found its way into the work of analysis, evaluation, and creation.

Of course, Bloom’s taxonomy is not the only way to graphically represent the cognitive processes associated with learning. Other revisions have represented the taxonomy as a series of interlocking gears, a blooming rose (hah!), and a feathered bird – just to name a few. Notably, Rex Heer at Iowa State’s Center for Excellence in Teaching has created a nice flash model of the way that the cognitive processes mesh with different levels of knowledge that learners will need to complete the task. It’s definitely worth clicking on the link in the previous sentence and then playing a little with the interactive graphic.

Recently, I’ve run across a few revisions of Bloom’s taxonomy focusing just on the apps available for tablets and smartphones. Check out the Padogogy Wheel:

I love the multitude of apps identified above – what better way to find something new that just might work for you? However, if you’re looking for something a little cleaner, here’s a nice distillation:

Of course, not all the apps are appropriate for your content, level, or course goals. You might use the above information to guide students when helping them select research, presentation, or study tools. If you’re currently using – or contemplating using – one of the apps identified above, this should give you a sense of the cognitive range of the app. Last, if you’re not yet sure how smartphones and tablets fit into the classroom and individual learning processes, hopefully these graphics have provided some food for thought.

If you’re looking for still more apps, the Koehler Center has a list of both discipline-specific and general study, writing, and document management apps. In addition, some of the web 2.0 tools identified on our website also have their own apps.

Apps on tablets and smartphones are more than just cool tools. In particular, some apps make it very easy for students to transition from sophisticated curators of knowledge of innovative creators of knowledge – that is, to ascend to the highest level in the revised Bloom’s taxonomy.

Do you have an app you love to use with your students? What impact does this app have on student learning? Alternately, is there an app that would benefit your students’ learning that you’d love to create?

Summertime and the livin’ is . . .

Summertime and the livin’ is . . . research-intensive? Teaching-intensive? If your summer looks like one of those options, this is a little round-up of tools and tips that might make your life easier.

If you’re traveling internationally for research or as part of a teaching program, ProfHacker has some tips for you about technology while living abroad.

When summer teaching or research involves long travel times, you might appreciate this list of 10 sites to download free audio books. If ebooks are your thing, here’s some open-source software to help you get the ebook you want on the device you have. Alternately, you can check out One Hundred Free Books, a constantly changing list of, yes, one hundred free Kindle books. And here’s a comprehensive list of free courses, audio books, ebooks, and textbooks.

For those working in archives where photography is allowed, the CamScanner app (with free upgrade for educational users) easily converts photos taken with your smartphone into PDFs.

And for those teaching, this is a nice list of first day activities that create a climate for learning. With the shortened summer terms, it’s tempting to plunge right in and start grappling with course content. However, since you’ll also be fighting the inevitable summer distractions, it’s useful to get your students thinking about their role in the learning process.

Just for fun, if you want to know how others are spending the summer, here’s a cool infographic Google created based on world-wide search queries from last summer. Libraries are rather under-represented, sadly.

And, because you might be thinking of it now, here’s some summertime music for you:


I’m a huge fan of the photo sharing site Flickr, especially since they finally got it together and released some Flickr apps for smartphones and a Flickr app for the iPad. However, I understood Flickr to be primarily place where you uploaded all 2,347 pictures of your new baby (ahem). But recently I’ve run across a few other blog posts detailing the scholarly side of Flickr. Who knew?!

The Academic Technology blog at the College of William and Mary has a great post discussing the options for sharing your research-related images. How do you share a gallery of annotated images with select individuals without the need for additional accounts on the part of the viewers? A Flickr album!

Note that the above presumes you have – and have the rights to use – the images. If you’d like to use properly licensed Flickr images, there’s a lovely how-to from Derek Bruff, the director of the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching and a senior lecturer in the department of mathematics there. ProfHacker has also recently outlined how to use Flickr to make better slides.

If you’re not finding the images you need through Flickr, you can always try Google: we’ve written about finding properly licensed images using Google image search.

And, in case you feel like going image-crazy, here is a past post of ours about the ways in which you might find, edit, and use digital images.

TCU’s Pearson LearningStudio Mobile Website

login page of TCU LearningStudio mobile websiteAs courses are ramping up and our calendars are filling with meetings, lectures, and other campus events, now seems like the perfect time to post a little reminder about TCU’s Pearson LearningStudio mobile website.

The mSite is a slimmed down version of your Pearson LearningStudio experience, designed for mobile devices (including iPads). No special downloads or apps are required!

Users can use the browser on any device to access the mSite at or visit

What can you do/see on the msite?

Courses – A user can see their currently enrolled courses.

Announcements – A user can see all of the Announcements within each course. Rich text is supported in Announcements.

Activity – Activity is a cross-course feed that shows the user what’s happening in their courses. Items include threads posts and responses, Dropbox submissions, and Gradebook items.

Upcoming – Upcoming shows the user a cross-course list of upcoming events, which includes any item with a due date, or start/end date. Included in this list are scheduled threads, quizzes/exams, and HTML content with due dates.

Discussions – The Discussions section shows active discussions (posts within the last 24 hours) from across a user’s courses, and let’s the user see all topics, organized by unit. Discussion topics support rich text and images. Users can reply to any topic or response. When a message is unread in Discussions, a colored bar shows to the left of the cell as a subtle indicator that the user has not yet read the message.

Gradebook – A user can see their Gradebook, with both graded and ungraded items, and see details for graded items.

Want more information? Check out or msite how-to videos for instructors and students.

Apps by Students

Check out this list of the 25 best smartphone apps developed by students. I think it’s great that these apps were developed by students, but it’s even better than so many of them are geared at problems that students (and the rest of us!) seem to have: finding your car in parking lot, keeping track of your schedule, managing your to-do list, etc.

(On the topic of apps, the Koehler Center’s general list of useful mobile and tablet apps may also be helpful.)

Smartphones, Students, and Teaching

Many students have smartphones – and they bring them to class. The challenge, then, is to think about how you, as an instructor, might leverage these phones to improve learning and communication in your course. (Alternately, you can ask / require that all cellphones be kept inside a bag or backpack for the duration of the class, if that is more fitting with the objectives of the course or a specific lesson.)

This is a useful piece with some general background and tips about cellphones in the college classroom.

If you’re interested in thinking specifically about how to use smartphones in your course, I’ve listed a few common options below. As always, bear in mind that some students may not have smartphones or may not have plans that allow for additional data usage.

1.  Mobile-friendly content so your students can review course concepts no matter where they are. According to an industry study, students with smartphones may study slightly more than those without said phones (although the benefit of said extra study time in unclear). At any rate, making your materials available in a format that is mobile-friendly will certainly help those students who do wish to study on breaks at work, in the gym, or while waiting in line for coffee. On the topic of mobile access, did you know that TCU has a Pearson LearningStudio mobile site? This is basically a mobile-friendly version of LearningStudio content (not an app – no special downloads are required). Now your students can review your LearningStudio site no matter where they are!

2.Texting students reminders or updates. Is the class meeting in the library today? Do students need to wear closed-toe shoes? Is a bluebook required for the exam? These sorts of quick reminders can save you and your students a lot of trouble. Text messages tend to be received and read fairly quickly, thereby having the the potential to avert crises-in-the-making.

The actual mechanics of an instructor-student text tree can be a little daunting, however. For those wanting to keep telephone numbers private (both on the instructor side and on the student side), ClassParrot is a program that allows instructors and students to send text message without having to share the actual telephone numbers. In addition to a polling feature, ClassParrot also logs all communications, providing a handy back-up in case there are any issues that would require one to revisit the text conversations. ClassParrot has a limited free option; it costs $9 per month for the ability to send/receive an unlimited number of messages. Here is a pretty balanced review of ClassParrot.

3. Helping students become better writers. This is an intriguing piece about one professor’s evolving thoughts about the place of cell phones in his class. As a professor in a writing-intensive class, he has moved from an outright ban of all cellphones to embracing the voice recording feature (present on most smartphones) to help students improve their written work. While this hasn’t worked for all students, many students have responded positively and benefited from this strategy.

4.  Improving communication with Google Voice. This is more something you, as the instructor, would do – and if you have a smartphone, this gets even easier and more convenient! The Pearson LearningStudio blog has a very informative post about using Google Voice to improve your presence and immediacy as an instructor. From the same people who bring you all the other Google tools, Google Voice offers free calls and text messages to the U.S. and Canada, a single number that rings you anywhere (you can set / schedule the number to which the calls will forward), an online voicemail inbox, and transcribed messages. The message transcription is a wonderful (albeit sometimes imperfect) feature, as it creates a written record of any messages, should you need to review any communications at a later date. Pairing the transcribed messages with the ability to view them on your smartphone (either via an app or by electing to have text messages sent to your phone) means that you can be made aware of student communications even if you are far from your office phone or in a setting where a phone call is simply not appropriate.

Note that you need not have a smartphone to use Google Voice  – you can capture many of the benefits of Google Voice just using your computer. However, having a smartphone means that your ability to receive messages on the go is greatly increased.

Student Technology Use in the Classroom

This is a great article about the promise, pitfalls, and power of laptops, tablets, and smartphones in the college classroom.

The article also links to some great resources concerning digital etiquette in the classroom. Do you have an in-class laptop or technology policy? If so, is it an announcement on your syllabus – or a contract you make students sign? What do you think of a laptop-free zone (of some seats in class)?

Last, I like that the article concludes with a stress on meaningful learning experiences and the ways in which student devices can contribute to a dynamic, engaged class.

What’s your experience with students bringing laptops, tablets, and smartphones to class?

ShowMe and Snapguide

ShowMe and Snapguide are both apps that allow you to create and record your own instructional content, upload it, and get it to your students quickly.

ShowMe is iPad-only. It’s a free whiteboard app that also also captures audio; you can sketch out concepts or processes and record and pause your commentary as you go along. The focus is definitely on handwritten notes and sketches in multiple colors, not on animation. However, you can drag and drop images from your photo library and then write over and around them. There is also a real-time feature, in which users can see text as it is being written on the iPad; this seems like could be very useful for offering quick corrections to math or chemistry equations, for example. There is also a crowdsourcing element in which you can search the uploaded lessons / screencaptures and narrations of others (upon uploading, you have the choice whether or not to share your content publicly).

Below is ShowMe’s promo video. The video itself has more of a K-12 focus, but it does give you a sense of ShowMe’s potential.

Unlike ShowMe, whose focus is explicitly educational, but restricted to iPad users, Snapguide bills itself as a more versatile how-to resource. To that end, it is designed for iPhones, iPod Touch, and the iPad. Snapguide is free. You can take pictures or record videos; captions can be added by directly typing them in or using Snapguide’s voice-to-text feature. You can then share your guide on Facebook, Pinterest, Google Plus; in addition, others are able to search for your guide when they’re looking for relevant expertise.

The image below is a link to a sample Snapguide tutorial. Check it out!
 Image that is hot link to snapguide on solving a Rubik's cube

The genius of these apps is that learners can seek out the information exactly when they need it – when they’re stuck, when they realize they have misunderstood something, or when they’re just about to take the next, complicated step: the knowledge is relevant and the learner is interested. Alternately, as the instructor, you can quickly snap a few pictures or record a quick video about proper apparel for an off-site meeting, mixing a chemical solution, or pronouncing a tricky word, or engaging in a culturally appropriate greeting – all enabling you to head off problems before they occur.


Digital flashcards are an easy way for your students to study on the go, mix up their studying strategies while in front of their computers, and study collaboratively. As the season of studying for final exams approaches, this post reviews flashcard resources you can share with your students.

All the options below are free, and allow for online and mobile flashcard use. In all instances, users can create and share their own flashcard sets or use existing sets found on the site. Additionally, all of these sites will count right and wrong answers and provide that data to the student.

Quizlet: Quizlet bills itself as the largest quiz / flashcard / study games site, so if students are looking for ready-made flashcards, this is probably the most promising avenue. Quizlet uses audio in type-what-you-hear exercises; in addition, there are several study games into which Quizlet will plug your desired content. There is an optional Facebook integration that will let you share flashcard sets with friends and see sets they have created. Quizlet has iPhone, iPad, Kindle, Nook, Windows Phone, and Android apps.

StudyStack: StudyStack really shines in the game department. If you – or your students – are looking to do something different with matched pairs of data, StudyStack has the game for you: matching, crosswords, hangman, scrambled words, etc. This site, however, also features some pretty distracting, busy ads on the top and right-hand side of the screen. Mobile apps for StudyStack (for Android, iPhone, iTouch, Windows Phone, and Blackberry) are all third-party apps into which you place exported StudyStack data – this is an additional step to make StudyStack flashcards mobile, but not a difficult one.

StudyBlue: StudyBlue flashcards also support audio files. There is also a suggestion wizard that will associate the terms in cards you create with the 30 other most relevant cards on the topic. Cards are mapped visually to related terms and ranked by usefulness. Students also have the ability to compare the answers on multiple similar flashcards. StudyBlue has flashcards for non-Latin alphabets. StudyBlue is available in iPhone / iPad / iTouch, Android, and Kindle versions.

Memrise: Memrise has a pretty slick site, although the site does note that it is still in beta / development, and has a published bug list. The focus of existing content is foreign languages. Memrise is a little gimmicky: learning is framed around a garden metaphor, in which your decision to start learning (create / enter a course and focus on specific content) is “planting the seed”, practicing the content is growing / watering the plants, and when knowledge is secure and strong, plants are then moved to “the garden”.  The Memrise concept markets itself as being built on neuroscience; for this reason, users attach a “mem” to each character / word / concept they are trying to learn, a technique designed to enhance content retention. I was only able to find Memrise apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

Anki: Anki’s key feature is format freedom, meaning that you are able to input information in any way you wish, rather than relying on predefined styles. Anki will also allow large decks of cards (up to 10,000 cards). Users note that it can handle non-Latin alphabets with ease. Additionally, Anki claims to be optimized for low bandwith access. Anki is open-source; It will run on Windows, Mac, and Linux machines, any smartphone, several game systems, iPod Touch, and iPad; it will not work with Palm devices or ereaders from what I can discern.

For those who live life in the Google cloud or for those less inclined toward bells and whistles, there’s gFlash (for idevices, Android, and Blackberry), which will make mobile-friendly, shareable flashcards from the data in a Google Spreadsheet. GFlash is also a content partner of some of the above quiz sites; for an upgrade fee, you can have access to their ready-made flashcard databases.

Last, I want to mention Mnemosyne. This is a flashcard program plus an ongoing memory research project. This means that Mnemosyne will anonymize, track, store, and then submit your success rate in recalling information back to the creators of the program; they then use this to improve the algorithm that generates how frequently you see which cards. There is a high degree of transparency: you can review the log that will be sent, the software is open-source, and the data generated is publicly available. I think it’s a pretty, elegant cool idea.Your data is assigned an untraceable random number, but if participating in the on-going research makes you uncomfortable, you can also use Mnemosyne without opting to share your use pattern. There is support for images, audio files, scientific and mathematical notations, and non-Latin alphabets. You can also make a “three-sided card”: associating a word, its translation, and its pronunciation. Mnemosyne is also available in several languages. Mnemosyne is a program you download; it’s primarily aimed at computer users, although there is a plugin that will allow you to use it on Android, Blackberry, and other phones/devices that support Java.