Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Interactive Whiteboard Activities for Higher-Order Learning

If there's one thing that I want teachers to know, it is that learning will not be affected simply by your adopting a new technology in your classroom. Instead, you must use a technology with an appropriate learning method to really improve learning. In the case of interactive whiteboards (sometimes called Smartboards or Promethean boards etc.), I suggest using Bloom's Taxonomy as a guide to focus on higher-order learning. Remember Bloom's Taxonomy? If not, then here is a nice picture. This post is an excerpt from my book, Educational Technology for Teachers

Bloom’s Taxonomy includes categories of learning outcomes from lower-order to higher-order. These categories are remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating (Krathwohl, 2002). The categories in Bloom’s Taxonomy build upon one another. Students who understand something also must remember it. Students who evaluate something must be able to apply and analyze it. 

When using an interactive whiteboard, it’s important to go beyond the remembering and understanding categories and get to the higher-order categories, including applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating. Students tend to retain the content that they are able to apply, analyze, evaluate and create, better than the content that they only remember and understand. 

Supporting higher-order learning in the applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating categories is no easy task. A high percentage of teaching in most classrooms leads to lower-order learning (remembering and understanding categories on Bloom’s Taxonomy). This state of affairs is certainly appropriate in some classrooms as students gain a developmentally-appropriate foundation of knowledge. However, in the Information Age, much of the content that students are remembering and understanding is not as useful as it once was, because this information can easily be discovered with a quick Internet search. There are times when applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating are appropriate and necessary to help students gain a deeper content knowledge than that which can easily be found on the Internet. When students are applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating, they also develop better critical thinking skills.

Higher-order learning can be fostered using interactive whiteboard activities. For instance, once a
content item has been taught by the teacher, students can be asked to apply, analyze, evaluate or create an example of this concept through interactive whiteboard activities. Students can apply rules and concepts to sort items into different categories or orders. They can analyze concepts and issues or evaluate the quality of issues and positions through interactive whiteboard activities. Students could also create interactive whiteboard lessons and games that show their knowledge. Here are a few other suggestions:

  • Present a concept, then have students do an activity with the interactive whiteboard that helps them apply the concept
  • Instead of having a student respond to a multiple choice question by touching the answer, have students sort items on a continuum or into different categories, making them apply their learning
  • Have students create an example of an idea or concept using interactive whiteboard tools
  • Instead of playing a review game using the interactive whiteboard, have them create a review game for the interactive whiteboard

Creative teachers have found ways to go beyond remembering and understanding to higher-order learning using interactive whiteboard activities in a variety of content areas. When planning lessons, ask yourself how you can help your students to apply, analyze, evaluate, or create as they learn important concepts in your class. See my book, Educational Technology for Teachers, for more information about supporting higher-order learning with interactive whiteboards. 


Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy: An overview. Theory into
Practice, 41(4), 212–218.

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