Monday, 1 July 2013

The Awakening of Thought Through Blogging - Bloom's Taxonomy and Commenting

It was only recently I drew a link between Bloom's Taxonomy and the art of commenting on blogs. It's not that it wasn't there "staring me in the face" so to speak. It's just I hadn't connected the two until writing a comment on one class's blog. Which class blog? It was the Grade 3 students from a school in Calgary, Canada.

Global Grade 3 - a.k.a. Battalion Hawk Bloggers

Let's look at the above diagram. It was a grey scale public domain diagram sourced through Wikimedia Commons but I added colour shades to represent the "enlightening of thought".

How might Bloom's Taxonomy apply to blog commenting?

As for most things in life, I don't claim expertise in any area but have a curiosity about many so much of what I write is opinion but isn't that the case for many experiences in education? :)

My latest Extended Comment was for the Battalion Hawk Bloggers and their final post before end of school year vacation. 

Here is a link... Passing the Torch – A Metaphor for life’s learning journey for Battalion Hawk Bloggers and Beyond


There are posts with a simple message. I visit blogs where children are praised for what they have accomplished. At this first order of commenting, I might simply reinforce the praise.
Example: Being a neat writer is an important skill. Well done. :) 

Other blog posts are more complex. Something in a post might trigger a recall of information relevant in some way to the post. From the initial recall, I check my facts and search for extra information. I move to the next order of thought.
From my "Passing the Torch" extended comment: It was the metaphor used by Battalion Park Bloggers that interested me. I wanted to look more at it and its implications. At the Remembering level, I identified and defined the metaphor.


Some posts give extra details or children share some of their work. One young student particularly requested readers make inferences from the story she shared. For others, they end their posts by asking questions of the reader. Questions invite answers and answers show the blogger what was shared was understood.
Example:  Your report is well written. I found your information helpful but wondered, could you really learn a new language in such a short time?

Continuing the idea of creating a more complex comment, at this level I start considering how the information I gather might be of use to the comment under construction. It's at this stage I might start seeing different directions the comment might take.
From my "Passing the Torch" extended comment: With the metaphor identified and defined, I wanted to stimulate thought on the meaning so I questioned if we really pass the torch.
Rather than passing on our torch do we share the light with the new so their torches grow brighter and in the process kindle ours and prepare it to grow brighter still as we continue our learning journey?


Now we are moving onto a comment level where we're not simply responding to what is written. A comment might include suggestions based on what appears in the blog.
Example: I found your way of working out multiplication interesting. I have tried your method and found it worked. Thanks for sharing such a good idea.

For the more complex comment, this is where I might start applying facts or other data to draw Diagrams, pictures or charts as well as video, audio or photographs relevant to the post.
From my "Passing the Torch" extended comment: I now made use of found quotes I thought relevant.  They were there for the analysis stage.
“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened.” Buddha


This is where I believe an extended comment separates from a simple comment. By this stage there are probably diagrams, pictures, charts, video, audio and/or photographs to be included. Such inclusions are generally not permitted in comments on student blogs.
Now I look at the information and start to organise and look for links to build on an idea.

From my "Passing the Torch" extended comment: With the quotes in place, I then drew their relevance into the comment.
"The teacher kindles the torches of many during a career and in the process their own torch grows brighter. It’s the interaction with students that fuels their fire and thirst for learning and sharing. A little of themself is passed on to future generations in the process."


In the creation stage, I look for ways of combining information and using it to extend the learning for the blogging students. This can mean moving beyond the main topic of a post.

From my "Passing the Torch" extended comment:  With the idea we don't really pass the torch, we only brighten the torches of those who follow as we carry our torch forward, I wanted to apply this thought in another direction. I wanted to explain we carry our torch throughout life, i.e. our metaphorical torch is essentially our personal learning journey through life.
Drawing in my situation as a retired teacher, "I sought ways of being involved by writing for the young and sharing as a volunteer working with children but my torch has grown all the more brighter for the interactions I have shared through blogging. I have become a virtual teacher in the classrooms of many and in doing so have learned much more.
Our torch only truly grows dim when we close our minds to new knowledge and if we fail to share with others."


I left this till last but evaluating occurs when Analysing and Creating, and to a lesser degree when applying. I can at times be my own harshest critic as I question what I write. Self doubt can be a factor here.

From this post: In the process of writing this post, I had edited out a number of lines of thought or the way I was putting my case forward. In then end, if I see merit, I decide to publish a comment. Responses to my extended comments can show me if others see any merit or errors and I can respond. At times in some of my extended comments, I have modified my post and in others defended my choices. I don't claim to be an expert in any field but I do have opinions. Whether feedback is positive or critical, it also is part of a learning journey.

At the stage I also often add a statement to summarise my post. For the "Passing the Torch" extended comment, I wrote, "The torch has been shared and we have all grown from the experiences kindling our own."

So how does anything in this post directly apply to students?

I wouldn't expect young students to make any links to these levels of thinking but that doesn't mean they can't use them. I don't need to understand how power is generated and reaches the classroom but I do know how to turn on a light. For students, I had prepared some simple picture messages in the hope they can help guide their blogging and commenting skills. These can be used by schools or students if teachers find them of use.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Why did the chicken peck the bowl?


Why did the chicken peck the bowl?

This seems like the first line of a joke of the “Why did the chicken cross the road?” kind. It isn’t. It was an experience I had recently.

I have a neighbour who sometimes has to be away. When this happens, I have looked after her 9 and 12 year old. This task also comes with numerous guinea pigs and six chickens. It was the children’s task to care for the animals and mine to see if all was okay.

One day, I noticed the water had run out for four chickens in a pen. The 9 year old reassured me chickens don’t need water. I assured him they do so I entered the pen.

Now we don’t tend to assume chickens are very bright, or at least I didn’t think much of their small, bird brains. I had cause to rethink.

On seeing me enter the pen, the high hen in the pecking order looked up at me then clucked it’s way over to the water bowl. She pecked the empty bowl, looked up at me, clucked again, pecked the bowl again and looked up at me.

Mere coincidence is possible but, in her own way, perhaps she was asking for water. With the bowl refilled, the four hens gathered around for a drink.

How many times have we judged without really knowing?

Prejudice can come in many forms. For the chicken, mine was a case of intellectual prejudice. After all, weren’t they just chickens?

When we look upon an old face, what do we see? Do our prejudices get in the way? Have we already made up our minds what to expect? Do we dismiss them?

When an elderly man died in a hospital geriatric ward, staff believed he had nothing of value to give. On looking through his possessions, they found he had left a poem. While of no monetary value, the words spoke of great love, wisdom and experience.

Perhaps you already know of this poem?

I want to share a link a Facebook friend shared with me. Whether the pictured man is the writer, I don’t know but the words are real. Read the poem and see through the eyes of one man looking out on the world.

To finish, why did the chicken cross the road?

Perhaps she was simply trying to leave us with an unanswerable existential question so she could chuckle to herself in her own chicken way. Who am I to judge her?

** Now I have some evidence we shouldn't underestimate the intelligence of chickens care of a link shared by my brother in the first comment below...

Chicken intelligence research reaps reward

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The best laid schemes....

Robert Burns once wrote a poem entitled 

"To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough"

For a standard English translation, go to Wikipedia

Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murdering pattle.

I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
An' fellow mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
'S a sma' request;
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't.

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's win's ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an' waste,
An' weary winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.

That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turned out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld.

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still thou are blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!


I like the original version of this poem. I find it almost completely understandable without translation into Standard English.

The most often quoted lines (in Standard English) are...

The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

This post is a matter of best-laid schemes gang aft agley (best laid schemes going often askew).

+ + + + + + + + + + + + +

When first starting this blog, now one of five I operate, I had plans of making posts with thoughts and ideas I have. I thought this would show more serious posts yet, when I checked, this blog hadn't had a new post for six months and had few comments, one comment not being about this blog but a thank you for commenting I had done on another blog.

What went askew?

I found something I enjoyed doing, namely commenting on blogs of schools, classes and students around the world. Mostly I concentrate on primary aged (5 to 12 year old) posts but also visit high school and teacher blogs. Feedback from the comments I leave has been tremendously supportive of my commenting. Children, I have been told, get very excited when someone takes the time to read and comment on their posts.

Twitter has become my resource for finding blogs wanting comments added. The hashtag #Comments4Kids is my shortcut to these blogs as teachers share links and request comments. I also trawl through tweets each morning to collect other requests. You can quickly develop a good reputation for positive comments.

Commenting can be a very time consuming task. I find I often write quite long comments compared to most, one high school student once pointing out it was the first time he received a comment longer than his post. At times, a comment becomes a post on one of my blogs because of the amount of information carried. Commenting also led to the creation of other blogs...

Was set up to share stories I write. Mostly they are for writing challenges for adults but are written so they can be read by children (strictly G rated). This is my commonly shared web site and in the six months since it started, is approaching 3000 visits.

Was set up when I took the role of mentor in Edublogs challenge for children to develop their blogging skills. Limited visits for this one as children only dropped in to ask for help or see the references.

Was set up to provide a blog to help classes in their studies. In particular, one class in the UK was studying volcanoes. I was able to send samples I had collected in my geology hobby and provide information to help their classwork. Visited only by a few classes who have heard about it.

This is the latest and as yet hasn't listed any posts. It's real aim was to allow me to comment on Primary Blogger blogs for children. It may become another resource blog for children.

All 5 blogs may evolve over time. This blog may one day achieve more frequent posts but this mouse hasn't planned anything as yet. Time will tell, or at least the lack of time may determine what happens as I try to visit and comment on children's work.

I also operate a You Tube channel. For privacy reasons, most of my videos can't be listed for public viewing as they involve school children. In my state, filming in schools and public posting to You Tube is strictly forbidden without direct authorisation. This is my most viewed on line existence with approaching 57500 views.

With commenting, running a You Tube channel (again suitable for children to view), and the non-profit CD, DVD and filming work I do for community groups and schools, time is the most precious commodity closely followed by funding since volunteer and non-profit work pays well in thanks but not money. :)

What has happened since starting my first blog in May, 2011 wasn't planned, it evolved. :)

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Being Different

Being Different

What is it to be different? It seems a pity many will see those who are different as lesser than themselves. They stare, tease and condemn those who are different, assured in the knowledge they are better when, in reality, they are the lesser for their actions.

At this time of the year when day and night are so different, when the solstice condemns one half of the world to their longest night and the other their longest day, wouldn’t it be a greater world if we could celebrate our differences?

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.”
DR Jane Goodall (English ethologist & zoologist)

Friday, 10 June 2011

"The best teacher of children, in brief, is one who is essentially childlike.” H. L. Mencken

“The best teacher of children, in brief, is one who is essentially childlike.”
H. L. Mencken
This quote comes from “Prejudices: Third Series” by H L Mencken. It was tweeted by Montberte (Steve Cushing)

More of the quote….

“The business of dealing with children, in fact, demands a certain childishness of mind. The best teacher, until one comes to adult pupils, is not the one who knows most, but the one who is most capable of reducing knowledge to that simple compound of the obvious and the wonderful which slips easiest into the infantile comprehension. A man of high intelligence, may accomplish the thing by a conscious intellectual feat. But it is vastly easier to the man (or woman) whose habits of mind are naturally on the plane of the child’s. The best teacher of children, in brief, is one who is essentially childlike.

I have seen, in my career, skilled teachers who have been able to do exactly what Mencken suggested. They were able to break down lessons in such a way as to make it more easily understood by the children in their classes. They instilled the excitement of discovery in the minds of the children in their care and seemed to know what was achievable by the children and how to challenge them.

I would view the word ‘childlike’ as not being childish in the sense of immature rather as having an empathy for the good qualities of a child’s mind in terms of understanding. I would challenge Mencken on his separation of people of high intelligence. Some of these teachers I have known were quite intelligent yet had a natural affinity for the mind of a child.

It was my hope to emulate such teachers and capture the excitement of children whenever possible. I’ll give one example of an unplanned experience shared with one of my classes.

"The best teacher of children, in brief, is one who is essentially childlike.”

I was in a school where grass was at a minimum and asphalt reigned supreme. Our school’s assembly had finished and it was time for classes to return to their rooms. Leading the class, I suddenly asked them to stop then gathered them around a crack in the asphalt.

“What can you see?” I asked as I pointed to the crack.

“Ants”, came the reply.

Ants were swarming out of the crack on this warm day. Some had wings. I explained this was how ants spread. The flying ants would pair in an attempt to found new colonies. I explained normally ants would climb an object then launch themselves into flight.

“Watch,” I suggested as I poked a small stick into the crack near the ant hole.

To the excitement of the class, the winged ants started climbing and launching into flight.
I could have explained this in class, held up photos, shown videos but that random encounter on the playground impressed the children more than any planned lesson. They returned to the class excited about what they had seen and wanting to know more about the ants.

It wasn’t uncommon for me to go off on some tangent when a spur of the moment opportunity presented itself. My reward has been parents complimenting me for their child’s excitement on arriving home, not for the normal lessons but for the unexpected lessons. No, students didn’t outscore the children in other classes in testing but feedback has shown they loved being in my class.
Perhaps I was childlike. All I know is I could get as excited as the children for some serendipitous experience.

Veni, vidi, didici
I came, I saw that, I have learned

 P.S. I must have done something right in my career. Most of my friends on Facebook are former students. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose.” Bill Gates (1955 - )

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose.”
Bill Gates (1955 - )

Found this quote on . Interesting and makes me think of my past.

When in school, I wasn’t exactly the most studious student. I did only what was necessary to achieve what I wanted. Placement in university wasn’t hard. I was accepted by the then seven universities in the state and was able to choose the one I preferred.

Easy study life?

No. I wasn’t exactly regular to lectures especially when the Student Union cinema was showing recent release films at a very small cost for students each Wednesday to Friday. Result, I failed my first year. It was the kick in the pants I needed.

While many students didn’t need to study to get into university, they applied themselves whereas I hadn’t. Repeating the first year, I never looked back as I applied myself, gained my B.Sc. degree then Graduate Diploma of Education.

“Success is a lousy teacher.”

There seems to be a trend with young children, at least in Australia, to make them feel they can’t lose. Every child gets a prize in party games or a trophy in sport even if their team is the “wooden spooner”. There is the issue of self-esteem but we do need to lose sometimes so we appreciate the wins.

While typing this, I was also checking Twitter and came across an interesting link to a blog article. The post deals with the issue of behaviour in the playground, always an issue for schools.

“Perhaps too many children arrive at school expecting to always get what they want and being right. Perhaps too many parents view school as a free child minding service and therefore are not interested in the learning in the classroom but will make a huge fuss over playground antics.”

We need to know losing, failing, not being right and not getting what you want is also a part of life. We are much more likely to learn when life doesn’t go our way than when we find all is easy.

I have heard teachers of the very young say one of the best lessons a parent can give their child is to teach them they can’t always win.

Monday, 6 June 2011

“I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” Einstein

“I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”
Albert Einstein

Many have probably heard the saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” It seems to me to be similar to Einstein’s quote. A teacher can’t make their students learn. It’s their job to provide the environment where children are encouraged to learn.

In my career, I tried to make the classroom a place where children felt comfortable and happy. For the young, it’s an important step to learning.

When adults are asked what they most remember of school, you usually hear stories of things that went wrong, of bullying, a teacher who hated them, bad marks, and other negatives. It seems these experiences are easier to remember but when asked about positive experiences the responses can be wide.

One of my greatest rewards in teaching has been contact with former students. Their positive feedback over the years tells me I had been on the right track to learning. Many have said they remember me as one of their best teachers or a person who inspired them in their career. One former student had told me she was sitting in an in-service with other teachers discussing those who have inspired them. When she mentioned me, the leader said she knew me.

What a buzz for a teacher to be remembered fondly by students now ranging up to around 40 years old. In an earlier blog, I quoted Henry Adams, “A teacher affects eternity; no one can tell where his influence stops.” Perhaps I have had some affect.

“I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”

I have seen many teachers in my career who have been able provide positive conditions in which their students can learn. I have also seen teachers who seem to miss the mark. The students tend to know which teachers they really want to have.

We need to continue to encourage teachers to provide a positive learning environment and provide support for those needing help. It can take money and time but it’s worth it. After all, as teachers we’re there for the children. Investing in education is investment in the future.


One aside, I have been asked which school year is the most important in a child’s life. Many might argue it’s their final year when they try to gain access to universities, colleges or trade training. I’ve always felt it’s their first school year whether you call it kindergarten, prep, or Year 1. Capture their minds when young, encourage their learning, be positive and you can set them on a lifelong path to learning.