What’s the Rubric for “Pencil”?

A HUGE thanks to Becky Fisher (@beckyfisher73 on Twitter) who helped me think through this blog and who gave me words when mine got stuck in a quagmire of thoughts.

This is a blog collaboratively written. (The “I statements” about being a K teacher are mine.  The brilliance elsewhere is hers! :-))

I don’t think anyone would argue John Grisham or J.K. Rowlings being an accomplished writer.  (If you would, just pretend you think they are great as you read this blog!)

So, let’s think about the rubric for “pencil” or whatever tool they use to do their writing and apply it to their work.

There is absolutely no doubt that we teach “pencil” in school.  As a Kindergarten teacher, I have to show students how to hold it correctly so that their little hands don’t get worn out.  I look out for ergonomically sound practices, so no one is crooking their wrist to cause carpel tunnel syndrome or an achy wrist.  I pay attention to how tightly they are holding it and try to loosen up those kids who are squeezing it for all it’s worth. I watch to see if their grasp is hiding their writing as they write, so they can see how the letters are written  I adjust their grip to make sure they are not holding it too high or too close to the tip. ALL of these things are criteria I use to judge whether a child is using the pencil correctly and most efficiently.

However, by about 7 years old, most kids are using a pencil efficaciously and teachers no longer teach “pencil.”  Instead, our focus now centers on the mechanics of writing, with content being the most important piece. We teach spelling, grammar, usage and mechanics, but what the student has to say is where the majority of our efforts fall. In writing workshops we do mini lessons on word choice, voice and storylines.  We talk about beginnings and endings, suspense building, conclusions, and how to build a good story.  We talk sequence and logical progression as we also encourage creativity and individual voice within student writing.  No longer do we center on the tool they use, as our emphasis is the learning they do about how to craft a great product.

When we think about John Grisham or J.K.Rowlings, do we care WHAT they write WITH?  Do we care if they use a pencil or an old typewriter, or a word processor? Don’t we care most about the product, the book, the STORY?

We have talked about a “developmental continuum” for developing a writer’s craft for years.  We assume the skill of “pencil use” or whatever the tool is as we look at bigger skills and concepts like voice and word choice. How can we look at “Digital Bloom’s” more like the way we look at “writer’s craft” and less like the way we look at “pencil”?

What skills we choose to put on a continua of skills speak to our vision for technology – either changing what kids do or changing how they do it.  What is bigger than how. Why not develop our continua around what?  What does it mean to “collaborate across cultures”?  Do we really care if this is done with a wiki or Google Docs?

The fact that we are looking at continua of development is important, and the fact that this conversation is happening in a number of places–on Twitter, in the wikis, at Paul R Wood’s deck in Texas, in other places we don’t even know yet–with educators from ALL OVER THE WORLD- is even MORE POWERFUL.  As we craft the rubrics for a Digital Bloom’s Taxonomy together, the impact in our classrooms will happen collaboratively and perhaps similarly across cultures, across gender, across SES, across race, across all kinds of boundaries we normally don’t cross with assessment tools.  The way things are assessed affect what gets taught, so let’s make these the best we can!

Join us at Blooms Rubrics to add your voice (and see the Bloom’s blog page to see yet another blog on “Testing the Pencil” by Tim Holt)

Until next time,


How the Visual Blooms fits with Professional Practice and the Blooms Rubrics

Before you read this, perhaps you’d like to explore the Visual Blooms wiki, the Blooms Rubrics wiki (looking at Rubric # 6 which is the only one we’ve worked on so far), and the Professional Practice wiki (which describes teacher levels of technology use and levels of expertise.)

It would help as well as be familiar with the edorigami wiki and Andrew Churches’ paper on the Digital Taxonomy.

This is addressed to a group of folks who have been thinking with me on these issues, some of whom are meeting tonight in Texas to discuss it face to face.  🙂

Paul, Michael, Scott, Mike G., Mike F, Cris, Eduguy101, Becky, Glen, Barbara, et.al.,

(@paulrwood, @mwacker, @woscholar, @MikeGras, @fisher1000, @cristama, @eduguy101, @BeckyFisher73, @gardenglen, @porchdragon, @barbaram)
I like the Church article, because it attempts to tie digital tools to each Bloom’s level, which is what Mike Fisher’s Visual Bloom’s wiki does as well (the triangle at the visual blooms wiki.)  However, Michael W. is right. . . we need to go beyond that paper.  Scott asked me what a rubric for “Create” would look like—he didn’t ask for a rubric for a tool, which is what Andrew Church did in his paper and on the edorigami wiki.

I don’t want to judge my kids on how they use an IWB—whether they can control it or not,  and how they interact with it (which are the areas of the IWB rubric.)  I want to know how their understanding of the world changes because of the content with which they have engaged ON that tool.

If you look, though, at the fourth navigation section on the wiki , edorigami at the link called “Pedagogic Skills, IWB’s and Technology “ that addresses more what I’m thinking, in some ways.  The researchers were looking at what kids and teachers did with the tools and seeing the impact on education.
As Michael suggested, though, they didn’t go far enough, in my opinion.

Their stages:
1.  Supported Didactic
Essentially normal teaching practice using the IWB – I would liken it to “learning about the technology”. Little student interaction but some use of commercial products like presentation tools, spreadsheets.

1. Interactive
Lessons start to include different stimuli or learning styles – visual, auditory etc. IWB is a part of the classroom rather than a novelty, Teacher is confident in basic usage. The teacher is developing advancing technical skills – “Learning with Technology”

1. Enhanced interactive
The technology is an integral part of the lesson. Teachers vary use and approaches to using technology. The IWB provides opportunities to challenge students and “enhance active learning” “Learning through technology”. By this stage, students are familiar with almost all the functions of a interactive whiteboard and can take appropriate care of it without any guidance. They are allowed to use the IWB for writing, drawing, illustration, problem solving etc. At this stage a teacher uses all possible whiteboard applications from floating toolbars, infinite cloner to smart recorder. He also becomes proficient with whiteboard accessories like visualizers, interactive panels, student response systems etc.

ARE VERY AKIN to the ACOT stages of technology use I describe at the Professional Practice wiki.  It is all about the teacher’s technology USE and how that affects learning, very similar to David Berliner’s Teacher Expertise descriptions, also described on that wiki.  It is NOT about the learner and what they are learning, or what they are doing differently to IMPROVE or change learning. Those stages and the accompanying suggestions for support came right out of Teaching With Technology: Creating Student-Centered Classrooms by Judith Haymore Sandholtz, Cathy Ringstaff, and David C. Dwyer.

The create rubric on the other hand attempts to describe a creator, a person who is operating at various competency levels of creating. The tools are superfluous, as tools can be used in different ways and at different levels, depending on HOW one is using them.  The examples shown center on what the students are doing in the process of creation, not what they are using to create. It’s about how they are applying Blooms’ levels, and how they are remixing and changing the information they are using to create something new and unique (or not so new and unique.)

Does that make sense?

So, for me, it’s not about which tools as much as it is about how the learner uses the tools and the outcome in the areas of learning, understanding, and assimilation of that knowledge into their repertoire, so that they can use it to go deeper in the next conversation/activity/experience.

I ask Paul and the dinner friends to toss this into your Texas conversation, and those of you who aren’t in Texas tonight, join our wikis to talk with us!

Visual Blooms

Blooms Rubrics

Professional Practice

Until next time,