Higher Order Thinking Skills


When I'm teaching computing, I find it quite hard to address higher order thinking skills, such things as: summarize, describe, interpret, apply, demonstrate, calculate, analyze, separate, order, explain, connect, classify, combine, integrate, modify, rearrange, substitute, assess, decide, rank, grade, test, measure, or recommend.

Maybe If we were orientated towards "concepts", then then higher order skill would come easier. Often, I think, we have become side-tracked into thinking that using ICT to facilitate higher-order thinking in other subjects is a satisfactory replacement for imbuing "our own subject" with sufficient conceptual depth and higher-order thinking.

Here's an example of the sort of thing that I mean. I was working with some junior secondary students they were doing some (fairly simple) PaintShop Pro work which necessitated layers. I walk around with a metaphorical stack of overhead transparencies in my head most of time, and apply the idea to various situations almost without thinking about it: powerpoint master slides, drawing in Word, layers in Dreamweaver, layers in PSP, among them. Pretty nearly the whole of the student cohort was stuggling with manipulating layers in PSP, so I used the OHP transparency analogy with them, and you could see the 'lights go on'. So I wonder: is there not some sort of concept here which is applicable across a variety of software types, and, if learned, actually makes learning new products potentially easier? I'm not trying to pretend that this "concept" is going to take lesson upon lesson to teach, or that it's some grand scheme about how computers are programmed or wired ... but I reckon it's there. And so, I further wonder whether there are similar "concepts" with applicability across software types which we might be well placed to be a focus of our teaching, and in so doing give us an in-road to deal with Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) related to computing: "In what way is OLE like PSP layers"; "how would you design a better interface for ..."; "If I were to tell you that different musical tracks are manipulated just like layers, how would that help you get a handle on use of <as yet un-explored> notation software". It seems to me that these sorts of questions are not relevant if the focus of teaching is developing a repertoire of skills, but they become valid if the focus is conceptual.