Another dot in the blogosphere?

Graphics that oversimplify

Posted on: October 9, 2016

The edu-Twitterverse seems to like tweets like these.

The tweet included a Periodic Table of apps. It is a variation of a Bloom’s Taxonomy of apps.

These graphics seem to be part of a larger trend of linking relatively static frameworks with an evolving, exploding world of technology.

If I was a beginning teacher now, I would probably love images like these. There is a place for everything and everything is in its place. Everything is neat.

But I am not and I am critical of such oversimplifications. For example, any of the “demonstrating” apps (red zone) could be used for almost any other purpose.

An academic might point out that arranging apps like this is reductionist. It is putting them in silos that were not there to begin with.

An informed neutral might point out that people like to simplify by categorising things.

An uncritical person might simply embrace the graphic without question.

The periodic table of apps is not the first and will not be the last to be shared online. While I applaud the creativity of the folks who make these visuals, their ideas should be balanced with critical thinking.

Like it or not, schools and some teachers like operating in the bubble of simplifying things. The wider world and life in general rarely operate like that.

Problems are not textbook or formulaic, and hardly ever come simple and prettily packaged. If teachers argue that school prepares students for life, then they cannot adopt and model thinking habits that operate outside that life.

Teaching is neat. Learning is messy.

One might argue that once experts make sense of chaos, they should present the orderly information to novices. The experts forget how they learnt in the first place — through struggle, negotiation, asking questions, seeking answers.

Taking and giving shortcuts does learning and learners a disservice because it does not provide people the full opportunity to learn. If you are a teacher who wants to be an educator, you need to remind yourself that you do not serve content, curriculum, or standardised tests. You are responsible for nurturing a lifelong, lifewide learner. There are no shortcuts to doing this.

2 Responses to "Graphics that oversimplify"

Benedict CHIA: Yet another good piece of critical thinking. I simply enjoyed the creativity of combining a periodic table with user-friendly apps. via


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