Search form

Brenda's Blog


Thinking About Thinking --
Using Technology

Your classroom is abuzz with learning activity. Students are collaborating on a project, and three or four students are lined up to ask questions. To add to the buzz, an announcement suddenly blares over the intercom.

I cant hear myself think!" you say to the students in front of you. They look at you blankly, wondering what youre talking about.

Most students dont know it, but understanding whats going on in ones head is essential to the learning process. Developing metacognitive awareness in children is of prime importance in all grades, and because of that, teachers everywhere are looking for strategies that will help their students take charge of their own cognitive processes.

Ive recently come across two technology tools that are tailor-made to prod students to think more deeply about course content and to use visual prompts to synthesize and apply their understanding.

Speaking Up

Click here to submit your comments.


The first tool makes use of a computer application almost every teacher has available in his/her school -- Microsoft Word. Library media specialist Annette Lamb has developed a variety of activities that combine the use of uploaded images and Microsoft Words autoshapes option (found on the Drawing toolbar).Using the drawing tool, students choose callouts that will be used to respond to teacher prompts about the image. Using investigative questions, students capture their thinking about the image and connect it to what theyve been learning in such subjects as science, language arts, and social studies.

In social studies, for example, students studying about the Great Depression would copy/paste one of Dorthea Langes memorable Migrant Mother photos ([email protected](fsa+8b29523))[email protected](COLLID+fsa)):displayType=1:m856sd=fsa:m856sf,[email protected](cph+3b06165))[email protected](COLLID+fsa)):displayType=1:m856sd=cph:m856sf) onto a Word document and then create callouts to respond to teacher prompts. Teachers can use the American Memory projects Photo Analysis Guide questions as prompts to get students thinking deeply about the historical image. Students post in the callouts what theyre thinking.

An example of a lesson for grade 3 is India: Thinking About Quality of Life (Scroll to page 7.) You also can find ideas for using callouts from Annette Lambs Digital Storytelling page.


This Web 2.0 mashup allows users to edit videos from Google video, YouTube and a number of other online video portals. Using the same concept as bubble assignments, BubblePly provides a way for teachers to facilitate the development of metacognitive thought in their students. This free tool uses an innovative technology that lets the user add comments or annotation on top of an online video. Sound complicated? Not at all. It is as easy as going to the BubblePly Web site, uploading a YouTube video, and then following the user-friendly directions to add callouts (thought bubbles, commentary bubbles) that will nudge your student-viewers to think more deeply about what theyre watching by drawing their attention to specific content within the video clip. Once youre done, save your project to your BubblePly space and its ready to show your students.

Educators are just beginning to think about how BubblePly can be used to initiate deep thinking. It will be exciting to see how technology enthusiasts pilot BubblePly in the classroom. To get an idea of how BubblePly works, check out the BubblePly Demo Clip.

About the Author

Brenda Dyck is a sessional instructor at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada). In addition to teaching preservice teachers, Brenda is the moderator of MiddleTalk, a listserve sponsored by the National Middle School Association (NMSA). Her "HotLinks" column is a regular feature in NMSA's magazine, Middle Ground. Brenda also is a teacher-editor for MidLink magazine.

Author: Brenda Dyck
Education World®
Copyright © 2008 Education World

Updated 01/01/2010