Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

The greatest university of all

I think this quotation by Thomas Carlyle is worth thinking about in the context of blogging and blog reading, as well as literacy in general:

What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books.

I would amend that to say “the greatest university of all is the content on and the people connected via the Internet.” I do love books, but I think the wealth of ideas as well as the interactive potential with real people available via the Internet makes my home library and even our local public libraries seem paltry and small.

Another thought related to this quotation is, “You are what you eat (or read.)” This is why helping students develop instrinsic motivation to read is SO important. As Stephen Krashen said at our state library conference a few months ago in Oklahoma, helping a student find and read their own “home run” book that hooks them into a lifelong love of reading is perhaps THE MOST IMPORTANT thing we can do as educators. This is true whether we formally have the title “librarian” or not.

Too often, I think our school system and many of the teachers/professors who staff it contribute to a perception among students that they are rushing to “finish school” so they’ll have a piece of paper that says they have learned, and then move on into a world of work quite different from the world of school. The reality is that none of us can or should ever stop learning. The structured learning environments within our schools need to reflect the real world of lifelong learning to a greater extent than they do in many cases today. My 3rd grader’s homework last night was an adjective categorization worksheet that had little to do with writing, reading, or coherent communication. Like sentence diagramming, it seemed to be more of an “English teacher’s game” than an activity which really helped him become a more literate communicator. Unfortunately we tend to do a lot of these types of worksheets in school, and while many of them may not damage the minds of children permanently, I think there are often more worthwhile activities we could engage in that would genuinely help literacy development– like reading and writing.

Are you preparing your students for “the greatest university of all?” That university is not, incidentally, Stanford, Oxford, Harvard or Princeton. The litmus test of excellence when formal education is (at least for the time being) “finished” are the texts (in all their possible analog and digital forms) with which learners voluntarily choose to read and consume. Additionally the subsequent discussions (conversations) and knowledge products learners “create” and remix on their own form an essential part of the litmus test. Today, I think literacy can be more accurately measured than ever before by not only the texts that are CONSUMED by learners, but rather by the authentic knowledge products they create (in a read/write context) as a result of their exposure to those ideas. We need to continually challenge the students in our care as well as our peers and ourselves to move beyond the knowledge / comprehension level of understanding, into the higher realms of analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and CREATION. When learners choose to do those sorts of things on their own, and you see evidence of these types of thinking activities in their conversations, their blog posts, their blog comments, and their digital stories, then I think you can be confident the “educational process” is proceeding successfully for them.

Bloom's taxonomy revised

The source of this graphic included a link to this APA webpage about “The New Bloom’s” I had not seen before. Looks like some good ideas for critical thinking / lesson development. I like the focus on “creation” in addition to “evaluation,” and think this fits in well with the goal of read/write outcomes in educational settings:

More recently, Anderson and Krathwohl (2001) have adapted Bloom’s model to fit the needs of today’s classroom by employing more outcome-oriented language, workable objectives, and changing nouns to active verbs (see “stairs” below). Most notably, knowledge has been converted to remember. In addition, the highest level of development is create rather than evaluate.

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2 responses to “The greatest university of all”

  1. Diane Quirk Avatar

    What a perfect update to Bloom’s taxonomy. In the 21st century, it’s the most logical update I can think of although the graphic at the bottom of the page showing some possible products related to Create don’t even begin to address what’s possible with the kinds of technology tools we now have available. If only our teachers felt they had the time to let our kids truly use their learning in creative ways, the kids would be the kinds of learners that we really want them to be – they would be empowered.

  2. Norm Garrett Avatar


    In my opinion, this book completely updates and replaces Bloom’s Taxonomy and should be required reading for all teachers. The complete reference is:

    Anderson, Lorin, Krathwohl, David, et. al., “A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.” New York: Longman, 2001.

    The authors use a two-dimensional model that greatly assists instructors in the alignment of teaching and assessment. The pyramid you show in your post is only one dimension of the taxonomy. For a complete look at the table, see this page on my website:

    The book is practical and designed to be useful in practice, not just in theory. It has plenty of examples from different disciplines and serves as a wonderful guidebook to the often frustrating task of engaging students in higher level thinking activities.

    Norm Garrett