Engaging Students in Higher Order Thinking with iPads (Nova: Rise of the Drones)


“Think before you speak. Read before you think.” - Fran Lebowitz

Perhaps you’ve been lurking in the shadows reading my blog posts on Higher Order Thinking? If so, you’ve done nothing wrong even though the verb sounds creepy. Lurking is a perfectly good thing to do while you way the merits of an online dialog. So we all do it! But there comes a time when you have to fish or cut bait. Here is an idea you might wish to try when are ready to go fishing.

The PBS series Nova provides an ocean of timely science programming but their latest release Rise of the Drones is one of the best. It is packed with over fifty minutes of facts pertaining to military drones. It is sure to be of interest to students because it involves flying and the military but it also raises some ethical dilemmas. Have a look!

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It think you'll find it useful in engaging your students in a higher order thinking project especially if you require further reading on the topic. I suggest setting a minimum limit on the number of sources even for video presentations.



Watch Rise of the Drones on PBS. See more from NOVA.



As you know there are three levels of higher order thinking. Assignments can be given for each one.



In analysis we break information into parts by identifying motives or causes, make inferences and find evidence to support generalizations.” At this level your students can report of the various components of a drone and how they interact with one another. They can describe a drone’s;

  • input devices,
  • output devices,
  • processing unit(s),
  • propulsion,
  • navigation,
  • memory unit(s), and
  • control mechanism(s).



Synthesis involves compiling information in a different way by combining elements in a new pattern or proposing alternative solutions.” At this level you could ask the student to identify one or more technical flaws with the system and recommend an alternate solution. How might drones be improved? How might they be repurposed?



Evaluation occurs when we present and defend opinions by making judgments about information, validity of ideas or quality of work based on a set of criteria.” Students at this level might discuss the ethical dilemmas associated with drones along with their recommendation for continuance or discontinuance of the project.


Anyway, you decide if this is a viable project to engage your students in higher order thinking. I suggest watching it through before deciding. You might also want to share the idea with your Principal or Dean first. People can be unreasonable at times and you wouldn’t want him or her caught off guard.

Nova is a PBS program. You can watch it on television, buy the DVD from PBS, or watch it online with your computer, tablet, or smartphone. The PBS app is free and available the Apple App Store.

Students can complete this project with their iPads. Use Safari and Google to research the topic. Presentation slides, if desired, can be created using Keynote. Video presentations can be recorded using Camera. Pages is a great tool for writing papers.

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Dr. Winegar is available to help your organization wisely use technology. Email him directly at mark.winegar@mac.com or visit www.facebook.com/MobileLearningStudio.