The best strategies to promote HOTS with Tech in the classroom today

Higher Order Thinking Skills

By Michael Hilkemeijer


Welcome to my technology in the classroom blog regarding the development of higher order thinking skills in the classroom.


This page will offer guidance on how to develop higher order thinking skills in the early learning environment and provides extracts from my technology in early childhood education teaching resources that you can access by becoming a member of the ICT in Education Teacher Academy today. Click here to join now!


The value of that the integration of ICT has in promoting Bloom’s taxonomy higher order thinking is widely recognised throughout many curriculums. By the end of the page, you will learn about:

  • What is higher order thinking skills?
  • The importance of higher order thinking skills.
  • How does HOTS support student learning?
  • What are key strategies to promote HOTS?
  • How to assess HOTS?
  • How to exploit the benefits of ICT to promote HOTS?
  • How does technology support critical thinking?
  • Key examples of technology in the learning environment.
  • How to embed HOTS in your lesson plans today?



I begin by answering the following questions starting with understanding what is higher order thinking skills.



Higher order thinking skills

HOTS in Early Learning


What is HOTS and knowledge (Bloom’s Taxonomy)?

What are higher order thinking skills and knowledge? This is about the ability to think abstractly and make connections between concepts. It includes critical thinking (something that I will delve into more later) such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.


Higher order thinking enables children to go beyond just restating facts. It requires them to do something with the facts such as understand them, infer from them, connect them to other facts and concepts, categorise them, manipulate them, and put them together.



Why teach HOTS in your classroom?

What is the importance of higher order thinking skills in the classroom? HOTS gives children the tools to think in complex ways and requires a higher level of understanding than other subjects. 8 reasons why you should encourage higher order thinking in the classroom include:


  • It encourages a deeper connection with subject matter
  • It creates discussion.
  • It teachers children to link concepts
  • It teaches problem-solving.
  • It inspires creativity.
  • As an educator, you can ask children to think and learn differently.
  • And you can also teach children to think about their answers.

(RIC Publications)


As this is a technology in the classroom blog, I will provide an example of Bloom’s taxonomy higher order thinking with the support of ICT in the early childhood learning environment. When a child is able to demonstrate if they can:

  • Decide when it is appropriate to use a particular ICT for a specific purpose. (Evaluating)
    Plan what ICT routines, ICT techniques and processes are to be used. (Remembering)
  • Work independently to solve problems. (Applying, Creating)
  • Evaluate their use of ICT and the outcome of an activity (Evaluating)
  • Explain and justify their choices and approaches (Evaluating and Understanding)
  • Reflect on their ICT learning and how things could be approached differently next time (Analysing)


It is important to understand that the successful development of the final two key components require that you as the educator or another adult support children’s learning with technology by engaging with them in sustained shared thinking.


Let’s take a closer look at how can higher order thinking skills improve the student’s learning.


Higher order thinking skills

How can HOTS improve students learning?

By planning to improve students’ learning with higher order thinking skills you need to ensure that:

  1. Children have the ability to apply knowledge and skills in a range of different contexts. This is termed ‘transferring knowledge’.
  2. Children have the ability to reason, reflect, and decide what to believe or do next – in other words….critical thinking.
  3. And that finally, that children can produce a solution to a problem in a particular context (problem solving).



You can understand how can HOTS improve students learning by looking at the best higher order thinking strategies.


As this is a technology in the classroom blog, I will take discuss this in two perspectives.


I suggest the following teaching strategies focusing on the development of higher order thinking skills and knowledge:

  • Ensure that there is significant child autonomy in the selection of ICT tools and resources.
  • Involve children in the active process of planning and evaluating the use of ICT in problem situations.
  • Intervene in the form of focusing questions to assist children in the formation of generalisations.
  • Help children to articulate their thoughts about the opportunities and constraints offered by ICT techniques, processes and strategies which they have experienced. They could articulate verbally, written or via email but should be interactive.
  • Teach children to be enthusiastic and confident about ICT and;
  • Make sure that children are given the opportunities and encouragement to reflect formally on their ICT learning.


Now pair this with the following.


  • Help children to determine what higher order thinking is – explain to them what it is and why they need it.
  • Connect concepts – lead them through the process of connecting one concept to another and there are lots of concepts to explore when integrating ICT in the preschool classroom for example.
  • Teach children to infer – give them real-world experiences.
  • Encourage questioning – encourage them to ask questions and if you can’t get the answers then you can show them how they can answer it themselves.
  • Use graphics organisers – this might seem far fetched for young children but it is a nice way to frame their thoughts in an organised manner.
  • Teach problem solving strategies – provide a step by step approach.
  • Encourage creative thinking – creativity is about process. Provide ICT resources that will support your pedagogy and understanding about the nature of young children’s developing creativity. Model the use of ICT creatively.



Now that you have embedded these higher order thinking strategies into your planning is it important to understand how to assess higher order thinking skills in your classroom environment today.




how to assess higher-order thinking skills in your classroom

Assessing HOTS in ECE

When assessing any child’s work as an early childhood practitioner you would typically follow three basic principles:

  • To specify clearly and exactly what it is you want to assess.
  • To design tasks that require children to demonstrate this knowledge or skill.
  • To decide what you will take as evidence of the degree to which student have shown this knowledge or skill.


As the successful integration of technology in preschool activities is good facilitator of higher order thinking skills I have included higher order thinking skills and knowledge in my lesson plans that you can access as member of the ICT in Education Teacher Academy.


In addition, to the above principles of assessment of which you would apply to all assessment you would need to ensure that the children’s higher order thinking skills and knowledge are also assessed by including the following principles:

  • Make sure that you present something for children to think about, usually in the form of introductory text, visuals, scenarios, resource material, or problems of some sort.
  • Use novel material – material that is new to the children, not covered in class and thus subject to recall.
  • And distinguish between level of difficulty (easy versus hard) and level of thinking (lower order thinking versus higher level), and control for each separately.

(Brookhart, 2010, p.23)


Assessing HOTS: Different strategies for each component

So far in this technology in the classroom blog, I have highlighted the key components of higher order thinking skills and knowledge. I have also discussed and defined what it is and when it is appropriate to use it. It is equally important when thinking about assessment, as each component will require a different assessment strategy such as with the assessment of a child’s ICT capability where higher order thinking skills are a key component.


Higher order thinking skills are assessed by the extent to which scaffolding is necessary.


Assessing Analysis

Research has demonstrated that young children can already analyse information. How then can you as an educator determine if a child can analyse their learning with ICT?


Higher order thinking skills and knowledge is demonstrated in the development of ICT capability in early childhood education when a child reflects on their ICT learning.


For example, you could ask them to focus on a question about their ICT work. You would need to ask them what the main issue or problem was and if the child was more capable go one step further and ask what criteria they used to evaluate their conclusion.


You could also use a compare and contrast approach as another way for the children to show understanding. For example, think about this analogy of a lemon and an orange using this question as a guidance: How is a lemon like an orange?


How could you use this question in relation to ICT learning and development in ECE?


Assessing Evaluation

To assess a child’s evaluation, you need to determine if they were able to demonstrate judgement on the value of the software used and the ICT techniques for their intended purpose. Do they know if the ICT techniques used in the software was able to produce the desired ICT solution?


You might consider providing them with a set of criteria for them appraise with. Perhaps some simple questions that are deemed attainable.


Assessing Logic and Reasoning (Decision-making)

Young children learn reasoning skills as part of life so as an educator you can help hone and develop these skills. Emphasise ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions with your children and model thinking out loud. This can be achieved through sustained shared thinking.


You need to give them something to reason about and in this case, it is about justifying their choices and approaches. Supply them access to the ICT resource that they have already used or perhaps ask them to locate the ICT resource.


Then ask them questions that require the children to reason about the ICT resource or technique.


Assessing Judgment

They need to make a judgement (decide) when it is appropriate to use a particular ICT resource for a specific purpose. This is known as critical thinking and I will discuss this further later on.


To assess a child’s use of critical judgment involves giving them a source of information and in this case it is deciding when to use ICT for a specific purpose. Did they identify any assumptions? Did they evaluate the credibility of a ICT resource for the specific purpose?


How would this work in your early years environment?


Assessing Problem Solving

It is your responsibility to assess if a child can work independently to solve problems. To do this you need to determine if they can solve problems involving the particular content and concepts you are teaching. Can they:

  • Identify the problem to solved.
  • Define and represent the problem.
  • Explore possible strategies.
  • Act on the strategies.
  • Look back and evaluate the effectiveness of your activities.



using technology to promote higher order thinking skills

Technology and Higher Order Thinking

In this section, I will discuss using technology to promote higher order thinking skills in the early learning environment.


Higher order thinking skills and knowledge is a key component of ICT capability. It is in using these higher order thinking skills, in order for the child to make choices as to how apply ICT techniques they have learned, that enable them to execute the process, and in so doing, demonstrate their ICT capability.


Developing Critical Thinking with Technology

Early I discussed how higher order thinking skills develops critical thinking skills. How does technology improve critical thinking? Here are some examples of how critical thinking skills are enhanced with technology.


  • Interactive activities can stimulate student interest and improve academic achievement.
  • Multiple representations and models clarify complex concepts and procedures.
  • Technology-rich environments foster self-regulated learning.
  • Scaffolded practice helps students solidify skills.
  • Multimedia learning environments enable students to apply knowledge in real-world contexts.

(Source: Digital Learning Collaborative)


It is true that the central aim of education is to develop critical thinkers and through the successful integration of ICT young children can develop their higher order skills and knowledge thus enabling them to be more successful at learning but will also equip them for life. Becoming critical thinkers will enable them to realise their own potential and to contribute to the development of society in a digital world.


To date, there has been several studies completed in the area of technology integration for the purpose of of facilitating higher order thinking skills.


Using technology to promote higher order thinking skills

ICT Capability and Higher Order Skills

ICT capability in early childhood education is the ability to utilise ICT independently, appropriately and creatively. It is also about understanding ICT in its social context and implies an ability to act in future situations and involves learning about its potential use.


Research into the development of ICT capability has demonstrated that just the knowledge of processes and ICT techniques is not sufficient for successful application of ICT to problem situations. Young children must also choose to use the knowledge, to monitor the progress being made, and to evaluate the solutions gained.


When ICT is successfully integrated throughout the curriculum and the key themes it should demand such higher order thinking skills such as:

  • Recognising when the use of ICT might be appropriate.
  • Planning how ICT resources, ICT techniques and processes are to be used in a task.
  • Conjecturing, discussing and testing the strategies and data to be used.
  • Monitoring the progress  of problem-solving activities.
  • Making and testing hypotheses
  • Evaluating the outcomes of using ICT for a task.
  • Explaining and justifying the use of ICT in producing solutions to problems.
  • Reflecting on the learning that might have occurred during the task.


The issue that you need to remember is that it is not whether children know an ICT technique or process, but whether they know that they know and are thus able to decide to use it.


If you have an environment which encourages exploration when opportunities are presented to decide which software to use and how to use it along with the opportunity to plan and monitor the progress of extended tasks with the contribution of ICT then higher order thinking skills and knowledge will be developed.


This is the predominant source of learning for this component of ICT capability in early learning environments.


You can also encourage the development of higher order thinking skills and understanding by ensuring that the affordances for planning, monitoring, and evaluating the activity are not too great. This is central to your role as the teacher.


Additionally, by planning for timely intervention you should also be able to enhance the development of children’s higher order thinking skills.

HOTS and knowledge are independent of the tools and the context and as a result they allow children to carry out complete processes themselves when the scaffolding provided by you as the educator is removed from them. Implement these key strategies to aid the development of HOTS:

  1. Model the techniques of strategic planning by thinking out loud in front of children to show the questions which might be asked during the process.
  2. Give groups of children responsibility for planning a task and coach them by asking focusing questions at intervals. This will help guide them towards a viable plan.
  3. Involve the children socially in planning, monitoring, evaluating, and reflecting through whole-class teaching.


According to research (Kennewell, 2000, p. 96) information handling work is suitable context for developing higher order thinking skills. The following processes is identified and could be adapted to your early learning environment:

  • Starting point: identify the context and the prerequisite skills, knowledge and experience.
  • Engagement: establish interest, define purpose, decide on data needed, gather and explore data.
  • Look for connections: sorting/classifying/browsing through data.
  • Ask questions: inquisitively look at the data, ask purposeful questions and suggest possible relationships.
  • Look for answers: decide whether the evidence provides answers to the questions.
  • Interpretation: try to explain the answers/relationships.
  • Product: new knowledge has been acquired in domain of enquiry; greater ICT capability.


Such observations are underpinned by concepts, which are more difficult to evaluate. Probe these concepts with specific questions and stimulate reflection.



Today, as we continue on a digital journey the key components of higher order thinking involves:

  • The functional skills of knowing about and using digital technology effectively;
  • The ability to analyse, evaluate and present digital information;
  • Knowing how to act sensibly, safely and appropriately online;
  • And understanding how, when, why and with whom to use technology.


Here is what I am talking about…


ICT capability in the field of mathematics involves more than merely the ICT techniques needed to perform operations and produce graphs. It also means using higher order thinking skills and knowledge to identify when ICT is the most effective way of achieving a goal and which tools are appropriate to the task.


To explain this further, this decision would also involve more than ICT knowledge as it requires knowledge of mathematical concepts and processes. So it is easy to see how higher order thinking skills and concepts are used to combine knowledge and techniques in number and in ICT in order to solve simple problems.


QUESTION: How can early childhood teachers who are confident in their technical skills with ICT be made aware of how ICT can develop independent learning and higher order thinking skills and knowledge?



What Tech is best for HOTS?

Integrating ICT promotes higher-order thinking skills and so what are ICT examples in the classroom?


While many websites point out some great options they don’t seem to take into account that available technology is different for people. Wouldn’t it be best then to guide you to make the right decisions?


The ICT that you need that will help promote higher order thinking skills will be the type that give the children full control over it. In other words, content-free software because these are known as tool software and these can be used in many ways. Most importantly, they develop ICT capability to the full.


When the children use this type of ICT resource critical thinking is engaged as they challenged intellectually and the level of control and decision-making is high.


Here some examples of technology in the classroom (for more information, click here):

  • Desktop publishing.
  • Word processing.
  • Drawing and painting programs.
  • Spreadsheets.
  • Databases.
  • Concept maps
  • Internet.


Remember that technology integration is not waiting for the latest and greatest technological development. It is about imagining the potential of the available technology in your early learning environment for learning within the contexts in which it will take place. It involves taking a risk of experimenting with your available technology to exploit it to its fullest potential.



Some questions to consider:

  • What features and facilities does the software provide which might be used to extend children’s learning?
  • How easy are these features and facilities to use?
  • Will the children need to be instructed in their use before or during their use of the software?
  • What is the educational purpose underlying the children’s use of the software? For example, to develop ICT skills? To learn how to use the software? To use the software as a means to an end? To develop communication skills?




What about Integrated Learning Systems (ILS)?

Given the nature of ICT capability it is clear that ILS such as numeracy and literacy-specific programs would not teach Bloom’s taxonomy higher order thinking skills.


Adoption of ICT

Pedagogy is highly resistant to change and just as in other educational settings teachers in the early childhood learning environment rarely change their pedagogy on introducing ICT. Most reports say that they just modify their existing practice!


ICT capability like any other key skill shows in its application to a meaningful task. The higher order thinking strategies and processes characteristic of high ICT capability are seen when children and teachers recognise opportunities to make appropriate use of their available technology.


Reflecting on ICT Learning

As discussed earlier, reflection is a vital component for a child’s higher order thinking development. It is also vital for concept development and a reflective write-up activity can be used to focus on children’s thinking on the principles they have met. Children should be expected to use an ICT technique as a matter of course in all subjects as they progress in their education. Additionally, it is important for them to think about their actions, to talk about their work and to write plans.  

Higher order thinking questions and sentence starter

When you engage in sustained shared thinking you can carefully craft questions to create a pathway for higher order thinking in both intentional learning and play-based learning.


Here are a few to get you started:

  • ‘What do you think?’ (Understanding)
  • ‘I wonder what would happen if ….?’ – (Applying)
  • What happened after….? (Remembering)
  • ‘What would happen  if we did…?’ (Applying)
  • ‘Have you see what X has done – why?’(Evaluating)


Examples of technology in the classroom

From Theory to Practice

Lesson Plans for Early Childhood Education

Engage your early learning students with our higher order thinking activities for early childhood education. Gain access to over 20+ HOTS in lesson plans when you become a member of the ICT in Education Teacher Academy today.


As you see in the diagram below, all of our higher order thinking skills activities with ICT come embedded in HOTS in lesson plan.

HOTS in lesson plan


Here is an example of higher order thinking activities:

higher order thinking activities


Where to access more higher order thinking activities when you become a member today.

Higher order thinking activities