Digital powerups are keywords displayed as hashtags that are associated with corresponding prompts in online discussion forums allowing for student choice and voice.” (Thurston, 2019, p. 79)

Dr. Travis Thurston and Erin Wadsworth-Anderson describe an approach to designing online discussions that promote learner autonomy and higher-order thinking in their post, #DIGITALPOWERUPS (hosted on Adobe Spark).  The credit the idea to Brad Gustafson, citing page 15 of his bookRenegade Leadership: Creating Innovative Schools for Digital Age Students.  Dr. Thurston was also interviewed by Bonni Stachowiak on February 6, 2020 on Episode 295: Online Engagement Through Digital Powerups on the Teaching in Higher Education Podcast.

As I understand it, a digital powerup starts out as a discussion prompt that provides a few questions, just as you might have in a traditional online discussion.  But in addition, students are asked to respond by asking students to structure their responses according to Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy (Krathwohl, 2002).  They do this through the use of hashtags (e.g., #create, #remember) that are added to the end of portions of their responses.


Remember: List or restate something you just read; then, add an opinion in your response. Use #remember

Understand: Ask a question that will help you understand what you read. Allow a peer to respond to your question. Use #understand

Apply: Organize what you read into something new. Include a poem, chart, timeline, diagram, or model in your response. Use #apply

Analyze: Examine a quote you read, and then compare it to a different text. Explain why you think they’re related. Use #analyze

Evaluate: Critique something that you read in a respectful manner. Cite text-based evidence in your response. Use #evaluate

Create: Develop a novel response based on what you read using text, video or other supplies to innovate. Use #create

Connect: Connect to an issue outside of your school. Think globally, and share how collaborated in your response (this requires actual action on your part). Use #connect

I think that this is a fascinating idea and I am looking forward to attempting it in my online courses.


Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy: An overview. Theory Into Practice, 41(4), 212–218.

Thurston, T. (2019). #DigitalPowerups Scaffolds and Hashtags To Empower Higher-Order and Humanized Student Engagement in Online Discussions. In Architecture Of Engagement: Autonomy-Supportive Leadership for Instructional Improvement (pp. 79–147). Utah State University.

E and I at the Burden Research Center.