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August 4, 2013

Technology is a Crutch for Critical Thinking

Just because someone is using some form of technology in the classroom (internet, MS Word, Prezzi, iMovie, Edmodo, Google docs, and the list goes on), it does not inherently mean that critical thinking is taking place.  These are simply tools to conduct work, produce presentations, or convey a message.  Don’t get me wrong, I use all of these in my class, but for a purpose.  These are a means to an end, not an end unto themselves.  Unfortunately, some teachers think that if they are ‘using technology’ that somehow they are doing something at a higher level.  Plopping a kid in front of a computer is not the answer.

To ensure we are engaging students in “the mental process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion” (reference.com’s definition), it doesn’t matter what technology we use, or even if we use it at all, it matters how we structure our lessons and questioning strategies.  That’s it. Critical thinking has been going on for thousands of years (thank God!), and it will continue regardless of technology.

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Don’t think so? Anyone who is over 40 didn’t have any technology to speak of when they went to school (unless you consider the Commodore 64 and Pong as ‘technology’)   Is Generation X not able to analyze, synthesize, make connections, create and come to conclusions?  I think they are  (as I am part of that group, yes, I will speak for the entire group.)

What does matter is you- how you design your lessons and the questions you ask.

 

 

Whatever your subject matter, use the following checklist against your activities and questioning strategies to see if you are requiring your students to think critically.

Are you asking them to:

  • create, write or draw?
  • relate knowledge from several areas?
  • predict, draw conclusions, design, or construct?
  • plan, revise, invent, illustrate, or compose?
  • formulate, build, imagine, or evaluate?
  • assess theories, make decisions based on arguments?
  • evaluate evidence, recognize subjectivity, hypothesize?
  • critique, infer, analyze, compare, attribute, or recognize patterns?

No task can do all of these things, but many tasks can include more than a few of these things.  If we simply reflect on our methods, and make sure our questioning strategies promote higher level thinking, technology can be a wonderful addition to our classes, as opposed to us being dependent on it.

You can read more about this on EdWeek’s post on Teaching Collaboration and Critical Thinking Tech Free.  I also have a chart of how my Story Starters work within Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.

Do you think technology is a crutch in teaching? Speak out below.

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