Bright Ideas
Critical Thinkers of Tomorrow
An Overview of the Problem

The ability to critically think is a skill that is necessary in all that you do in life. How do you manage your time? How do you budget your money so that you will have enough to last between paychecks? How do we solve environmental issues such as Global Warming? Every question that is asked, regardless of its magnitude, requires you to think to formulate an answer. Today, I do not feel that schools stress the ability to think and as a result student lack the general skills to critically think.

Click here to view a video encouraging the need for critical thinkers (IMA5)
Columns
How it all Began

After teaching for two years I noticed that students lacked critical thinking skills. More often than not, if students could not reach a solution to a problem on their first attempt they either sought out the answer from me or they would skip over the question. My initial thought was that students were lazy and didn't want to think. Although there are students out there that have adopted this way of thinking, I feel that most students have not been pushed to think for themselves and have not been taught how to think. Traditional attempts to promote critical thinking skills often revolved around "Critical Thinking Worksheets" that asked students to answer questions. Even though worksheets like this can be used to practice critical thinking skills, students must first be taught what it means to critically think. Being a teacher of science, the scientific method is taught in relation to performing laboratory experiments. Upon further thinking it dawned on me that this method could be generalized and used to approach any problem to reach a conclusion.

What does it mean to critically think?

Critical thinking involves evaluating information and opinions in a systematic, purposeful, efficient manner. Critical thinking is typically associated with solving complex real world problems, generating multiple (or creative) solutions to a problem, drawing inferences, synthesizing and integrating information, distinguishing between fact and opinion, or estimating potential outcomes.

Test your critical thinking skills: It's a picture of me in Ireland. If I did not travel by plane or boat how did I get there? Click here (IMA2)

Albert Einstein
Computer Chip Using Technology to Aid in the Thinking Process

In order to develop and use critical thinking skills, specific technology can be used that allows students to create technology based projects that highlight problems. For this project, the technology includes the internet and other computer based resources as research tools, and the development of interactive PowerPoint presentations and websites as a means to deliver student work.

How the Project Works

The projects works by using the scientific method as a guideline for solving a problem and technology as the delivery means for which the student will gather information and present their problem and conclusion. The projects start with identifying a problem that they will investigate. After identifying a problem, the student then formulates a hypothesis based on what they feel could be a possible solution. Next, the student researches and gathers evidence using the internet, online journals, and any other computer based media/resources. The student then analyzes the data, evaluates the problem and their hypothesis, and formulates the best solution with an explanation as to why it is the best. Next, instead of writing a paper based report, that traditionally would be done, the students can select to either put together their findings in the form of an interactive PowerPoint or a website that will walk the reader/viewer through the process of solving the problem.

Initially the students will work as individuals, as this will encourage them to think for themselves and to reach their own conclusions without being influenced by their peers. Over time, students can be grouped together (in 2 or 3) by the teacher so that they can begin to collaborate with their peers, exchange ideas and work together towards a solution. The construction of projects will occur in the classroom or computer lab and at home. Depending on the scope of the project and the details specified by the teacher, projects could be scheduled for anywhere from 2 weeks to a semester. Projects will most likely be completed in tandem to learning other course material. In addition, students will need to be taught the basics for using PowerPoint and creating websites prior to starting their projects. For assessment purposes, students will be graded on the appropriate use of the scientific method, specific project guidelines set by the teacher (ie. including hyperlinks to other websites), and the formulation of a conclusion with their explanation.

Click here to view a report on another organization that promotes critical thinking (IMA 3)

Students Working Together
Visit another website promoting technology use in the classroom: Using Technology in a Biology Classroom
To see an example of how technology can be used to illustrate a problem and encourage critical thinking click here (IMA4)
Why the Project Works

The project works for two reasons. First, the student is taught to critically think by giving them a format to follow. By using the steps of the scientific method (Which include: identifying the problem, formulating a hypothesis, gathering evidence, analyzing the evidence, and formulating a conclusion) the student is shown a process to use when problem solving. This systematic approach to problem solving equips students with the knowledge and the skills they can use to critically think in order to solve problems. The second reason the project works is because technology is used to report their findings opposed to traditional reporting methods. Students are immediately turn off at the thought of having to write a lab report or a research paper. By using the internet to research, and PowerPoint or a website as a delivery means, this creates a more hands on approach that enables the students to take a more active roll in the creation of their project, offers the students an opportunity to be creative, establishes a greater connection between the student and the material, and encourages authentic learning. When done in this manner, material is made more relevant to the students, possesses more meaning for them, and generates student-centered learning.

References

Best teaching practices. (1999). Student-centered learning. Retrieved June 19, 2007, From http://agpa.uakron.edu/k12/best_practices/student_instruction.html

Best teaching practices. (1999). Systematic approaches in problem solving. Retrieved June 20, 2007, From http://agpa.uakron.edu/k12/best_practices/system_approach.html

Google "define search." (n.d). Authentic learning. Retrieved June 12, 2007, From http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=define%3A+authentic+learning&btnG=Google+Search

Google "define search." (n.d). Critical Thinking. Retrieved June 12, 2007, From http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=define%3A+critical+thinking

Science buddies.org (2002). Steps of the scientific method. Retrieved June 12, 2007, From http://www.sciencebuddies.org/mentoring/project_scientific_method.shtml

Wikipedia search. (n.d.). Collaborative Learning. Retrieved June 12, 2007, From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collaborative_learning

Mawr, B. & Miller, N. (n.d). Using technology in a biology classroom. Retrieved June 17, 2007, From http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/local/ed/DAlessandro.html

 

Dr. Kealy: Here is a link to the full IMA 2 PowerPoint including all three pictures, the IMA2 link above only contains my final picture.