Critical thinking is a part of the much celebrated 4Cs (Creativity, Communication, Collaboration & Critical Thinking) — skills which many futurists, pedagogues and educators believe will be critical in navigating the world, economy and environment of the future. The hope is that students who have been taught not only the facts and figures, but who are also able to think, dialogue, create and work with others will be better able to produce the solutions the world, in many cases, so desperately needs.
“Teaching” critical thinking is in fact a misnomer; since it is the kind of skill that can in fact only be uncovered through self-directed styles of learning. In other words, the teacher is responsible with presenting the challenge to students, and guiding their thoughts, conclusions and findings in a way that gives them insight into how they themselves think.
14 Awesome examples of Critical Thinking edtech
The online world has a vast number of web and mobile applications and programs that claim to enhance critical thinking. Truthfully, many of them are simply edu-tainment, using the highly searchable 4C phrases to promote their products. Fortunately there are others which are deeply engaging, well considered applications that do in fact challenge students in all the right ways.
I try and separate the wheat from the chaff, in what I hope is a quality selection of Critical Thinking edtech. To mix things up I have also included a few very good lessons plans and other resources that develop and guide critical thinking.
Educational web apps
Newsela: A free to use, pay for pro style web application that basically assist teachers to help students engage with current affairs content in a more critical and analytical way.
Guess the Code: Remember that awesome, simple game, “Mastermind”? — this is the digital, mobile version that requires logical analyses and elimination to guess the color code.
Whoo’s Reading: This is a teaching tool and app that assists teachers to insert thought provoking questions and comments into a reading text, particularly literature or fiction; this gets students to write, think and associate with what they are reading.
Mindomo: With 3 free maps on sign up, Mindomo claims to be one of the only mind mapping apps that is designed for students and teachers. The software enables students to make sense of, and lay out their thoughts and concepts for easy analysis and further exploration.
SurveyMonkey: Not only a good commercial tool, but also a really great tool for grades as low as 4. Using the app students can poll and survey their friends and family on a range of subjects, then capture and analyze the data for a number of experiments and projects.
Quandary: Developed by no less than MIT, Quandary is an award-winning game that challenges students with the difficulty of ethical decision-making. Mapped to the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards, the website comes with a host of handy lesson plans, and helpful videos.
Offline critical thinking tools
The Barometer: Students are posed a controversial question, and depending on their point of view, stand somewhere on a U-shaped continuum. Then every student is given time to communicate their view point to the class.
Understanding Arguments: Students should learn that conducting an argument is in fact a necessary fact of academic life and debate. Use this lesson plan to build your student's basic knowledge of the terms of logic, and how to construct a good argument.
Team Building: Use these fun, and inventive team building games to not only build critical thinking, but all the other Cs, as well.
How to Solve It by George Polya: This 1-hour video (quite old) presented by Mathematics America, is an interview with renowned mathematician George Polya, whose simple, didactic style of explaining how to think through a problem is required watching for any teacher determined to break down their critical thinking teaching into easily achievable nodes.
Inference Riddles: Phil Tortuga's inference riddles are a mildly addictive, yet very good way to test one’s verbal and logic skills. With a variety of skill levels they can be played by Grades 1 and upwards.
The Foundation for Critical Thinking has specific resources for teachers, as well as wide range of other helpful guides such as lesson remodeling and practicing critical thinking in your own professional development.
Skeptics Reading List: For high-school students with an enthusiasm for interrogating widely held beliefs, this reading list may be a good place to start.
Information Fluency: A significant resource of guides, videos and tutorials that assist teachers to help students develop a critical eye with regard to the information they find and read.
Over to you
I look forward to your comments if and how you had any successes in guiding your students towards more concise, personalized ideas and problem solving.