Critical Thinking: Are you helping your students build it?

A key component of 21st century learning skills is critical thinking.  Critical thinking can be defined by these competencies:  being able to recognize problems, find workable solutions to such problems, gathering (and filtering) information, interpreting data, evaluating evidence and statements, drawing logical connections and conclusions, and testing such conclusions.  It’s really quite fascinating to watch students unravel problems.  Often times, fallacies in logic are glaringly clear, highlighting how we need to be sure to teach students how to critically think.  I came across an excellent resource on critical thinking, especially as it relates to web literacy skills.  Developed by Microsoft and Bing, it does include some ‘commercial’ content – i.e. highlighting how Bing supports effective web research – but also includes a number of valid, relevant resources on critical thinking.  Here are a few good resources shared:

  • Crap Detection 101:  A Stanford professor reviews the challenges of web literacy and research and provides guidelines and tools for meeting them.
  • ”Teaching Zack to Think ” Groundbreaking 1998 essay by Alan November, senior partner and founder of November Learning, on Internet lies and why we need to teach students how to think critically as web researchers.  Includes instructions for using the “Wayback Machine” to access outdated links in the original article.
  •  A resource for teachers that includes excellent lesson plans on how to distinguish between premises and conclusions and explanations and arguments, how to build a better argument, and how to detect arguments that are used to deceive or mislead.
  • Backlink Watch enables you to check the quantity and quality of backlinks (links to a site), which is one indicator of a site’s validity.
  • Elementary CCs for Evaluating Internet Sites.  A checklist of more than 22 questions to ask about a website.

The resource also shares some developmentally appropriate lessons/activities for all age/grade levels, introducing students to critical thinking via web literacy.  I would recommend checking out the free resource.