I am currently researching effective lessons to promote critical thinking in the classroom using technology. Any information or examples K-12 would be greatly appreciated. I am a school improvement specialist and continually hear this request from teachers within the school districts I support. Would appreciate your examples and ideas!


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Hi Mary,
I don't teach K-12 at the moment but have for many years. I am currently an online instructor in teacher credential programs at the college level. But I am passionate about the topic of critical thinking using technology. In particular, I like to use online discussion boards for in-depth inquiry. If you have a good discussion forum software (I use eCollege and Blackboard but you might try Ning or Wikispaces if you don't have these options) you can set up discussions that get very detailed. I use asynchronous discussions boards within a 1 week time frame. I set up several topic threads and give my students specific instructions on how to post their subtopics. All students are required to read the other threads and respond to at least 3 (or whatever is appropriate) others. I end up with dozens of threads that get in-depth on specific subtopics. The quality of participation is better than in real time because people think more before they write than before they talk. People are less intimidated to participate. My students say it is more useful than on-the-ground discussion.
Hi Denise,
Thank you for the response. Ning and Wikispaces are great resources. Your ideas will be extremely helpful and I agree that they could be equally effective in the K-12 classrooms. I appreciate the response!!

Following Denise's ideas, you will soon be able to use Google Wave. It is a very intersting tool to handle this kind of debate. It integrates the e-mail, messenger, forum, etc in the same tool. All users can add videos, photos, and other things. I think the students will like the resources and you will have a powerful tool to keep the debates up.


Marcelo Rodrigues
I could have written your first sentence. We should talk. And... have you read Roland Case's article "Preconceptions of Thinking"? You can find it here, third or fourth one down. It's great for guiding a discussion about critical thinking!
Sorry, the title is Preconceptions of Critical Thinking.
I've taught gifted kids for 25 years (this is my last) so I've focused on critical thinking for years--here's several random thoughts:

1. A good critical thinking activity is to look at the validity of websites, that topic has been discussed here at length

2. Here are our IEP Goals to develop critical thinking---it would certainly be easy to develop activities and curriculum units with these goals as a foundation.

After 36 weeks of instruction, given instruction in a content area, the student will complete activities requiring analysis, interpretation, synthesis, and evaluation of information.
Criteria: 80% accuracy on at least 5 activities

After 36 weeks of instruction, given a relevant simulation, the student will analyze and interpret evidence, reach a conclusion, and communicate his/her findings, supporting the conclusion with reasoned arguments.
Criteria: Complete simulation and self evaluate using a rubric

After 36 weeks of instruction, given a real world issue, the student will gather relevant information, evaluate arguments, reach a well-reasoned conclusion, and present his/her solution to an authentic audience.
Criteria: 80% or above on a rubric, evaluated by an outside source

3. Here are our technology goals that focus on using technology to enhance critical thinking, problem solving and decision making (taken from the NETS standards):

After 36 weeks of instruction, given the appropriate digital tools and resources, the student will use critical thinking skills to navigate in virtual environments such as electronic books, simulation software, and websites in order to make informed decisions on the use of available resources for various products.
Criteria: Complete checklist that outlines the uses/capabilities of each digital tool/resource

After 36 weeks of instruction, using the appropriate digital tools and resources, the student will use problem solving skills to describe and illustrate a content-related concept or process using a model, simulation, or concept mapping software.
Criteria: 80% on rubric on product

After 36 weeks of instruction, using the appropriate digital tools and resources, the student will practice critical thinking processes by designing curriculum-specific simulations using various technological resources for an appropriate audience.
Criteria: 80% on self-evaluation rubric on simulation.

4. Do you know the work of Andrew Church at Educational Origami? He has taken Bloom's taxonomy and made it digital. Now you can rate all digital projects--blogs, wikis, searching, powerpoint etc using rubrics based on higher level and critical thinking.

5. Someone mentioned ning as a discussion forum. FYI it's a wonderful option but you have to be 13 years old.

Now that a bunch of random thoughts!!!
A basic understanding of logic is necessary to be able to read critically and write with coherence. Good critical thinking follows rules of logic to observe, interpret, apply, and revise ideas or problems. Check out these rules of logic and a great list with examples of fallacious reasoning:

I completed my masters thesis on this topic, specifically using Lego Mindstorms NXT to promote and develop grade 4's ability for critical thinking. If you have access to such a kit, I'd be happy to share the activities I used for the classroom.
I have a classroom set of NXT Legos, we're starting to use them this week with 5th grade. I'd love to see what you have done. I got the Legos from a grant and have written about 4 other Lego grants over the last 15 years--this turned out to be the best grant for two reasons--I finally committed to TWO students per kit (three is too many) and I bought the Carnegie Mellon curriculum. It is pricey but well worth it. We got more out of our study than at any time in the past.



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