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Making Meaning – Critiquing Reality Using Web 2.0 to Foster Critical Thinking

This webinar explored the underpinnings of critical thinking, asking three questions:

Is it developmental?
How do we know when we see it?
Can it be measured?

A website that provides perspective about the developmental aspect is Kids on the Net: Critical Thinking Skills for Web Literacy – An Analysis of What Kids Should Know about Cyberspace. This site explains the development of cognitive, emotional, moral, and psychological issues of different children’s age groups. Their resources show that learning critical thinking should address these issues in a developmental way, building skills step by step.

There are quite a few different models/definitions/attributes of critical thinking that attempt to make it possible to observe it in action. Every description depended on the discipline it came from, i.e. psychology, philosophy, educational theory, etc. Here are some of the exemplary websites:

Discussion and Model of Critical Thinking from Ed Psyc Interactive
Model of Information Seeking and Critical Thinking from Baltimore County Public Schools
Partnership for 21st Century Skills and Critical Thinking

How are we to deal with the issue of standardized testing and the teaching of critical thinking? In an ERIC abstract (ED312622) of “Literacy and Critical Thinking: The NAEP Literacy Studies and What We Are Not Teaching about ‘Higher Reasoning Skills,” by Craig Walton (1989,) the author states that the elements of synthesis or summary, analysis or problem solving, argumentation, and experimentation are skills that seem to be lacking in students. He sees a correlation of that lack with educators’ ignorance of those higher skills and how to teach them. That was quite an indictment, and worth challenging.

Socratic questioning is a way of helping students face the issue of critical thinking. The questioning can be used first by the teacher, and as the students start to become more aware of  how the questions help their thinking, the students can begin questioning each other and themselves. This website from Northern Illinois University Consortium for Problem-Based Learning provides the foundational precepts and a matrix of exemplary questions.

Web 2.0 has been called the Read/Write Web. That is because you become an active participant, not just a passive viewer – You interact with the information. How does this help critical thinking? By the fact that people make comments. All of the following websites provide examples of ways that teachers can provide students examples of commenting that they can see, critique and respond to.

Comments about places to stay:
http://www.tripadvisor.com/

A “safe” current event website that kids can practice making comments:
http://tweentribune.com/

International Movie DataBase – using movie reviews and forums as examples of critique:
http://www.imdb.com/

Going beyond the Wikipedia articles and looking at the discussion and history of the content:
http://www.wikipedia.org/

Responding to visual examples:
http://www.flickr.com/

Commenting both textually and visually:
http://voicethread.com/#home

Finally, any blog or wiki could be used to help kids learn and practice discourse and critique, as well as the Gallery, Discussion and Chat in Studywiz.

Measuring critical thinking can be a wicked problem, depending on what you are looking for. Perhaps you can develop small rubrics based on your deconstruction of pertinent elements of critical thinking. In that manner students could review or make comments based on individual aspects of critical thinking skills on which they are focused. Here is a higher education rubric for critical thinking that can be used as a reference for ideal goals. And here is another that has been used for higher education and business with a rationale as well. An accompanying document from Insight Assessment proposes that there are dispositions as well as skills involved in critical thinking and provides self-reflective questions.

Just to be provocative, here is a quote from a recent article to think about:


“DEMOCRATIC THINKING REQUIRES THE PURSUIT OF MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES

Much as Darwin’s theory of natural selection depends on genetic variation, any
theory of democracy depends on a multiplicity of ideas. It is the responsibility of
the citizenry, the media, and the schools to safeguard the expression of those
ideas. Schools have particular responsibilities in this regard. Healthy critical
analysis is one hallmark of a mature democracy, and educators have a responsi-
bility to create learning environments that help to realize these ideals. There are
many varied and powerful ways to teach children and young adults to engage
critically – to think about social policy issues, participate in authentic debate
over matters of importance, and understand that intelligent adults can have
different opinions. Indeed, democratic progress depends on these differences.”

“No Child Left Thinking: Democracy at Risk in Canadian Schools,” Joel Westheimer; CANADIAN EDUC ATION , Spring 2010; Canada Education Association; p 5-8