8 Ways to Develop Critical Thinking Skills with EdTech

by | Dec 26, 2016

Educational technologies, or edtech, has revolutionized the classroom by improving learning efficiency and efficacy. Used wisely, edtech can help students develop vital critical thinking skills by changing the fundamental paradigms of education. Here are eight specific ways edtech can help students develop their critical thinking faculties.

1. Staying Tuned In

One of the biggest advantages to integrating edtech in the classroom is the ability to keep students engaged in the material. Teachers constantly struggle to keep students with unique learning styles all tuned in.

Edtech allows the same lesson to appeal to every student in the room in a slightly different way–moving graphics for visual learners, for example, or tactile puzzles for kids who need to think by doing. A lesson plan making the most of edtech might include a video lecture, a discussion on a virtual forum, and even an educational computer game.

2. Polling the Class

Every teacher and professor knows the struggle of asking a question to the class and hearing nothing but crickets in response. Clickers designed for in-class use by companies like Turning Technologies provide another avenue for class engagement.

Clickers allow instructors to poll students directly. Everybody has to answer but nobody has to take center stage. The results of the poll can help instructors determine if a lesson has been mastered or if it needs more work. It also keeps students on task.

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3. Defending Answers

Once an instructor has students answering questions, they can help students develop their critical thinking skills by making them defend their answers. A math teacher, for example, can poll the class on the answer to a given problem. Then the teacher can select a correct answer from a particular student and ask that student to explain how he or she got there.

This gives other pupils the chance to learn from their peers and encourages the demonstrating student to articulate their intellectual process. The same process could be implemented using a discussion forum on a learning management platform like Blackboard.

4. Immediate Feedback

Everyone with a college education knows the phenomenon of cramming for an exam and then immediately forgetting all the content a day later. Edtech can improve retention by giving students instant feedback. Online learning platforms like Blackboard and Moodle are great for this because they allow instant grading of tests and quizzes.

A history exam, for example, can become a learning experience when the software corrects students as they go. This makes students more likely to remember correct answers and encourages them to study harder next time.

5. Class Debates

In-class debates are excellent critical thinking exercises, but in traditional classrooms they can absorb huge chunks of class time while involving only a few students. With edtech, teachers can get every student involved in the discussion by requiring them to post on message boards or even record short video or audio clips. The process is more efficient and students can respond to one another’s arguments while defending their own points.

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6. Seeing Others’ Work

Collaborative discussions and cooperative problem-solving are also easily facilitated with edtech. Science students can look over each other’s write-ups, for example, or math students can see how the class’s best student solved a tough equation. This provides inspiration to work harder and also helps students cultivate a larger problem-solving “toolbox” with multiple approaches to every challenge.

A great example of this feature in motion is Khan Academy’s math video clips, which displays teachers working through problems on a virtual blackboard. The video example below covers quadratic functions.

7. Critical Thinking Skills and Multiple Perspectives

A crucial critical thinking skill is developing the understanding that there are multiple solutions to many problems. Some approaches to a given problem may make more sense to one student than others, so giving students the chance to see others work and play with alternative approaches is vital.

With virtual desktops, students working on computers halfway around the world can watch each other’s screens for new ideas.

8. Organized Knowledge

Last but not least, ed tech offers a much more convenient and intuitive approach to organizing knowledge for easy access and learning.

Since related concepts can be grouped together and hyperlinked in clusters within educational software, it’s easy for students to navigate interrelated ideas.

A history student, for example, can easily jump from information about the Spanish-American War to the roots of American imperialism. That kind of integration makes research less tedious and helps students see the big picture. Online textbooks have already started to advance this technology, making use of sophisticated hyperlinks and word clouds.

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