Thinking (and googling) critically

4 Jun

To be honest… I procrastinated this blog post. A lot.

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Every time I sat down to write it, I was completely stuck where to go.  Our second class debate of whether schools should not focus on teaching things that can be googled, had me doubting my opinion. My pre-debate vote was that I disagreed, but after watching the opening statements of the agree group Nicole, Channing & Jodie, I found myself totally agreeing with every statement they said! Then, Catherine, Amanda, and Shelby, came back with their opening statement, and I again, found myself agreeing with everything they said. How was this happening?!

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Both groups presented valid arguments to start, and the counter arguments and discussion to follow with our class had me still flip flopping, and to be honest confused at times who was on which side. There were so many similar points — students need to think critically, be able to navigate a fake news world, and learn in new and exciting ways, which we as teachers, need to create beyond our traditional four classroom walls.

One of the points the disagree group brought up that I agree with, is that memorization can be an important part of building higher thinking skills for kids. Now I’m not talking about the “memorizing” I did studying last minute (procrastination…it’s never changed) for my University exams, which only stayed briefly in my brain, but the repetitions required for spelling, writing, basic math, and even physical activity. With a last name like Rosenkranz, I probably practiced spelling my last name hundreds of times before I could remember it. My mom eventually made up a song to help me learn…and I was finally about to remember it. How did you learn to tie your shoes? Catch a ball? Times tables? Most likely through a lot of repetition, which ultimately committed this to memory. Now I am not naiive that many learners struggle with memorization, but with proper supports and adaptations, students can still practice recall skills.

Even in our ever-changing world of technology, repetition will continue to be an important part of building skills to a mastery level in any subject area. I’ve said this before, but when we think about building our students digital citizenship abilities, they need the opportunity to practice these skills, we can’t just assume they will get this knowledge at home, and when it comes to this debate, we can’t just assume our students will get this knowledge from google. The need for digital citizenship to be taught in schools tells me this. Our students will always need the opportunity to practice, explore, and navigate in a safe, guided space regardless of what the content is.

Questioning the content that we teach and the existence of curriculum at all, was also brought up last week. I keep thinking about this, and how I really do feel a need for changes in our archaic education system, but I don’t think eliminating curriculum is what is needed. If we truly want students to be able to think critically, as both groups suggested, we need content for them to think critically about. One of the articles the disagree group shared, talked about critical thinking and how to using technology to support it. Some of the skills it talks about that critical thinkers are able to do are:

  • Communication
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis
  • Problem-solving
  • Evaluation
  • Reflection

Without content… how can one do any of these things? Yes students can find their own content that interests them through google, but students are not trained to set up learning activities in which they could analyze content, vs. choose content more suited to synthesize. This is why teachers exist! Like I talked about in my last blog post about why technology enhances learning, teachers play a vital role, and cannot and should not be replaced with technology. As teachers, we can do a better job to choose more interesting, new, and relevant content, and perhaps many of our old curriculums could be updated (is Shakespeare really necessary still?), and that is truly the beauty of google – we have so much more access to resources beyond an old tattered textbook.

We need to be there to help guide our students through the learning journey they are on, and prepare them to continue this journey on their own for the rest of their lives. Yes, that means we need to teach differently then we were taught, and we need to use the plethora of information available to us and our students. But I truly believe our students are not ready to dive into this vast sea of information alone. We need to set up learning opportunities, and build skills that prepare students to not only choose their own content – but to be digitally saavy, media literate, critical thinkers of the 21st century.

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