by Sandra L. Love, Ed.D.
The content of this article has been adjusted per the author’s original submission to clarify any confusion that might arise.
In today’s classroom, we have moved beyond teaching reading, writing and mathematics through rote memorization. We must push students to dig deeper and ask clear, thoughtful questions so they build the critical thinking skills essential for success in school, college and life. Technology has played a huge role in the development of the modern classroom, progressing from something that’s “cool” or “different” to a key piece of the critical thinking puzzle.
While technology is an important part of the education equation, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Teachers play a bigger role than ever in developing an engaging well-rounded curriculum, though integrating technology into the mix presents its own unique set of challenges. Many teachers have been reluctant to replace their print materials due to cost and dissatisfaction with the available digital options. According to the MDR 2014 State of the K–12 Market Report, there’s a growing demand for solutions that improve teaching and personalized learning and educators are willing to consider new instructional models.
So, how do we build an engaging curriculum based on the components of critical thinking, while incorporating technology into the mix – without sacrificing the basics? Here are a few tips:
Think Visual: There is a wealth of free programs that allow students to incorporate visuals into their class work. For example, programs like Easel.ly can be used to create infographics to enhance history papers or scientific experiments. Animoto, a video program that turns your pictures into video, can be used to create book reviews or book trailers, which can transform an ordinary book report into a fun and engaging multimedia experience.
Blog All About It: Journaling is a classic critical thinking instructional strategy that helps students independently deliberate on a teacher-prompted topic. Developing a class blog takes the practice of journaling one step further by fostering collaboration and teamwork. It allows students to think critically about their own learning process, while encouraging interpersonal, group learning and communications skills. Taking pictures during field trips and blogging about the experience, or documenting an in-class or school wide project such as a science or an art fair are authentic experiences that excite students about the process and spur them to examine these projects in a different light. Popular blogging platforms include WordPress and Blogger.
Integrate Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest – there is an abundance of social media options available and students seem to be interacting with all of them. The exciting thing about social media is that it can be adapted into a fun and unique learning tool. Create photo contests using Instagram and Facebook. Utilize Twitter to play word games or scavenger hunts and to create newsfeeds on particular subjects like political elections or breaking news stories. Allow multiple students to collaborate and create research boards where they pin articles and other ideas through Pinterest. The possibilities are infinite.
Dr. Sandra Love is Director of Education Insight and Research at Mentoring Minds, a national publisher of K–12 critical thinking educational resources. The company recently launched Total Motivation™, a standards-aligned, supplemental curriculum, delivered in a groundbreaking combined print-and-online solution, meaning “You Get Both” for the same price. This new instructional solution ensures teachers and students have access to high-quality content to help students meet rigorous standards and effectively build individual critical thinking skills. For more information about Mentoring Minds and its educational resources, call 800-585-5258 or visit mentoringminds.com. image attribution flickr user flickeringbrad