Posts Tagged ‘critical thinking’

Teaching Children to Think for Themselves

January 7, 2020


When you look at the parochial student groups and lobbies it’s easy to assume that forming opinions comes naturally to young people.

This isn’t the case.

I would argue that for many, the positions they reach stems less from personal insight and knowledge and is more of a result of what conviction is fashionable for the time and place.

This is not ideal.

Today’s primary aged children tend not to have fixed viewpoints on most issues. They can parrot what close friends express, but it is clear they haven’t given it much thought. They can be asked for example to give their view on whether schools should have uniforms. They usually respond that they shouldn’t but then get stuck when asked to elaborate and provide reasons.

It is absolutely essential that teachers address this and show the students how to think for themselves and why introspection and knowledge really matters.

My advice for children and adults is to indulge in both sides of every viewpoint.

For example, read a book from a leading atheist and then from a leading religious thinker to determine whether you believe in a creator. Read the best book on socialism and compare that to a book advocating capitalism.

These examples are more apt for High School kids than Primary, but the idea extends to them too. That’s why debating is such a brilliant discipline. It forces one to see things from a different perspective.

And it’s not just politics. If you can see things from different perspectives you can connect better with others, forging stronger and more meaningful relationships.


Michael Grossman is the author of the hilarious new children’s book, My Favourite Comedian. You can buy a copy by clicking on this link.

Only Closed-Minded Schools Block YouTube

July 17, 2012

I have been on the record before in stating that I believe YouTube is one of the most valuable teaching and learning tools of the modern age. I have turned to YouTube to solve many a problem; such as learning new tie knots, working out which phone represents best value for money and to assist me in developing some of the features in this blog.

YouTube is brilliant for research, following procedures, guiding students and developing problem solving skills. Yet, because some of the content is unsuitable for kids, many schools choose to block YouTube. I think this is a gross overreaction. Whilst schools have the responsibility to supervise the online activity of its students, they would be best advised to allow access to YouTube with a teacher present.

Added to the benefits I have already touched on, YouTube has become a major source of where people get their news:

A new study has found that YouTube has become a major platform for news, one where viewers are turning for eyewitness videos in times of major events and natural disasters.

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism on Monday released their examination of 15 months of the most popular news videos on the Google Inc.-owned site. It found that while viewership for TV news still easily outpaces those consuming news on YouTube, the video-sharing site is a growing digital environment where professional journalism mingles with citizen content.

“There’s a new form of video journalism on this platform,” said Amy Mitchell, deputy director of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. “It’s a form in which the relationship between news organizations and citizens is more dynamic and more multiverse than we’ve seen in most other platforms before.”

More than a third of the most-watched videos came from citizens. Than more half came from news organizations, but footage in those videos sometimes incorporated footage shot by YouTube users.

Click here to read, ‘Schools Should Not Block YouTube’.

The Problem With IT in the Classroom

February 19, 2012

The problem with the wonderfully diverse technologies available to teachers is that it can sometimes breed lazy teaching. A SmartBoard doesn’t make a teacher. The challenge for teachers is not to rely on the technologies at hand, but to simply use them in conjunction with a well-developed lesson.

When reports show that computers don’t make a difference to learning, I wonder if they are really saying that teachers haven’t learned to capitalise from them yet:

Kids love using computers and gadgets in the classroom but the technology has not made them better learners, suggests a new report.

The non-profit Media Awareness Network interviewed a small sample of plugged-in elementary and high school teachers from across Canada and found there’s work to be done to better incorporate technology into schools.

The report suggests many students aren’t really as good at using the Internet as it may seem. While it’s assumed today’s kids are quick to learn how to use computers, the authors found many students are great at social media or finding something to watch on YouTube but their digital skills end there.

Teachers reported that some of their kids had a hard time effectively using search engines like Google and weren’t able to consistently sort out valuable sources from the clutter on the web.

“Digital literacy is not about technical proficiency but about developing the critical thinking skills that are central to lifelong learning and citizenship,” the report states.

The finding wasn’t particularly surprising, said Matthew Johnson, director of education for the Media Awareness Network.

“It’s something we’ve seen before but this really underlined it. I always like to draw a distinction between literacy and fluency,” he explained.

“When we watch a young person sit down on the computer and open a dozen different screens and do a dozen different things at once, we’re really seeing (digital) fluency — the same fluency that lets a 10-year-old talk a mile a minute. But it doesn’t necessarily show genuine literacy, it doesn’t show they understand what they’re doing, it doesn’t even show necessarily that they’re skilled at what they’re doing.”

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