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Part Three: Online Tools to Support Critical Thinking

You may be asking yourself: what technology is best suited to facilitating open dialogue and critical thinking for my students? In the third and final post of this blog series, I felt it was important to give you specific information regarding tools that can be used to facilitate curiosity, engagement, reflection, and all of the important components of critical thinking in the digital sphere.
An important part of using technology in your learning space is researching different options, which can include speaking to colleagues about what they are using. But for now, here are some tools you can start with that you may not have considered as good choices for encouraging reflective and engaging thinking.

Social Media Tools:

At first glance, social media tools such as Twitter, may not be seen as feasible learning tools. However, Twitter allows teachers to provide their students with a close-up view of events unfolding around the world. Following trending hashtags provides access to real-time developments near and far, while avoiding other topics that may not be relevant. Twitter allows students to connect with a global audience that shares an interest in a specific topic. It is a tool that enables learners to collaborate with peers they may not normally interact with. Because anyone can post anything anytime, Twitter and other social media sites allow us to move away from a teacher-centered, hierarchical approach to learning through the use of open, real-time dialogue.

Collaborative Writing Tools:

Collaborative writing tools, such as Edmodo, allow you to create a profile and classes as well as large or small groups using codes shared between a teacher and students. Most importantly, Edmodo is a platform for collaboration and communication and is a place for students to interact with their classmates, publish with peers, engage with learners of other cultures, and contribute to team projects. Other similar tools include Google Docs and Wikis, living documents that are constantly changing and evolving based on feedback, criticism, and contributions of learners. Online technologies such as Wikis can provide an opportunity for public performance and critique and increase a learner’s accountability for their performance while publicly offering and providing formative feedback. This is not to say that private feedback does not have its place in education, however one must consider the ways in which the exchange of ideas between groups of learners encourages student ownership over their work, engaging collaboration, clarification of ideas and concepts, and critical thinking.

Three Points to Remember:

  • Don’t get carried away with new technologies – if it doesn’t serve a purpose, don’t use it.
  • The importance lies with the pedagogy and not the technology. Tool are great, but they must be presented in appropriate contexts. Students must see the educational value of the tool they are using.
  • Just because a tool is or has been successful in certain learning contexts does not mean it will guarantee a successful learning experience for your students. It must relate to the overall pedagogy and have sound teaching practices in place.

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