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4 ways to update critical thinking skills for a massively digital world

E-School News – Jennifer Conroy

“Faced with a flood of information, we are challenged to evaluate and make sense of what we see and read, especially in the digital world. Parents, students, educators, and employers all have a stake in meeting this challenge through the use of critical thinking skills. It is vital that people develop the ability to analyze the information they encounter online and assess whether they can trust the sources behind the content.”(more)

Preparing kids to change the rules

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

U.S. children are less creative than they were 30 years ago. Many people attribute this decline in inventiveness to over-scheduling of organized activities and emphasis on high-stakes testing and rote learning. These factors may be part of the reason children are unimaginative, but minimal exposure to “failure” and limited life experiences also keep U.S. kids from reaching their full creative potential.

To create, a person must be comfortable “failing” because “trial and error” is part of the innovative process. Many U.S. children are uncomfortable with “failure” because they have little exposure to it. In many cases, well-intentioned parents shield their kids from life’s tough lessons, because it is easier to solve problems for their children than to spend the time and energy necessary to help their children learn how to solve problems on their own.

Among other things, parents negotiate with coaches to get their children places on the best teams rather than encouraging their kids to work hard and talk with the coaches themselves. Parents talk with principals to negotiate grades rather than forcing their children to take responsibility for their performance. Too frequently, parents complain about “bullying” when another kid says something unkind on the playground rather than teaching their children how to overcome negativity.

As a result, the first thing parents need to do is set expectations and let their children learn by doing. This requires letting go and being available to coach as their children work to recover from life’s setbacks. Through this process children learn that there are consequences to actions, “failure” is a part of life, and success requires perseverance. Specifically, when things don’t work perfectly the first time, one can make adjustments until “failure” becomes “success”.

Another problem is parents are so worried about safety, that kids are isolated. This means children often lack the exposure required to come up with innovative solutions to a problem. Parents can easily address this issue by encouraging their children to take on activities outside of their peer group. Simple undertakings like participating in discussions with adults, welcoming a foreign exchange student, attending a history lecture, teaching a class, volunteering at the hospital, or working on a special project for a politician, all help broaden exposure.

Once children know how to recover from “failure” and have a broad understanding of how the world works, they should have the skills and the self-confidence to innovate.

Is school too shallow?

The Christian Science Monitor – Stacy Teicher Khadaroo

“There’s an essential skill not being taught enough in classrooms today, say a growing number of American educators. That skill is thinking. “Most teachers never really ask students to think very deeply…. Most of what is assigned and tested are things we ask students to memorize,” writes Karin Hess, president of Educational Research in Action in Underhill, Vt., and an expert on assessment, in an email to the Monitor. As people fret about politicians unwilling to compromise or business owners unable to find qualified workers, a common underlying problem is this “dearth of critical thinking skills,” says William Gormley, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University and author of ‘The Critical Advantage: Developing Critical Thinking Skills in School.'”(more)

Teaching kids to think critically is crucial for their future

The Toronto Star – Isabel Teotonio

“This way of teaching is part of a new focus at the school on getting kids to think critically — an approach that’s increasingly being adopted by educators in Canada and abroad, says Garfield Gini-Newman, the senior consultant with the non-profit group the Critical Thinking Consortium. In this era of increased automation, fake news and where virtually everything is Googleable, teaching kids to think critically is more important than ever, he says, particularly if Canada hopes to compete in a knowledge-based economy. Schools have traditionally been “knowledge factories,” with information pumped in to students and an expected answer coming out when tested, explains Gini-Newman, who’s also an associate professor at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. But in recent years, there’s been a shift away from that model to one in which kids problem solve with others — in large part, because of technology.”(more)

College may no longer be necessary, high quality K-12 education is

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

Even though psychologists have been talking about a lack of correlation between college degrees, course grades, and job performance for decades, most companies continue to rely on these credentials and marks to make hiring decisions.

In the past couple of years, however, a few companies have broken rank. Google, a Fortune 500 technology firm, and Ernst and Young U.K., part of one of the world’s largest accounting firms, have publicly announced they no longer require college degrees for employment.

Google’s chairman said the company is more interested in an applicant’s skills, ability to think in a logical way, work ethic, breadth of experience, public speaking abilities, and creativity. Ernst and Young said they are interested in talented individuals regardless of background.

This transformation is due, in large part, to free access of information through the Internet. Over five years ago Bill Gates, a founder of Microsoft, suggested that traditional university education, especially at fixed-place institutions will no longer be necessary, since most of the content will be available online for free.

The college experience is under additional pressure, because college costs are rising at a rate higher than inflation and a college degree no longer guarantees a solid middle-class income. In fact, the College Risk Report (collegeriskreport.com) suggests that the rate of return on most four-year college degrees is worse than 2-year degrees and in some instances worse than no degree at all.

There is a small group of students who receive full ride scholarships to attend college. For these students, the costs are so low that the four-year degree makes financial sense.

Some people assert that college is an excellent place to make contacts. This may be a valid claim for students who are outgoing and takes advantage of all the clubs, speakers, professors, and research opportunities available at a school, but is probably not the case for most students who meet few people outside their dorms and classes.

Without a traditional college education, strong K-12 schooling is imperative since this will be where kids learn basic skills, hone public speaking abilities, refine creative thinking, and develop logical problem solving capabilities. Work ethic can be developed at school, home or in extra-curricular activities like sports. Breadth of experience can occur at school or through outside clubs and activities.

This new employment paradigm suggests we need to worry more about high quality K-12 education and less about college.

All Students Can Find Power in Thinking Like Computer Scientists

KQED News Mind/Shift – Katrina Schwartz

“In recent years there’s been a lot of emphasis on teaching kids computer science both in high school and at much younger ages. Computers are an integral part of schools and workplaces; many educators and parents believe learning to code is now a skill akin to learning to write. And as employers recognize that American students aren’t graduating with the skills they need at their companies, there has been a push for more science, technology, engineering and math courses. Computer science has sparked a lot of excitement as a field where well-paid jobs will exist in the future.”(more)