When it comes to teaching creatively we use both the heart and the mind in equal measure. ..
Advancements in technology have immensely revolutionized the classroom. Thanks to the Internet and improved digital media, teachers now have a plethora of resources available to them to enhance the overall learning experience.
The digital media resources that teachers will want to use will, of course, depend on the level of learning being taught as well as the overall teaching goals.
For now, let's explore some truly awesome digital media resources that enhance learners' critical thinking. Some of these are aimed at younger students, while others can be used even at the college level of teaching.
MindMeister encourages critical thinking by getting students to develop various perspectives on the subject being taught. The goal is to have them think about the subject matter from different angles, which allows them to see the whole picture rather than just a few facts. There are many ways to grade students based on their mind mapping critical thinking skills.
Teachers will want to assess students' abilities to use proper grammar in the mind maps, as well as their ability to create short summaries. Also, any information input into the mind maps needs to be fact-checked by the teacher to ensure the student conducted appropriate research, and is accurately seeing the topic being taught from different angles.
Neo K12: Flow Chart Games
Neo K12 is one of the digital media resources that's especially advantageous to science teachers. It gives students an optimal opportunity to use their critical thinking skills when studying topics related to life sciences and the human body.
The flowchart game allows students to look at various stages of a process and then be tested on what they learned. For example, if a student is learning about photosynthesis, a flowchart quiz can be initiated that requires the student to drag and drop the different stages of the photosynthesis process in the correct order. In addition to simply dragging and dropping, it is advised to have students perform online research and create a summary of each process stage.
Sharing Work Across the Internet
Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook are all excellent digital media resources that are ideal for sharing work socially. When sharing work socially, students can grade one another's work and provide positive criticism. Anna Divinsky encouraged her students to share work socially and even developed a massive open online course to facilitate the process. Her course ended up amassing over 58,000 students.
When sharing work on Twitter, hashtags are important so that students can see who is interested in having their works graded by a peer. On Facebook work will, of course, need to be uploaded to a fan or business page that has been created specifically for grading one another's work. On Flickr, which is especially ideal for critiquing one another's artwork, a simple tag that is consistent among all students taking part in the social sharing grading process will need to be created.
Medium is jam-packed with content that can be used to encourage critical thinking. Students will have access to content produced by bloggers from all across the globe. Even better is that teachers can have students create their own blogs and publish content to share with the public and other students.
Requiring students to keep a blog is an effective way to introduce them to the world of embedding hyperlinks and images. It also helps them become familiar with knowing how to properly cite digital sources. Teachers should avoid requiring students to blog on a daily basis. If they do, then blogging becomes more of a chore instead of an outlet to express themselves. Requiring students to update their blog once a week is a good idea, and many times teachers will find that their students end up exceeding this once-a-week quota.
LinkedIn for Students
This digital media powerhouse is a valuable platform for students to take advantage of. The sooner they create an online profile on LinkedIn, the better. Not only does it give them the opportunity to network with highly reputable sources including CEOs and other business professionals, it allows them to create an online portfolio of their accomplishments as they go through school. Upon graduating from high school, they will have a portfolio that can greatly boost their career opportunities.
Vocabulary teachers will really love Discovery's Puzzlemaker tool. It provides young students with a fun and exciting way to study and learn vocabulary. The tool can greatly enhance learners' critical thinking skills by allowing students to create:
- Customized word searches
- Letter tile puzzles
- Hidden message games
This digital media resource is ideal for college-level students. There are a variety of themes to be explored in Second Life, including in-game economics, online community building, and online identity. One of the best things about this tool is that it allows students to meet virtually with one another and their professors without ever having to set foot in a classroom.
A quick online search gives teachers access to a massive world of virtual reality resources that can be used to enhance learners' critical thinking skills. Take for example the Global Kids program, which is hosted in New York City. This program offers an Online Leadership Program that helps teens learn about global issues. By teaming up with a game design company, teens were able to create a virtual reality game that addressed poverty in Haiti.
10 of the best virtual reality apps that teachers can use to enhance learners' critical thinking skills in the classroom include:
- Public Speaking VR
- Apollo 11 VR
- Anatomy 4D
- King Tut VR
- EON Experience
- Titans of Space
Last but not least, we have Skype. This digital media resource has been around for years and it continues to prove itself as a valuable asset in the classroom. It provides students and teachers with a platform to stay connected outside of the classroom, which is especially beneficial when students need extra help studying for a quiz or exam. This tool provides ways for groups to work collaboratively with one another and use their critical thinking skills when working on group projects.
All of the digital media resources outlined above are but a few of the best tools available to teachers to help enhance learners' critical thinking skills. Also, pick up a copy of our Critical Thinking Companion, an amazing resource of activities, ideas and rubrics to help you quickly build capacity in your learners.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published May 18, 2018, updated September 19, 2021