Gone are the days where children were expected to memorize facts and recite them at any given time. Instead, it is hoped that children will develop critical thinking skills so that they can analyze situations, think about different outcomes, and present well-reasoned conclusions. To help children develop critical thinking skills, there are some apps, tools, and resources. Here is a list of the top seven.
- Guess the Code
While this app is presented as a game, it is actually a great way for children to look at patterns and sequences, and try to figure them out. The app generates different color combinations, and it is up to the user to decipher the pattern and enter the next color.
Physics can be a daunting subject, but the new way of approaching it makes physics more of a hands-on subject that gets students to engage in problem-solving actively. SimplePhysics provides games and puzzles that test the limits of students’ critical thinking skills.
- A Clockwork Brain
This app has a range of games in such categories as memory, attention, language, reasoning, and dexterity. Critical thinking is strengthened as children must work quickly to solve the problems before moving on to more challenging puzzles.
- Civilization VI
Now in its sixth iteration, this modern computer game is not just fun; it’s actually a place for children (and adults) to use the full extent of their imagination and critical thinking skills. The game starts with the dawn of humans, and it is up to the player to help them achieve civilization through each time period. Users must decide what it takes for a culture to evolve and this is no easy task.
- Whooo’s Reading
One of the most important steps in the journey towards critical thinking is the ability to read and interact with books. Reading is more than just memorizing letter combinations. It is about understanding the motive behind characters and the importance of setting. It is about connecting plot developments with real life and making connections between the two. To help students engage more when reading, Whooo’s Reading is a program that works to connect books at a deeper level. As a result of this program, students often increase their love of reading and as a bonus, do better on reading exams.
Social media has become pervasive in today’s culture, and while platforms like Twitter and Instagram can lead to more harm than good for most youth, social media can be used to an educator’s advantage. Edmodo provides a platform for students and teachers to engage in collaborative projects that help to foster creative thinking skills. It is a tool that can be used to bring students’ ideas together.
- Highlights Every Day
This app is a nostalgic treat for anyone that eagerly awaited their monthly Highlights magazine subscription. Updated for today’s technological world, Highlights Every Day is an app that features engaging puzzles, stories, and videos.
Critical thinking should be fostered because it creates students who actively engage in the world around them. It prepares children for a world where they will become adults and will need to navigate life. Critical thinking skills can be developed in fun, creative settings through the use of these apps, tools, and resources.
Reflective Thinking: RT
| What is RT | Characteristics | RT and middle school kids | KaAMS and RT | Links | Bibliography |
What is reflective thinking?
The description of reflective thinking:
Critical thinking and reflective thinking are often used synonymously. Critical thinking is used to describe:"... the use of those cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a desirable outcome...thinking that is purposeful, reasoned and goal directed - the kind of thinking involved in solving problems, formulating inferences, calculating likelihoods, and making decisions when the thinker is using skills that are thoughtful and effective for the particular context and type of thinking task. Critical thinking is sometimes called directed thinking because it focuses on a desired outcome." Halpern (1996).
Reflective thinking, on the other hand,is a part of the critical thinking process referring specifically to the processes of analyzing and making judgments about what has happened. Dewey (1933) suggests that reflective thinking is an active, persistent, and careful consideration of a belief or supposed form of knowledge, of the grounds that support that knowledge, and the further conclusions to which that knowledge leads. Learners are aware of and control their learning by actively participating in reflective thinking – assessing what they know, what they need to know, and how they bridge that gap – during learning situations.
In summary, critical thinking involves a wide range of thinking skills leading toward desirable outcomes and reflective thinking focuses on the process of making judgments about what has happened. However, reflective thinking is most important in prompting learning during complex problem-solving situations because it provides students with an opportunity to step back and think about how they actually solve problems and how a particular set of problem solving strategies is appropriated for achieving their goal.
Characteristics of environments and activities that prompt and support reflective thinking:
- Provide enough wait-time for students to reflect when responding to inquiries.
- Provide emotionally supportive environments in the classroom encouraging reevaluation of conclusions.
- Prompt reviews of the learning situation, what is known, what is not yet known, and what has been learned.
- Provide authentic tasks involving ill-structured data to encourage reflective thinking during learning activities.
- Prompt students' reflection by asking questions that seek reasons and evidence.
- Provide some explanations to guide students' thought processes during explorations.
- Provide a less-structured learning environment that prompts students to explore what they think is important.
- Provide social-learning environments such as those inherent in peer-group works and small group activities to allow students to see other points of view.
- Provide reflective journal to write down students' positions, give reasons to support what they think, show awareness of opposing positions and the weaknesses of their own positions.
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Why is reflective thinking important?
Modern society is becoming more complex, information is becoming available and changing more rapidly prompting users to constantly rethink, switch directions, and change problem-solving strategies. Thus, it is increasingly important to prompt reflective thinking during learning to help learners develop strategies to apply new knowledge to the complex situations in their day-to-day activities. Reflective thinking helps learners develop higher-order thinking skills by prompting learners to a) relate new knowledge to prior understanding, b) think in both abstract and conceptual terms, c) apply specific strategies in novel tasks, and d) understand their own thinking and learning strategies.
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Reflective thinking and middle school kids:
- How to prompt reflection in middle school kids:
It is important to prompt reflective thinking in middle school children to support them in their transition between childhood and adulthood. During this time period adolescents experience major changes in intellectual, emotional, social, and physical development. They begin to shape their own thought processes and are at an ideal time to begin developing thinking, learning, and metacognitive strategies. Therefore, reflective thinking provides middle level students with the skills to mentally process learning experiences, identify what they learned, modify their understanding based on new information and experiences, and transfer their learning to other situations. Scaffolding strategies should be incorporated into the learning environment to help students develop their ability to reflect on their own learning. For example,
- Teachers should model metacognitive and self-explanation strategies on specific problems to help students build an integrated understanding of the process of reflection.
- Study guides or advance organizer should be integrated into classroom materials to prompt students to reflect on their learning.
- Questioning strategies should be used to prompt reflective thinking, specifically getting students to respond to why, how, and what specific decisions are made.
- Social learning environments should exist that prompt collaborative work with peers, teachers, and experts.
- Learning experiences should be designed to include advice from teachers and co-learners.
- Classroom activities should be relevant to real-world situations and provide integrated experiences.
- Classroom experiences should involve enjoyable, concrete, and physical learning activities whenever possible to ensure proper attention to the unique cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domain development of middle school students.
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How does KaAMSsupport reflective thinking?
KaAMS model of PBL and its relationship to reflective thinking:
KaAMS incorporates prompts and scaffolding suggestions to promote reflective thinking by:
- Structuring lesson plans to support reflective thinking.
- Providing lesson components that prompt inquiry and curiosity.
- Providing resources and hand-on activities to prompt exploration.
- Providing reflective thinking activities that prompt students to think about what they have done, what they learned, and what they still need to do.
- Providing reflection activity worksheets for each lesson plan to prompt students to think about what they know, what they learned, and what they need to know as they progress through their exploration.
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Links to additional information on critical and reflective thinking:
A Selected Reflective Thinking Bibliography:
- Moon, J. A. (1999). Reflection in learning and professional development: Theory and practice. London: Kogan Page.
- Halpern, D. F. (1996). Thought and knowledge: an introduction to critical thinking (3rd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates.
- Lin, X., Hmelo, C., Kinzer, C. K., & Secules, T. J (1999). Designing technology to support reflection, Educational Technology Research & Development, pp. 43-62.
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