Critical Thinking, Problem Solving & Decision Making- EDTC6431

Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Decision Making

Module 4 Reflection

EDTC-6431

This week focused on interesting articles and tools having to do with critical thinking, problem solving and decision making.  I have really enjoyed the conversations/discussions with everyone this week as we all seem to be feeling more comfortable sharing and responding to one another.  I thought the tools WolframAlpha.com and Bubbl.us that we explored this week seemed like something I could add to my educator “toolbox” for future use.  The articles that we read provided great interpretations and in depth thought about technology in real life: concept mapping, project based learning and problem solving.  I think for reflection purposes I would like to focus on two of the topics from this week that made the biggest impression on me; project based learning and critical thinking.

I love the idea of project based learning (PBL) as it seems to have many of the “hands on” aspects of teaching that I hope to embrace for the future.  I was slightly taken aback with some of the conversations this week that it was too much work for the teacher or that the teacher doesn’t really participate in teaching while the project is going on. I have to say that I disagree with both thoughts.  Although there might be a lot of front-loaded work in getting the project organized and developed I don’t think PBL just lets the students free to learn all on their own.  I think through all the videos and evidence that I explored this week that teacher input, direction and guidance is very current throughout the entire process of PBL.

I found an additional article and video on Edutopia, Why Teach with Project-Based Learning?: Providing Students With a Well-Rounded Classroom Experience, that exhibited teacher involvement in all aspects of PLB.  Here, not only are the teachers in the thick of it with the students the entire project but they are engaging students and encouraging them to think further and deeper than they might without the guidance of the teacher, thus developing their critical thinking skills.  I find it even more amazing that this type of learning can happen in more than one class congruently.  For example, what students might be doing in physics might also be part of their health and fitness class.  Teachers are encouraged to work with one another developing lessons that flow from subject to subject broadening students interest in, understanding and knowledge of a subject.  It seems that PBL can reach multiple learning levels and styles.  PBL addresses the idea that the student can be a “manager and director” of what  they want to learn with a teacher there to escort them in the right direction and to help them think critically. 

Critical thinking, it seems, is the key to PBL and to becoming a lifelong learner.  You can look up the definition for critical thinking in many places and come up with something similar to this one from yourdictionary.com “The term critical thinking refers to the thought processes used to evaluate information and the practice of using such conclusions to guide behavior. The process of critical thinking is associated with accuracy, logic, depth, fairness, credibility, and intellectual clarity. The word “critical” is not used to imply negativity or pessimism, however. Critical thinking merely means that one must not automatically accept the validity of the information he or she is given.”  Through the PBL model the student is forced to think critically- to question the validity of information. The student is challenged to find information on their own or with a partner and ask additional questions.  The student is encouraged to not take the information at face value and learn it as traditional classroom have offered in the past but to question and research and process on a deeper level.  This week we explored a great tool to accompany the critical thinking process.  Bubbl.us is a tool for concept mapping.  To evaluate the way a main idea or subject is connected or related to another idea or subject is another way of developing critical thinking.  The relationship between ideas and concepts is a very powerful way of seeing the complexity and legitimacy of a given idea. Additionally, through class discussions two other tools were shared that offer a different way to create documents for idea connection and concept mapping; wordle.net and kidspiration.com

We also explored WolframAlpha.com an astounding website that provides instant answers to questions ranging from science to history, nutrition to geography and just about everything in between .  While many intriguing and well versed discussions occurred about this tool I am still perplexed as to the realistic application in the classroom.  I am left wondering if it will truly be a tool for teaching or more for research on the part of the teacher.  Although I think WolframAlpha .com could be useful to explain logical steps to a problem or provide additional information to an already researched project, I would hesitate to introduce this tool to students without clear and concise guidelines of its use.

This week was fun.  I became really excited about how, when and where I will be using these tools. I know that I am barely starting this whole process but I feel like with all the tools that we have learned about in this class that my “toolbox” is starting to fill up.  I think that each of these tools will help me to become a more successful teacher.  I do know that I hope use PBL to inspire creative and energized critical thinkers and hopefully thoughtful, future, members of society.

References:

Edutopia, (Release Date 2/28/2008), Why Teach with Project-Based Learning?: Providing Students With a Well-Rounded Classroom Experience, Edutopia, retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/project-learning-introduction

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