Scientists, doctors and educators have been saying for years that technology is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it reduces the amount of time spent on laborious tasks and computations but on the other hand technology has proven to interfere with the development of critical thinking. Before taking this premise as a foregone conclusion, it is necessary to understand why they believe this, and if it can be substantiated, how can the situation be rectified? Here are some thoughts on the matter.
What Is Critical Thinking?
First, it is necessary to understand just what critical thinking is in order to see why it is so important. A brief definition would be that critical thinking is that which seeks to assess and analyse a given set of data in order to make a judgement and restructure that data for relevant use. Say that again? In other words, a critical thinker is someone who can form logical conclusions on how to use the information provided.
So What’s the Big Problem?
This is something society is sorely lacking. Our students can use any computer out there but when asked “Why?” they just don’t know! They’ve learned to use programs that take them from A to Z without ever knowing why those other 24 steps were taken and how those steps impact the results. Without understanding how that program got from A to Z, they will never be able to function outside technology.
A good example would be to take GPS away from today’s travellers. Would they be able to navigate complex routes by using just a paper map? Many aren’t able to do that and the sheer number of people asking for directions en route are the proof in the pudding. Why would I want to go east when I am heading west? Perhaps they don’t see the logic of avoiding a mountain range in the dead of winter. It takes critical thinking to assess the situation, analyse alternatives and find ways to put it all together to get where they are going safely.
Games that Encourage Critical Thinking
Whether you are an educator or a parent seeking to foster critical thinking, there are a number of wonderful games on the market that can stimulate that area of the brain where critical thinking transpires. Puzzles are always good for this reason as it is necessary to assess what has been done, analyse what needs to be placed and then reconstruct to form a whole.
Wooden puzzles are always a good thing to have on hand as they are durable and can be used over long periods of time in a classroom setting. Some of these can even be custom ordered to have complex pictures that will not be easy to piece together and thematic in terms of lessons being taught – interdisciplinary so to speak.
Any game that forces a student to think in terms of a stepwise progression is one that can be utilised to encourage critical thinking. If society has any hope of a ‘logical’ future, it is incumbent upon parents and educators alike to recognize the inherent value in this mental process in order to foster it in our children, tomorrow’s adults.