Think Critically (demonstrating understanding of ethical, cultural and social implications)

Thinking critically is reframing or reflecting on the information so that we can bring new meaning to the facts or figures. John Dewey(1933) defined the nature of reflective thought as “active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusion to which it tends” Often data gets a bad name, but we can use data as facts, and then apply critical thinking to make them meaningful. Data is just a form of information, what matters is what we do with the information.

As critical thinkers we need to assess the information, then be able to apply, integrate, interpret or make meaning of the information.

Assessing Information
A Google Search on “Critical Thinking” returns 124, 000, 000 results (August 2013) and critical thinking is needed to make meaning.
We all need to learn to evaluate the information sources because
Anyone with any purpose can publish including biased or incorrect information
Quality varies
Unknown quality control
Unknown standards / No vetting process

Tools to assess information sources
1. Reading a URL Tips

When you are searching and find a site, the URL can tell you a lot about what you have found. Here are some of the basics on reading a URL. (URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator – or standard way of locating sites)

tilde – When you find a ~ in the address, it usually means that it is a personal site. While there may be restrictions on the information that a teacher or university professor publishes, there may not be. The ~ can indicate that even if it comes from a ‘reliable looking’ site, it may not be.

.com – The last period and set of letters before any / represents the type of domain. In this case it is .com which stands for .commercial. There continues to be additional domain extensions, most recently .tv and many others. Check Wikipedia for a list of Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD)

2. Evaluating Sources
Once you find a website you like, you also need to be confident that you know about the information you are getting. It can be helpful to read the URL to learn more about the source.

Who is the author?
What biases are likely in the source?
When was the source last updated?
What were previous versions of the site
Who links to the site you have found?
Do other sources verify or confirm this information?

Who is the author?
Does the page tell you who the author is? Can you confirm that this is the author?
If a page does not list the author, you can – http://www.easywhois.com
You may also try http://www.easydns.com/ – With this site you can see who owns and manages sites

What biases are likely in the source?
Is the information biased?
Is the information one-sided?
Why was the page written?
Is there advertising? Can you easily tell advertisement from content?

When was the source last updated?
Does the page display – Date Last Updated?
You can also go to the ‘way back machine’ at http://www.waybackmachine.org
If you look at SFU.ca, you can go all the way back to 1997

Who links to the site you have found?
In Google you can use the ‘site:’ command with a URL to see who links to that page.

3. Assess Alignment
Do other sources verify or confirm this information?
Does the information align with what is already know or supported with other research?
Looking for other resource for working with students validating information?

Activities for Students

When creating activities for students let’s consider creating opportunities to:

Differentiate between fact and opinion.
Examine the assumptions, including your own.
Be flexible and open minded as you look for explanations, causes, and solutions to problems.
Be aware of fallacious arguments, ambiguity, and manipulative reasoning.
Stay focused on the whole picture, while examining the specifics.
Look for reputable sources.

(http://www.library.ucsb.edu/untangle/jones.html) (Jones, 1996)

There are a host of hoax websites. Some are created in fun or jest and others are serious. These websites offer opportunity to practice assessing information validity.

ACTIVITY
Lets check out these three topics

Martin Luther King

http://www.martinlutherking.org – If you are having difficulty opening the first link (as it may be blocked) – try here for a static image

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King,_Jr.

http://www.thekingcenter.org/mlk/index.html

All Explorers:
http://www.allaboutexplorers.com

The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus
http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus.html

Making Meaning
Bernie Dodge – (webquests) promotes the following for creating questions that require increasing critical thinking.
Bernie Dodge suggest an increasing value for the following tasks in internet research.
• Retelling
• compilation
• Mystery
• Journalistic
• Design Task
• Creative Product
• Consensus building
• Persuasion
• Self-Knowledge
• Analytical
• Judgment
• Scientific

To progress to higher order thinking, we can provide questions that require higher order thinking. A Grade 7 that has to know the Ancient Egyptian Pharoah’s in order is being asked to retell. The same Grade 7 asked to tell about the second most important pharoah has to use both persuasion and judgement in their answer.

Scaffold their research. As they get better, remove some of it
Complete the table for 3 floods and determine which one was the worst.
Flood Date $$$ Damage Deaths Amount of Rain Duration

or Which Dynasty was best to live in as a commoner in China?

Dynasty Life Expectancy / Health Education Happiness

Resources

Kathy Schrock has several guides that may be of use as well. Check out – http://school.discoveryeducation.com/schrockguide/evalelem.html

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