How to teach critical thinking with educational technology

Two primary-age school students work together on an interactive display

Published: December 2nd, 2021

Critical thinking is one of the most important skills an educator can foster in their students. It gives students the ability to do more than just memorise and regurgitate a list of facts. More than that, though, it is the foundation of knowledge, giving students the ability to truly learn for life.

But critical thinking has always been a skill that educators have struggled to develop in their students. It takes an immense amount of time, resources and creativity to develop programs that foster critical thinking skills in students.

Fortunately, EdTech is making it much easier for educators to access the tools and materials they need to develop students’ critical thinking skills. One such method involves using technology to introduce critical thinking games into the classroom.  

But first, what is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to analyse information to form a reasoned judgment. It’s a skill we use every day to solve problems and make better decisions. 

It involves reflecting on an idea or problem, developing an argument, finding and using information to support your argument, applying reason, and making logical decisions based on that reasoning. 

Critical thinkers do not simply accept information at face value. They question ideas, assess different arguments, seek out more information if needed, and come to their own reasoned conclusions. 

Why is critical thinking important?

Critical thinking leads to better reasoning, problem-solving and decision making, so it’s no surprise that it’s in high demand in the workplace. According to a 2015 report by the Foundation for Young Australians, the need for critical thinking skills in new graduates rose 158% in just three years. It is an essential skill for many professions, especially those requiring reasoned problem-solving and decision-making, such as law, education, medicine, and finance. Academically, studies have also shown that critical thinking programs in schools lead to improved student thinking ability and standardised testing scores

There is also research to suggest that critical thinkers are happier and experience fewer adverse life events. Critical thinkers have been found to be better at self-reflection and at making reasoned decisions. As such, they’re less likely to make poor decisions that may have negative consequences, such as missing an important exam or drunk driving.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, these skills set students up for life. Critical thinking encourages children to be curious about the world, enhances creativity, builds independence, and helps kids deal with problems and make better decisions. 

How to teach kids critical thinking

Critical thinking is an important skill that will see a child through their entire lives. If you’re wondering how to teach children critical thinking, you might consider incorporating a few of the following activities into your lessons:

Brainstorming activities

Brainstorming is an excellent critical thinking exercise, helping students to make connections between different ideas, weigh up the pros and cons of different solutions, and share ideas with other students.

Quizzes and questions

Give students a chance to apply what they’ve learned by asking lots of questions, especially open-ended ones. Answering questions also requires students to problem-solve on the spot and explain their reasoning in front of their peers.

Decision-making activities

Decision-making is an important activity for honing critical thinking skills. It gives students opportunities to apply what they’ve learned to different situations, analyse a range of possible solutions and choose which ideas work best.

Team activities

Group projects and discussions give students exposure to the ideas and thinking processes of their peers. Group work shows students that there are many different ways to analyse and solve a problem.

Ask students to make connections

Give your students different scenarios and situations to help them connect ideas and apply knowledge to new contexts. This enables them to explore ideas and how they may apply to different situations. 

Get creative

Seek out new ways for students to use information to create something new, such as creating art, writing a story or poem, or inventing a game. 

Technology and critical thinking

A Cambridge University Press study found that while 93% of educators believed it was essential to teach students critical thinking skills, only 21% agreed that they had all the materials needed to develop these skills. 

When one considers this obstacle, there is a solid argument for using technology to promote higher-order thinking skills. Technology makes it easy to introduce highly engaging critical thinking games into the classroom, with research showing that critical thinking games for kids can enhance learning

Critical thinking games

You can use EdTech to introduce your students to games to improve critical thinking. Three popular critical thinking puzzles and games are:

Minecraft

Minecraft: Education Edition allows students to explore real-world issues in a digital environment. Students can apply research, creativity and problem-solving skills by designing and building their own Minecraft worlds and solving real-world problems. 

Games like this encourage students to make connections between what they’ve learned in the classroom and real-world scenarios. For instance, educators in the UK designed a game called Mission Earth. The game required students to design and build a sustainable home and apply what the students had learned about climate change and sustainability to the situation at hand.

Critical thinking skills: connection building, decision-making, teamwork and collaboration

MindMeister

MindMeister is an online platform that allows students to record and share ideas in a visual mind map. Students can share their thoughts and opinions with their peers and collaborate with others in real time. 

Mind-mapping gives students the opportunity to present their ideas and opinions to their peers while also requiring them to consider the unique perspective of others. Collaborating on a mind map with a peer helps children understand and analyse different arguments and perspectives and better understand how various topics relate to one another. 

Critical thinking skills: brainstorming, connection building, analysis, teamwork and collaboration

Socrative

Socrative is an app that educators can use to create quizzes and polls. It’s a relatively straightforward game, but quizzing your students is a great way to get them thinking, reasoning and applying their knowledge to different scenarios. Even better, ask your students to explain why they chose the answer they chose. This will help them practice presenting their ideas to others.

Critical thinking skills: applying knowledge, reasoning, analysis

How to combine technology and critical thinking in your classroom

There’s no doubt that critical thinking is one of the most important skills an educator can foster in a student. Not only will it help a student better engage with content in the classroom, but it also sets them up for a lifetime of learning. 

One of the most effective methods of developing these critical thinking skills in children is by leveraging EdTech tools to introduce critical thinking games and puzzles into the classroom. 

A great way to integrate edtech into the classroom is through an interactive display, namely the Promethean ActivPanel. There are apps for screen mirroring and sharing so students can play on their own devices while viewing the score on the panel screen. They can also answer quiz or game questions and see the results on the classroom panel. 


To see how Promethean can help integrate cutting-edge education technology into your classroom, get in touch with one of our experts for a free consultation and a virtual demo of the Promethean ActivPanel.

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