Posts Tagged ‘education’

 The internet is no longer a new thing, and with the explosion in internet traffic and most recently, social networking media — the pace at which data about everything circulates amongst everyone is faster than ever before. The internet is a powerful medium for exchanging information, and as Carol MacKnight writes for EDUCAUSE, is a perfect tool for education and encouraging learning and critical thinking:

Online communication offers the potential for collaboration as well as increased participation in the learning process, reflection, peer tutoring, monitoring of student learning as it is taking place, and extension of the classroom learning.

 Online forums, internet blogs (such as this), and social networking sites provide the venue for discussing ideas, debating arguments, and promoting advocacies. It does not come without a price though: the more information at the disposal of users, the more it demands from the users of that information. MacKnight is quick to point out (bold emphasis mine):

However, online communication puts emphasis on students’ comprehension and knowledge of the elements of an argument and thus on how to interact with ideas and each other in a meaningful way. We cannot assume that all students will come with sufficient critical thinking skills to advance an online discussion, nor can we assume that faculty have sufficient skills and practice in monitoring discussions or skills in creating productive communities of online learners. Both may need support and training.

Read the rest of MacKnight’s insightful article here.

Meantime, we join Carol MacKnight’s call in supporting and promoting critical thinking online as a tool for education.

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On the Learning Support page of the University of Tasmania:

“Little evidence of critical thinking” is a frequent comment on student essays.

But what is critical thinking, or critical analysis? Briefly, critical thinking means thinking well and applying sound intellectual standards to your thinking. It involves self-evaluation, thinking about your thinking, and being sure that you are not jumping to conclusions. You should be prepared to consider all aspects of an issue before making up your mind, and to avoid letting personal bias or prejudice interfere with your reasoning. Critical thinking is important for most academic tasks, including reading, tutorial discussions, written assignments and exam answers.

The web page includes excellent pointers on what critical thinkers should consider, different modes of critical thinking, playing devil’s advocate, and developing a conceptual framework when tackling an issue or idea.

We are happy to see schools espouse critical thinking around the world.

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Critical thinking has always been around but it’s good that schools are actively espousing the discipline.

From the University of Canberra’s page on Critical Thinking:

Critical thinking as a generic skill for life.

The skills that you develop at university in critical thinking will support you in your future professional lives. Professionals constantly need to make decisions based on critical thinking, to evaluate processes and outcomes, and to reflect upon their practice.

Good critical thinkers make good professionals.

In the end, that’s why you are at university.

The insightful page has further tips on how to develop a critical mind, as well as useful techniques on how to read and write critically.

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Intelligence = How To Make The Rules, Wisdom = When To Break The Rules

Barry Schwartz calls for a return to practical reasoning or wisdom using the example of hospital janitors. Quoting Aristotle: practical wisdom is the combination of moral will and moral skill. Wisdom is experiential, not inborn–it is a manifestation of behaviour shaped by experience and the environment.

He makes the important distinction between raw intelligence and wisdom: it doesn’t take brilliance to be wise, but without wisdom brilliance isn’t enough.

Using the tragic story of a kid and spiked lemonade, Schwartz makes a devastating critique of our rules and procedure-based society. He lashes out at our world made mad by bureaucracy where rules do not help us think, incentives end up backfiring and only wisdom–practical wisdom–will help us out of our crises.

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Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist and author of the theory of relativity, and his thoughts:

On Critical Thinking:

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.

On Ethics:

A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeeded be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

On Religion:

Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.

My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.

The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.

On Education:

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.

Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.

On Science:

Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one’s living at it.

The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.

…one of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one’s own ever-shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from the personal life into the world of objective perception and thought.

On Mystery:

The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.

On War:

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.

He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.

On Love:

No, this trick won’t work…How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?

Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.

On Sheep:

In order to form an immaculate member of a flock of sheep one must, above all, be a sheep.

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Two great inspirational quotes from William Arthur Ward:

On Education:

The mediocre teachers tell.
The good teachers explain.
The superior teachers demonstrate.
The great teachers inspire.

On Risk:

To laugh is to risk appearing a fool,
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental
To reach out to another is to risk involvement,
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self
To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss
To love is to risk not being loved in return,
To hope is to risk despair,
To try is to risk to failure.

But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing is nothing.
He may avoid suffering and sorrow,
But he cannot learn, feel, change, grow or live.
Chained by his servitude he is a slave who has forfeited all freedom.
Only a person who risks is free.

The pessimist complains about the wind;
The optimist expects it to change;
And the realist adjusts the sails.

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Educator Sir Ken Robinson delivers an entertaining talk about how the school system undermines creative thought inherent in the human mind. Schools discourage children from commiting mistakes, prioritizes static knowledge (i.e. stock knowledge, memorization) and de-prioritizes dynamic knowledge (i.e. experiential, artistic).

Robinson cites the history of the public education system as partly to blame for this situation. An offshoot of the industrial revolution, public schools were created to mass-produce students with basic knowledge to become workers in an industrial society, which have arguably powered the economic growth of the world in the 19th and 20th centuries, but at the cost of destroying people’s capacity for creativity and original thought.

For us, creativity is an important component of critical thinking–to be able to entertain original and alternative points to conventional thinking, and we join Ken Robinson’s call to promote a school system that nurtures creativity.

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Society is full of half-truths and untruths. In this excerpt, George Carlin urges everyone to adopt a critical attitude to everything.

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In one of his last public addresses, astronomer Carl Sagan discusses how his wonder about the universe was awakened by the stars and the sun. He continues on issues regarding Science, superstition, religion, faith, education, skepticism, and Humanism.

Sagan describes how science rewards those who disprove ideas, which is the ideological opposite in politics, religion and other social constructs: which reward those who reassure or reinforce existing ideas–which is the fundamental reason why science has progressed so much, while other social constructs have stagnated.

He speaks of the internal corrective mechanism in science: that all scientists acknowledge fallibility of ideas. He says: “be willing to surrender your ideas” meaning criticism and critical thinking is at the core of science.

He also talks about the dangers of pseudo-science, which has a tendency to crowd out genuine science in the popular imagination.

Further parts follow: (more…)

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Stand-up comedian George Carlin gives a sobering performance about the ignorant situation of America, education, and the need for critical thinking.

Rest in peace Mr. Carlin.

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