Many teachers struggle with enhancing critical thinking in their classrooms. Most of them use a model of learning known as Bloom’s Taxonomy as the basis of teaching. The levels are:
Besides understanding and applying this model, it is also essential to create a modern and informative learning environment.
Here are some interactive tools that will help foster critical thinking among students.
Sometimes remembering new words, phrases and definitions can be a real challenge, especially when they are in a foreign language. Puzzlemaker offers a variety of solutions for teachers and students such as customized word search and crisscross games, mazes, cryptograms and etc. Students can pair up and create puzzles for each other and the teachers can check the understanding of the words learned that week. This tool provided by Discovery Education is completely free and can serve as an excellent addition to classroom activities.
Under the pressure of constant flow of new information and the upcoming exams, students often feel overwhelmed. Whether at home or at school, thousands of new ideas come and go through their heads. Whenever they try remembering them to point out to the teacher, the ideas slip away from their minds.
Fortunately, there is a solution called Evernote. This tool makes taking notes and organizing them fast and easy. It also allows sharing notes or adding links, tables, attachments and audio-recordings.
During in-class discussions, some students may want to make an argument but are not sure whether their thoughts are true. Snopes gives an opportunity to check facts about any topic, including myths, misinformation, rumors, folklore and urban legends. This tool will especially come in handy in history class to quickly check myths and be able to make a clever argument during in-class debates. Snopes is accurate and free from bias, so the teachers do not need to worry about false information exchange among the students.
4. Swift Polling
Asking questions and coming up with answers an important way to develop critical thinking. There is a perfect solution called Swift Polling for creating real-time polls and engaging students. Swift Polling allows creating not only multiple choice but also open-ended questions. This feature is a great opportunity for students to express their opinions freely and to see each other’s responses. There are two voting methods in Swift: text messages and the web. When students send their feedback via text messages, the teacher can choose to display all of them at once or one by one. This will foster a healthy discussion, which in its turn will generate new ideas. One more important feature is that Swift is completely anonymous, so the students do not need to worry about how their responses will be received by their peers.
PowToon is not only useful for students but also for teachers to integrate some educational videos in their lectures. It allows users to create professional-looking, colorful and unique videos with different backgrounds and shapes. The videos can include animations, live action and merged media. For teachers, they are a good way to keep students’ attention and control distractions. For students, the videos make memorable presentations. PowToon also allows users to create square videos to share on social media. Lastly, it allows customizing an already existing popular template.
When doing a group activity, sometimes it is hard to communicate over the noise of the other groups. Moreover, if time is limited and the group has to come up with an answer quickly, it is not practical to shout thoughts or opinions several times for the group members to hear. Luckily, there is a tool called Clarisketch that solves this problem. Clarisketch allows taking a picture, making notes on it, highlighting some details, commenting, making an audio recording and sharing it via email or social media. Students can take quick pictures of their textbook pages or presentation slides, highlight some important passages or objects, add their comments and send them to their peers. This will eliminate misunderstanding, while improving communication and teamwork skills.
Clarisketch doesn’t require installation, it works on every browser.
With Mindmaple, students can structure their thoughts and ideas in a new way. It allows users to create mind maps and add topics, subtopics, hyperlinks, images and other files to them. This tool is useful for several occasions:
- Taking notes from textbooks when reading a new lesson and mapping the new concepts and definitions
- Preparing for upcoming exams by connecting the topics and materials covered throughout the semester
- Integrating maps into PowerPoint presentations to visualize and clarify the explanation
The maps can be exported as word documents, Excel sheets or PDF files.
This tool has a variety of flow-chart games that can be used to enhance critical thinking. The games requires players to drag and drop various stages or images into the right places. For example, in the Ocean Food Chain game, players sort different types of fish from largest to smallest or vice versa. In Photosynthesis, students arrange the stages in the correct order. NeoK12 has different categories of game themes such as:
- Earth, space and geography
- Life sciences
- Human body
- Physical sciences
- History and social studies