Category Archives: Critical Thinking

Factitious and Spot the Troll

Like many of you, I am worried about the misinformation flying around on social media, especially lately. The incendiary posts that seem to be easily flung from one person to another are exacerbating the anger and hopelessness many are already feeling due to months of restrictions.

It’s more essential than ever to teach our students how to look for reliable sources and information. I generally use Snopes.com if I am fact-checking anything, and it seems extremely unbiased and well-balanced. If you are looking for other potential fact-checking sites, this page from the American University Library has a list.

While I was looking at the AU site, I noticed a link to a game called, Factitious. You can play the game to determine whether news articles are fake or genuine. The original game is from 2018, but there is also a Pandemic Edition. The game seems suitable for middle school and up.

Another interesting quiz to try, which was shared on Facebook (sorry, I can’t remember who share it with me!) is the Clemson University Media Forensics Hub game, Spot the Troll, shows you social media profiles of 8 different account, and you must decide if they represent real people or not.

Both of these games give more information about how to spot “fakes” online. Of course, there are no hard and fast rules, as the people behind this misinformation are becoming more sophisticated. The biggest takeaway is to never accept what you read online at face value without doing some digging – especially if it seems designed to incite fear or anger.

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

One-Hole Punch Puzzles

I am so not proficient when it comes to spatial reasoning.  This makes sense to me because I can’t think of ever really practicing it as a child.  I didn’t build with Legos or blocks, and I wasn’t really into jigsaw puzzles.  Mostly, I read a lot.  That means I’m generally a decent speller, but when I try to sew a face mask you will have to turn it right side in to make it right side out.  Or something like that.  Let’s just say my very un-straight stitches are very visible on the side of the material that you would normally want people to see.  And, yes, that is with a sewing machine.

So, as I spend the second half of my century of life trying to visualize what comes naturally to everyone else in my family, I would like to re-iterate that spatial skills are pretty important, and aren’t really a big focus in most schools.  Regular readers will know that this isn’t a new theme on this blog, and here are some past posts that I’ve done with other great resources: Spatial ReasoningSpatial Puzzles, and a bunch of reviews of apps and games.

Today’s spatial reasoning resource would have been so fun to do with my engineering students.  It comes to us from Mark Chubb (@MarkChubb3), who offers these One-Hole Punch Puzzles on his blog, Thinking Mathematically.  I’ve seen puzzles like these on some aptitude tests, but usually the questions show how a paper was folded and punched, and you have to select from the multiple-choice the subsequent result when unfolded.  In this hands-on twist, Chubb produces the results, and students have to use their own pieces of paper and one-hole punch tools to demonstrate where the paper must have been folded and punched.

In a pre-Covid class, we could have shared hole punchers and then had a huge confetti party.  Sadly, this may not be an option for any teachers anytime soon, but I encourage home-schoolers, parents, and anyone who can’t sew a mask to give these puzzles a try.

Hole Punch Confetti
Image by Monsterkoi from Pixabay

 

Think Like a Coder

TED Ed has so many great videos for the classroom.  These videos have interactive questions, which can be customized for your own students.  You can sort the videos by subject if you are just browsing, or you can search for keywords.  Many of the videos are short animations offering information about topics like coronavirus and “A Day as a Teenage Samurai.”  Other videos pose riddles for the viewers, such as the ones in this playlist. (The River Crossing Riddle is a student favorite!)

If you know young people who like to code, TED Ed also has a series of 10 short (about 6 minutes long) videos where viewers are given challenges that reinforce coding concepts such as loops and conditionals.  Think Like a Coder tells the story of a programmer named, “Ethic,” and her sidekick, “Hedge.”  It begins when Ethic awakes to find herself imprisoned, and Hedge helps her to escape her locked room.  Ethic must give Hedge specific instructions in order to discover the code to open the combination.  The animation guides the viewer through the process of developing a code with loops, which would be more efficient than creating a line of code for each potential combination.

Think Like a Coder feels like a video game, but it isn’t.  It also probably won’t appeal to students who are brand new to coding.  If I was using this in the classroom, Think Like a Coder would be the perfect supplement for a Code.org studio course, and I might use the TED Ed or EdPuzzle tools to crop the video so that students can offer answers before the solution is given.  This series would also be great to offer students who have high interest in this area, and would benefit from watching the videos independently.

Circuit Board Brain
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Dear Data

This is another example of one of the great internet wormholes that I fall into when I read Twitter.  I was fascinated by a Tweet from Nick Sousanis (@nsousanis), which led me to an amazing book so I could interpret his Tweet, which led me back to the work of his students and a bazillion ways remote learners around the world could have fun with his assignment or other permutations of it.

Let’s start with the book.  Dear Data began as a pen pal project between two information designers on different continents.  As they explain on their website, “Each week, and for a year, we collected and measured a particular type of data about our lives, used this data to make a drawing on a postcard-sized sheet of paper, and then dropped the postcard in an English ‘postbox’ (Stefanie) or an American ‘mailbox’ (Giorgia)!”

Each postcard consists of their data and the explanation of its depiction.  The women chose all sorts of topics to record, such as a week of laughter or a week of complaints.  Though they would be collecting data for the same topic during that particular week, their pictograms would be dramatically different.

They learned a lot from this year-long project, which resulted in a book, a postcard kit, and a journal.  As Giorgia and Stefanie explain in this video, “We learned to pay attention, to live in the present much more, to be more aware of our surroundings, and empower behaviors with new lenses.

So, back to Nick Sousanis, who Tweeted that his visual communications students had come up with their own “Dear Data” projects, and gave examples of some of the results in his Tweet.  I asked Nick if I could share these on this blog and he graciously agreed. (You can click on each picture to enlarge.)

I see all kinds of potential for this with students.  For example, one of the Depth and Complexity icons is “Trends,” and it would be interesting to ask students to analyze one of these postcards, and determine what trends they see.  Using, “See, Think, Wonder” would be a great start. In addition, as Nick found with his class, assigning students to develop their own data sets can invite self-reflection and creativity.

During these unique times, when data has become a fixation for much of the world, students can also examine its importance and reliability.  As the women who completed this ambitious project say in their video, “Finally we both realize that data is the beginning of the story, not the end, and should be seen as a starting point for questioning and understanding the world around us instead of seeing it as the definitive answer to all of our questions.”

(For some other fun ideas for looking at data, check out my posts on Slow Reveal Graphs and What’s Going On in This Graph?)

How to Use Design Thinking in the Classroom

My article, “How to Use Design Thinking in the Classroom,” has just been published on the NEO Blog.  I hope that you will find that it gives some practical suggestions and resources for the ways that educators can model and apply the Design Thinking process.  This article was written before the pandemic drastically changed learning environments, but next month’s article on how distance learning can promote global collaboration will definitely take our new reality into account.

I hope you will take some time to browse through some of the other articles on the NEO Blog, as they are very thorough and cover a wide range of topics of interest to educators.  Please let me know in the comments below if you have any suggestions for future articles!

med-badr-chemmaoui-ZSPBhokqDMc-unsplash
Photo by Med Badr Chemmaoui on Unsplash

Project Zero Thinking Routines

UPDATE 3/30/2020:  Here is a link to a video where Smithsonian educators demonstrate use of the Thinking Routines with a piece of artwork.

You would have to drill down a bit into these resources that I posted about from the Smithsonian for “A Woman’s Place” to find this excellent compilation of Thinking Routines from Harvard’s Project Zero, so I thought I would give this page of free downloads its very own post.  Although the routines are specifically aimed toward discussing works of art, you will quickly see that these questions are adaptable to many different situations, and that they will elicit deep thought about any topic.  One of my favorite Visible Thinking Routines is 3-2-1 Bridge (here is a post I did on that, which includes a free template).

I also like the: Artful, Global, and Agency by Design Thinking Routines that are included on this page.  For example, I’ve added one of the Global cards below.  Imagine applying these questions to the current pandemic, and what answers you might receive from your students!  Some might find literal beauty in the microscopic image of the virus, while others may see the beauty of human nature being revealed as people jump in to help their communities.

truth and beauty

If you are preparing curriculum for distance learning, I hope that you will consider adding some of these to get a more detailed understanding of the thoughts your students are having while they learn.