Boosting Problem Solving and Critical Thinking with Technology
I listened to an online conference on www.integrating-technology.org. One of the presentations was titled Facilitating Problem Solving and Critical Thinking with Technology, presented by MaryAnne Campo who is an educational technologist and international educator specializing in online learning, digital and social media. She discussed how technology can facilitate learning and develop high order thinking skills especially for learners and people who regularly have access to the net.
She uses technology to teach problem solving skills and discovered that in this digitalized world, technology has become an essential tool for all the people especially youngsters. So, using the internet for example has become Inescapable and sometimes a must. According to her, educators should guide and help learners to use these tools appropriately so as to enhance their problem solving skills and critical thinking. She defined problem solving as the learners ability to identify the problems, define a goal or a solution, explore paths to reach goals, take actions and then look back to identify what worked and what did not; and this, of course, can be applicable to any field of study or work. She gave the example of people who keep doing the same thing over and over in the same way and expect different results. If they had developed their problems solving strategies and critical thinking, they wouldn't have failed to steps forward.
She mentioned that this world is characterized by an excessive dissemination of knowledge technology and job creation, new things crop up and emerge every day so we can easily find solutions and know answers. But to know how to solve problems, in other words the process to find solutions or answers, is what creates the difference. Problem solving and critical thinking are partly related but they are not the same. Critical thinking skills help solving problems, whereas problem solving skills help in finding solutions.
She also talked about her five steps problem-solving model and technologies that can provide a means to problem solving. Today's generation is born cell phones in their hands; as she stated ‘we have to meet them where they are and use the tools of this generation’.
According to her, specifying the problem is a first step towards developing a solution. It involves evaluating the present state and determining how it differs from the goal. The second step is to analyze the problem - analyzing the problem involves learning as much as you can about it; one can never rely on individual trials, collaboration is quite essential for developing problem-solving tools and strategies. It may be necessary to look beyond the obvious, surface situation, to enlarge the imagination and reach for more creative options; this involves seeking other perspectives, flexibility in analysing the problem, brainstorming about all possibilities and implications and seeking the means though which you can get help; among which technology as the primary 21st century tool. The third step is identifying or formulating possible solutions by trying to think about and scrutinizing all possible solutions, using creativity and critical thinking to generate possible resolutions, calling back similar problems and how you have solved them. The fourth step is evaluate possible solutions by considering the advantages and disadvantages of each solution and evaluating to what extent it can work out and of course taking into consideration both immediate and long-term results. Then the last step is mapping all the possible solutions which can help in identifying the practically best ones for that particular problem; this means making decisions.
At the end, she suggested some free web-based technologies such as: blogs, wikis, forums, Google docs, online journals, Youtube...etc. They help in communicating, sharing ideas, problems, arguing for and against different global issues and reflecting since people usually need comments and feedback. She concluded by saying that these tools and others are as food for thoughts.