Thursday, 1 October 2015

Three tools for developing students' thinking skills

Developing higher-order and critical thinking skills in our students is a key focus for many educators across the globe. Intel’s education division has three free, collaborative tools which help support this endeavour. These tools encourage students to examine and justify their own reasoning, explore the reasoning of others, find and evaluate evidence and examine cause-and-effect relationships.

Every tool comes with a variety of resources to help you implement it in your classroom. Be sure to check out the link at the bottom of each tool below for unit plans and project ideas.

Visual Ranking tool

Available for: Web, iOS and Android.
The Visual Ranking tool lets students create ordered lists. However, unlike a regular list, students must identify, refine and justify the criteria and reasoning they use to select the order of items - in other words, they need to think about their list creation. The Visual Ranking tool is designed to be used in groups, meaning students need to discuss and agree on their criteria. Once each group has ordered their list, the Visual Ranking tool lets them compare their work with other groups. This is a great opportunity for getting students to explain and rationalise their reasoning through group discussions or debates. Teachers can also view students progress and provide feedback through the tool. You can find a demo of the Visual Ranking tool here.

Ideas for the classroom

The Visual Ranking tool is great for helping students prioritise concepts or information, explore differences of opinion and reach agreement on contentious topics. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

- Get students to explore open-ended questions relevant to your subject by ranking events, people, personality characteristics, products and more. For example Who were the most influential pharaohs in Ancient Egypt? What are the most important things individuals can do to reduce their impact on the environment? Which actions had the biggest impact on the downfall of the main character in the story?

- Get different groups to create their lists from different perspectives or roles. For example, ask them to rank the importance of particular facilities in their local communities from the viewpoint of young people, families, businesses and the elderly.

-Have students use the Visual Ranking tool to create a relevant list at the beginning and the end of a topic. This is a great way for them to see how their understanding and opinions have changed as a result of their learning.

Get more unit plans and project examples here

Showing Evidence tool

Available for: Web, iOS and Android.
The Showing Evidence tool helps students learn how to back-up their opinions with evidence. It also assists them in evaluating the strength of other people’s arguments or actions by providing a visual framework for identifying and assessing evidence. There are two complexity levels in the tool, making it suitable for both primary and secondary levels. After the teacher has entered a project task or question into the tool, students create and rate relevant evidence, explaining their rating of the evidence’s quality. Once sufficient evidence has been entered, students or the teacher can create a ‘claim’ based on the evidence. The evidence can then be linked to the claim, with students explaining how the evidence supports it. At the end of the task, a final assessment of the claims validity is made and justified by students. The Showing Evidence tool is suitable to use in groups or by individual students. Again, teachers can view student progress and provide feedback via the tool. The Intel website has primary and secondary demos of the Showing Evidence tool.

Ideas for the classroom

Before using the Showing Evidence tool, it’s a good idea to have your class collaboratively develop a set of criteria for evaluating the quality of evidence. Students can then use this criteria as part of activities that involve comparing conflicting viewpoints, defending their opinions or developing an argument. Here are a few ideas:

-Get students to analyse the opposing views of controversial issues such as smoking laws, drinking laws, refugees, climate change or junk food advertising.

-Use the Showing Evidence tool for students to analyse issues in a text. For example, did a particular event or the actions of a particular character lead to a specific outcome? Students can then find and use evidence from the text to justify the claim.

-Have students use the Showing Evidence tool to explore a hypothesis as part of a scientific research project. This would work well in a Mythbusters-style challenge!

Get more unit plans and project examples here

Seeing Reason tool

Available for: Web
The Seeing Reason tool assists students to investigate and understand cause-and-effect relationships. Students use the tool to create visual maps of the factors involved in a situation, showing and explaining how they relate to each other and contribute to the issue. Intel recommends students use this tool in groups of 2-3. Like the other two tools, teachers can view student progress and provide feedback. You can find a demo of the Seeing Reason tool here.

Ideas for the classroom

Before getting students started with the Seeing Reason tool, it’s a good idea to get the class to define the problem they will investigate and brainstorm some factors that might contribute to it.  Students can then investigate how these factors do contribute to the problem, using the Seeing Reason tool to record their findings and present the end result. Here are a few project ideas to get you started:

-Get students to use the Seeing Reason tool to show how character traits affect their actions and the plot of a story (e.g. analyse the protagonist and the cause of their downfall)

-Ask students to explore how climate change will affect the lives of people in different countries, or how the destruction of natural habitats affects the ecosystem.

-Task students with investigating a social issue in their community. For example, how diet affects physical and mental health, or the causes of online bullying.

Get more unit plans and project examples here.

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