We live in a global village, in the Internet age. In the past, we were looking for information, today we often try to protect ourselves from its excess. Every day we are bombarded with data from many sources and channels – television, radio, newspapers, websites, e-mails and text messages, Facebook and Youtube, Twitter, political programs, offers of banks and telephone operators, posters, advertisements, information from friends and acquaintances, rumors and rumors, etc., etc. Critical thinking – our compass in the global information village.
How should we prepare for this excess, how to process this vast amount of information? How to distinguish facts from opinions, how to check the credibility of news, how to protect yourself from false information, manipulation, how to avoid thinking errors? Often, even educated adults cannot do it. They lack the appropriate competences, experience or time. Even more so, children have a problem with it.
Homo vicipaedicus – a child in the face of information overload
Teachers often receive homework downloaded entirely from the Internet. The source for students are strange pages, summaries or studies published even by their peers. Students are not surprised by the contradictions in their works, the improbable results of mathematical operations, strange names, views and opinions. They will assume that if something is online, it is real. And that is, of course, not true. They do not check in other sources, do not estimate the obtained results, and do not work independently. The modern student is homo vicipaedicus. The task of parents and teachers is to teach them to consciously and responsibly use the richness of the global network. The competency to learn is to read the Internet in depth, not only in breadth – a student looking for information cannot stop at the first results obtained, but should go deeper. The credibility of information can be checked by comparing different pages, reading the same entries in different languages. On some issues, we find comments that the information is not confirmed that the sources for it are required. The popular Wikipedia is characterized by high credibility in relation to traditional sources, which results, among others, from constant updating, control of a larger group of people or hyper textuality. For learning, one should use websites run by large, proven institutions or foundations. It is worth encouraging children to use such reliable websites.
Critical thinking as the main key competence
How can you prepare children to deal with so many often conflicting stimuli, messages and information? What tools are needed for effective information processing? What key competences do our children need? Most often we hear about the need to educate emotional intelligence, creativity, time management, information processing, information and communication technology (ICT), dealing with finances, creativity, learning skills and taking responsibility for the process. We relatively rarely pay attention to the ability to think critically.
Meanwhile, it is precisely this that is necessary to deal effectively in the modern world. Critical thinking is a necessary component of all human activities and life. Contrary to popular belief, it has nothing to do with criticizing and complaining. It is also not natural for man, because in harmony with nature, we rather strive to confirm and defend our beliefs, even when it becomes irrational. This is why it is so difficult to convince someone to accept or even understand another person’s opinion or views. Critical thinking consists of a set of the following skills and attitudes:
- Processing information,
- Distinguishing facts from opinions,
- Creating cause-effect relationships,
- Logical argumentation,
- Creating hypotheses and gathering evidence to defend them,
- Predicting the consequences of your decisions,
- Reasoning, creating creative solutions,
- Empathy that is, recognizing your feelings, emotions, and the needs of others.
Critical thinking in practice
The development of this competence in children and adolescents should be the main task of a modern family and school. How to convince a child to work on this skill, not to retain, not to use unreliable sources? Let us show the usefulness of critical thinking:
- You will know that without VAT does not necessarily mean “cheaper than in the store next door”.
- That the inscription “0% loan” does not mean 0% at all, and its APR may be over 1000% per annum.
- That if you first lower something by 10%, and then raise it by the same 10%, it will not be the same amount at the end.
- You will count the compound percentage, you will know how someone got over 70% of votes with an attendance below 50% and you will not deposit your life savings on a strange deposit in a non-bank institution.
Let’s use real stories and situations, e.g. when shopping in a store, analyze the behavior of different people, and include children in everyday matters. We can teach critical thinking from an early age: a child can group and classify some objects, toys, products – he can estimate the result of a simple action, he can learn inference. Encourage your child to ask questions, let them make independent decisions, have their own views. Discuss and show different possibilities. Discover and name cause and effect relationships: “if … then …”. Determine the logical consequences of events (in education, a tool called logical branch is used for this) – it helps in acquiring the ability to predict the consequences of one’s own behavior or decisions made. In this way, you can also change the negative or impulsive behavior of the child.
Robert Ennis, a contemporary American educator and author of a book on critical thinking, identifies 13 qualities of critical thinking people:
- Taking and changing positions in accordance with the evidence,
- Considering the whole situation
- Searching for information,
- Striving to specify information,
- Systematic handling of subsequent parts of a complex whole,
- Asking for opinions,
- Searching for justifications,
- Striving for clear formulation of issues,
- Remembering about the starting problem,
- Using reliable sources,
- Sticking to the essence of the matter,
- Showing interest in other people’s feelings and knowledge.
If both the school and the family environment will work on developing the child’s critical thinking skills, the child should be characterized by the above-mentioned qualities, will be better able to cope in life not only with the excess of information received, he will undertake balanced and beneficial activities in many important matters. decisions. He will be a conscious consumer and an informed citizen.