Archive for the ‘Critical Thinking’ Category

A friend just sent a link to a presentation by computer scientist and visionary Alan Kay on the topic of predicting the future. It’s a great piece with a lot to consider. There certainly are significant implications in Kay’s observations in terms of education and the use of some of the technologies that are the focus of this blog. Here’s the link along with a few quotes of interest from the presentation:


the best way to predict the future is to invent it.

“Humans beings can’t exist without communication. It’s one of those basic human traits, and we’re always willing to pay more for a better communications amplifier.”

“McLuhan had a great line about the 20th century. He said, ‘the 20th century is the century in which change changed.’ ”

“In some sense our ability to open the future will depend not on how well we learn anymore but how well we are able to unlearn. Can you imagine a course at Stanford on unlearning? That would be revolutionary.”

“I think the weakest way to solve a problem is just to solve it; that’s what they teach in elementary school. In some math and science courses they often teach you it’s better to change the problem. I think it’s much better to change the context in which the problem is being stated. Some years ago, Marvin Minsky said, “You don’t understand something until you understand it more than one way.” I think that what we’re going to have to learn is the notion that we have to have multiple points of view.”

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There were a couple of memories and observations that remain with me from the days of using the Zoombinis and the other thinking games mentioned in the previous post.

Multiple Intelligences

There were often a few students in the critical and creative thinking course that had difficulty with the intensive writing in the course. They seemed to struggle when attempting to effectively express their thoughts and thinking skills in writing (and also in their oral communication). However, a number of these students did quite well with the computer thinking games. While observing them playing, I could see that they possessed considerable intelligence and some strong thinking and problem solving skills. The games had revealed abilities that had not been apparent in the more traditional measures of assessing student performance and achievement. I suspect that learning disabilities may have been a factor in at least some of the difficulties with language expression. The games were allowing them to both demonstrate their abilities and experience a sense of success and accomplishment, while also providing the teacher with a more complete assessment of their talents and thinking skills. Traditional forms of educational assessment may very well overlook these forms of intelligence to the detriment of student development and growth.


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After using Civilization in 1991 for a semester, my next use of educational computer games occurred in the mid 90’s when a few “thinking games” were added to a critical and creative thinking course. The development of the this new course “The Mind at Work, The Mind at Play” was inspired by the difficulty students displayed with a variety of thinking skills as they attempted to play the game Civilization.

Students were required to complete the assignments for one of the games (they could do more for additional credit) and they had their choice of a few games. The course was held in the college’s Center for Self-Paced Studies so I was able to work individually with students.


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(Follow-up to the Sept. 1 post)

Using the computer game Civilization in the classroom back in the early ‘90’s was a bit of an adventure, but we learned a lot from the experience and there were several surprises. I used the game in a social psychology course and my history colleague used it in a world history class. We were also teaching computing skills since not all students were computer literate at the time.

Surprise #1: Not all students loved the game as much as the teacher did.

This shouldn’t have been a surprise, but I was so enthusiastic about the activity, I forgot the fundamental principle that students will not always respond identically to any learning activity, particularly one the teacher loves.


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I had been using a computer for just a few years back in 1991. Like many teachers, my early educational use was primarily for basic tasks such as creating my syllabi and tests and computing grades. The Internet Age had not yet dawned. I found myself wondering if the computer might also be used as a teaching/learning tool.

I happened across a review of a game called “Sid Meier’s Civilization that claimed the program had educational value, so I decided to give it a try despite never having previously played a computer or video game. (more…)

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