Wednesday, June 10, 2015

#CriticalThinking and #appsmashing in the classroom

What do apps have to do with critical thinking? More than I thought possible.
And my students managed to blow my mind with their answers.

Critical thinking is something that is key for students. Throughout life, they need to be able to think critically every day.

Here are a couple of articles from The Critical Thinking Consortium that give background information into critical thinking in the classroom.   Understanding Critical Thinking  Embedding Critical Thinking into Teaching and Learning

This year, with our new classroom iPads and our new 21st Century classroom learning space, I have been pushing for the students to think critically about the choices that they make in my classroom every day.

  • Where should I sit?  Why is this spot the best place for me to learn right now?
  • What topic and questions should should I choose for further inquiry? Why?
  • Which classmates should I collaborate with to improve my learning on this topic?
  • What technology should I use? What is the best tool for the job? iPad? Laptop?
As a culminating task for our Geography inquiry, students were required to create a final media project for literacy.

They were required to ask themselves the following question: Which app(s) and software are the best tools for the job?

I purposely did NOT tell them which app to use. They needed to think critically about their audience, the message they were trying to send, and the characteristics of different apps.

Here are some of the Success Criteria:

Media Presentation
  • effective choice of media to deliver your message (Text)
  • utilizes features of that media type (Production)
  • appealing to your audience (Audience)
  • communicates your message clearly (Text)
  • integrate a new-to-you technology/media (Learning skills)

Yesterday we began our presentations in class. I was so impressed by what they came up with that I raced down the hall to grab the Principal so that she could see the awesomeness.

My students used combinations of new-to-them and tried and true apps. They problem-solved ways to smash them together to come up with amazing, mind-blowing culminating tasks.

We had trigger images showing Plotagon movies explaining about global inequalities. We had Arc-GIS created maps in movies created with Shadow Puppet, and we had Powtoon videos with iMovies and Pic Collages.

The thinking and learning went far beyond what it would have been if I had given the students the topic and the tool.  The task was not about the technology, but rather, the selection of an appropriate means of sending a message.

In my classroom, we DON'T do..."make a slideshow about child mortality". What I try as hard as possible for is to make sure that we DO do learner voice and choice, inquiry, critical thinking, and perhaps MOST of all, we do FUN. Because believe me, watching the 25th slideshow on a single topic is NOT fun for any of us!

Here are a few of the many different apps and software that they chose:


Have you ever wished your stories would turn into real animated videos? Plotagon is a playful new app making stories come to life, with you in the director’s seat. Create characters, put them in funny situations, and press play – it's that simple.

Aurasma: Use trigger images to create augmented reality with overlays of their learning

Shadow Puppet: A student found this app and loved it for its video-creation features

Pic Collage: Create collages with text, video, links, images.

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