Teaching Critical Thinking

by Kristen Abell

We are almost constantly surrounded by reports of what is happening in the world today, what with everyone being a reporter on social media. As I paged through my Facebook and Twitter feeds today and saw all that was going on in Baltimore, it became increasingly apparent to me that the one thing we’re not exposed to is critical thinking. What does this mean?

In my opinion, critical thinking is the ability to view differing perspectives and identify what is most likely the truth in the information that is being provided, and then evaluating that information to come up with your own opinion about the events taking place. (Although if someone has another definition of critical thinking, I’d be open to hearing it).

If I depended solely on the media to provide my news, I might see that several police have been injured in Baltimore (but no mention of citizens), there have been massive riots and looting, and this is all occurring over the death of Freddie Gray. If I look further, I can see that it’s likely there have also been citizens hurt – whether by police or other rioters, that there were peaceful protests happening, as well, and this is most likely a result of a much longer systemic oppression of the African-American community in Baltimore (and the United States), and not just the death of one man. But the question remains – how did I come to learn to look deeper, to apply critical thinking to the reports with which I’m surrounded? How do we teach this to our students?

I think there are a number of ways we can do this – discussing current events with students, asking them to report from differing perspectives, etc. – but I’m interested in how our student affairs colleagues specifically are doing this. Are you having these conversations with your students? Are you engaging them in discussion that pushes them to think outside their possibly limited viewpoint? More importantly, are you engaging in these practices yourself so that you can role model this for them?

Please share in the comments below if you are using innovative ways of teaching critical thinking – I’d love to find out more about how we’re teaching this very necessary skill in today’s world.

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Teaching Critical Thinking

Promoting Live Tweeting as an Educational Tool

by Niki Messmore

There’s a new plague.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is keeping it quiet, but fortunately I’m here to inform you on the symptoms.

Do your hands clench at the thought of technology in the classroom? Do your lips involuntarily curl into a sneer when you witness students on their phones, tablets, or laptops? Are you unable to prevent yourself from grumbling under your breath about “kids nowadays”?

Well, you just may have #BackinMyDayitis (yes, the medical definition begins with a hashtag).

Those afflicted with #BackinMyDayitis get twitchy at the sight of students texting on electronic devices, aggravated that students (typically of the Millennial generation) are ‘not paying attention’ to the class discussion. The creeping thought of ‘lazy’, ‘tech-obsessed’, ‘disrespectful’, and ‘narcissistic’ travels through the mind.

Fortunately, #BackinMyDayitis has a cure! The cure is simple, quite honestly. All that must be done is for the ill person to recover is…just get over it.

Although many articles lambasting the Millennial generation would have us believe that young college students are disengaged from the world, they couldn’t be farther from the truth. Time spent on electronic devices to access social media is just another method for Millennial students to connect to the world.

And therein lies academia’s opportunity to increase student knowledge.

There are plenty of scholarly and practitioner-based articles citing that students learn best when engaged within the classroom. But what about engaging students beyond the classroom – and into social media?

This concept is nothing new. An increasing number of university instructors are using social media platforms to engage their students. To narrow the field of thought, let’s consider how to engage student affairs graduate students in the classroom utilizing social media as a tool.

Student Affairs tech blogger Eric Stoller incited a Twitter discussion on how SA grad programs need to incorporate technology into the programs. Some observers pointed out that many grad programs are not utilizing technology. Of course, without those pesky APA citations, we can’t be sure of who is not including technology into their programs.

What we can talk about are the student affairs graduate programs that are incorporating technology into their classroom – specifically through “live tweeting” on Twitter during the class.

Twitter defines live tweeting: “to engage on Twitter for a continuous period of time—anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours—with a sequence of focused Tweets”.

To some this engagement tool appears too risky to implement, citing the possibility for distraction. But other educators cite that it’s an opportunity to engage students in order to fully realize the academic goal of creating a conversation instead of a lecture. A 2010 study in the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning stated that students who tweet have a higher GPA and “showed that students and faculty were both highly engaged in the learning process in ways that transcended traditional classroom activities” (p.119).

A survey of different student affairs graduate programs shows that live tweeting is utilized as a classroom engagement tool. Two examples examples:

1.) Indiana University, Higher Education & Student Affairs: The HESA program live tweeted in several first-year classes this past spring utilizing a hashtag for the course that students and faculty created. Students were then able to engage with guest speakers who were video conferenced for those days.The general hashtag #IUHESA is used as well as course-specific hashtags have carried over for fall 2013 courses.

2.) Florida State University, Higher Education & Student Affairs: First years last month used the hashtag #AmColStu to live tweet their class. They even took 7th place in the Top20 of Tallahassee’s Twitter Trends on 8/28!

Special recognition goes to Bowling Green State University’s program – while I did not see examples of live tweeting courses during my research online, they are actively engaging their students with the hashtag #HESAnation.

Do you have other examples of SA programs that engage in live tweeting tactics? Let me know in the comments! Or better yet, tweet me at @NikiMessmore 🙂

For further consideration: What are the ways in which can live tweeting be incorporated to campus programs and events in order to engage students?

Promoting Live Tweeting as an Educational Tool

Linkage Love

By Melissa Johnson

It’s time for another edition of Linkage Love!

Lately Twitter has been all abuzz over NASPA / ACPA consolidation. By now, many of us have seen the email from the NASPA Yes! Consolidation No! Committee. Eric Stoller provided a thoughtful response earlier this week on Inside Higher Ed. There have been several other blog responses, namely from our own Kristen Abell, Kevin Guidry, Bryce Hughes, and Sean Grube. Continue to engage in consolidation conversation over Twitter by using the hashtag #NASPACPA.

Ed Cabellon provides a great overview of how he uses Google to search for new people to follow on Twitter. Ed has a knack for breaking things down and explaining them in a way that makes sense…at least to me! If only I could convince him to come to the “dark side” and apply for ed tech doctoral programs!

ProfHacker has a fantastic piece on teaching influences. I’ve had the pleasure of reconnecting with many of my former teachers, from K-12, college, and even dance and music instructors outside of school, on Facebook. Several months ago I dedicated a post to my teaching influences, tagging many of those former teachers. Without a doubt, some of my greatest teaching influences took place in my Paideia classes in high school. Lots of demonstration and discussion led by the students – hallmarks of my teaching today.

FETC is taking place through tomorrow in Orlando. Although FETC primarily focuses on educational technology in the K-12 arena, there’s always something new to learn that potentially could be adapted to higher education. Lurk on their conversations on Twitter by using the hashtag #FETC or following FETC.

And finally, a bit of fun courtesy of my students – in need of musical inspiration while you work? Check out Fratbeats.com for several energetic playlists, and one lower-key playlist entitled the “homework mix”

And that concludes this week’s edition of Linkage Love. What links have you been checking out this week?

Linkage Love