Critical thinking: The essential app

By Daniel Espinoza. Daniel is a psychology student from Encarnación, Paraguay. Please read his entry and leave your thoughts and comments below.

For how long has humanity been mistaken the strength of the sword for the skill of the wielder?

True power rests not on the weapon, but on the hand that handles it: How could we otherwise explain the fact that even when given the same opportunities, some people thrive, and some people don’t? How could we otherwise account for geniuses who arise out of shadows?

If the new technologies are to truly aid education, we must understand that the effectiveness of them will depend on the effectiveness with which we use them.

Let us take, for example, the Internet: The web can be a great source of information, but it can also be a great source of misinformation. If one is to find trustworthy content when using such a tool, one would need to apply a series of strategies for its evaluation, such as looking for the author, date of creation or update, references, among others. These constitute an active process; in other words, we are not to be passive receivers of information, but we must actively seek it. We are behind the search, but not because it leads us. It is not the web’s fault that we are provided with unreliable information, but it is our fault that we are unable to discard it. So, in the end, much of it depends on us, and not on it.

While it’s true that technology is hugely important, it serves the purpose of expanding our possibilities, our horizon. Yet this is vain if we cannot see. A good journey depends as much on the quality of the ship as in the experience of the sailor. Thinking without technology is limited, but technology without thinking is pointless.

It is right to affirm, then, that while technology is important, it is how we use it that truly matters:  the blame is mostly ours, but the merit is also ours. Given that, the best equipment does not imply the best learning. However, the best learning may imply good equipment, and therefore, it is understanding how to make proper use of it that matters the most.

Using, say, a computer in the classroom is like driving a car: it’s not just about knowing how to do it, but how to do it properly, and we begin by taking control of it instead of letting it control us. Secondly, since the best car in the world won’t take you anywhere if you don’t know where you want to go, we need to determine what our goal is, and prevent ourselves from deviating from it: technology is like grammar, which will allow us to write something properly,  but won’t tell us what to write. Finally, we need to develop and learn strategies to achieve that goal, such as the ones described for searching the Internet; and these strategies should be not so much an algorithm which, if followed to the letter, will yield the best results, but they should be able to ignite a critical spirit regarding the usage of any given technological tool.

And just as important as doing all of the above, the student must comprehend that while it is clear that where human capacities end, technologies begin, it’s also true that where technology ends, humans kick in.

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