One of the best ways for students of every age to develop greater cognitive sophistication is to join in a shared looking activity with at least one facilitating adult. As infants, children sat in our laps as we read picture books together. Today we can foster critical thinking by engaging students in regular experiences of “Learning to Look.” All it takes is:
- a computer,
- a data projector,
- at least one interesting Web resource and
- an open-ended question or “thinking prompt”
Let’s assume you can organize the computer and data projector so what’s needed is help with the Web resources and the prompts.
This Look to Learn site provides help in three ways:
A set of great links socially bookmarked by a group on Diigo:
Prompts are the questions or explorations that help “Lookers” engage with the rich resource. The Visible Thinking Group at Harvard has a great site on Thinking Routines. Some of their routines are featured on the Prompts page. You may have found favorites that work well with students. Please share them.
Resources to facilitate Looking Critically
- The Intelligent Eye – outstanding questions from David Perkins, in his book by the same name.
- Socratic Questioning Stems – from ChangingMinds.org
- “Seeing Questions” – a fine series of questions intended for the visual arts, but which could also apply to photography.
Finally, participants in this Look to Learn site have created a large sample of activities as posts to this blog. Feel free to use them and leave comments on how it went.
The Web is great for enhancing and extending learning in schools. Tom March thinks this promotes “aNew3Rs,” Real, Rich and Relevant learning. Here is a selection of compelling Web resources.
Sites for Repeated Visits
- Tag Galaxy – see what the world thinks in pictures
- StumbleUpon – The (often quirky) best from the Web targeted to your own profile of interests.
- Video on Demand – watch ABC news shows like 4 Corners, Chasers War, Rage and Lateline as well as clips from the past 24 hours.
- EdPod – great audio podcasts from most of the programs on the ABC in Australia.
- Pictures of the Week – from Time Magazine – Use this feature regularly to keep up with current events as well as challenge each other to interpret the message and perspective of the photos.
- Sydney Morning Herald Daily Snapshot – Similar to the Time feature above, but on a daily basis and less about the news and more about culture and the unusual. Question: What would a space traveller decide life was like on earth from today’s photos?
- The Cagle Post – massive international collection of political & social cartoons hosted by Daryl Cagle
- Scratch Media! – Australian Political Cartoons from David Pope (better known by his signature Heinrich Hinze).
- 10×10 – Every hour, 10×10 collects the 100 words and pictures that matter most on a global scale, and presents them as a single image, taken to encapsulate that moment in time.
The main idea behind Thinking Routines is that it’s not enough for students to learn “critical thinking strategies,” but research from the Visible Thinking group at Harvard’s Project Zero has found that students also need to develop the disposition to engage in such a process. One approach is to promote a culture of questioning and thinking in the daily life of the classroom. To quote from a recent paper:
The effective schools research has shown that teachers establish housekeeping, management, and discourse routines earlier in the school and that this establishment is important in the long-term smooth running of classrooms. Teachers that fail to establish routines may struggle to keep their classes focused and orderly. Just as it is important for teachers to focus students’ behavior so that classrooms can run smoothly and students can learn, teachers also need tools for structuring and scaffolding students’ mental behavior. In brief, Thinking Routines:
- are explicit;
- have few steps (typically 2 – 3);
- are instrumental (designed solely to scaffold thinking);
- are used repeatedly;
- work across a variety of disciplines; and
- promote both group and individual practice
from Thinking Routines: Establishing Patterns of Thinking in the Classroom,” a paper prepared for the AERA Conference, April 2006 by Ritchhart, Palmer, Church, & Tishman