Every July 4th I make my poor children sit through the musical 1776. I do live in Massachusetts after all. There is a line in the movie that has always stayed with me.
“I’ve never seen, heard, nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn’t be talked about. Hell yes, I’m for debating anything!” (Spoken by Stephen Hopkins in the movie 1776)
As a tech integration specialist part of the support I provide is how to wade through all the information we now have access to. The focus is on information & visual literacy which is really critical thinking & questioning. When you show someone search strategies you begin with the series of questions you are looking to answer. You develop your keyword search, focus your search on certain domains, and locate possible sites. Next you look at those sites and go though basic web evaluation: who publishes the site, is it commercial or personal, is it credible, what is the purpose of the site to inform, pursued etc. But I find that people tend to throw out the sites that do not agree with what they expect to find. This has always puzzled me.
I was trained originally as a scientist and I guess I view things through those goggles. When you apply the scientific method in its purest sense: you pose a question, develop a hypothesis, conduct an experiment, gather results, and draw a conclusion. Sometimes your conclusion supports the hypothesis, sometimes it does not, or it is inconclusive. No matter what, you’ve learned something. You can learn from ideas and information at conflict with what you know or expect. Isn’t that one of the cornerstones of constructivism.
One of my favorite topics to teach was the development of the theory of plate tectonics. It started with Alfred Wegener and the theory of continual drift. He used information from a variety of fields to develop his theory. He was scoffed at because he was trained as an astronomer and used an interdisciplinary approach. Later with newer technologies we mapped the seafloor, this new information lead to a new theory, seafloor spreading. Seismic studies and other information then lead to the theory of plate tectonics. New technologies, new experiences, new perspectives lead to new ideas. Why then when we do research on the web we limit our information and experiences? Why do we limit our opportunity to think, to question, to challenge our understanding? Why do we prefer to spend time only with information that supports our understanding and beliefs?
I want my children to think. I want them to think deeply about everything. I want them to question and challenge their understanding and beliefs. I want them to be critical thinkers and critical questioners this is how they will grow, and learn. These are the skills I want them to acquire in their education. I do not want them to throw out information that does not fit their expectations or comfort zones. I want them to read, think and question the conflicting information. They just might learn something.