Professor Michael Eisenberg Talks Critical Thinking Today in a great expose about literacy and critical thinking skills.

How has the need for Internet literacy and critical thinking skills in students changed in the last 5-10 years? Are they getting smarter by the time they get to the University of Washington?

The need for critical thinking skills hasn’t changed, however the nature, scope, and specifics of engaging in critical thinking has changed. Students today aren’t any more or less smart, but they do have more information and technology at their fingertips. That’s both positive and negative. We hear about information overload, and it is certainly true. We hear about needing to multi-task, and while I don’t think that students are actually thinking two thoughts simultaneously, they certainly are time-sharing very very quickly. So, when students get to the UW, they are more experienced than previous generations in accessing the Internet – the web as well as other tools, systems, and services. But, they aren’t necessarily better at using, synthesizing, and presenting information and knowledge. For example, they may be better at using a range of presentation options (e.g., PowerPoint, creating videos, incorporating graphics), but they aren’t always better at any specific option, particularly writing or oral presentation.

This doesn’t surprise me one bit. It seems that in our era of information overload, we haven’t necessarily honed our skills at thinking critically about resources. Authority and credibility of Web content is a huge issue, however the general population seems comfortable in believe much of what they read.

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