Meticulously learning about the world around him or her, a young child sits in the corner diligently playing on a tablet PC. Technology is still teaching children skills and critical thinking abilities without ever actually stepping into the world to experience the stimuli first hand. While this may seem science fiction to some, it has been proven science fact by others. Critical thinking allows an individual to observe the facts, determine what to believe, and how to solve an arising problem. These skills, in the past and even still in current times, were developed over a period of years through life experiences and lessons learned. Technology has become a staple in today’s society and with the advancement of this technology, children are immersed into a virtual world of learning with the ability to learn new skills through its use. Children are now learning critical thinking at a much younger age.
Being able to observe the world surrounding us, and make a decision based on what is learned from that observation is the most important way to learn. Small children and adults alike begin learning this simple, yet complex ability from the time our eyes start to develop sight. In the early Eighties, the world as we perceived it was recreated with the use of technology. This virtual world allowed the exploration of places some had only dreamed of, for instance, a walk on the moon or a trip through space. This new way of seeing and learning from technology set in motion the advancement of learning abilities, putting critical thinking in action. Through the use of computers and other tools, children can now utilize learning skills that would otherwise never be available to them, such as a simple biology dissection. A virtual frog can now be dissected repeatedly with only the initial cost, and no fear of destruction.
With this new way to observe, gathering information is much easier through the development of virtual worlds and simulated life – much like that of modern video games. Introducing children to challenges and puzzles forces the use of critical thought processes to determine what choice is to be made and how that choice will affect him or her later on. “Unlike school where a test is the end of learning” (Wood, 2008) and the grades are final, technology-based learning allows children to persistently pursue an answer to a problem until a resolution is found. This new way of learning allows his or her to work the way through the problem by use of critical thinking.
Children are learning to put these skills to practice at a younger age as advancements and technological learning becomes more available. According to Tapscott, “many researchers assert that youth figure out things for themselves, tinker with technology, work across people and in groups, learn through a variety of media and collaborate with others” (2002) meaning that technology is playing an important role in the development of critical thinking in today’s youth. No longer are the traditional hands-on learning through physical immersion in stimuli playing as much of an important role. Critical thinking is now being learned faster and adapted more quickly, truly showing how over years of invention and research: the ability to learn, adapt, and make decisions are advancing.
Children will always be fascinated by the world around them and develop his or her own ability to face everyday situations. With the advent of technological learning, this process just increases the stimuli that are readily available to the youth of today. Making use of such advancements and traditional ways of learning will undoubtedly improve the way children of today and the future critically think. However, with the constant bombardment of learning through technology “… the brain needs rest in order to sift through information and store memories…” (Anonymous, 2011) otherwise the information can never be adopted and applied to memory. Deciding to use technology, learn from hands-on experiences, or apply both types of stimuli will require the use of one’s own critical thinking.
Anonymous,. Is technology messing with your brain? (2011, January). Scholastic Scope, 59(8), 20-21.
Tapscott, D. (2002). Growing up digital: the rise of the net generation. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Wood, C. (2008). Science for everyone: visions for near-future educational technology. International Journal of Information and Communication Technology Education, 4(4), 62-71.