Using Technology to Foster Critical Thinking Skills in Students

Here you will find an annotated list of key online resources about technologies that can be used to facilitate and develop critical thinking skills in students.
Designed and developed by Daniel Todd and created with Adobe Flash, Adobe Flex and Ruby on Rails
Timetoast allows you to create interactive timelines, which can be shared anywhere on the web. This is a free, online resource that anyone with a valid e-mail address can take advantage of.

Museum Box

Museum Box allows students to build up an argument or description of an event, person, or historical period, by placing items into a virtual box. Museum Box allows you to display anything from a text file to a movie. You can also view the museum boxes submitted by other people and comment on the contents. Museum Box also includes a "Teacher Area", where you can find lesson guidance and instructions. Teachers can create individual accounts for their students, where they can then review and approve students' work for sharing.

Click here to watch a video introduction to Museum Box.

A civil war themed museum box
Created by Roxie Carroll
Story-It is a free, interactive online resource that provides language arts activities for lower elementary students. One example of these activities is Word Magnets. Word Magnets provides phonics reinforcement and sentence building exercise for lower elementary students. Here students use sight word and phonics knowledge to build sentences about pictures they are given. Students can use this resource independently, or play with a classmate.

Below is an example of a Word Magnets activity.

Story-It has many other interactive language arts resources including word family, vocabulary building, dolch word recognition, and alphabet recognition activities.
Bert Herman, co-founder & CEO
Storify is a way to tell stories using social media such as Tweets, photos, and videos. You search multiple social networks from one place, and then drag individual elements into your story. You can re-order the elements and also add text to give context to your readers.

For an example or a Storify click here
Advanced Flash Components, Denver, CO
UMapper is a visual, universal, web-based map authoring application. UMapper makes it easier than ever to create embeddable maps for Adobe Flash™ and distribute them through a website, blog, or social network. UMapper’s visual map editor enables users of any skill level to add points, draw shapes and add interactive overlays to a map.
See an example here. See how to create a uMapper map below.
Developed by Kirill and Levon is a mind-mapping product aimed towards literally anyone who needs help organizing their thoughts or any untidy information. makes it easy for anyone to quickly start planning and sorting out their ideas through the use of linked text bubbles. Each bubble of information is connected to its preceding parent bubble and color coordinated accordingly for hierarchy sake.

Founded by Gail Wheatley and Eric Bort
Edheads provides free, educational online games focused on science, math, and critical thinking that meets both state and national standards. They partner with corporations, universities, and school systems throughout the United States, which help us research, design, and test our activities every step of the way.

by MeisterLabs
MindMeister brings the concept of mind mapping to the web, using its facilities for real-time collaboration to allow truly global brainstorming sessions. Users can create, manage, and share mind maps online and access them anytime, from anywhere.

Alexander Mimran and Michael Lawlor
Penzu is an online diary and personal journal that is focused on privacy. With a unique and compelling user experience, it makes writing online as easy and intuitive as writing on a pad of paper.

Stewart Arneil and Martin Holmes
Quandary is an application for creating Web-based Action Mazes. An Action Maze is a kind of interactive case-; the user is presented with a situation, and a number of choices as to a course of action to deal with it. On choosing one of the options, the resulting situation is then presented, again with a set of options. Working through this branching tree is like negotiating a maze, hence the name "Action Maze".

Action mazes can be used for many purposes, including problem-solving, diagnosis, procedural , and surveys/questionnaires. All of these types of uses are easier to understand by example than they are to explain, so here are some example exercises.
Quandary is only available for Windows

"A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web." -WebQuest.Org

With Zunal, teachers can find and create their own WebQuests to use in the classroom. WebQuests can cover any subject matter and, when used effectively, can foster critical thinking skills in students. Zunal is a free online resource and is also very easy to use! Zunal offers users over 100 templates to use to create their WebQuests. Users can also attach unlimited files as well as YouTube and GoogleVideos.

Click here to see a WebQuest made using Zunal.
Free Thinking Games

Free Thinking Games is a website that offers free "thinking games." There are free math, strategy, critical thinking, memory, word, learning, and mind games. There are also brain teasers, sudoku, logic puzzles, and critical thinking exercises. Games can be enjoyed by both children and adults!

This resource could be used as a creative site as kids share stories and find out how to go about getting published. However, I was intrigued by how some students used the site as a platform for online debates. Click here for a link to an example debate.
Fun Debate Game for Kids

Enjoy this fun debate game for kids. Take part in an interactive debate against an opponent arguing from the opposite point of view on a range of interesting topics. Listen to what they have to say before choosing your response from a list of possible alternatives. The judges will then vote on who they thought had they best argument. Try hard and see if you can get the crowd on your side and win the debate. This is a great way for students to develop critical thinking skills at an early age.
Data Grapher
NCTM Illuminations
The Basic Data Grapher can be used to analyze data with bar graphs, line graphs, pie charts, and pictographs. You can enter multiple rows and columns of data, select which set(s) to display in a graph, and choose the type of representation. Critical thinking is involved as students decide what the best representations would be for their univariate or multivariate data.
There is an advanced version of this data grapher available for older grades. It can be found here.
Computing Pi
NCTM Illuminations
In mathematics, students are often asked to accept ideas and concepts at face value. Here, students have the opportunity to explore, compare, contrast, discuss, and draw conclusions about the value of the infamous number pi.

The Greek mathematician Archimedes approximated pi by inscribing and circumscribing polygons about a circle and calculating their perimeters. Similarly, the value of pi can be approximated by calculating the areas of inscribed and circumscribed polygons. This activity allows for the investigation and comparison of both methods.
Free Ride
NCTM Illuminations
Here is another NCTM activity that fosters critical thinking by having students use ratios and proportions in a very real context, but one that is also fun.

This applet allows you to vary the gear ratio of a bike. The distance traveled by a half-pedal is determined by the ratio of gears.
Linear Regression
NCTM Illuminations
This applet allows students to do what is normally done using spreadsheet applications or graphing calculators. Students can analyze data by finding a line of regression (also known as a best fit line) and examining what happens to this line as new data points are added. This is the perfect applet to begin discussions about data and outliers.

GeoGebra is free and multi-platform dynamic mathematics software for all levels of education that joins geometry, algebra, tables, graphing, statistics and calculus in one easy-to-use package.

Quick Facts

  • Graphics, algebra and tables are connected and fully dynamic
  • Easy-to-use interface, yet many powerful features
  • Authoring tool to create interactive learning materials as web pages
  • Available in many languages for our millions of users around the world