Critically think, don’t Google

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Alvin Toffler, an American writer, futurist and businessman wrote in his book Future Shock years ago forewarning that “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write. It will be those who can not learn, unlearn and relearn.”

Throughout each day of high school, we strive to develop the building blocks of learning. As defined by Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, critical thinking is a system of analyzing information to make logical decisions to the extent to which an individual thinks it is true or false. Today, those skills have started to decline in young adolescents due to our dependence on the internet. Rather than continuing our dependence on the internet, students need to find a way to develop their critical thinking skills. 

When presented with new information it should be worked into our long-term memory. According to a Psychology Today article, a barrier to further developing critical thinking skills is the lack of knowledge an individual has towards a specific subject in detail. This will hinder students’ ability to use the information they learn to critically think about a problem in the future. It may be tempting to google information we do not know in an instant, but it is useful to learn and retain the information in our long-term memory to recall and analyze later. When we struggle to encode information into our short-term memory to later be kneaded into our semantic memory it will be difficult to critically think about a problem.

Our digital reliance begs the question — how can we practice critical thinking? There are three criteria that can be met to enhance one’s ability to critically think. According to Psychology Today, individuals can practice evaluation, inference and analysis. Each of these three skill sets can be used to turn the gears in one’s head to start critically thinking. When we use the information we have stored, we can analyze our current situation, use the information we know to make an inference and make our final evaluation. For example, when sitting in class, instead of surfing the internet for answers to questions during a lecture, taking physical notes on the topic at hand can help engrain information into the brain. This information learned by actively listening in class can be used for future exams and the final. Being able to solve a problem given to you without looking toward the screen for answers is a valuable asset to have in everyday life. 

Despite the decline in critical thinking, many would argue that since we have access to information at our fingertips, we might as well use it to our advantage. Many skills in life can be solvable with a mere search on the internet, however, it is still important to critically think. An important process of critical thinking is recalling stored knowledge to generate possible answers, according to a research article from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Without having general knowledge of a topic, it can be difficult to find a solution. In a way, technology has inhibited us from retaining information as it is easier to simply look up the answer to a problem. If a question is truly unanswerable, take the time to understand it and learn about a new topic. Overall, we should learn to rely less on our screens and more on our memory and knowledge

So the next time you see a difficult question on your math homework or you’re trying to get that Evidence Beyond the Document point, refrain from reaching toward technology to find the answers. Instead, try to recall what you already know to practice and further develop critical thinking skills.