Forbes columns

A compilation of Helen Lee Bouygues’s regular column in Forbes on critical thinking research and education.

Research released today by the Reboot Foundation sheds new light on the effect of devices on learning.

The new analysis builds on an earlier study. Last summer, the foundation released a paper that showed a weak link between technology use and student learning. 

“Traditionally, the way labs have been run is, students are given a procedure that they follow and conduct an experiment to observe a particular phenomenon,” explains Natasha Holmes, an assistant professor at Cornell University specializing in physics education. “But there’s not a lot of critical thinking there. Most of the decisions are laid out for the students.”

The Reboot Foundation, which I founded to advance critical thinking in education, recently published a Parents’ Guide to Critical Thinking. A group of experts — led by researcher Sébastian Dieguez at the University of Fribourg — spent more than a year pulling together the guide, relying on the latest research in the sciences, and the document brims with tips on how parents can help their children learn to reason in the Digital Age. 

Next-generation cell phones have commandeered our attention spans with their constant demands, and according to a study released last year, most people check their phones every 12 minutes or so. Ten percent of people check their phones every four minutes.  

The incessant distractions can have a negative impact on our lives, and studies show that too much cell phone use harms everything from learning to relationships. 

Expeditionary Learning schools are grounded in the philosophy that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. To students at Two Rivers Public Charter School, critical thinking is simply school culture. In addition to classroom lessons, they work on subject-specific projects and showcase their findings to classmates, parents and teachers. The school has designed a critical thinking curriculum, including assessment tools and core constructs of effective reasoning.

Innovations in educational technology have often sparked dramatic pronouncements, to be sure. Socrates, for example, famously observed that writing tools would impair people’s ability to remember. The Reboot Foundation recently explored the efficacy of education technology by analyzing two large achievement data sets. A growing body of evidence suggests that technology can have negative effects on student achievement.