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Posts Tagged ‘Critical Thinking’

Adding an A to STEM…Full STEAM Ahead!

STEAM Quote

As professionals in the field of education, we all know the term STEM. This is a movement that exposes students to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. It promotes the teaching of these disciplines’ theories and content with a hands-on learning approach. The goal is not only to provide students with a deep, multidisciplinary understanding but to foster understanding of STEM concepts in the real world.

If a letter were added to the STEM acronym, what would the best choice be? In this video, Harvard University education professor Howard Gardner has a definitive answer: “I have no hesitation in saying we need to add the letter A….An education devoid of arts…is an empty, half-brain kind of education.”

To the point.

In that same video, Yale Child Study Center lecturer Erika Christakis isolates perhaps the core reason that adding the Arts to STEM education is so important: “The arts hav[e] something really essential to say about the human condition, just as science does.”

Let’s First Look at STEM.

We are humans living in a rapidly developing society. In no point in recorded human history has there been as many innovative technologies bringing people together. The disciplines represented in STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math—are integral to the technologies we use every day—and the tools we will use tomorrow. As stated in the State Idaho Department of Education’s What Is STEM Education?, “Math is the language; Science and Engineering are the processes for thinking; all this leads to Innovation.”

Young people—students—have known no other world. It is in all of our best interest to teach, encourage, and support them in a STEM environment.

So Why STEAM?: Arts and the Human Condition

Knowing and understanding the significance of STEM in our schools may not, at first glance, lead us to recognize the significance of adding an A to this multidisciplinary approach to education.

So we must ask: Exactly what do the arts add to our lives?

Consider what the arts encompass. Music, painting, sculpting, theater, literature, architecture, fashion, and so much more. Just as new technologies bring us together and help create our shared experiences, the arts span time to connect us with each other and ourselves. Consider briefly Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. How many people have viewed this painting across the centuries and have been moved by its beauty and brilliance? Across time and cultures, Mona Lisa created a shared, communal experience that impacted 16th-century viewers in much the same way is it does today.  An encounter that becomes both a personal and shared experience.

In fact, at the foundation of all artistic endeavors are creativity, personal experience, and shared experience. It is the same with newfound technologies. Why is this important? Consider what Mae Jemison—an astronaut, doctor, art collector, and dancer—had to say on the topic in this transcript of her 2009 TED Talk on teaching arts and science:

“The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin, even, or even different parts of the same continuum, but rather they’re manifestations of the same thing….The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity. It’s our attempt as humans to build an understanding of the universe, the world around us….[S]cience provides an understanding of a universal experience, and arts provides a universal understanding of a personal experience.”

STEAM in Action

Creativity, personal experience, and shared experience are evident in stories and videos of STEAM in action. When creative writing is incorporated as the A in this Science of Superheroes Lesson, students are able to make connections between the science of flight—which was the STEM component of the lesson—and creating a superhero character and story, which was the A component of the lesson. The video highlights the many layers of involvement and collaboration STEAM can engender.

Math concepts, such as number lines, counting, and fractions, are merged seamlessly with interactive theater play in Staging STEM, a video that also conveys the joy students attain when engaging in STEAM activities. The personal and shared experiences, generated by both personal and communal creativity, become essential to and integrated with the learning experience.

Education should be exciting, engaging, uplifting, and inspiring…and it should provide an outlet for creativity and both personal and shared experiences. The multidisciplinary STEAM educational model certainly is an approach worth exploring.

Explore more about STEM and STEAM in this infographic from the University of Florida:

STEAM, not just STEM Education Infographic
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

CultureGrams Scavenger Hunt

Are you looking for an engaging way to help your students learn about the countries of the world? We just want to remind you that we’ve put together a scavenger hunt that will help them do that, and students will become familiar with some of the content and features available in the CultureGrams World Edition as well. The activity requires students (either individually or in groups) to answer a series of questions on an assigned country by “scavenging” through the product. And in the process, they learn about some of our standard CultureGrams categories, plus features like the Currency Converter, Data Tables, Famous People, Photos, and Recipes.

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CultureGrams World Edition via ProQuest

Most of the questions are factual in nature, but there are critical thinking questions as well. The scavenger hunt can be an activity that you use on its own or it can be a way to teach students how to use CultureGrams for country research as preparation for working on their own.

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CultureGrams Scavenger Hunt via ProQuest

Check it out by clicking here. Enjoy!

Equip Middle School Students As Critical Thinkers

Critical Thinking

Junior High Critical Thinking Poster
Image by Enokson via Flickr is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

Middle school students have no lack of opinions regarding clothes, music, movies and their friends. The chatter of the school hallways brims with their opinions. But do they know how to craft an argument? Do they know how to state a claim and cite evidence? The distinction between persuasive opinion and an evidence-based argument is essential for their future.

After all, culture offers a steady stream of opinions and claims. Social media, advertisements, political campaigns and even their peers give students messages 24/7 on what they should look like, act like and live like in order to achieve the best life. To make effective decisions in college and career, students must learn how to be critical thinkers.

The Common Core State Standards agree and state that students starting in middle school need to be able to craft and interpret arguments in writing and speaking.

Many types of assignments support these skills. Whether you are teaching students to use critical thinking skills in a class discussion, pro/con debate or an argument paper, try topics that are already important to students to spark their interest like Cell Phones in School, Cyberbullying or Homework.

Then provide them a critical thinking toolkit so they can unpack the issue and analyze it from all sides. Include in the toolkit an overview of the topic, key terms, and definitions, an essential question, examples of viewpoints, a compelling image for visual literacy, and questions for analyses.

You can find all the above in ProQuest SIRS Discoverer’s  pro/con feature. Pro/Con Leading Issues is specifically created for research and English Language Arts (ELA) writing requirements with topic-related materials to guide the student. See any of the 55 age-appropriate topics.

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ProQuest SIRS Discoverer’s Pro/Con Leading Issues

 

What topics spark your students’ interest that we could add to our Pro/Con feature? Let us know in comments or tweet at #ProQuest.

CultureGrams: Critical Thinking

A great way to foster critical thinking and engaged learning in your students is to help them learn to ask good questions, to push beyond the obvious, to see purely factual data points in a broader context. Asking good questions promotes independent thinking, stimulates curiosity, increases understanding, and helps people see how seemingly disparate ideas connect.

We encourage teachers to use CultureGrams to promote critical thinking in their classrooms. There are many ways to do so. You might ask students, for example, why many major metropolitan areas are often located in coastal areas or near major waterways. Take Australia, China, Canada, or Brazil, for example. Look at where many of the largest cities are concentrated. Why aren’t the cities scattered more evenly across these countries? The answers to these questions may vary, depending on the country. You could discuss the significance of trade and access to foreign markets; the importance of water to sustain life and as a means of travel; the influence of history, geography, and climate on settlement and growth; etc. Encourage students to ask why things are the way they are. This can lead them to insights they may not have had previously.

Brazil Simple Map

Brazil Map via ProQuest CultureGrams

You could also ask students to think about what countries in a particular region have in common besides just occupying a particular part of the world. Have students think about the many of the island nations of Oceania, for instance. Do they share common geographical features or similar climates? Are there common languages, a common religion, or similar cultural attitudes? How do their economies compare? What common challenges do countries in Oceania face? Also, what differentiates countries in the region? And what is the impact of these similarities and differences on the region as a whole?

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Aerial View, Tahiti, French Polynesia (photo by Peter Stone via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery)

Another fruitful area of exploration might be to ask students how the content in one CultureGrams category impacts the content in another. How does the land and climate in a particular country influence the economy? How has a country’s history shaped its linguistic or religious development? How do a culture’s attitudes about family affect how they view dating and marriage?

And lastly, you could ask students to compare statistical data between two or more countries. What does the data reveal? How can the differences in data be explained? For example,  below is a customized table that provides data related to health and life expectancy for Belgium and Uganda. What does the data reveal? What might be some of the root causes for the differences in the numbers?

Belgium Uganda Comparison

To be clear, teachers will need to monitor these kinds of activities/discussions to make sure that students are coming to sound conclusions and not speculating wildly about cause and effect. But that process in itself can be useful in teaching students how to analyze factual information.

Of course, there are many other areas in CultureGrams that you could use to foster critical thinking, but we hope this gets you started thinking of some of the possibilities. Please let us know if you have any great ideas on this topic or if you come up with interesting activities that foster critical thinking.

6 Reasons Why Editorial Cartoons Are an Essential Teaching Tool

“One strong editorial cartoon is worth a hundred solemn editorials.”
—William Zinsser, On Writing Well

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CC0 Public Domain, via Pixabay

My seventh-grade social studies teacher gave extra credit to students who brought in editorial cartoons for class discussions. Luckily for me, stacks of newspapers were common in my house. My father was a printing-press operator and a newspaper addict. We got three newspapers daily and sometimes more when my father couldn’t resist a newsstand. So I got a lot of extra credit that year.

Editorial cartoons are all that I remember from that class. My newspaper monopoly aside, I remember being captivated by grown-up cartoons and wanted to understand them, which is how I became interested in current events and issues. I still get excited when I see editorial cartoons. An astute cartoon is an oasis in a wit-starved world.

To celebrate our new Editorial Cartoons Curriculum Guide, here are six reasons why editorial cartoons are an enduring curriculum essential.

Why do you think editorial cartoons are an essential teaching tool?

Share your thoughts with us on Twitter #ProQuest or in the comments below.

ProQuest editors are continually adding editorial cartoons to ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher. Don’t have it? Request a trial.

CultureGrams: One Religion, Many Practices

UzbekistanMosque.header

Mir-e Arab Mosque, Bukhara, Uzbekistan by Robert Wilson (CC BY-ND 2.0) via Flickr

Did you know that there are over 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide? Across this massive group, there is a considerable range of religious practice and doctrinal interpretation. Catholicism and Buddhism have similarly large and diverse populations whose adherents can be found in very different geographic regions and societies. To better understand how religious belief impacts people, students need to understand that most religions have a range of beliefs and practices. The following activity from the CultureGrams Activities PDF helps students to explore differences within one religion across different cultures.

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Mosque in Isfahan, Iran by Babak Farrokhi (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

Teaching Activity: One Religion, Many Practices

Time requirement
Preparation: 10 minutes
In-class : 1 hour and 30 minutes, two different days

Research and Writing
Grade level: 6–8; can be modified for other age groups
Objective: Students will compare the practice of a single religion across multiple countries and interviews.

Materials: CultureGrams Online Edition—Interviews

Instructions
1. Have students read three interviews with people who practice the same religion. Some options are Islam (Qosimov: Uzbekistan, Djiba: Senegal, and Joud: Jordan), Catholicism (Javier: Bolivia, Trina: Costa Rica, and Petrosse: Mozambique), and Buddhism (Sai: Cambodia, Dawa: Nepal, and Chhun: Cambodia).
2. What differences do students notice in the way the interviewees practice their religion? Differences may be found in how often a person attends worship services, how important they consider religion in their life, ways they worship, and holidays they celebrate.
3. Now have students read the Religion section of each interviewee’s country in the World Edition report. What do these sections say about the religion? How does the information in the report compare to the information in the interviewees’ answers? How does the practice of the religion vary between countries?
4. Have students write a short essay on their observations about the ways a single religion varies in different areas and between individual observers of that religion. They may also speculate on why this could be.

*See pg. 55-56 of the CultureGrams Teaching Activities PDF  to view the education standards that are targeted in this activity.

mosque.bahrain

Mosque in Bahrain by Denise Krebs (CC BY 2.0) via Fickr

STEM Education Invites Summer Science

Educational interpretations and implementations of STEM–an acronym for the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics–are as varied as the fields of study themselves. Only one thing is clear: the general consensus of educators and educational professionals is that STEM education can provide enormous benefits for students.

Photo credit: opensourceway / Foter / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: opensourceway / Foter / CC BY-SA

 

How could it not? In 2009, the Program of International Student Assessment (PISA) report showed that U.S. high-school students were ranked 18th in math scores and 13th in science scores. Thirty-four nations participated, so these results were troubling. So troubling, in fact, that–in seeming response to the PISA rankings–the White House issued numerous reports on the significance of STEM education and allocated funding toward STEM initiatives and programs. In 2010, President Obama set a goal of increasing teachers’ and students’ proficiency in STEM fields of study.

President Barack Obama hosts the Science Fair at the State Dining Room of the White House, held for winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions. <br />Credit: Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy [Public Domain], via ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter

President Barack Obama hosts the Science Fair at the State Dining Room of the White House, held for winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions. Credit: Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy [Public Domain], via ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter

So the question became…how? There are, of course, no easy answers. Possible solutions continue to be pondered, discussed, argued, and carried out in classrooms. Some things have worked, others haven’t. Thus is the evolution of education.

We at ProQuest applaud the efforts toward comprehensive STEM education and celebrate the national attention it has engendered. One goal of STEM education is to instill a sense of curiosity and exploration in students. This goal is one shared by ProQuest and its K-12 products.

Join us this summer in celebration of STEM education and its practice and growth in the United States. STEM disciplines are prominently featured on SIRS Discoverer–our product for young researchers–in its Science topic tree and in Science Fair Explorer. SIRS Issues Researcher offers a number of STEM-related topics in its Leading Issues database, such as Alternative Energy Sources, Biomedical Technology, Genetic Engineering, Nuclear Energy, Ozone Depletion, Space Exploration and Travel, and Technology. Click on any of these topics for up-to-date articles and information. And in the SIRS Discoverer Spotlight of the Month for June, Summer Science Projects, we encourage students to see the science, technology, engineering, and math that surrounds them through hands-on activities. Everyone can be a scientist! STEM is all around us…the night sky, a frog’s call, a blooming flower, a car’s engine, an Internet transmission, a deep breath…STEM at work.

If we can impress upon one student the joy of seeing science, technology, engineering, and math all around, we have done our jobs.

Education Using Ebooks

Ebook Central 10

Ebooks are a great way for teachers and students to put together technology with essential knowledge and skills. ProQuest provides a number of ways to put ebooks to good use in the classroom. The all-new ProQuest Ebook Central provides your library with every possible access option from purchasing your ebook collection directly to providing set loan days over a year, or to simply subscribing to unlimited use of large amounts of key content, just like you would your favorite reference database. Resources in ProQuest Ebook Central support all types of classroom instruction as well, including STEM, History, Literature, Math, Language Arts, Education, Psychology, Science, Religion, and more. And, with ProQuest’s Ebook Central, students may mark and annotate key parts of the text of any book, or download to any device.

Learn all about ProQuest Ebook Central, or any of our other extensive ProQuest resource collections by joining the ProQuest Training and Consulting team in a free public webinar. If we haven’t listed the class you’re interested in, just contact us and we’ll be happy to make arrangements to meet with you directly.

ProQuest eLibrary Science: Man in Space

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Learn about the many exciting and incredible things we’ve learned from our outreach into space, both manned and unmanned.  We’ve overcome and dealt with major challenges, obstacles, and tragedies like the loss of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia, the Apollo 13 mission, and the required space repairs of the Hubble Telescope and our very first space station, Skylab.  We’ve also seen great success walking on the moon, and with our space probes deep into our own solar system and beyond, as well as our Mars rovers.  We’ve done a lot and come through a lot, and yet we haven’t even scratched the surface.  Is there a career waiting for you in space?  Maybe in one of the other areas of science?  If you think so, or if you just like to learn interesting facts and theories about our world and worlds beyond, you can find all kinds of information in ProQuest eLibrary Science. ProQuest eLibrary Science will introduce you to topics in health, biology, earth science, mathematics, physical sciences, technology, science projects, and much, much more!

Learn all about ProQuest eLibrary Science, or any of our other extensive ProQuest resource collections by joining the ProQuest Training and Consulting team in a free public webinar. If we haven’t listed the class you’re interested in, just contact us and we’ll be happy to make arrangements to meet with you directly.

ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Learning from History

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What was the federal budget deficit in 1970? 1980? 1990? How about the trade deficit? How did Americans view foreign policy in the 1950’s or 1960’s — or how about even the 1870’s? How did we handle immigration policy in the early years of the nation compared to today? These are all great questions to think about and explore, and through exploring what people were saying and thinking in various years in the past we can often learn something about our own challenges today, where we may have improved, and also where we may need to improve. ProQuest Historical Newspapers Graphical Edition provides this opportunity. You can look at topics from slavery to the 21st century, and from the Reagan era to the Industrial Age, and you can gain first-hand insights on how we handled our problems then, and from there gain ideas about how we can handle problems today — or even avoid them. History can be a great teacher!

Learn all about ProQuest Historical Newspapers Graphical Edition, or any of our other extensive ProQuest resource collections by joining the ProQuest Training and Consulting team in a free public webinar. If we haven’t listed the class you’re interested in, just contact us and we’ll be happy to make arrangements to meet with you directly.