Using the Internet to develop students' critical thinking skills and build online communities of teachers: A review of research with implications for museum education
Melanie L. Buffington, The Ohio State University, United States
The Ohio State University . Awarded
This dissertation presents a critical content meta-analysis of published literature related to using the Internet to develop critical thinking skills in students and to build online communities of teachers. An underlying goal of the research was to work toward the development of stronger connections between museums and public schools. Through analyzing the literature, I developed suggestions for museum personnel to implement when creating educational museum web sites.
The analysis of the literature on critical thinking shows that there is no agreement among the authors as to the meaning of the term “critical thinking.” The majority of the literature presents the concept of critical thinking with little effort to explain its nuances. The literature largely endorses the view that thinking critically about the Internet involves accepting information because it is represented in multiple sites on the Internet and rejecting information that is not congruent with dominant cultural beliefs.
Utilizing the concept of hyper-connective thinking, museum educators can build educational web sites that highlight objects that are the subject of controversy. The use of these web sites will enable students to access multiple perspectives relating to the objects, thus allowing them to learn about divergent interpretations and understandings. The literature on building online communities of teachers also has little agreement with regard to the use of the term “community.” The concept of online communities, especially in educational settings, is gaining in popularity at a rapid rate. Through online interactions, teachers may be able to overcome the often-cited feelings of separation from peers and find ways to improve their teaching practice. There are many power issues that must be considered when building an online community ranging from the ability of the community members to change the social interactions to the relative parity of the members of the community. To build a community, it is not enough to pronounce a group of students in a class as a community, but the members must perceive a common interest and benefits from their interaction. Additionally, through online communities, museums have the opportunity to develop interactions among interested visitors relating to the objects in the collections. These interactions range from casual information sharing to building ongoing dialogue between and among museum educators, teachers, museum visitors, and others.
I argue that insufficient research has been conducted on using the Internet in K–12 classrooms with students. As schools and museums are increasingly turning to the Internet to promote educational experiences, doing so in a void of research is not advisable. Thus, this research is an important first step in filling the void by creating numerous suggestions for museum educators to utilize when developing educational web sites. Museum web sites could become exemplars for helping students develop critical thinking skills.
Buffington, M.L. Using the Internet to develop students' critical thinking skills and build online communities of teachers: A review of research with implications for museum education. Ph.D. thesis, The Ohio State University.
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