Critical Thinking

Lesson 1: Define the Problem

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  1. Educators will be able to explain the impact of information overload on students.
  2. Educators will be able to frame thoughtful, unbiased questions.

Essential Question: How do we make sense of information when there's too much to process?


  1. Educators will be able to explain the impact of information overload on students.
  2. Educators will be able to frame thoughtful, unbiased questions.

With all the information in the world, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. It is likely that your students have come to school with information to share, both from reliable sources and less trustworthy ones. As digital natives, your students have never known a world where a question can’t be answered with a quick Google search, but despite their tech-savvy nature, they’re just as likely to fall for misinformation as their parents and grandparents.

Think about a time a student or someone else you know shared misinformation with you. How did they share it? How did you know it wasn’t true? Why do you think they were inclined to believe it?

It’s getting harder to tell misinformation from the truth. Complete the activity below to see if you can spot the fake headlines, charts, or works of art. Then, choose a content-specific version of the activity to add to your lesson plan for your students.

The research shows that critical thinking skills are best taught in content-specific contexts. By tying your content to the critical thinking skills in this course, you're helping make the skills more tangible for learners.
Do you think there are many fake headlines in the news? Why do you think some news outlets and individuals share misinformation?

Since we can’t always tell fact from fiction at a glance, it’s important that we learn strategies for fact-checking things we see online or hear from others, and it’s crucial that we teach them to our students. With its abundance of information, the internet can help us answer just about any question, but only if we know how to use it properly to get the best results.

Watch the video below to learn about how search engines work and what we need to be careful of when using them as a tool.

The first step to finding good information is starting with a good search. The tips below will help you search unbiasedly and efficiently.

How to Search Unbiasedly and Efficiently

1. Search for a topic, not a specific viewpoint

Remember, a search engine is going to give you results that match your keywords. If you use words with positive or negative associations, searching those terms will return results with similar points of view. Try to frame your terms using neutral language.

Instead of: Why are cats better than dogs?
Google search results for why are cats better than dogs
Try: pros and cons of owning a cat
Google search results for pros and cons of owning a cat

2. Beware of ads

Once you’ve formulated your search, be careful which links you trust. On most search engines, the results at the very top of the page are often advertisements. While these sources might be okay, companies pay money for you to see them first, which usually means they are trying to convince you of something. Watch out for the results labeled “Ad,” and if you choose to use them as a resource, think about why they might have paid for you to visit their site.

Google search with lots of ads in the results

3. Don’t be afraid to scroll down the page

While the algorithms for search engines have gotten much more advanced, they are still a long way from being able to understand every nuance of human language. When you enter search terms, remember that the algorithm is sorting the results based on what it thinks you’re looking for. If you visit a site and it doesn’t have the information you need, don’t be afraid to go back to your search. You can always scroll down to other results or reword your search terms.

What are some other tips you have for students when it comes to using search engines? Is there anything specific to your content area they should be mindful of when they search?
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