best shampoo for hair loss

The 10 Bona Fide Best Sites for Sharpening Your Critical Thinking Skills

by Jeff Cobb

Critical Thinking - It's Elementary!

Critical Thinking – It’s Elementary!

Given the range of financial swindles that have occurred over the past couple of years and the more recent rumblings about “death panels” and other supposedly evil aspects of Obama’s healthcare reform efforts, it seems like many of us could stand to bone up on our critical thinking skills a bit.

And for the average Lifelong Learner 2.0, of course, good critical thinking skills are essential for cutting through the noise on the Web and getting to resources that are actually trustworthy and accurate.

So here are ten resources I found valuable as I searched the Web for tools to help with sharpening my critical thinking skills. I hope you find them useful, too – and please comment with any others you think are valuable.

I recommend starting things off with a quick quiz before heading into the other resources:

Critical Thinking Quiz

An interesting, 26-question online quiz provided by the College of Forestry at Oregon State University.  (It’s good to know that forestry graduates will have a grounding in critical thinking!) Take the time to think about them a bit – which, of course, is the point – and you will probably be able to answer most of these correctly. There are a few tough ones in there, though!

Internet Detective

“Sure, you use the Internet all the time, but you need to wise up to the web when you use it for your university or college work. Use this free Internet tutorial to learn to discern the good, the bad and the ugly for your online research.”  This tutorial is intended to help college students hone their Internet research skills, but I think it is equal useful for their parents, friends, and siblings.

Zeno’s Coffee House

As the site explains, “Zeno of Elea, a pre-Socratic philosopher, was born about 490 B.C. His style of argument was to assume, provisionally, the position of the opponent, and then to derive impossible conclusions from it, thus establishing the absurdity of the assumption. In the spirit of this Reductio Ad Absurdum dialectical approach to critical thinking, our Coffeehouse activities will tackle from time to time so-called ‘common sense views,’ analyzed critically. The mental gymnastics will be good exercise!” The site won’t win any visual design awards, but it is a fascinating place to visit and engage.

The Argument Clinic

“We examine arguments. If you’ve got an argument you’d like us to look at, type it into the space below or e-mail a copy to the waiting room. We’ll get to it as soon as we can. Once we’re done, we’ll let you know the results of the exam. We may find that the argument is as sound as a dollar (or maybe even sounder than that!). On the other hand, it might limp along so badly that we’ll have to face facts and declare it an invalid, or perhaps more precisely, just plain old invalid. Of course there are intermediate possibilities too. But you get the idea.” A very interesting concept!

Critical Thinking Web

OpenCourseWare on critical thinking, logic, and creativity. “This educational web site provides over 100 free online tutorials on critical thinking, logic, scientific reasoning, creativity, and other aspects of thinking skills.” A nice coolection of resources from Hong Kong University. You might want to give the world’s most difficult logic puzzle a try!  This one is also available in traditional and simplified Chinese.

Mission: Critical

“The goal of Mission: Critical is to create a “virtual lab,” capable of familiarizing users with the basic concepts of critical thinking in a self-paced, interactive environment.” The interface on this one leaves something to be desired (at least on a Mac), but it provides a good overview of different types of reasoning, along with a lot of practice exercises.

The Fallacy Files

Blends a ”collection of named fallacies—such as “ad hominem“—that is, types of bad reasoning which someone has thought distinctive and interesting enough to name and describe” and a “collection of fallacious, or otherwise bad, arguments…” This is a very good site for developing an understanding of “logical fallacies” – i.e., errors in reasoning. I particularly like the Fallacy Watch section.

The Nizkor Project: Fallacies

Another site focused on fallacies. This one features the complete text from Fallacy Tutorial Pro 3.0 organized as a menu of links. There is also an Italian version of this site. http://www.linux.it/~della/fallacies/index.html

Argumentation and Critical Thinking Tutorial

This tutorial from Humboldt State University provides a brief review of major critical thinking concepts and then a set of quizzes to test your understanding. Warning: Turn down your volume if you are using this in a public place. Answers are punctuated with Simpson- like sounds (which personally I find a bit annoying).

BlueStorm: The Logic Course

“BlueStorm is a mostly free introduction to critical thinking and elementary sentential logic. This is a huge collection of tutorials and quizzes on critical thinking divided into 14 topic areas.” Recommended for readers who really want to dig in and get serious about mastering argumentation and reasoning.

Bonus Section:

The Skeptics Dictionary

If you find you are a true skeptic after checking out the resources above, you may also want to visit the Skeptics Dictionary and the Skeptic Society.

Finally, you can find other resources, some of which overlap with those above, at AusThink and EpistemeLinks.  The ones here represent the sites that I felt readers would find most immediately useful and accessible.

***

Believe me, you can’t go wrong with these sites. (And if you are willing to believe me that easily, I’ve also got some great land in Florida I’d be willing to let you have for cheap…)

Critically yours,

Jeff

Additional Resources:

6 Great Videos on Teaching Critical Thinking
http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2012/12/6-great-videos-on-teaching-critical.html

posted on September 1, 2009

Other Mission to Learn Offerings

Thanks so much for reading the Mission to Learn blog. If you aren't already aware of them, we also encourage you to check out:

Also, we are always eager to hear from you about things you would like to see on Mission to Learn. Please contact us with any ideas or news you have, or find out about writing for Mission to Learn.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Francis O'Reilly September 1, 2009 at 10:14 am

I’d also like to suggest the following, which introduced me to the whole art of critical thinking many moons ago. Based on one of the superb Carl Sagan’s books, we have:

11. The Baloney Detection Kit: http://www.xenu.net/archive/baloney_detection.html

jtcobb September 2, 2009 at 9:48 am

Thanks for that addition, Francis – looks like a great site! – Jeff

Nile October 7, 2009 at 3:06 pm

I’d like to suggest The Critical Thinking Co. – free printable samples and software demos are available online at http://www.criticalthinking.com. For more than 50 years, their award-winning products have helped students of all ages and abilities achieve better grades and higher test scores with highly effective lessons that sharpen the mind as they teach standards-based reading, writing, mathematics, science, and history.

jtcobb October 15, 2009 at 7:03 am

Nile – A belated response to say thanks for that addition. I somehow did not come across The Critical Thinking Co. in my Web travels. Looks like a valuable site. – Jeff

alex January 2, 2011 at 9:19 pm

i bookmarked it :)

Arman January 24, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Leave a Comment

{ 5 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: