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Developing Critical Thinking Through Computer Games

Critical thinking is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form an opinion or take action! I like to think of it as intentional thinking.

Many years ago I heard something that stuck with me - a key difference between humans and animals is our responseABILITY. As humans we have the ability to CHOOSE how we respond. But, it requires taking the microsecond gap between information and response to THINK. As humans we make millions of decisions everyday.

Should I get up or hit snooze again?

Should I eat breakfast or just have coffee?

What should I eat?

What should I wear?

How should I get to work?

And, that's all before we get out of the house! These decisions become automatic and in some cases 'a habit' so that we don't suffer from cognitive overload everyday. This is GREAT! But, it does present a challenge if we apply (and in a lot of cases not even realized we're applying) the same automatic and habitual decision makes processes to more complex and high stakes decisions.

When it comes to complex and high stakes decisions we need to 'take the gap,' short circuit our automated and habitual decision making process and use critical thinking BEFORE taking action.

How do we develop this ability to think critically about the situations and decisions that warrant it in our kids? Let's give it a try, using computer games!


1. Pick a computer game and play it!

NOTE: Look out for decisions in the game. You can use anything really. The choice to choose the banana peel instead of the spiny shell, (if you have not worked it out yet, I'm a fan of Mario Kart!) or what type of structure to build etc.

2. Use these questions to have a conversation about the decision:

  • I noticed you did <insert decision you noticed in the game>, why did you do that?

  • Why was that important?

  • Did you think about it before you did it?

  • Which other options did you consider?

  • Why didn't you choose one of those other options?

NOTE: The answers that come back may be something like, I tried the other way last time and it didn't work (learning from experience) or I watched an expert on youtube and that's how they did it (learning from research). You may also get a 'shrug' and that's okay too. The aim is to 'unearth' that a decision was made, whether it was conscious or not.

3. Follow up questions

  • What do you think is the hardest decision you've had to make playing this game?

  • How did you make that decision?

  • What's a hard decision you've had to make this week in your real life?

  • What did you decide?

  • What information did you use to make the decision?

  • Do you think you made a good decision?

  • Would you make the same choice if you could do it over?

Critical thinking is not developed in one sitting, but being able to identify when a decision was made and being able to deconstruct the process is a good first step!

Let me know how it goes.

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