Improved Critical Thinking

Educators are giving their students the digital tools to discover and direct their own learning.

Learning 21st Century Skills

In today’s world, students need to be able to use critical thinking skills outside of the classroom. The US Department of Labor listed “thinking creatively, making decisions, solving problems, seeing things in the mind’s eye, knowing how to learn, and reason,” collectively referred to as “critical thinking,” as a foundational set of skills crucial to success in the workforce. Educators are using technology as a tool to improve students’ critical thinking skills.

Download: US Department of Labor

With technology, students are taking learning into their own hands. They are engaged in the learning process, taking ownership of their learning, researching topics, analyzing information, and creating projects.

Read about the research support for this phenomenon.

Exploring Sources Beyond the Textbook

The use of technology has the potential to generate a more authentic purpose for student work, where students actively seek their own knowledge and information. In phase 1 of our study, educators reported that students are now looking beyond the teacher and the classroom for answers. Students are not waiting for the answer from the teacher, but actively searching online for the answers. When students are more engaged, the subject matter becomes more relevant—and more likely to be remembered after the bell rings.

Discussing Topics Online

Educators also noted the power of online discussions for encouraging and grading critical thinking. Participants have time to reflect through collaboration and improve the quality of their contributions when writing online. They must also support their arguments with online sources.


  • Have students evaluate their own work and show their reasoning
  • Change lesson objectives so students must find the answers, rather have the answers provided in the lecture
  • Employ online forums to facilitate critical reasoning, analysis and expository writing in a debate format
  • Let students research topics that interest them
  • Have students teach others what they have learned

Case Study

Teachers in Meridian, Idaho discuss how they use technology-driven research and exploration to deepen student learning.