Important Ed Tech Book Reviews

 From Now On
The Educational Technology Journal

 Vol 11|No 5|February|2002

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Avoiding Secondhand Thinking

by Jamie McKenzie
About the Author

When doing research, students should be more than hunters and gatherers. They should be capable of developing their own ideas.

© 2002, J. McKenzie.

Original thought is not a luxury or something we might expect only from the gifted. We need all students to learn to think for themselves and make up their own minds about the most important questions and decisions of their times and lives.

Democratic societies require citizens capable of challenging conventional wisdom, the propaganda of zealots and demagogues, as well as the platitudes and bland assurances of those in office who would like us to suspend critical judgment when systems break down.

New technologies can foster a "cut-and-paste" mentality and a "new plagiarism" described at some length in previous issues of FNO. Students can be swept along browsing, grazing and collecting other people's ideas without taking the time to challenge those ideas or build their own.

Secondhand thinking is dangerous.

Political science warns us that masses are easily mobilized by demagogues who promise much and appeal to fears and anxieties. One antidote is a school program intent on raising a generation of students who are immune to such appeals.

At the heart of such a program is the frequent introduction of students to problem-based learning and decision-making - issues and questions that require fresh thinking during and after the research phase. Information gathering remains important, but it is something like shopping before cooking a good meal.

The student gathers the best ingredients but doesn't stop with full shopping bags. The proof is in the cooking - the combining of ingredients into a stew or a sauce or a pudding that is unique and special.

The question is the answer.

See "The question is the answer! Creating Research Programs for An
Age of Information" at

Without critical and creative thinking capabilities, there is some danger that students will line up facing into the wind like many of these gulls.

Two recent articles in FNO have outlined strategies that help to build the thinking and questioning skills required for students to develop the independence mentioned above.

Building Good New Ideas - Part One

Building Good New Ideas - Part Two

Back to February Cover

Photography by Jamie McKenzie

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