Teaching Students HOW to Think Instead of WHAT to Think

thinkingOne the most challenging aspects of being an educator is knowing when to answer questions…and when not to. For example, the other day I was visiting a school and came across two young students who were in a heated debate over whether or not megalodons—enormous, prehistoric sharks—still live in today’s oceans.

One student was adamant that the giant sharks were extinct. He insisted that he had recently been to a natural history museum, seen a model of the creature’s giant jaws and teeth, and read on the display that the last megalodons had died out about two-and-a-half million years ago.

The second student argued vehemently that the ocean was so big that there had to be at least one megalodon left. He added that numerous sightings and photos have appeared on the web and that the Discovery Channel did an hour-long program on recent evidence that was uncovered of an enormous, 5-ton shark.

After a couple of minutes of arguing, the students noticed that I was listening to their conversation, turned to me, and said, “Mr. Chandler, you’re a teacher. Are megalodons still around?”

This little scenario has caused me to reflect on a number of things. First, while the media tends to portray young people as digital zombies, today’s students are anything but. They are inquisitive, intrigued by the world around them, and fierce defenders of their own ideas. Second, as the ‘sea of digital information’ grows increasingly deeper, it is likely to become more and more difficult for students (and for teachers) to discern fact from fiction. Finally, in the midst of debate about what constitutes authoritative knowledge in schools (i.e. Wesch, 2009), it seems that some students—particularly young ones—continue to view adults as the final authority of what is and what is not true…


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Elias, M. J., Weissberg, R. P., & Zins, J. E. (2004). Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: Guidelines for Educators. Alexandria: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.


Friedlander, B. S., Tobias, S. E., Goleman, D., & Elias, M. J. (2013). Emotionally intelligent parenting: How to raise a self-disciplined, responsible, socially skilled child. New York: Harmony Books.


Wesch, M. (2009). From knowledgable to knowledge-able: Learning in new media environments. Academic Commons, 7.


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