Technology-Enhanced Classroom to Enhance Critical Thinking Skills: Teachers' Perspectives

Technology-Enhanced Classroom to Enhance Critical Thinking Skills: Teachers' Perspectives

Alice Omariba (Kenyatta University, Kenya)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6331-0.ch014
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This chapter describes how the impact of digital technology can now be felt in all spheres of life leading to global competition especially in education. The vision for technology-enhanced classrooms is one in which student groups work on long-term, multidisciplinary projects involving challenging content that is interesting and important to them with the support of technological tools for collecting, analyzing, displaying and communicating information. In the face of severe social and economic challenges, many developing countries are struggling to overcome barriers to the integration of digital tools in education to help students develop high-order skills and global competences for life and work. This chapter is intended to further discussions on incorporating technologies into instruction in order to bridge the gap between critical thinking skills and digital tools, and helping learners to become globally competent at the digital workplace.
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Digital technologies have not only become an accepted component of the day-to-day world, but they have also had a great impact on virtually every aspect of our lives. Increasingly, specialized technological innovations are being incorporated into an immense array of human activities, often with extremely positive results. One area in which the introduction of technological approaches holds particular promise is that of education. Given the overall consensus concerning the positive value of technology-enhanced learning environments in educational practice, we can anticipate not only that will the integration of technology in schools increase, but it will also continue into the foreseeable future through the development of critical thinking skills (Kurt, 2013). In fact, many nations (Kenya inclusive) have already assimilated technology into their educational development plans, or are in the process of doing so. However, the transition from traditional educational approaches to technology-enhanced ones has proved a significant challenge for many countries (Omariba, 2016). In an increasingly multifaceted and fast-changing global job market, most nations are being forced to re-examine their ability to compete and participate successfully; to create new strategies and relationships that will allow them to do so. This is because successfully preparing all learners with the skills and capacities for 21st century global competencies in life and work, many educational leaders are finding that the traditional forms of education that have evolved through the end of the last century are simply inadequate for achieving these goals (Groff, 2013; Omariba, 2016).

Studies show that the advent of the’’ Information Age” has made the development of problem solving, critical thinking, and higher-order thinking skills crucial to future success (Fontana, Dede, White, & Cates, 1993; Morgan, 1996; Norris & Poirot, 1990; Ramirez & Bell, 1994). Hence, experiences that engage students at higher levels of the Bloom's Taxonomy (analysis, synthesis, evaluation) need to become a common practice. Harris (1996) observes that “Information Age citizens must learn not only how to access information, but more importantly how to manage, analyze, critique, cross-reference, and transform it into usable knowledge”. Kelman (1989) identifies higher-order thinking skills as one of the instructional areas that could be improved by integrating ICTs. However, Salomon (1990) observes that for the computer to be an effective classroom tool, “… everything in the classroom needs to be technologically-enhanced in a way that makes curriculum, learning activities, teacher's behavior, social interactions, learning goals, and evaluation interwoven into a whole newly orchestrated learning environment”. In light of what is known about learning, using the computer and other technology as tools for meaningful instruction seems reasonable as a method for engaging students in problem solving and critical thinking (Muir, 1994; Peck & Dorricot, 1994). Ragsdale (1989) challenges educators to teach with the computer because “tool” applications are independent of subject matter and can be used for curriculum integration across grade levels and subject areas.

According to Omariba (2016), technology-enhanced educational environments can provide students with significantly expanded learning opportunities, which are linked to critical thinking skills and increased levels of academic achievement. However, like many other developing countries, Kenya is struggling to overcome a number of serious barriers to full technology integration at the classroom level to develop high-order skills and global competences for life and work. The most significant of these is non-compliance on the part of teachers and the learning environment. In respect to technology integration in education, teachers are consistently failing to utilize technological tools for instruction purposes, (Gode, 2013; Omariba 2016).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Higher-Order Thinking Skills: Those cognitive skills that allow students to function at the analysis, synthesis, and evaluation levels of Bloom's Taxonomy.

Preparedness: Training in readiness to fully integrate technology in teaching and learning.

Technology-Enhanced Classroom: A classroom with hardware or ICT use in classroom teaching.

Technology: Materials, objects and equipment of use to humanity, such as machines or hardware and also systems, methods of organization, and techniques.

Critical Thinking: Is a disciplined, self-directed thinking which exemplifies the perfections of thinking appropriate to a particular mode or domain of thinking.

Global Competencies: The acquisition of in-depth knowledge and understanding of international issues, an appreciation of and the ability to learn and work with people from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds, proficiency in a foreign language, and skills to function.

Information Age: An age in society where ICT is regularly and widely used to generate, disseminate and receive information.

Information Communication Technology: The term ICT encompasses the range of hardware (desktop and portable computers, projection technology, calculators, data-logging, and digital-recording equipment), software applications (generic software, multimedia resources), and information systems (Intranet, Internet) available in the learning institutions.

Digital Technology: Refers to using new algorithms or applications to solve a problem using online tools.

Integration: This is the adoption and use of resource materials/equipment to aid the process of teaching and learning.

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