Category Archives: Critical Thinking

Day Zero: Hamlet meets Cape Town?

I stumbled upon this video today and wondered how reading William Shakespeare’s Hamlet might connect to a very real calamity in Cape Town, South Africa, where, after a three-year drought, water levels are almost at zero.

Day Zero: how Cape Town stopped the taps running dry

I had a chance to work with some wonderful teachers a few days and I wondered out loud whether students need the teacher to play the role of the ‘bridger’: Image result for hamletthat is to say, the teacher needs to show students how any lesson bridges or connects to ‘real life’  — or anything for that matter.

So, with that in mind, I wondered how might we connect Hamlet to the water emergency in Cape Town?

(The reason, for this exercise, I have chosen Hamlet is that it is used widely, usually in senior grade levels, and I wanted to explore how a ‘core’ text such as Hamlet might be used to connect to other issues and topics.)

  • Problem-solving:
    • What makes for effective problem solving? What are the criteria to effective problem solving?
    • What do effective problem solvers do when faced with a very difficult problem?


Apollo 13: Work the Problem

    • How does a person have to think, behave, interact with others, speak in order to effectively solve a problem?
    • Is Hamlet an effective problem addresser / solver? Why or why not?
    • How did the people and the government of Cape Town, South Africa handle their problem? According to our criteria, did they effectively address their problem?
    • Compare the crisis of Cape Town to Hamlet.
    • Is it possible to place both of these crises on the same scale of urgency? That is to say, is Hamlet’s personal problem as urgent or critical as Cape Town’s water problem? If we use a form of meter to ‘measure’ the intensity of a crisis, where would Hamlet’s problem fall on that meter according to a) him? b) his friends and family? c) his country? Why do you say that?

Extension:

  • What if I started off my entire unit with that essential question: What makes for effective problem solving? Or the other question: What do effective problem solvers do when faced with a major, seemingly unsolvable crisis-level problem? And then what if we used Hamlet as case-study or a base-line or a comparison in amongst other texts, such as Apollo 13 or The Martian or the Cape Town water crisis?
  • And then what if we tap into the work of Garfield Gini-Newman and The Critical Thinking Consortium who promote ‘criterial thinking’, which is making a sound decision based on criteria and evidence?
  • And once we have that thinking framework, what if students were invited to engage in free reading and they were to look for other ‘case studies’ of how people solve problems?
  • And what if I asked these students to write about how they have solved problems in their own lives?
  • Last question: Is Hamlet the best ‘vehicle’ for exploring this topic?

 

UPDATE:

  • The Cape Town water crisis video explores the impact the Day Zero water initiative had on citizens in the city, particularly those below or at the poverty line, who tend to be people of colour. An area to explore could be the potential Image result for lessons pngimpact a solution might have upon another person, a group, society in general. For example, how do Hamlet’s choices impact others? Is this solution still effective then?
  • What wisdom might we take — both positive and negative — from Hamlet’s story and the Cape Town initiative that we could use as lessons for our own lives both now and in the future?

 

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Opinion: Learning faster without teachers

http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/27/opinion/ted-prize-students-teach-themselves?c=&page=1

teacherken: A warning to college profs from a high school teacher

 Posted by Valerie Strauss on February 9, 2013 at The Washington Post.

From The Washington Post: “For more than a decade now we have heard that the high-stakes testing obsession in K-12 education that began with the enactment of No Child Left Behind 11 years ago has resulted in high school graduates who don’t think as analytically or as broadly as they should because so much emphasis has been placed on passing standardized tests. Here, an award-winning high school teacher who just retired, Kenneth Bernstein, warns college professors what they are up against. Bernstein, who lives near Washington, D.C. serves as a peer reviewer for educational journals and publishers, and he is nationally known as the blogger “teacherken.” His e-mail address is kber@earthlink.net. This appeared in Academe, the journal of the American Association of University Professors.”

By Kenneth Bernstein

“You are a college professor.

I have just retired as a high school teacher.

I have some bad news for you. In case you do not already see what is happening, I want to warn you of what to expect from the students who will be arriving in your classroom, even if you teach in a highly selective institution.

No Child Left Behind went into effect for the 2002–03 academic year, which means that America’s public schools have been operating under the pressures and constrictions imposed by that law for a decade. Since the testing requirements were imposed beginning in third grade, the students arriving in your institution have been subject to the full extent of the law’s requirements. While it is true that the U.S. Department of Education is now issuing waivers on some of the provisions of the law to certain states, those states must agree to other provisions that will have as deleterious an effect on real student learning as did No Child Left Behind—we have already seen that in public schools, most notably in high schools…”

5 Ways Social Media Will Change The Way You Work in 2013

College Readiness: Reading Critically | Edutopia

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/college-readiness-critical-reading-ben-johnson?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=012313%20enews%204th%20active%20openers&utm_content=&spMailingID=5486043&spUserID=MjcyOTI0ODYxNzES1&spJobID=63913081&spReportId=NjM5MTMwODES1