Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dear Blogger: Focus on Reading, Thinking, and Writing (Part Two)


This post is dedicated to my good friend, @scribblerjack who writes
Whose thoughts are about beer.

The image of an old man with a long grey beard on top of a mountain sitting in a lotus position has become somewhat of a popular cartoon depiction of someone deep in thought.  Equally, it could be someone leaping out of a bathtub shouting "Eureka!" or that exquisite marble statue, "The Thinker".

There are all sorts of phrases associated with thinking too, such as, think before you act or think twice or gee d'ya think?

But, as far as blogging is concerned, the sort of thinking that I like finding is called "Critical Thinking".

There are a lot of websites that appear when you search for a definitive guide to critical thinking and I think they are all good.

But, just to give you the basic idea of what critical thinking is about, let's just refer to an entry in Wikipedia:
Critical thinking can occur whenever one judges, decides, or solves a problem; in general, whenever one must figure out what to believe or what to do, and do so in a reasonable and reflective way. Reading, writing, speaking, and listening can all be done critically or uncritically. Critical thinking is crucial to becoming a close reader and a substantive write.
And this is another definition from  the SLA 2009 Annual Meeting where Critical Thinking is discussed.
Critical Thinking: formal definition “ the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or  communication, as a guide to belief and action.”
Now, on the subject of critical thinking, it is fairly easy to jump into the deep end of what it is about and find yourself neck deep in theories that can even go into how it is that people think.

But just for this blog entry, I think this simple critical thinking process should suffice:
Step 1: Identify the problem, the relevant information, and all uncertainties about the problem. This includes awareness that there is more than one correct solution. (low cognitive complexity)
Step 2: Explore interpretations and connections. This includes recognize one's own bias, articulating the reasoning associated with alternative points of view, and organizing information in meaningful ways. (moderate cognitive complexity)
Step 3: Prioritize alternatives and communicate conclusions. This includes thorough analysis, developing the guidelines used for prioritizing factors, and defending the solution option chosen. (high cognitive complexity)
Step 4: Integrate, monitor, and refine strategies for re-addressing the problem. This includes acknowledging limitations of chosen solution and developing an ongoing process for generating and using new information. (highest cognitive complexity) 
The reason why I am proposing that people with blogs engage in critical thinking before they write anything at all is this: There are a lot of people with blogs that do nothing more than parrot stuff that they've read or come across in the internet without considering its veracity or real value.

Take the case of Tim Yap's tweet about the winner of the 741 million grand lotto jackpot.  He claims to have found a tweet saying that a reporter won the lotto and then he claims to have re-tweeted it.

He didn't consider a number of facts that tend to make it improbable for a lotto winner to divulge his identity.

1. The PCSO (which administers the Lotto) does not give out the identity of the winner
2. The winner of the lotto will most likely fear for his or her security, being endowed with such a huge winning
3. The source of the information, which in this case is second hand.  We don't know what Tim Yap's reasons are for believing that this person's tweet is true.

Perhaps, at the instance that he became aware of the tweet supposedly divulging the name, he could considered the following problems:

1. Is this true?
2. If this is true, should I re-tweet it even if I don't know if it is true? Whether true or untrue, would it do harm or good to the person being claimed as the winner of the grand lotto jackpot?

Critical thinking can help a lot when it comes to deciding what opinion to adopt and what course of action to take, particularly when it is applied to subjects which requires a decision.

It can also be applied to reviews of gadgets, places, restaurants, bars, etceteras and be used to come up with articles that'll help the reader decide on what to buy, where to go, what to eat.

In fact, when it comes to it, critical thinking may enable you to gain credibility.

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