The Best iPad Apps for Teaching and Learning Critical Thinking


There are very few iPads apps which specifically target critical thinking skills. At least there are according to a narrower definition of the term – one which excludes the slew of ‘brain training’ games and ‘apps that make you think’. I also believe that all of those mathematical and problem-solving apps which claim to nurture critical thinking skills have very little to do with it (as good as many of them are).

(Please note: I do not review apps or make money in any way from my recommendations. Please do not send me your app to review.)

These are the iPad apps I recommend for teaching and learning about critical thinking: (Tap / click the titles or pictures to go to the App Store.)

Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments

This wonderful little ebook-like app is based on the book of the same name. It focuses on logical fallacies and is an excellent way for kids to learn about what makes a good and a bad argument. Highly recommended!

 

Mars Gen One: Argument Academy

This excellent app focuses on learning to build a reasoned, evidence-based argument. Says Jordan Shapiro for Forbes magazine:

Argubot Academy is significant because it addresses a part of school curriculum that few games have tried to tackle: argumentation, logic, and reasoned thinking.

 

Quandary

A conflict resolution simulation where players have to gather facts, reason carefully, and offer good solutions.

 

Inspired by Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit. A good simple way to teach students what questions to ask of a claim.

 
From the App Store description:
 

How well do you know your own brain? This app presents students and learners with a series of stimulating debates on matters relating to the brain. The questions cover a wide range of issues: Is it ethical to use ‘smart drugs’? Should alcohol be illegal? Is technology damaging our brains? Should cannabis be legalised? Are humans superior to other animals? Should violent adolescents be locked away? Is being in love just a chemical reaction?

For each question, users can review the evidence, cast their vote and share their views with peers. An accompanying teacher’s area provides suggestions for how the app can be used in the classroom and further references.


LongForm

LongForm is a must-have for older students or for teachers to gather intelligently written, provocative, in-depth articles from high quality publishers and journalists.

 

ReasonUp

Warning: This app contains some serious logical flaws. Despite this, it is a nice way to get students to investigate and debate these issues – as well as getting them to question content such as this. It also introduces them to the skill of argument mapping (at which the app itself is again slightly flawed). The app describes itself as follows:

ReasonUp brings your critical thinking skills to a new level by challenging you to think about why you believe what you believe.

Use critically!

 

Flipboard and Pinterest

Two nice ways for teachers and students to curate critical thinking resources.

Note that these hyperlinks will take you to my own personal boards in Pinterest and Flipboard as an illustration of what’s possible. If you navigate to these on your iPad, you should encounter a splash screen which you can use to get to the App Store. Feel free to use these as starting points.

 

Digital Mystery Series

There are a whole whack of different titles (both paid and free) in this awesome series. Some of the reasons I strongly recommend them:

  • The series places emphasis on collaboration, the communication of ideas and sound reasoning.
  • They encourage differentiation.
  • They’re cross-curricular.
  • The mysteries are open-ended – encouraging follow-up discussions and debates.
  • Students need to develop sound justifications for their choices.
  • Metacognition and reflection are specifically targeted.

 

Ultimate Conspiracy Theories

Teaching better thinking by analyzing and deconstructing conspiracy theories is a wonderful way to keep kids engaged on the topic. This app should serve as a starting point and be used in conjunction with an analysis of fallacies, biases and why people believe conspiracy theories.
 

I’m still investigating this one, but it does look interesting:

The Showing Evidence app links to a free online tool where teachers can set up a project in which students must state a claim, provide evidence to support their claim, and rate the quality of their evidence. The mobile app allows students to add their thoughts to the project and makes it possible for teachers to monitor their students’ work on the go.


Short, sweet… And free!
Nermal is excited about a new TV program The Kool Kat Karl Show, but Garfield and Arlene aren’t so sure about the show’s messages. Karl endorses Sugar-Coated Sugar Blasts and tells his viewers that if they eat the super-sweet cereal, they will get big and strong. Dr. Nova helps Nermal deconstruct and analyze the messages he’s watching and also helps him learn about different forms of media. Nermal creates his own video about the importance of a healthy breakfast and broadcasts it on The Kool Kat Karl Show.


Fallacies and Biases

It isn’t the most interactive or slickest looking app. It is informative, but honestly there is so much free stuff on the web, I’m not sure I would drop $1 on this app. It is convenient to have everything in one place, I suppose.
 

A must-have app for learning about how science helps us to know. The App Store description:

When and how did everything begin?

What is a miracle?

What is the sun?

Why do bad things happen?

Throughout history people all over the world have invented stories to answer profound questions such as these. Have you heard the tale of how the sun hatched out of an emu’s egg? Or the great catfish that carries the world on its back? These fantastical myths are fun – but what is the real answer to such questions?


Tinker Thinkers

An interactive storybook for kids aged 7-10:

Equipped with the tools of logic and reason, this team of pint-sized ponderers build their way to better ideas. Join them as they explore the parts of an argument, and learn new ways to test its strength. You’ll find that building an argument is one of the most important skills a person can learn…and it can be fun too!

One of my most popular posts ever is a list of chess apps. I believe chess plays a fundamental role in teaching kids consequential reasoning skills. Please go here to see the list. For more on the role of chess in education, please see this list of posts.

And that’s it. Apps which target critical thinking skills are very thin on the ground (and often very bad), so please give me a shout if you know of any other good apps.

Find more critical thinking articles, resources and think-pieces here.

Thanks for reading!

 

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POSTSCRIPT: PODCASTS

These are not (strictly speaking) apps, although you can use the native iPad Podcasts app to download them – or use an app like Downcast. No list of critical thinking resources would be complete without mentioning some entertaining, informative and intelligent podcasts – they an invaluable tool in learning to think critically.

Here are a few I really like: (Images are hyperlinked for your convenience.)

 

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About Sean Hampton-Cole

Fascinated by thinking & why it goes wrong➫ (Un)teacher ➫iPadologist ➫Humanist ➫Stirrer ➫Edupunk ➫Synthesist ➫Introvert ➫Blogger ➫Null Hypothesist.
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