I am currently taking one of my final classes at Fort Hays University, Administration in Healthcare. I was interested in this class because I thought it would help build my knowledge, as I currently work in and have held many different positions in the medical field. At the start, the class overwhelmed me. Classes are typically reading, writing papers, answering discussion questions, and taking tests. While this class was similar to a typical class, it was presented in a blog style, it included a different way of learning; systems thinking and the use of Plectica to express our, for lack of a better word, answers or illustrate a concept. Plectica is a visual mapping tool that makes complex information easier to comprehend. Throughout the semester we were asked to provide feedback to our instructor. My feedback disussed how the use of systems thinking and Plectica helped me put a thought together and enhance my critical thinking skills. I received a response from my instructor and he suggested I create a blog regarding this. After pondering this idea for weeks and putting aside my other ideas for a blog, I decided to use his suggestion.
What is a thought? To put it simply, in our brains there are a large number of neurons floating around waiting to be stimulated. These neurons have long arms that reach out and touch each other. Once stimulated, they work together sending information back and forth processing this information to form a thought.
But how do we know what it means? According to philosophers, a thought is a cognitive sense. Our brains build up information subconsciously through experiences. Because of these experiences we are able to piece together information like a puzzle. We piece them together by creating, understanding, evaluating, analyzing, applying, and remembering. This process allows us to learn.
There are three basic types of learning: 1. Hands-on or kinesthetic, 2. Auditory, and 3. Visual learning. Kinesthetic or hands-on learning is the act of carrying out learning by engaging in physical activity. A good example of kinesthetic learning would be learning a new dance by taking dance lessons. Auditory learning is a process of learning through listening. For instance, listening to a lecture in class. Visual learning is the use of images such as pictures, graphs, maps, and other tools such as colors, and even words.
Now that we have an idea of what the three types of learning are, we'll concentrate on visual learning. Visual learning is where Plectica soars. When a person participates in visual learning, they are engaging in the thinking process by connecting these images with their thoughts. We can see the connection between things not just in our brain, but with our eyes. Visual learning has become more relative these days, and many teachers are moving towards visual learning to engage students and help them learn and understand their work better. Why does visual learning help? Visual learning breaks information into pieces where the information can be absorbed quicker and be retained longer. This is similar to how the brain works, by taking chunks of information and processing it. This is where Plectica comes in. Plectica is like the brain in that it allows you to enter chunks of information and makes connections between information, but it does this in a visual sense. Let’s look at an example. Above I mentioned how thought is developed through thinking. Did you remember the parts of thinking? What if I asked you to look at the below map. I took the 6 words and created a visual map connecting my thoughts.
Now that we know a thought comes from thinking and visual learning allows us to connect our thoughts, how can you develop your critical thinking skills? First, what does it mean to be a critical thinker? To be a critical thinker you must be able to analyze the facts about something and make a judgment or determination. I mentioned something earlier called systems thinking. Systems thinking is a method of thinking developed by Derek Cabrera. Cabrera believes there are four rules that can improve our process of thinking. They are known as DSRP: 1. Distinctions - The basic process of describing differences, 2. Systems - Defining the parts of a concept, 3. Relationships - The process of telling what the similarities or cause and effects are of a concept, and 4. Perspectives - What is the point-of-view, what point-of-view may someone else have, or simply put, what conclusion did you arrive at. Below is a sample of the DSRP used in class to help illustrate the process.
Although you can use DSRP and Plectia by themselves, I found the combination of DSRP; a process, and Plectica; a visual tool, a perfect way to develop and structure your thoughts and enhance your critical thinking skills.