Science, Maths & Technology

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Digital thinking tools for better decision making

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# 6 Looking forward

Over the coming sessions you will see a range of ways in which digital tools can help us think about the world. Running in parallel you will also be introduced to ideas and techniques that will help you to develop your abilities as a critical thinker, be able to evaluate digital information and reach conclusions by weighing up evidence.

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Session 2 Getting to grips with information looks at searching various sources of information and ways of narrowing your searches to make the results more relevant. On the critical thinking front, you will be introduced to fact-checking sites, and learn a structured technique for evaluating websites.

Session 3 The big calculator introduces the Python programming language as a convenient and powerful way of finding an answer to questions such as ‘Is it true we could fit everyone in the world on the Isle of Wight?’ You will learn about Fermi problems – a technique for getting surprisingly good ‘ball park’ answers to a whole range of problems. You will also learn that there are reasons why snap judgements are often flawed and a more structured approach can lead to better decision making.

Session 4 Reasoning with argument maps picks up the idea of using a structured approach to reach conclusions based on evidence. This lies at the core of critical thinking and closely related to the pros and cons tables from Session 1. Argument maps take the idea further and represent the evidence for and against a proposal as a special type of diagram that lets us understand how the various bits of evidence are related to one another. You will learn, with a worked example, how creating an argument map can help you with writing a reasoned conclusion.

Session 5 Reasoning with sets looks at Euler diagrams and how they can be used as reasoning tools. It also looks at sets in Python, and how to reason about the size of sets. It goes on to explore two classic examples in which most people’s intuitive estimates about probabilities are badly mistaken, and explains them using Python simulations and Euler diagrams.

Session 6 Digital argument mapping continues the topic of argument mapping introduced in Session 4. It discusses the benefits of using digital tools for argument mapping: the many ways digital argument mapping extends our natural capabilities. You will also learn about how to use such tools in practice. In Session 4, you saw how to go from an argument map to a short text with a reasoned conclusion. In this session you will go in the other direction: starting with a text, you will learn how to uncover the underlying argumentation by creating an argument map for that text.

Session 7 Argument mapping in action takes ideas and skills you met in earlier sessions and shows how they can be used to think critically about some controversial issues of the online world. This session also looks at collaborative argument mapping and its relationship with voting. Finally, it looks at how implicit knowledge or beliefs need to be taken into account before you can interpret an argument map.

Session 8 From thinking tools to AI looks at the relationship between artificial intelligence and digital thinking tools. It traces the history of thinking machines, from a medieval dream through to the AI developments of the 21st century, and examines the suggestion that AI will make humans redundant. It argues that focusing on AI supremacy runs the danger of ignoring the more immediate dangers arising from AI making decisions using opaque algorithms and biased data.

You can now go to Session 2 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .