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PICK OF THE WEEK: 5 Tips to Improve Your Critical Thinking (explainer)

Blake Harris 03.22.2016

Every day, all of us are faced with thousands of choices. With so many possibilities, it’s impossible to make the right decision every time. But it would be great to understand why we make certain decisions and even greater, especially for those tough choices, to implement a technique for objective analysis and evaluation. That’s exactly what “critical thinking” is and it’s the focus of our PICK OF THE WEEK: a well-structured and enlightening explainer called 5 Tips to Improve Your Critical Thinking.

This explainer is a Ted-Ed original based on a lesson by Samantha Agoos (and narrated by Addison Anderson). Agoos is a chemistry teacher at Bloomington High School North and her lesson breaks down a step-by-step process to help improve decision-making. The video was animated by Nick Hilditch a Budapest-based artist who has been creating digital content for over 15 years. Past clients include the BBC, Cartoon Network and Nokia. In addition to 5 Tips to Improve Your Critical Thinking, Hilditch has animated some other explainers for Ted-ED, including the following:


Could We Actually Live on Mars? (4:30)


How Does Your Smartphone Know Your Location? (5:03)

5 Tips to Improve Your Critical Thinking is the 6th explainer that Nick Hilditch has animated for Ted-Ed. Here’s the video for our PICK OF THE WEEK:

3 Things We Loved About This Explainer:

1. Instantly Intuitive Illustrations: This entire explainer is all about choices, so it makes sense that a lot of the video will focus on the selection of different options. This is in fact how the explainer starts and Hilditch does a great job of juxtaposing options that instantly enable us to understand the choice paradigm at play. Not only does these options feel familiar and relatable, but they also all lead to active engagement (wearing, drinking, transporting, doing).

This is accomplished right from the getgo via these four examples:

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This is a great way to draw viewers in, it’s effective and engaging, but perhaps what’s even more impressive is how this instantly intuitive aesthetic is then applied to more complex things like diet options:

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2. The Geometric Organization: Many explainers include lists (i.e. tips, products, differentiators) but this one is different in that the tips listed are highly interconnected. As a result, it’s valuable to do the following:

  • Remind viewers of previous tips
  • Present tips in sequence
  • Use graphic technique to depict progression

Accomplishing these things is where 5 Tips to Improve Your Critical Thinking shines. The explainer presents a framework that achieves all of the above and acts as a central staging area for the message that’s being deployed. 

It begins with this pentagon of critical thinking:

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Each time a tip is presented it appears on the top line of the pentagon like this:

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Following an interstitial explanation of the tip being presented, the pentagon then rotates to create a new top line (which is then filled in with the next tip):

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This continues until the entire pentagon is filled in with the lesson, all the while acting as a tidy geometric framework to contain these ideas and provide context for the viewer.

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3. It Comes Full Circle (Or, er, Pentagon): As noted above, the explainer begins by presenting a familiar dichotomy of choices:

  • High Heels vs. Flats
  • Cola A vs. Cola B
  • Car vs. Bicycle
  • Videogames vs. Homework

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The allure of these initial examples was their simplicity, choices we all make every day; almost always on autopilot. Now, however, after going through this lesson, we see these “simple choices” in a slightly different light. And that’s a real win for this explainer, elucidating the power of this process for viewers and ending almost on a glimmer of excitement with the possibilities that this could bring to more complex issues.

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