Exploring Issues: ISBN 978-1-68282-293-7
ComputED, 23rd Annual Best Educational Software Awards (2017)
In this era of ‘alternate facts’ and ‘fake news,’ how does an educator go about teaching students to think critically and perform factual research? A superb resource is the Exploring Issues website published by ReferencePoint Press. Winner of the 2017 BESSIES for Critical Thinking in both the Middle School and High School categories, Exploring Issues is a powerful tool designed to engage students while teaching strong critical thinking skills.
The program offers twenty-two topics, including Illegal Immigration, Cyberbullying, Legalizing Pot, Video Games and Violence, Social Networking and more - all of particular interest to young people. Each topic begins by setting out relevant questions, and then moving into an Overview of the issue, examining facts about possible problems and benefits. A sidebar links to five chapters which explore the questions evoked at the beginning. These are organized as Facts, Infographics, Related Organizations and Websites, For Further Research, and Related Issues within Exploring Issues.
For teachers, there is a downloadable “Teaching Critical Thinking Through Current Issues” guide; and for students, there is a “Guide to Research and Writing” as well as a “Guide to Critical Reading—Understanding Opinionated Writing”—all important enrichment material.
Exploring Issues is a powerful and dynamic tool, and ideally, a dynamic teacher will be able to make full use of it. However, in these challenging times, we recommend it for all Social Studies, English, and Language Arts instructors.
Read the full review at School Library Journal
Hot-button, up-to-the-minute topics that touch the lives of students are commendably examined in this excellent database.
This resource investigates major issues that are the subjects of classroom assignments and pro and con debates—and that may also seriously impact teens' personal lives....
When users click on a question, they are taken to a page with an overview paragraph that explains the topic in clear, dynamic prose and includes quotes from authoriative sources. In addition, numerical data, such as percentages, dates, or statistics that support the narrative, are included. These comprehensible figures effectively clarify points and emonstrate for researchers that no matter what viewpoint one holds on any given issue, one's position must be backed up by reliable, documented facts....
The database's chief highlight is the “Debate at a Glance” feature, which presents pro and con arguments for each question raised, quotes, and a fully developed exploration of each viewpoint, making it a great source of material for debaters....
Overall, the material is first-rate and will be updated in the future, with further issues added and content about existing issues revised as needed....
....The database's sensible straightforward design, with easily navigable links and the “Debate at a Glance” feature at each site, makes this a comfortable, intuitive resource. The sheer depth and breadth of material equate to a virtually “one-stop shopping” source of material....
Verdict This is an exemplary resource for serious, sophisticated students. It takes a reasoned, balanced, nonjudgemental approach, supported by facts and figures, to topics much in the news. Researchers will find much substantive material on which to base written and/or debate assignments, yet the information is manageable and student friendly, using calm, straightforward prose to convey often difficult subject matter.
Carol Goldman, Queens Library, Forest Hills, NY
This database is a useful collection of discussion topics, carefully curated and presented for use by middle- and high-school students in the preparation of research papers, debates, and other persuasive writing or discussion. The sparse and easy-to-follow design of the platform lends itself to the focused nature of the resource. Issues—including euthanasia, immigration, cyberbullying, and climate change—are listed alphabetically or can be displayed in a list loosely by subject groupings, such as “Digital Issues,” “Politics,” or “Energy & the Environment.” A “Hot Topic” issue is displayed prominently at the top of either layout. Each topic includes a succinct overview, pro/con presentations, critical-thinking questions, color infographics and statistics that support positions, cited primary and secondary source quotes, and an annotated list of related organizations for further research. Individual modules may be downloaded, printed, e-mailed, or shared using Google Classroom or Google Drive. Two downloadable workbooks, Guide to Research and Writing and Guide to Critical Reading—Understanding Opinionated Writing, round out this lean, focused resource, which is available as an annual subscription, with new issues and updates added twice a year.