We're looking for a developer to join us in building an educational web-based application.
We're offering equity and a co-founder position in our young company. And a chance to make a positive impact.
Every year, thousands upon thousands of college students around the world take required critical thinking courses. Imagine if these courses achieved their goal of making their students better critical thinkers. How much more would these students do for themselves, their families, and their communities (Butler, Pentoney, & Bong, 2017)? Sadly, research suggests college courses tend to produce at best small increases in students’ critical thinking skills (Abrami, Bernard, Borokhovski, Waddington, Wade, & Persson, 2015; Huber & Kuncel, 2016).
Unless they use argument mapping (AM), that is. AM is a new approach to teaching critical thinking that produces large improves students’ critical thinking—improvements that are orders of magnitude greater than traditional teaching approaches (van Gelder, 2015).
The Problem with Existing AM Software
Existing AM programs share a serious flaw: they are not fully accessible to students with disabilities. And federal law requires college courses to be accessible to students with disabilities. This means instructors wishing to use AM would be legally required to devise accommodations for their blind students. This is hard work; instead of doing it, the users of AM software that I’ve spoken with just cross their fingers and hope all their students can see. Others don’t use argument mapping at all. There's a market here that's mostly untapped.
Our goal is to develop an AM software that all students can use and that has greater functionality than existing software. Based on our expertise in computer accessibility, we’ve identified a tree structure that would satisfy both of these requirements. We will also bundle our software with content—a textbook, practice exercises, etc.—that will make it easier for teachers to integrate AM into their courses. Due to its relationship to federal law, our software should be able to take much of the existing software’s market share. We also predict that our software would attract many critical thinking instructors whom the accessibility problem has deterred from using AM at all. Most importantly of all, it will make college more accessible and college graduates better thinkers!
Our team members bring to the project extensive knowledge of philosophy, teaching philosophy, educational technologies, academia, software, and accessibility.
Jonathan Surovell got his PhD in 2013 from the University of Pittsburgh’s highly ranked Philosophy Department. He has published articles in leading philosophy journals and has presented at conferences around the world. He’s been teaching philosophy at Texas State University, San Marcos since 2014, at APUS since 2018, and with argument mapping since 2018. You can find out more about him on his website, jonathanreidsurovell.com.
Mark Melonson is an accomplished Information Security Professional and holds the position of Senior Security Engineer at HP where he helped to launch the Houston Disabilities Business Impact Network. He is an advocate for persons with disabilities and has spoken and served on various panels at conferences around the country on topics ranging from assistive technology to unique career paths for the blind. When not writing or breaking code Mr. Melonson can be found volunteering his time teaching the 1Touch system of self-defense to persons with disabilities.
Su Park works as an accessibility consultant while pursuing a BSc in Computer Science at Texas State University, San Marcos. She has assisted Pearson in the creation of its Accessible Equation Editor and is a certified instructor at the 1Touch Project.
Abrami, P. C., Bernard, R. M., Borokhovski, E., Waddington, D. I., Wade, C. A., & Persson, T. (2015). Strategies for Teachings Students to Think Critically: A Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research , 85 (2), 275-314.
Butler, H. A., Pentoney, C., & Bong, M. P. (2017). Predicting Real-World Outcomes: Critical Thinking Ability Is a Better Predictor of Life Decisions Than Intelligence. Thinking Skills and Creativity , 25, 38-46.
Huber, C. R., & Kuncel, N. R. (2016). Does College Teach Critical Thinking? A Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research , 86 (2), 431-468.
van Gelder, T. (2015). Using Argument Mapping to Improve Critical Thinking Skills. In M. Davies, & R. Barnett (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Thinking in Higher Education (pp. 183-192). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.