Competitions enable students to use their critical thinking skills at a much higher level than in a normal classroom environment. A competition is a way to introduce students to real stress that they may face in their future careers. To be a true critical thinker and problem solver a person has to first master harnessing the heightened stress levels and use it to their advantage.
Competitions help to narrow the scope of the critical thinking. In that when someone is learning critical thinking skills they need to eliminate distractions that will keep them from putting all their ideas together.
Combining NetAcad skills and Competition
NetRiders is an excellent example of eliminating distractions because the competition is based on a known theme, CCNA networking. This allows the student to prepare for the competition with a known range of skills and ideas. Once you are confident in these ideas, you are ready to test them in a way that is more challenging (and fun) than just through an exam or lab assignment.
Benefits of Competiting
In a competition you are comparing your ability to use learned concepts, and this allows you to have your own discovery based evaluation of your skills, and it includes critical thinking. When you know the answer immediately it motivates you to continue in the competition and builds upon your growing confidence. When you struggle with an answer, that is when you really learn more about your ability to piece items together, and this starts the critical thinking cycle.
Those that perform best in a competition do not know all the answers, but can use their thinking process to get the best answer for what they know and are confident that the answer will be correct. By competing you allow yourself to grow and expand your learning process before entering the workforce.
Thanks to Bob Schoenherr for offering his insight on the key value of competing.
NetAcad Advantage Reading Note: Participating in competitions is an excellent way to grow your technical skills and also gain practical experience that can be shared on your resume as hands on experience. You also learn to communicate, solve problems, and how to think quickly as well as creatively.