Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cognitivism Blog

How could software applications and/or other technologies help you provide opportunities for your students to access their prior knowledge and better organize their information? That is, describe a lesson for which you might use technology to help with organization and describe the technology(ies) you might use.

One of the great things about being a computer teacher for the past dozen years is that I get to call upon a whole range of activities that I've already done and look back and reflect on them in a new light. This idea of looking through a cognitivist lens at some of those activities is challenging and interesting. Did I know that what I was doing then fit this model? Did the activity lend itself to functions of memory that make learning better for the students?

When I read item #1 in the cognitive module here, it made me think back to the times I've used Inspiration over the years to help students record, organize and use information. The NASA essay about Human Memory discusses the notion of "stores" where we may save things we wish to know. In particular, the idea of how information may be stored in the Long-Term Store (LTS) was something I needed to think about in relation to the use of this tool. On a superficial level, students have been asked over the years to find information about invertebrates, or global warming, or facts about famous adventures, and record that with Inspiration. What happened then?

I want to think that the mental processes discussed in that essay, (Encoding, Maintenance, and Retrieval) somehow became explicitly performed by using a graphic organizer like Inspiration. Is it possible that this kind of tool is an outward manifestation of exactly those kinds of interior cognitive processes? That would be great, of course! And I do think that the kinds of activities that were performed by students using Inspiration over the years were explicit performances or rehearsals of those kinds of thinking activities, but it's hard to determine first if facts get recorded in long-term memory, and then whether or not they lead to deeper understandings and a synthesis of knowledge beyond just that recall.

In "Learning Theories: An Overview," the idea of "transfer" is discussed, where transfer is a function of how information is stored in memory and that learning is indicated when a learner can apply knowledge in different contexts. For me, thinking of these kinds of lessons that I’ve done in the past in this new light give me an inkling of where I might take them in the future. It’s not enough to organize, record and save the information in a graphic organizer; the real key is (has been) where the student applies that, whether through the next step of a learning project or in other directions, and how that synthesis allows them to move to different contexts.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pet Peeves

I hear it mentioned frequently that kids know more than adults when it comes to computers, and up to a point, that's true. They certainly know how to play games better than we do, and they probably are less afraid than adults when it comes to testing things out. But to say that technology is easier for kids is to ignore a couple of realities. First, adults are usually trying to do work with a computer, and losing work is much MUCH more frustrating than hitting the reset button when Super Mario crashes into the ocean. Second, and more important, to say that kids "know" more than us or are more comfortable with technology, does not mean that they do not need us to catch up, so that we can provide them with guidance and leadership, and not leave them to fend for themselves. Kids may know more about technology than many adults, but they do not know about trust, decision-making, appropriate behaviors, and more. They need responsible adults to help them as they learn to live in this world, electronic, virtual or otherwise.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Something to blog about

For the longest time, the thought of this blog was very oppressive. I mean, what would I write about that even I myself would care about? And then I stopped thinking about the blog and started thinking about what I've been thinking about, and I realized that much of my school day is concerned with the same things this Post program is. I go to work every day and play the role of tech evangelist, trying to assist teachers in integrating technology into their curriculum on a day-to-day basis. Professionally, that's just about all I think of, so you'll pardon me if that's all I can think of to blog about!
It feels like one of those situations where I couldn't see the forest because the trees got in my way. I join the Post program because it's about spreading the Technological Word, we focus in class on constructivist learning environments, I go to school during the day and try to recreate the same thing, and only now do I see how intimately the connection between my studies and my professional focus have been. A great big "doh!" for me!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

This feels familiar!

Back in 1976, I graduated from high school and went to work in an international bank on Park Avenue, whose customers were other banks and corporations around the world. I worked in the Communications Department, and wound up as a teletype operator. I remember being able to dial up people in the Chicago or Los Angeles offices and "chatting" with them by typing back and forth. I thought it was the coolest thing. I even got invited to visit some of the people in Chicago, and took my motorcycle out there for a visit. After a couple of years, the bank started replacing our teletype machines with computers, and I thought that was even cooler. We could still dial people up around the world, but we could also type and save things and go back to them later. I guess in that sense, I've been blogging for 30 years!