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.