Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cognitive Learning Theory

Cognitive learning theory states that one is best able to understand information when they are able to determine meaningful connections within the content, often through hands-on interaction with the material (Laureate Education, Inc., 2007a). Among the various means of embedding technology in instruction that support cognitivism, I was most draw to the virtual field trips. Though my content area, mathematics, does not necessarily align with virtual field trips, I am tremendously impressed by the function that they can play in various subjects. Virtual field trips provide an opportunity for students to create episodic memories (Laureate Education, Inc., 2007a) that otherwise would be impossible due to time and cost restraints. As showcased in the virtual field trip to Ford’s Theater, students are able to “be” there, look around the physical space, and explore artifacts (Laureate Education, Inc., 2007b). The site provided ample opportunities for students to feel like they were interacting with the materials and environment, and thus make the facts, figures, and dates meaningful. Upon searching for other virtual field trips, I was able to find various topics that support the curriculum in virtually every subject and engage students in varying levels of interaction and activity. These field trips can be into the inner workings of a plant, to the far reaches of the universe, cultures the world over, or the world of a classical author or philosopher.

When I have talked to friends and students that have traveled to the Louvre in Paris and seen the Mona Lisa, they all respond with one comment, “I never knew it was so small.” Visitors to Ireland remark that one has to lie down and nearly flip over to kiss the Blarney stone. Virtual field trips provide students with a taste of the experiences that they would have if they were actually there. As many students will never have the funds or opportunities to visit these cultural landmarks, we are able to provide them with the experience without the expense, the learning without the leaving. Relating to the goals of cognitive learning theory, we are able to provide our students with an experience that solidifies the knowledge and a memory that is part of a shared experience, supplemented with content. Dual coding is a cognitive theory that suggests that pairing curricular content with a sensory stimulus, i.e. sight, sound, smells, encourages recall and the formation of connections for memory (Laureate Education, Inc., 2007a). The visual and auditory components of this theory are supported by the use of Virtual Field Trips and serve to help students learn the material in a meaningful manner.

Pitler, et. al. also reviewed some of the other ways that technology can be used in the classroom to support the cognitivist approach to forming connections with the material taught in class. Chapter 4, Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers, provides an overview of methods that one can aide in student learning in a way that guides students to their own recollections, rather than the teacher providing answers. Cuing is accomplished when the teacher helps the student access their previously stored memories and questioning requires students to use what they know to meet the expectations of varying levels of recall and interpretation (Pitler, et. al., 2007). Advance Organizers are means to encourage students to begin thinking about their upcoming tasks and activities (Pitler, et. al., 2007). Mapping tools, charts, graphs and media exposures that are available online act as advance organizers and provide opportunities to create connections and visually represent ideas. Providing virtually tangible “maps” of the connections between ideas via concept mapping and outlining programs and establishing foundational exposure to a concept or task via multimedia resources clearly exemplify the meaningful connections that cognitivism expounds.

Chapter 6, Summarizing and Note taking, reviews many of the different ways that students can personally interact with the content to form their own connections with the content. In alignment with Dr. Orey’s explanation of the limits of short-term memory’s capabilities of roughly seven bits of information at one time (Laureate Education, Inc., 2007a), the notions of note taking and summarizing require students to determine what is worth holding on to and what can be omitted (Pitler, et. al., 2007). Word processing programs allow for high adaptability and speed in taking notes. Additionally, they provide formatting capabilities that begin to show connections and bring form to notes. When note taking is approached from a concept mapping perspective, visual components meet the need to dual coding in cognitivist learning theories.



Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2007a). Cognitive Learning Theories. [Educational video].
Baltimore: Author.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2007b). Spotlight on Technology – Virtual Field Trips. [Educational video].
Baltimore: Author.

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works.
Alexandria, VA: ASCD

1 comment:

  1. Please reply to the post above rather than this one. Many thanks!