Monday, March 14, 2011

Cognitivism: What Does it Look Like?

         Exemplary teachers incorporate strategies that encompass the theories of behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism to teach the diverse landscape of today’s classroom.  This week’s resources focus on the benefits of the cognitive learning theories and how that translates into classroom practice.  Taking into account what we know about how information is processed, using a variety of cognitive tools, teachers can provide meaningful experiences that require students to think critically about their learning. Students are challenged to acquire, synthesize, create and share new knowledge (Robertson, Elliot, & Washington, 2010).  They take control of their learning by analyzing and filtering the information they encounter.   Newly acquired knowledge is connected to prior knowledge while students revise their schema to match their understanding (Robertson, Elliot, & Washington, 2010).  Furthermore, cognitive tools are used to retrieve and identify information, present information in a meaningful way and establish relationships among information.  Cognitive tools such as cues, question, advance organizers, summarizing, and note taking are examples of strategies teachers use to help students focus their learning.  These tools improve students’ ability to retrieve, use and organize information (Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. 2007). 
            Technology can easily be integrated into instruction to support the cognitive learning theory.  In accordance with this belief, students must learn with computers not from them. (Robertson, Elliot, & Washington, 2010).   The computer’s role is not to serve as a teacher expert but that of a mind-extension.  According to the information processing theory, the acquisition of knowledge passes through three sequential stages:  sensory input of information, short term memory, and after rehearsed, into long term memory (Laureate, 2010a).  According to Dr. Michael Orey (2010), the brain is only capable of processing seven, plus or minus 2 pieces of information at once.  Incorporating cognitive tools such as concept maps, word processing note taking templates, and Excel spreadsheets help students to retain, focus, and organize their learning    Furthermore, all of these tools invite their users to expand, revise, and edit their newly acquired knowledge independently or collaboratively.  They can also be used effectively as advanced organizers in which the teacher provides key terms or data (cues) to trigger higher order questions and discussion.  PowerPoint can also be used as advanced organizers to facilitate sensory experiences that motivate students to be active participants in their learning (Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K., 2007).  Dr. Orey (Laureate, 2010a), also proposes elaboration as a primary mechanism for storing information in long term memory.  Using a Microsoft Word template, students can expand upon their knowledge from a state or country report and create a research based travel brochure with learned content, images, and data.  This activity also aligns with Paivio’s (in Laureate, 2010a) dual coding hypothesis that states that individuals remember information when words and images are presented simultaneously. Multimedia is among the most all inclusive of the technology tools.  Virtual field trips are example of multimedia at its best.  Of course, a real trip is ideal; however through virtual field trips students can experience episodic experiences that otherwise could not be accessed without the use of technology. Students are able to witness history, compare information with other primary sources, and engage in critical thinking that allows them to make important connections (Laureate, 2010b).  Examples of these include The Underground Railroad and the Great China Wall.
            Cognitive tools stimulate critical thinking, help students make important connections, and organize information to make it meaningful.  Research has shown that implementing these strategies into classroom instruction help students to develop higher level thinking skills that enable them to problem solve (Robertson, Elliot, & Washington, 2010).    Through the use of technology, teachers have access to a myriad of engaging tools that can support all students in their learning.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010a). Program five. Cognitive learning theory
[Webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010b). Program six. Spotlight on technology: Virtual field trips [Webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Baltimore, MD: Author

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

The China retrieved (n.d.).  Retrieved March 14, 2011 from

The underground railroad (1966).  National geographic. Retrieved  March 14, 2011 from


  1. I'm glad that you noted how great all this technology is, and in reference to the virtual field trips, that the actual experience is better than the simulated one. These tools are great, but why take a simulated tour when you can take a real one? I am happy you pointed that out.

  2. During this economic downturn where education cuts are the norm and field trips are being eliminated, I am so glad that most students in today's schools have access to experiences that connect them beyond classroom walls. The World Wide Web and Web 2 technology allows students not only to experience places unknown to them, but to communicate with people all over the world to gain deeper understanding of that which they study.

  3. Cognitivism is indeed a practical solution to turn learners into active participants during classroom interactions. Using cognitive theory the right way will help students to become critical thinkers, engage in higher other thinking, capable of developing the cognitive map of their environment and the information presented. (Gestalt school). Using technology will enable students to access, interpret and organize information in a logical way and even create a new knowledge in many cases. However, the problem I foresee is that of unequal access to computer hardware and software in many school districts.

  4. I have that same concern. The potential of technology to actively engage all students in directing their own learning is beyond the immagination. However, many of us have limited access to these tools. My one computer and printer is not nearly sufficient to allow my students the access they need to reap the benefit from learning with technology.

  5. Technology can help teachers to teach abstract content. For example it is very hard to show the shape and particles of atom on the board. However, simple virtual field trip to atom can ease the process. I think it could be better if students also explore the virtual field trip by their own.If technology resources are limited teacher can guide students in virtual field trip.