Cognitive theorists try to explain learning as how one thinks. They view learning as “a mental operation that takes place when information enters through the senses, undergoes mental manipulation, is stored, and is finally used” (Lever-Duffy & McDonald, 2008, p. 16). Unlike behaviorist, cognitivists believe that learning is complex (Lever-Duffy & McDonald, 2008). Dr. Orey lists four components of Cognitive Learning Theory: Limited Short-term memory, Elaboration, Dual Coding Hypothesis, and Network Model of Memory.
There is a limit to what a person can process at one time – we can only process up to seven things at once (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). When a teacher has their students use technology, it allows for some of the lower level thinking skills to be eliminated by the computer so the student can focus on using high order thinking skills. For example, using Microsoft Excel can eliminate calculation functions for the student so they can focus on interpreting the results and using that information however applicable.
The instructional strategies of cues, questions, and advance organizers fit easily within the cognitive learning theory. These strategies “enhance the students’ ability to retrieve, use, and organize information about a topic (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007 p. 73). Cues and questions trigger the students’ memories and help with retrieving prior knowledge. The advanced organizers help the students analyze, classify, and focus their learning. With higher-level questions, these instructional strategies produce deeper learning (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). Long- term memory uses networks of information and uses connections to retrieve information. Concept maps and graphic organizers are a cognitive tool that replicates the network model of memory (Laureate Education, Inc.). Software tools such as Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, online concept maps and graphic organizers allow students to engage in higher order thinking and more advanced activities (Orey, 2001).
I use cues and questions often when beginning a new unit to activate prior knowledge. I also use graphic organizers, like Kidspiration, to develop various concepts in science and language arts. Graphic organizers encourage high order thinking skills. I have never thought about using Microsoft Word as an organizer but look forward to trying it out. I also plan to try several of the online concept maps.
The instructional strategies of summarizing and note taking “enhances students’ ability to synthesize information and distill it into a concise new form” (Pitler, et al., 2007, p. 119). During summarizing and note taking, students must think cognitively and analyze the information to decide what information to delete, substitute, or keep ((Pitler, et al., 2007). Effective software tools for summarizing and note taking are Microsoft Word, Inspiration/Kidspiration, and other web resources like ThinkTank, Google Docs, wikis, and blogs.
I already use a classroom blog to keep my students’ friends and family updated on what is happening in third grade. Students take turns to analyze what we did all week and then summarize the important activities. This year I am going to take a step further and use blogs for journaling and story writing. I also plan to give ThinkTank a try to see if that will help my students learn how to take notes and summarize information. My students are also going to use a wiki to have small groups collaboratively research, analyze, and summarize information about an animal of choice.
Multimedia is another tool that fits with the cognitive thinking of learning. Dr. Orey talks about how images are a very powerful tool. Information stored as images is the cognitive component of dual coding of information (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). Multimedia provides those images and can be used to activate prior knowledge, enhance new information, and to enhance summaries, notes, and projects.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program five: Cognitive learning theory [Video webcast] Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1
Lever-Duffy, J., & McDonald, J. (2008). Theoretical foundations (Laureate Education, Inc., custom ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Main_Page
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.