Using Cognitive Tools to Enhance Learning
Cognitive learning theories explain how all incoming information is organized and processed in short-term memory by connections with knowledge in long-term memory. Elaboration and rehearsal facilitates the learner’s ability to move new information from short-term memory to long-term memory in the brain. Elaboration is the "primary mechanism for storing information in long-term memory and it builds numerous connections to stored information" (Laureate Education, 2009). Cognitive tools that emphasize relating new knowledge to the learner’s existing knowledge can foster meaningful learning.
For material to be learned, it must be conceptually clear and presented with language and images relatable to the learner’s background knowledge. An example of cognitive tools enhancing learning is using technology to turn note taking into a true learning experiences. The problem with note taking is that few students are skillful at taking good notes. My eighth grade daughter is a perfect example. She was completely overwhelmed in her U.S. History class when she was told to simply take notes on the important ideas. She was so busy writing notes on everything, that she wasn’t really learning anything. She had a schedule change in the second semester, which resulted in a different teacher for history. Now she is provided with advance graphic organizers for note taking. She prefers using advance graphic organizers to taking notes in her spiral or Cornell Notes, because the graphic organizer provides cues and essential questions. She explains how these cues and essential questions make it clear exactly what she needs to know. Word processing applications, organizing and brain storming software, multimedia, Web resources, and communication software can be very effective tools in helping students classify, organize, and understand new content by scaffolding the summarizing and note-taking process. Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski (2007), state, “the instructional strategy cues, questions, and advance organizers focuses on enhancing students’ ability to retrieve, use, and organize information about a topic,” (p.73).
“Cognitive tools impact student learning by causing them to think about information instead of reproducing and/or recalling information. Information is shifted through and evaluated for its’ validity, reliability, and applicability to research and problem solving activities” (Orey, D. M., 2001).
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2009). Program five. Cognitive Learning Tools. [Motion picture]. Bridging learning theory, instruction, and technology. Baltimore: Author.
Orey, D. M. (2001). Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching and Technology. Retrieved May 5, 2009, from Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles: http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works. Denver: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL).