Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Technology Supports Cognitive Learning in the Classroom

This week in my master’s class, I learned how to use technology to enhance my students’ cognitive skills during learning. The cognitivist perspective “focuses on 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). My textbook, “Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works” describes two instructional methods that embed technology in lessons to increase student cognitive processes.

The first instructional strategy is cues, questions, and advance organizers. Cues are clear hints about what the student is going to learn and questions prompt a student’s memory to help them retrieve prior knowledge (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, pg 73). These cues and questions are incorporated in organizers. Dr. Orey describes organizers such as concept maps as a “graphical way” to organize data (Laureate Education, 2009). Word processing applications such as creating a brochure support cognitive thinking by helping students focus on important concepts thus eliminating the distracting, unnecessary information. Spreadsheet software that can create a rubric allows teachers to prepare students for a lesson by introducing them to the topic and expectations beforehand. Students can brainstorm and organize thoughts before a lesson by completing a KWL chart. They can view a video clip to trigger prior knowledge before completing a concept map to organize facts and answer higher-order thinking questions. These ideas focus “…on enhancing students’ ability to retrieve, use, and organize information about a topic” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007) therefore they support the cognitivist perspective.

Technology can also help students’ cognitive processes while summarizing and taking notes. Teachers can use word processing capabilities to provide students with teacher-prepared notes where students fill in missing pertinent information. Students can also use software that allows them to pick out the essential information in a paragraph in their textbook. Students can create a pictograph to go with their notes or create a graphic organizer such as a concept map that has embedded graphics to help organize information. “Graphic representation has been shown to produce a percentile gain of 39 points in student achievement” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). Various web resources such as blogging and wikis allow students to experience reciprocal teaching creating higher-order thinking. Like the first instructional strategy, this instructional strategy also supports the cognitivist learning theory because it assists mental processing.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009). Bridging learning theory, instruction, and technology. Baltimore: Author

Lever-Duffy, J. & McDonald, J. (2008). Theoretical Foundations (Laureate Education, Inc., custom ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

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


  1. Hi Jennifer,
    I was the most surprised to learn of the variety of summarizing and note taking tools word processing applications have. I also work with middle school students and I find that reading informational text is very difficult for them. The challenge they face is picking out the important parts of a passage. I have not used the 'AutoSummarize' tool, but wanted to know if you have it used it in your science or math classes? If so, did you feel that it helped students?

  2. Jennifer,

    Have you ever had your students create a brochure using Word to help them organize information? I find that it helps their cognitive skills as well as improve their writing skills. I think you have a great idea in having students create a pictograph along with their notes. A pictograph will help your students make connections, especially if you have ELL's or special education students. Great thinking!

  3. Danielle,

    No, I have not tried the "AutoSummarize" tool in my classroom. It sounds really neat and would benefit the students. My students also have difficulties reading a passage pulling the important information. Unfortunately, I do not have access to enough laptops for my students to do that. I like to use concept maps, flip charts and fill-in-the-blank note taking strategies. I create a template and they fill in the information. Their notes are neater and organized.

  4. JLowe,

    Yes, I have had my students pretend that they work for a travel agency and create a space brochure. They are very creative using clip art and slogans to entice people to want to visit a faraway planet. The only negative aspect is that they take some time to make and my school is so data and test driven that my time is limited moving from one standard to another. How do you pace your classroom so that the standards are covered yet the students have time to use the technology and construct their own learning?

  5. Jennifer,

    I am lucky in that I teach technology classes and do not have to give state tests. I have a class called Desktop Publishing. In this class students learn to use software tools in Microsoft Word, Publisher and Adobe Indesign to create a variety of documents. When my students get to the point where they are learning to create brochures, I can cover many standards at once. I can understand though how you are limited in what you can do when you have to be concerned with testing issues. Good luck in your attempt to integrate technology in your lessons.

  6. Jennifer and Danielle,
    Your comments and collaboration are awesome! I wish I was blogging with someone in my content area. You seem to be bouncing some really great ideas off of one another!