Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Cognitivism in Practice

“Cognitivist focus on learning as a mental operation that takes place when information enters through the senses, under goes mental manipulation, is stored, and is finally used”(Duffy & McDonald, 2008, p.16). Technology has given educators tools that support cognitive learning theory.

This week I have spent a lot of time investigating many of the resources found in Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, Malenoski, 2007). With the use of technology, cues to check students’ prior knowledge do not have to be just verbal questions. Now a teacher can have students recall information from images, words and sounds presented in a power point presentation. Using many of the senses to get back information supports the cognitive theory that information is stored in multiple parts of the brain and retrieval is triggered by several senses.

In this week’s DVD, Dr Orey explains to us that three different types of information are stored in the brain; declarative/facts, procedural/how to do things and episodic/events in your life. Many schools have had to eliminate their field trips because of budget cuts. The number and variety of virtual tours available to teachers has increased. Although the virtual field trip is not an actual event, the use of them in the classroom can create lasting images stored for future reference. With a little creativity a teacher can make a virtual field trip that is a declarative, procedural and episodic memory.

James Hartley has identified some key ideas of learning that are based on cognitive theory. Hartley believes instruction should be well organized and structured (Smith, 1999). Advanced organizers such as mappings and spread sheets help teachers present material to their students in a very clear and visual manner. Teachers can use this tool for brainstorming, presentation of material, learning students’ prior knowledge and reviewing information before a test. Students can use advance organizers to help plan a research paper, note taking and organizing a group project. Organizers are useful tools for education.

Learning about the technology applications available to enhance student learning makes me envious of the teachers who have the hardware available to them at school. A handful of teachers at my school have the technology in their classrooms but I can see that it is not being used to its potential.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009). Program 5. Cognitive Learning Theories. [Educational video]. 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 Smith, M. K. (1999) 'The cognitive orientation to learning', the encyclopedia of informal classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD

Smith, M. K. (1999) 'The cognitive orientation to learning', the encyclopedia of informal education, Retrieved March 11, 2010, from


  1. Nancy,

    I too am envious of the teachers who have various forms of technology to use in their classes. I teach health education and am forced to teach my classes in other teachers' rooms. My school does not give the health teachers their own room. Traveling from room to room for health class makes planning and presenting my lessons very difficult. I can't create as fun of learning environment as I would like because I am unable to hang posters or have models of various health subjects. What has helped me this year is the use of SmartBoards. With the SmartBoards I am able to give PowerPoint presentations and/or show images and videos from United Streaming. In our DVD presentation this week, Dr. Orey (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009) explains just how powerful images can be on students' learning. For example, I have recently been teaching my seventh grade health class about the dangers of smoking. One of the side effects of smoking is having a hairy tongue. I showed my students a picture of an individual with a hairy tongue they had developed from smoking. It was amazing to see and hear their reactions.

    I think that it is important for teachers to continue to research to find tools and strategies when using technology in the classroom. Technology is constantly changing. However, if teachers are able to stay knowledgeable about the types and kinds of technology that can be used in the classroom, they will be providing their students with a memorable and fun learning experience.

  2. Nancy,

    I am very excited about the idea of using virtual field trips in my classroom. Think of all the places we can take our students. We can go from the ancient wonders of the world in the morning to the far reaches of space in the afternoon and all with out leaving the comfort of our classroom! Students are able to learn from experiences and virtual field trips do just that. They create learning experiences that students will then take with them.

  3. I am also very envious of teachers who have technology at their fingertips and can utilize it to the students best interest. I am afraid that we are years away from anything like that and I am sad that my students will miss out on such a wonderful experience.

  4. I find it sad that due to budget cuts we are limiting beneficial learning experiences. Episodic memory creates very strong connections. Field trips give teachers the ability to give students the meaningful events necessary to form this kind of connections. Virtual field trips can help make up these experiences to a certain extent. If a strategy is not implemented correctly, then the benefits from that strategy will not occur. It is the teachers responsibility to make virtual field trips an event, not just another assignment.