cognitive tools

Learning how to design learning experiences with Grainne Conole

As part of the Digital Week celebrated at Bath Spa university Grainne Conole, the chair of the Institute for Education, gave a workshop on Learning Design, it is about how to design learning experiences based in a methodology developed by her at the OU in the past. Technology can support learning and there is lots of lots available in the web. The technologies are not always good exploited. Some things people say against using technology is that it makes them confused, they are time consuming, they feel overwhelmed, they do not have the time, etc. In my view the use of technologies, particularly web-based technologies is something that is getting more and more an unavoidable skill to learn. I do not see it as an isolated task where we need to set aside hours of the day, I think it is an ongoing journey of discovery and enjoynment when finding interesting activities that are mediated through a particular tool or a particular activity involving a bit of use. The research says that not only teachers, lecturers, or other member of staff struggle with keeping up to date but also students do. Although they are very social and part -particularly the youngest one- of a participatory culture as Jenkins would say, they do struggle to be digital literate in a more formal setting. Being social and techi savvy in their daily lives do not imply that they have a wide knowledge of tools and their possible uses for their learning experience. My idea is that if we work together in improving our digital literacy something good and productive will come out of it.

This approach to learning design is a holistic one with more influence from Europe and Australian and less from the US. Guidance, visualisation and sharing are the key points in this LD approach. It is a designed based approach intended to move away from the beliefs approach.

An idea I liked very much is that of design being a sort of music score which not only transmit the notes which makes a particular piece of music but also the tempo, the rhythm. Learning design is about visualisation and envisioning, it is a powerful way to represent learning activities and the overall vision of the course. Let us see the steps of the design process. Underlying the structure of the course are the 7 Cs for learning which I illustrated as you can see below.

7 Cs LDesign photo (4)

Vision of the course: It is thinking about how do I encourage participants to do what I have envisioned for the course. If it is about collaboration then how will I encourage them to collaborate and communicate, how I want them to assess the course and their participation. This is done with cards that are provided in the workshop. The cards contain the core principles (online, portfolio, practice based, innovative for the student,etc) we need to classify them in 3 columns: very important, more or less important and not important at all. One the table is set with the cards the vision is already developed.

Some notes about resources for the classroom

  1. Discussion forum (Students could rate the best threat and for that they need to read all of them,
  2. blogs: Reflection, note taking, peer blogs, sharing information or thoughts, can be shared or personal
  3. wikis: co-construction of knowledge, like a log book for a course, alterantive reference resource for courses, to build a cohort resource, collaboration, using existing as critical resource, students and self esteem. Greainee’s broad structure:  structured  debate forum relfection blogss and construct resources wiki
photo (6)

The next step was to state the different resources and activities that will be addressed in the course.

Grainne introduced Cloudwork, a space to design the e-tivities for the course using a template they provide there (you need to create an account to access the tool).

In order to design the activities two links can be helpful. Bloom’s revisited learning taxonomy with a very helpful 3D interactive ladder and there is a digital taxonomy which is of course also very useful and a little bit of theoretical background of Bigg’s constructive alignment, a theory to design learning experiences and an interesting view on assessment.
Once the activities are ready we made a chart where thephoto (7) assessment was included.

More like a big picture were we could see the timing, the activities, the inputs we are giving students, what they need to look for and produce and how it is going to be assessed.

Reflections to close the course was done with 4 post-it in the wall, I loved it!!

  1. Action plan: What are you doing as a result of the workshop
  2. Room for improvement
  3. Thinks that I liked
  4. 3 words to describe the workshopplaying around with scenario

The picture on the right is a draft I did creating a scenario for the learning experience I have in mind. It was a playful exercise that helped me to consider many elements of the learner and her/his context.

It was a very useful workshop with many interesting new insights and useful information for all the participants

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David, Jonassen (1997). Computer as cognitive tools (Article)

There is also the book: Computers as Cognitive Tools. No more walls. (Susanne P. Lajoie, 2000) that needs to be revised, particularly the epilogue: Fallible, distractible, forgetful, wilful, and irrational learners.

Analysis of the article

The basic idea of the article is that web-based or computers can be seen as cognitive tools as they are used to re-present knowledge that has already been learned or that needs to be processed in order to learn it. Computers can be seen as cognitive tools that can expand learner’s thinking. I think one analogy that could be made here is VLEs seen as computers in front of which students are passives and asked to operate in a closed already made system whereas in a PLE the student is asked to design it, think about which tools can support which bit of the learning, how to organise a digital working space, how to find ways in which new tools can serve the purpose of old ones but adding new features, the tasks involved in a learning process. PLEs are seen using Jonassen’s framework, as cognitive tools, like constructive environments, where students need to interact with the environment in order to create it and also to use it as a workbench to re-present the knowledge for which has been designed for:

Learners function as designers when they use computers as cognitive tools for analysing the world, accessing information, interpreting and organising their personal knowledge, and representing what they know to others. Cognitive tools are generalisable computer tools that are intended to engage and facilitate cognitive processing, hence cognitive tools. (Kommers, Jonassen, & Mayes, 1992). They are knowledge construction and facilitation tools that can be applied to any subject matter domain represented in university.(p.2)

Learners as designers: The process of articulating the knowledge in order to construct the artefact or even in choosing the tools to create that artefact forces the designer to reflect on the knowledge and its process of transformation in new and meaningful ways. Give the representational power of the tool to the learner. Perkins (1993, cited by Jonassens) is of the idea that tools are powerful in their ability to represent knowledge, if that is for what they are chosen to, but they are not “fingertip” tools that learners use naturally, effortlessly and, effectively. Rather they provide an environment and vehicle that ofter demand from the learner to think harder about the knowledge they want to represent generating thoughts that without the tool may have not arisen.