Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cognitive Learning Theory and Technology Strategies

This week, I have been researching how the cognitive learning theory can be used in the classroom through the use of technology. My focus has been on how cognitive tools are used to enhance cues, questions, and advance organizers in the classroom, along with summarizing and note taking.

How to Embed Technology into Cues, Questions, & Advance Organizers

In Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, the authors describe cues as reminders given to students in order for students to know what they are about to learn, and questions are asked to trigger students’ prior knowledge (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p.73). The use of advance organizers can take cues and questions to the next level, by helping students focus their learning. Advance organizers can be created through word processing applications as well as concept mapping tools. (Check out one concept mapping tool I have used here at SpiderScribe) Advance organizers directly correlate with cognitive tools. One role of a cognitive tool is to present information in a “meaningful and appropriate representation” (Robertson, Elliot, & Robinson, 2007). Advance organizers allow students to show relationships among content in different forms. Students can organize information through the use of a Power Point, Word document, or concept map. If using Google Docs, students can share and edit each other’s organizers to help clarify information. For more information on advance organizers and concept maps check out this section on WikiEd.

How to Embed Technology into Summarizing and Note Taking

The purpose of summarizing and taking notes is to teach students how to take information and condense it down to the most important points (Pitler et al., 2007). One strategy that is presented in Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works is to use Microsoft Word to model for students how to summarize information. The authors describe how you can use the “track changes” feature to delete redundant information and simplify terms (Pitler et al., 2007, p.123). The other option the authors offer is to use the “AutoSummarize” tool, which will automatically summarize information in a document (Pitler et al., 2007, p.123). By using the “AutoSummarize” or “Track Changes” tools, students can see the information in the original and summarized form. This gives students a visual of how summarizing condenses information, which aligns with Paivio’s dual coding hypothesis that states information is stored as images and text (Orey, 2011).

Another great strategy offered in Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works is a note taking strategy called combination notes. Combination notes consist of notes or facts on the left, pictures on the right, and a one to two sentence conclusion at the bottom (Pitler et al., 2007, p.124). (Download a template here.) This strategy can be used in a word processing application. Students can use the Internet and clip art to find appropriate pictures that align with their notes on the left-hand side. If your students have access to Google Docs, they can also share their combination notes, so they can see how other students approached and organized the same information. This strategy also aligns with Paivio’s dual coding hypothesis because students are organizing and synthesizing the information through the use of text and pictures.

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

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

Robertson, B., Elliot, L., & Robinson, D. (2007). Cognitive tools. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/


  1. Danielle, I had never thought to use Google Docs to have students share their combination notes. I think students could really benefit from this type of information sharing.

    I am also using SpiderScribe for my concept map. I love it! It's super easy!

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. My school blocks Google Docs. Drives me absolutely crazy. But I will surely use your post as a reference to demonstrate how useful Google Docs can be. Thank you!!!

    - Alex Veltz

    1. Alex-

      My school is just jumping on the Google train. We have a staff meeting coming up for an introduction and then we will implement it during the next school year. I hope you are able to convince your administration otherwise!


    2. As a first year teacher, I personally do not push my boundaries, but there are tenured teachers within my school (2 Walden Graduates) that are pushing for less internet restrictions. I am more of a silent partner as I do not want to tarnish my good reputation with the administration. I will push the envelope when I have tenure lol.

      - Alex Veltz

  3. I have not used Google Docs before, but it sounds like a great collaborative tool. I like that the students can share information and edit each other's works. Additionally, I like that you stated they have the option to use text and images. Images help students to make connections, and combined with being able to view how other students internalized the information will most likely increase their understanding.

    1. Corela,

      Pictures are huge! I teach science and math and students need to visualize what they are doing! It also helps my ELL students. It is difficult in the beginning for them, so it is important to model the process, but once they got it, pictures are a wonderful addition!!