Blog Post 11a: Distributed Cognition

Distributed cognition provides a language for the cognitive process that is distributed across people, their environments, and time. Martin (2012) would agree with this, as he states in his article that cognitive functioning is not confined to the individual, rather, it is distributed among several people and resources. Today, the use of technology in the classroom has become an increasing need amongst teachers and students. Using technology in education allows for distributed cognition since it could be used as a learning resource.

Students and teachers use technology to increase classroom learning, and I have personally noted this occurrence in my field placement. This semester, I have been observing in a second grade classroom at Millridge Elementary School. My cooperating teacher frequently incorporates technology into her lessons because she feels that it is beneficial for her students and can help address topics that she may not necessarily be able to in her lessons. In their article, Salomon and Perkins (2005) claim that technology leads to real and sustained learning through the use of cognitive distribution. The article states, “…working with certain technologies makes us smarter, at least in the sense that it leads to smarter performance…they are what might be called cognitive technologies, technologies that enhance cognitive functioning through directly affording cognitive support…” (pg. 75). Through my writing, I would like to argue how a student’s capacities to learn and a teacher’s capacities to teach are augmented by educational technologies by tying in my own experiences at Millridge.

I have observed multiple lessons at Millridge Elementary School in which technology was integrated. Recently, the class finished a unit on dinosaurs. During the particular lesson that I observed, the students broke off into groups of three or four to work on a dinosaur research project. Technology was integrated as the students used their ChromeBooks to log into EPIC!, an online book source. The students were able to look up books online about their dinosaur of choice to help answer questions in their packet. They were also able to look up academic articles on their dinosaur. Whenever the students came across a word they did not know or a word they were unable to spell for their research project, they would use Google. This provided the students with an accurate definition or a correctly-spelled word. Without technology, the students would not have had access to helpful information.

I find EPIC! to be a positive addition to classroom learning. It gives students the opportunity to look up various books of various topics. My cooperating teacher has her own EPIC! account that her students can search. My teacher created a page of books that she felt were appropriate for her students to read. If the students have down time and have completed all of their other work, they are allowed to browse and select a book from her page. They also have access to EPIC! at home if they would like to leisurely read. In the case of the dinosaur research project, all the students had to do was search the dinosaur of their book, then they had a plethora of books at their fingertips. EPIC! makes reading convenient and the students truly seem to enjoy using this website. Technological resources, such as EPIC!, enhance cognitive functioning through directly affording cognitive support to students.

Sources

Martin, L. (2012). Connection, Translation, Off-Loading, and Monitoring: A Framework for Characterizing the Pedagogical Functions of Educational Technologies. Technology, Knowledge & Learning17(3), 87-107.

Salomon, G. & Perkins, D. (2005) Do Technologies Make Us Smarter? Intellectual Amplification With, Of and Through Technology

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