Cognitivism in Practice
The Cognitivist theory deals with how a person learns, or more specifically, how the brain stores and retains information. Recent studies have shown that the brain takes chunks of information and moves them into working memory, and eventually into long term memory. The chunks of information that reach long term memory are connected with other chunks of information, and can be pulled backed into working memory as needed. In fact, “All incoming information is organized and processed in the working memory by interaction with knowledge in long-term memory (Novak & Canas, 2006)”. The way a person learns and how the information is presented, heavily contributes to how these chunks of information enter the portion of the brain that controls long term memory. Many of today’s students are visual and auditory learners. Virtual field trips and concept mapping are two tools to help them learn information.
Virtual field trips are a powerful tool because it allows students to go where they physically cannot, and it creates “a rich experience (Laureate, 2011)” for the learner that can create episodes of learning. These field trips are usually free and easy to access, which removes two of the major barriers for many students and educators in today’s educational system. It also gives students a visual representation of the information being presented, which is a very powerful tool in the learning process. These field trips can be used as culminating activities, or as an opening activity that can be used to draw information and experiences from throughout the unit.
Concept mapping is another tool that gives students a visual representation of information. They are tools that help organize information, and show links and relationships to different concepts. These maps usually highlight the most important information and concepts in a unit, which in itself is a summarizing mechanism for students. Concept maps also help students and teachers understand the learning objectives for units, and spotlight important vocabulary in the unit or chapter. Today, technology allows to summarizing in different ways. Blogs, wikis, Google Docs, and other programs allow people to summarize information, but are much more interactive. These programs not only support the cognitive theory, but also the constructivist and social constructivist theories of learning.
Laureate Education, Inc. (2011). Spotlight on technology: Virtual field trips. .
Novak, J. D., & Canas, A. J. (2006-01 Rev 01-2008). The theory underlying concept maps and
how to construct them, Technical Report IHMC Cmap Tools. Retrieved from