Digital Media in Education

research in new media learning environments

In Learning with technology: Using computers as cognitive tools

In this chapter Jonassen and Reeves (1996) present the importance of cognitive tools for enhancing our cognitive power and the importance of scientific study on their evolution for understanding the “human progress”. The aim of this chapter are computer-based cognitive tools  and their effects in and context of human education. In a constructivist approach they present the importance of engaging learners in active, mindful and purposeful interpretation and reflection instead of simply reproduction. The idea of giving authoring tools to learners, and make them the designers of their own instructional materials is one that goes through the hole chapter. One other idea presented is that computers can ease the weight of memorizing tasks to focus, the cognitive power of the mind in other cognitive processes that computers can’t still do. They focus several categories of learning tools starting with programming languages as Basic, Pascal, Logo and Prolog.

In the topic Hypermedia/multimedia authoring systems as cognitive tools they amplify the idea that it is getting easy for people with little or no experience in programming and with inexpensive computers and software to develop multimedia, hypermedia and publish their own materials.

The authors present the relevance of hypermedia in classroom with the idea that learners “may create multimedia databases that reflect their own perspectives on, or understanding of, ideas. Or learners may collaborate with other learners to develop a classroom or school hypermedia knowledge base. We content that students are likely to learn more by constructing hypermedia instructional materials than by studying hypermedia created by others. Of course, hypermedia created by others (such as World Wide Web sites) can provide excellent resources for students in the process of creating their own hypermedia”(p.704). They present some case studies developed by other researchers and present some main skills that are stimulated in the learning activities: Project management skills; Research skills; Organization and representation skills; Presentation skills; Reflection skills.

Other cognitive tools they present are semantic networks. Several applications are presented, but most of them were mainly used in the scope of the research projects done in late eighties and early nineties (e.g. SemNet by Fisher, TextVision by Kommers). They seem very enthusiastic with these new technologies and the good results reported but they finish this topic reporting the need for further research as for different research methods and contexts of application.

The authors also present expert systems and databases as cognitive tools, reporting also some examples in which these tools proved to be helpful for learning outcomes and the development of critical-thinking skills like “analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information” (p.711).

In the conclusions the author emphasize the important of further research in this field, and the need for rigorous scientific approaches using multiple evaluation methods and valid body of systemic and analytical research grounded in sound theory.

Jonassen, D. H. & Reeves, T. C. (1996). Learning with technology: Using computers as cognitive tools. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.). Handbook of research for educational communications and technology (pp. 693-719). NY: Macmillan


  Norma wrote @

Hi! I’ve just written an article on learning tools using a very different type of task: a psychomotor task. This was an exploratory study that has set the line for further research in hypermedia.
You can acess it for free:

Click to access iji_2011_2_9.pdf

  acmaneira wrote @

Thank you for your comment,
Your research seem to be very interesting. One of my friends in the Digital Media PhD is working with digital playgrounds. I’m also recommending your article to her.

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