Digital Media in Education

research in new media learning environments

Archive for Cognition

Learning while making videos

That’s it:

“At first, I really didn’t like making videos for physics,” she said. “But after a while I realized that by making videos, I started learning physics. At first I was tempted to wait until I understood the idea to make a video, but this was a mistake. The videos aren’t just for assessment, they are for learning.”

Wired Online Article

Now imagine what an interactive video could do!

Educação – Portugal testa salas de aula do futuro – Portugal – DN

Setúbal já tem um espaço a funcionar há um ano e meio e serve de modelo a 24 salas em preparação. Esta é uma aposta do governo

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Great initiative! Learning environments adapted to the digital reality! Student centered pedagogy is not a new idea but this seem a good way to do it!

See on Scoop.itLearning and Teaching Online

Learning Theory – What are the established learning theories?

This Concept Map, created with IHMC CmapTools, has information related to: Learning Theory, organisational learning Nonaka & Takeuchi, zone of proximal development The area of capabilities that learners can exhibit with support from a teacher or peer., text & conversation theory An organization is created and defined by communication. communication

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It seems odd that constructionism is the only “paradigma” that has no distinctive principlies or no link to  keyconcepts and it seems exaggerated that no links are connecting instructivism to any other paradigm, but it is still a very good representations of the whole picture.

See on Scoop.itLearning and Teaching Online

How the Brain Reacts to Scrambled Stories

Research shows that people tend to prefer linear narratives, but can also be engaged by just the right amount of disruption.

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if non-linear effort is required atencion may rise

if emotional involvement rises memoryincreases.

See on Scoop.itDigital Stories and Education

in: Constructionism: Research Reports and Essays

Seymour Papert works and research in education are still great references to frame the evolution of constructionist approaches in education.

This book presents a collection of essays and reports over methodological approaches to education and education research based in constructionism.

The main point of this book is to be present constructionism as a learning theory that supports the importance of “context” and self-conscience in the construction of a public entity for learning activities and for “building knowledge structures”.

S. Papert starts this book making a general presentation of the subject and structure of the book. With a double meaning chapter, Situating constructionism, he presents both the framework of constructionism and the main focus on situating learning to increase knowledge construction within the general paradigm defined by constructivist psychological theories. Papert claims that constructionism defines a better learning approach for everyone than the “intructionalist” practices that are still prevalent in school, and that constructionism “is the only framework that has been proposed that allows the full range of intellectual styles and preferences to each find a point of equilibrium.”  p.3

One important idea here addressed that will further be explored in a chapter with Sherry Turkle is the conviction that learning-by-making (presented as the simplest definition of constructionism) descends from two main ideas:

  • Bricolage as a working strategy – where students can let them self-guide by the work as it proceeds instead of staying with the pre-established plan.
  • Closeness to objects – defined as one of the most important parameters to distinguish learning styles. People that have object oriented learning style require proximity to physical objects. Those that are more at ease with some distance to objects and choose more abstract and formal ways of learning.

Using LEGO and a simple object oriented programming language called Logo allows exploring several issues related to this closeness to learning. Several authors in this book present activities with these two components LEGO/Logo that illustrate the difference between using computer as content delivery media and as media for knowledge production.

In this book, Papert also leaves an important message related to his stance concerning the use o computers in education. Taking into account that that learning in school is largely a technical act, he believes that computers and “technology should be the instrument for the achievement of a less technical form of education.” p.18. In the second chapter, Perestroika and Epistemological Politics he develops the idea that supports that activities with computers are the key to let teacher focus on orient and personalize learning to students instead of following rigid curriculums or syllabus.

Learning as a technical act:Learning is an activity that is in the origin a natural act but it becomes technical in school, as technical ways of thinking are used and the teacher is cast to the role of a technician carrying out procedures set by a syllabus or curriculum designed hierarchically, and dictated from above.

The second part of the book shows some examples of research models that explore learning through design, play and programming.  In the chapter Software Design as Learning all of these learning situations are studied in a project that compares the learning outcomes of a class that was engaged for a semester in the design and production of an educational software to teach fraction and two other classes that followed the regular mathematics curriculum. In this study the computer is already seen “as a medium for expression” and as a technology to “think with”. One of the most significant activities made by students in these classes is to “thinking about their own thinking and other people’s thinking” in this study the main conclusion is that in this processes students “facilitate their own learning”. This activity as described and analyzed by the authors promoted:

  • Metacognitive awareness – children’s thinking about their own thinking;
  • Cognitive control – planning, self-management, and thinking about these processes;
  • Metaconceptual thinking – children’s thinking about their own knowledge and understanding of concepts.

The skills that the authors believe where supported:

  • problem-finding skills;
  • cognitive flexibility;
  • how to control distractions and anxiety;
  • practice of continual evaluation;
  • to monitor their own processes;
  • to become articulate about general planning and specific design tasks.

”The idea is that learning benefits from a context where the learner is consciously engaged in constructing a public entity” p.3

Attributes concerning learning objects:

  • Appropriability – some things lend themselves better than others to being made one’s own;
  • Evocativeness – some materials are more apt than others to precipitate personal thought;
  • Integration – some materials are better carriers of multiple meanings and multiple concepts.

Some methodological research approaches where questioned and the authors came to believe that most conclusions are based in the researchers own intuitions:

“Did the simple fact of spending some 70 hours programming representations in Logo contribute to the results? Was the “moral climate” in the project largely responsible? Or the fact that the teacher felt she was part of something important or simply different? “ p.65

In another chapter Michel Resnick and Stepthen Ocko address the importance of design in human activity and the relatively low focus given in school classrooms. They present several examples of children’s activities with the Lego/Logo machines that lead them to conclude that they were developing richer and more robust models on mathematics and physics. They concluded saying that:

“Children do not learn a new concept when they are taught the definition. Rather, they must experience and re-experience the concept in different contexts. Through these experiences, children gradually reorganize their intuitions into more complete models.” p.146

The authors believe these methods are not easy for the teacher to implement, being time consuming and requiring lot of dedicated attention to developing new activities and providing personal feedback to students, but they believe the effort is worthwhile by the effectiveness.

Constructionism places a high priority on making projects personal. p.151

“In our experience, design activities have the greatest educational value when students are given the freedom to create things that are meaningful to themselves (or others around them).”  p.144

Xylophones, Hamsters, and Fireworks, other chapter written by Michel Resnick presents his experience using LOGO/Lego kits with teachers. It mainly presents the success of a workshop for teachers that allowed teachers to understand the possibilities of the application and devices presented in the kit. Also gave the opportunity for teachers too feel alternative ways of learning in the role of students. Resnick’s focus is the success of the workshop even in a completely lose environment where teachers were invited to do whatever they liked as a project. This liberty made possible collaborative work and great enthusiasm and motivation. Some teachers found for the first time how fun learning could be.

In the first chapter of the third part, Sherry Turkle and Seymour Papert focus the importance of the computer for a change in our ways of thinking and as consequence in the way of learning and teaching.  The authors present several examples in their own studies and in studies developed by other researchers that define two learning styles based in the way people engage with objects. In Piagetian terms, concrete thinking stage develops in close relationship to objects, while the next stage of abstract thinking has no dependence on objects and can be completely symbolic. In a clear critic to the sequential and hierarchical view of Piaget, the authors propose the reevaluation of the concrete and abstract thinking as different styles that have their own value and that have their own importance.

Concrete and abstract thinking demand different learning styles and different educational approaches. In this chapter, the authors adopt the used terms “soft” and “hard” to distinguish some characteristics of these styles:

  • Soft – Concrete thinking; closeness to objects; undisciplined; emotional involvement, anthropomorphization of objects; flexibility; nonhierarchical categorization; openness to experience of close connection with the object of study. The term also goes along with cognitive values based on the capacity for insisting on negotiation, relationship and attachment.
  • Hard – Abstract thinking; distance to objects; systematic planning; logical and hierarchical categorization; rule based.

“Perhaps everyone is really “soft” after all, and ” hard” is a construct that is dropped when it is not needed for acceptability or prestige or functionality. Others might simply say that icons are “easier”.” p.187

Although while analyzing the evolution of computer programming the authors tend to believe that the initial dominant hard approach seems to be turning soft. The main example presented is the change of the operative systems interface that (at the time) was starting to be object oriented with the desktop metaphor that presented visual icons representing files to be dragged and dropped by the user.  This kind of change, done through object-oriented programming, is one of the things that makes the computers a good environment for both styles of learning to coexist.

“The conventional route into formal systems, through the manipulation of abstract symbols, closes doors that the computer can open. The computer, with its graphics, its sounds, its text and animation, can provide a port of entry for people whose chief ways of relating to the world are through movement, intuition, visual impression, the power of words and associations. And it can provide a privileged point of entry for people whose mode of approach is through a close, bodily identification with the world of ideas or those who appropriate through anthropomorphization. The computational object, on the border between the idea and a physical object, offers new possibilities.”  p.181

So the computer is presented as a medium that can help to include both soft and hard learning styles in one single learning environment.

The authors preview the importance of an object oriented shift in computers to allow its use as an expressive medium:

“On a more down-to-earth level, there is every reason to think that revaluing the concrete will contribute to a computer culture that treats the computer as an expressive medium and encourages differentiated styles of use and relationship with.” p.188

The authors take also the stance of valuing the role of education on humanizing our technological tools, considering the importance of more soft approaches both for students and for the used tools:

“The role of feminist studies in the nascent computer culture is to promote the recognition of diversity in how we think about and appropriate formal systems and encourage the acceptance of our profound human connection with our tools.“ p.188,189

Each of these two different styles has a gender connotation. Soft approach related to feminine, ad hard approach related to masculine. The authors seem to find a pattern in classes they have studied. Girls most of the times have soft approaches while boys seems to be favored hard approaches (60% of girls have more soft styles while only 30% of the boys adopt soft approaches)

in: Vygotsky, Piaget, and Bandura

The main point of this article is to propose a new thinking frame about cognitive development and social learning that proposes there are more similarities in Vygotsky’s, Piaget’s, and Bandura’s theories than contradictions.

More Similarities than Contradictions

The authors star by proposing that early categorization of Vygotsky, Piaget, and Bandura theories is based in the need for interpreters to categorize theories. One other reason is the fact that it is difficult to make empirical studies that have all the subtleties of each theory in to account. Therefore, most research done in each tradition explores only some aspects of each theory and most often tries to explore particularly controversial issues rather than some central ideas that are common.

In this article Tudge and Winterhoff expose what they consider to be neglected or unexplored ideas that they believe bring some light to truly understanding the work done by Vygotsky, Piaget, and Bandura. Instead of focusing differences between their theoretical positions as other did (Altman. E., & RogolT. B), the authors propose to start by focusing the similarities among them in order to truly understand what differentiates them.

Altman. E., & RogolT. B. (1987). World views in psychology: Trait. Interactional, organismic., and transactional perspectives. In D. Stokols & I. Altman (Eds.), Handbook of environmental psychology (Vol. I, pp. 7- 40). New York: Wiley.

The similarities between all three authors are listed below. Vygotsky, Piaget, and Bandura:

  • Share the same aim (to understand development);
  • Share some references (predecessors and contemporary authors working in the field);
  • Share the conviction that individuals are cognitively active in the process of development;
  • Take in to account social factors, both at a cultural and historical level (macro factors) and  at the interpersonal level (micro interactions);
  • Believe that maturation plays a critical role in development;
  • Are highly critical of stimulus-response models (eg. behaviorism and mechanistic materialism).

Although living in different countries and different social contexts Piaget and Vygotsky knew to some extend each other’s work, and even mentioned each other in their writings. In particular, they shared:

  • The belief that development constitutes a dialectical process;
  • The idea that development has biological and sociocultural origin;
  • Some references as Claraparede, Janet, and Baldwin.

Piaget and Vygotsky diverged mainly in the relation between learning and development. For Piaget development was mainly dependent on biological constraints (development precedes learning), while Vygotsky believed that learning pushed forward the development of the child (learning process is necessary for development).

Lev Vygotsky – Born: 1896, Russian Empire; Died: 1934, USSR

Jean Piaget – Born: 1986, Switzerland; 1980, Switzerland

Albert Bandura – 1925, Canadá (Age 86)

The zone of proximal development defines those functions that have not yet matured but are in the process of maturation, functions that will mature tomorrow but are currently in an embryonic state. These functions could be termed the ‘buds’ or ‘ flowers’ of development rather than the ‘fruits’ of development. (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86) p.67

We said that in collaboration the child can always do more than he can independently. We must add the stipulation that he cannot do infinitely more. What collaboration contributes to the child’s performance is restricted to limits which are determined by the state of his development and his intellectual potential (Vygotsky, 1987, p. 209) p.67

We propose that an essential feature of learning is that it creates the zone of proximal development; that Is, learning awakens a variety of developmental processes that are able to operate only when the child is interacting with people in his environment and in collaboration with his peers (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 90) p.67


One important remark made by the authors concerning Vygotsky ideas is that the zone of proximal development is not a clear defined space where social interaction will generate a learning outcome. Instead, the zone of proximal development is created in the course of social interaction. Against the common idea that Vygotsky does not consider maturation as a relevant issue the authors propose the following cote:

‘Instruction is only useful when it moves ahead of development. When it does, it impels or wakens a whole series of functions that are in a stage of maturation lying in the zone of proximal development’ [Vygotsky, 1987, p. 212]. (p.67)

Another Vygotsky’s conviction, here highlighted, is the importance for researchers to be able to analyze individuals and the social as interconnected, instead of separated. The way to do this, he proposes, is to use units that can encapsulate them both. Word meanings, tools and goals, are all used by the individual and are part of the social world of which the individual is a part of (they are formed in a sociocultural context). For Vygotsky, these are used central units for the analyses of development. The other researchers will not ignore this way of managing research in a micro or macro social level.


Contradicting a common idea that Piaget’s work does not focus social interaction, the authors of this article highlight some early work made with children from 3 or 4 months of age when they first begin to imitate gestures of adults who have just imitated them. The authors sustain the relevance of these studies (with social interaction at the micro-level, or interpersonal contact) as they stand on the base of the main concepts defined by Piaget – accommodation – that is inherently linked to imitation, and considered of great importance to development since the first year of life. Social factors are considered of great influence in all stages of development, and not only at a interpersonal level. When addressing the development of moral judgment Piaget presents not only  adults as source of constraints but also the historical and cultural influences provided by social institutions (macro-level social interactions).

Piaget’s clear distinctive idea (both from Vygotsky and bandura): “[Peer interaction is] both qualitatively different from and superior to adult-child interaction in facilitating cognitive growth. Under conditions of unequal power, a child may well accept the adult’s view but is unlikely to undergo the cognitive restructuring necessary for cognitive development” (p.68).

Vygotsky. L.S. (1978). Mind in society, Cambridge MA: Harvard University. Press.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1987). The collected Works of L.S. Vygotsky: Vol. I. Problems of general psychology (R.W. Rieber & A.S. Carton, Eds ., N. Minick, Trans.). New York: Plenum.

Criticism is born of discussion, and discussion is only possible among equals: cooperation alone will therefore accomplish what intellectual constraint [unquestioning belief in the adult’s greater knowledge] failed to bring about (Piaget, 1932/1965, p. 409) p.69

Piaget, J. (1965). The moral judgment of the child. New York: Harcourt Brace. (Original work published in 1932)


The authors say that it is generally considered that Bandura’s distinctive belief is that children learn through imitation of models in their social environment. But neither Piaget or Vygotsky find this idea repulsive. One work by Piaget focus 3 and 4 month old children is proof of that, and Vygotsky has written that:

“Imitation is the source of instruction’s influence on development… Instruction is possible only where there is potential for imitation” [Vygotsky, 1987, pp.210,211]

The main idea that distinguishes Bandura’s though from Piaget’s, is that it does not really matter too much if it is a peer-to-peer interaction or child-adult interaction, the important is that “[t]hose who are most experienced and competent provide models of efficacious styles of thinking and behavior”(Bandura, 1989, p.45) (p.70). What is most important is the context in which the model is presented. For Bandura independently of age one of the individuals, one of them will be assumed by the other as most experienced and will be considered the model or assumed as someone with more authority. As we will see in other works made in the Vygotsky’s line of research, this idea is perfectly compatible with Vygotskys’s theory.

The exploration of three lines of research

Tudge and Winterhoff further explore the research developed by other researchers that followed the theoretical tradition of each of these three authors. As said earlier a main problem these researchers face is the impossibility of developing empirical work that could support or consider all aspects of any of the three theories. Instead, researchers focused some hypotheses derived from the theories in order to make their own analysis. The authors point out one other contribution for the lines of research to grow apart. They believe each theoretical approach requires a specific methodological frame of action that in some ways constraint the results of the research. Therefore, each research tradition may never achieve another’s result, even if ideally they would address the same subject. As an example the Vygotsky’s research tradition focus not on immediate results of collaboration, but rather in the ways in which a dyad arrive at a solution. In opposition, Piagetian research tradition focuses on results.

Vygotsky’s and Bandura’s traditions

Although most research done following these researcher has the tendency to point out the existing contradictions some work was already done showing some compatibilities.  One example is the work of some Vygotskian researchers who have contrasted peer and adult-child collaboration, they “have found that children paired with an adult subsequently improved more than those paired with a same-age or slightly older child” (p.72). This results although going against Piaget’s conclusions match with Bandura’s argument that “a partner’s competence may be a necessary, but not sufficient, condition in assisting development. Accurate perception of the partner’s greater competence may be critical.” (p.72). And for Bandura it is more natural for a child to recognize an adult as having greater competence than to recognize it in another child.

Vygotsky’s and Piaget’s tradition

Most researchers working within the Piagetian framework focused on achieved results, but some turned out to become also concerned with the process of interaction. Some as Perret-Clermont have argued that the unit of analyses, after all, should not be the individual but rather the interacting partners as a hole.

Vygotskian researchers: Ellis and Rogoff (1982, 1986); Radziszewska and Rogoff (1988); Rogoff and Gauvain (1986).

Perret-Clermont. A. (1980). Social interaction and cognitive development in children. London: Academic Press.

“Contextualizing” and “contextual” approaches

The authors propose a distinction that they believe is really relevant and that many interpreters missed to address. This distinction has to do with the difference between “contextualizing” and “contextual” approaches.

Contextualizing approach – the social world is the context in which development occurs and it plays an important role over the individuals’ development.  The individual and the context are conceptually distinguished, and “one can focus on the effects of the context on a child, or on the effects of a child on his or her context” (p.74).

Contextual approach – Distinction between the social world and the individual are not addressed and any boundaries between them are blurred.

This distinction is considered useful because it is in the origin of what makes these author really distinct.

Vygotsky’s theory is the clearest example of a contextual theory.

Piaget’s theory has a contextual approach only to certain degree. It mainly focus de individual as a unit. Nevertheless, in a dialectic interpretation, if both individual in a dyad change in the processes of development, a mutual interplay of influence has to be considered central.

Bandura’s theory has the most contextualizing approach. Social context is always present but the bidirectional influences are seen as distinct.

Contextual approach: New understanding, gained through collaboration, is a product of the child’s original understanding, the partner’s different understanding, the child’s difficulties with the task and the ways they are expressed in the course of the interaction, the partner’s responses to those difficulties, and so on. Since this process evolves over time, and each person’s responses depend on what the other has previously done or said, the outcome is one that cannot be attributed to either one or the other. The unit of analysis accordingly extends beyond the individual.” (p.76)

Cultures influence in development in Vygotsky’s view: “Culture creates special forms of behavior, changes the functioning of mind, constructs new levels in the developing system of human behavior …. In the process of historical development, a social being changes the means and methods of his behavior, transforms natural inclinations and functions, develops and creates new, specifically cultural, forms of behavior” [Vygotsky, 1983, pp. 29-30].

Jonathan R.H. Tudge and Paul A. Winterhoff (1993); Vygotsky, Piaget, and Bandura: Perspectives on the Relations between the Social World and Cognitive Development; Human Development 1993:36:61-81

The Child, the Tablet and the Developing Mind

See on Scoop.itLearning and Teaching Online

Researchers still do not know what the future might hold for a generation raised with smartphones and tablets.


In fact most authors believe children’s use of technology surely alters mind development. Is it good is it bad? It seems that the problem is rather the limit number of hours! Flat 2D screens long exposure is generaly bad and even worst for younger children. At least vision and perception ability is affected. Some researcher say TV or tablets should be completly avoided before the 2 years and advise less than 2 hour exposure until 7. Following Marta’s post and her work (

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Program or be Programmed

See on Scoop.itSemantic Hypermedia Storytelling

Best-selling author and technology visionary Douglas Rushoff offers his insights and perspectives on humanity’s role in the bight new future.

Knowing what is programming. Knowing that any one can program.  Programming, is key for emancipation. The more people know how to program the more chances we have to evolve as people and as a society.  And, as if you read, you better know how to wright. If you can go through an interactive video or game you better now how to program one yourself.

Programming is easy and there are lots of levels of programming were any one can start and “upgrade” himself.

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Why Confusion Can Be a Good Thing | MindShift

See on Scoop.itSemantic Hypermedia Storytelling

We all know that confusion doesn’t feel good. Because it seems like an obstacle to learning, we try to arrange educational experiences and training sessions so that learners will encounter as little confusion as possible. But as is so often the case when it comes to learning, our intuitions here are exactly wrong. Scientists have been building a body of evidence over the past few years demonstrating that confusion can lead us to learn more efficiently, more deeply, more lastingly—as long as it’s properly managed.

António Maneira‘s insight:

Semantic hypermedia storyteling provides provides good grounds to increase complexity of content. Its use for educative purposes may provide the needed platform for developing learning materials and learning activities. This article mentions several studies that seem very interesting in this area.

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in Grounded Cognition

In this chapter Barsalou present four grounded cognition theories providing references to several empirical studies that support them. These theories “represent negative reactions to standard theories of cognition based on amodal symbols. (…) grounded theories contain insights about mechanisms central to cognition that standard theories have largely ignore such as simulation, situated action, and bodily states.” p.621

Cognitive Linguistic Theories
These theories emphasize the importance of metaphors in the way we think and speak.
People “possess extensive knowledge of their bodies (e.g., eating) and situations (e.g., verticality), and that abstract concepts draw on this knowledge metaphorically” p.621. (e.g., consumed by love) (e.g., happy is up , sad is down).
Theories of Situated Action
These theories “propose that the environment plays central roles in shaping cognitive mechanisms. Additionally, these theories focus on the close coupling of perception and action during goal achievement and increasingly on social interaction. (…) Rather than adopting computational architectures that manipulate amodal symbols, theories of situated action often adopts dynamic systems as their architecture. From this perspective, fixed representations do not exist in the brain” p.621.
Cognitive Simulation Theories
Mentioning Pavio (1986) Dual Code Theory, Barsalou presents the importance of simulation capability of the human brain and its importance to language and to process information. He presents his “Perceptual Symbol Systems” (PSS) where he supports the importance of symbolic recording systems and how important these systems are for interpreting experience and simulate new situations for predicting and preparing action. Following Damasio (1989) ideas of mind convergence zone architectures he supports the idea of multiple and dynamical simulation mechanisms that come to action for mental representation and situated action. “Similar to PSS and its situated extension, Basic System Theory [proposed by Rubin (2006)] proposes that complex memory contains many multimodal components from vision, audition, action, space, affect, language, etc., and that retrieving a memory involves simulating its multimodal components together” p.622.
Social Simulation Theories
These theories “propose that we represent other people’s minds using simulations of our own minds”p.623.
Barsalou focus the particular capacity humans and some primates to represent the mental states of others. Presenting Gallese et al. (2004) work related to mirror neurons he emphasis that mental simulation was considered to provoke stronger responses in neuron activity than performing the action itself.

The chapter is way more rich in empirical evidence presentation and further theoretical development in several related issues, and also focus the methodological approaches important for future formalization of the presented theories.

Barsalou, L.W. (2008a). Grounded cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 617-645.
Retrieved 12/05/2011, from

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