Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Mobile phones as cognitive tools

An article by David Jonassen titled Technology as Cognitive Tools: Learners as Designers provided me with lots of ideas to think through. The paper presents the view point that the application of technologies (like using computers for teaching and learning) as instructional tools should be reconfigured. Technology, the hardware and software to create teaching / learning sessions, should instead be thought of as ‘cognitive learning tools’. Technology should be given to the learners, for them to use as tools for knowledge construction. Instead, technology is now mainly used by teachers, instructional designers etc as a media for disseminating content.

As quoted from the paper above, “cognitive tools are both mental and computational devises that help to support, guide and extend the thinking processes of users.” Jonassen’s argument is that we should be using the capabilities of computers in particular to enhance learning opportunities for students. Instead of just using computers to provide content, students should be using computers to create their own content.

George Siemen’s latest paper titled Connectivism:Learning as Network Creation also goes down a similar path. This paper is an extension on his previous work on the concept of ‘connectivism’ as an updated adjunct to theories of constructivist learning. The ability to form networks is part of how learners construct meaning for themselves. These networks are formed not only within the learner, but are now also more likely to be formed externally by the learner to various sources of information, expert blogs, wikis, creative commons resources / websites etc. The learner is also able to contribute more easily to the knowledge formation of others by posting their material on blogs, wikis, websites etc.

Both of the above articles focus on the use of computers that are based in an office or home. The wider use of mobile phones extends the implications of the above articles into a mass market. Whether or not mobile phone uses realise it or not, they are all contributing towards changing the way in which the mobile phone is being used along with opening up opportunities for connectivism. We in education need to be aware of these implications. As the mobile phone changes from being ‘just a communication device’ for voice, text & pictures, we need to think about ways to use the mobile phone as a ‘cognitive tool’ and how this use would impact on connectivism for learners. I intend to mull over these concepts, so more of this in the near future!

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