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Internet and the classroom

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Cognition and the Internet


Why is the internet a cognitive tool?

When a teacher structures a lesson in such a way that higher order skills are demonstrated along with facilitating and guiding throughout the lesson outcomes are achieved and intelligence is increased. For this reason the internet can be classified as a cognitive tool. Examples are:
The internet helps to expand your thinking. For example, when you are researching a topic on the internet and you are not coming up with any matches, you have to find other words for a given topic, helping you to expand your knowledge on the particular subject area.
Using methods, concepts, theories in new situations. For example, researching information on the First Fleet to use in a role play project.
Expanding Activities are designed to get children exploring the theme in greater depth while still using addresses provided. The use of links to other pages will allow the expansion of ideas- tasks will be rather more open ended and chidlren will need to be more discerning in their use of information. 
(Using the Internet to Research, Bourke, J. 1997)

Cognitive tools are mind tools; tools that support thinking and cognition. As students learn, they attempt to make sense of concepts by linking new information to existing knowledge structures. Cognitive tools support this process by acting as metacognitive prompts that encourage students to be reflective about what they are learning and how they are learning it. Cognitive tools are devices that scaffold the learning process. They are a type of framework that learners can cling to as they endeavour to explore concepts at increasingly deeper levels (Jonassen, 1996; Lajoie, 1991 Steketee, 2002).



When the internet is not a cognitive tool?

If a teacher is not confident in using the internet themselves or unaware of its capabilities there may be a tendency to allow the students to much freedom on the internet. Students may than detour from the task they have been set and class time may be wasted by visiting irrelevant or unsafe sites. Under these circumstances motivation to complete the task may be lost and it would then be difficult to regain this motivation in subsequent lessons. Thus, higher order skills are not exercised and intelligence is not enhanced.
"Intelligence: In the past, educators believed that a single intelligence test could measure whether a student was more or less intelligent. More recent thinking on the subject puts forward the view that there are multiple intelligences, and that students have diverse styles of learning and strengths in different areas. For example, some students may be visual learners... Howard Gardner, an influential thinker in this area, identified seven categories of intelligence, namely linguistic-verbal, logic-mathematical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical-rythmic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. He than added existential, spiritual and naturalistic... Good teaching should therefore, be cognizant of and tailored to the diversity of learners..."
(Discussion-Based Online Teaching To Enhance Student Learning, Bender, T. 2003)
Unstructured and unsupervised internet tasks are reasons why the internet would not be classified as a cognitive tool.
Whether or not the internet is classified as a cognitive tool depends largely on its use at a particular time.

cog·ni·tion   n.

  1. The mental process of knowing, including aspects such as awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment.
  2. That which comes to be known, as through perception, reasoning, or intuition; knowledge.

A cognitive tool therefore aids perception, reasoning, intuition and knowledge.
These are classified as higher order thinking skills according to Blooms Taxonomy.

The internet promotes;
student centred learning
valid life skills


Think Spot
Thought-provoker 2
If you have a class of students with many different learning styles, How would the internet cater for all of these styles?
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