Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Creative Cognitive Tools

Cognitive learning incorporates the short-term and long-term memory. Dr. Michael Orey (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009) discussed the “7 +/- 2” theory for short-term memory storage. This means at any given time, the short-term memory can hold only minimal bits of information; this is why further connections must be made and transfers of the information from short- to long-term memory. The best way to create long-term memory is to allow the brain to create more connections of neurons at the dendrite tips, as we learned from Dr. Pat Wolfe in week 1 of our course studies (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009). Creating images of words and pictures related to one another is a strong way to create memory. When the visual aide ties the information together, the brain will create more connections and begin to make trigger marks, or tags, to recall the information.

Using cues, questions, and advanced organizers is a wonderful way to create the links and tags of memory; this is essential to the cognitive learning theory (Pitler & Hubbell, 2007) (Marzano, 2001). Cues and questions can be crossed referenced and used of advanced graphic organizers will give visual tags to the written or oral information. Students using technology programs, such as Inspiration (or Webspiration online) are able to manipulate and create an image rich concept maps for linking the new information. I have used the program for many classroom assignments and always have great success with the student output and outcomes. Kids love visuals, especially those they can create with instant feedback.

Summarizing and note taking is a whole other ballpark for me. I have spent countless class periods creating, leading, teaching, and handing out notes. I show various techniques and hand out my own set for the students to use as models. I walk systematically through the process of note taking and still, I cannot seem to get the concept across to my 8th graders. Sometimes I think the whole idea is too far above their heads for it to sink in, and other days I see lights shining from in front of me, and it is not the overhead! I instruct using Microsoft Word. I show the students how to easily fix the “squiggly lines” into correct grammar and spelling, but I still receive hard copies and final submissions with errors everywhere. I purposely spell incorrectly so they can see the problems and how to correct them, but still…what to do? Well, Pitler & Hubbell (p. 125) would suggest using non-linguistic notes, with written cues on the left margin and pictures on the right. I highly encourage doodles and drawings to help stimulate the information to long-term memory storage, but too often the drawings do not connect to the information and no memory of any kind are created. I am hoping for suggestions and assistance in this area. My district Assistant Superintendant of Curriculum is a Marzano Superfan, so this would be a great help for me!!


  1. It is very true that the students are the main character of learning (having said that we teachers learn from our students as well:) but students are our future leaders. Their learning should be of the first priority. There are many times that we found teachers giving out long lectures and presentations and students just passively sit there and listen. This old fashioned way of teaching has to stop as soon as possible. We are actually stifling students' creativity and potential.

    Constructionism theory suggests exactly the opposite and which is why it's so important to implement it in our classroom. Students actively engaged in building or creating things allow them to take full control of their own learning. Moreover, it is the ownership of their learning and their experience in building their own knowledge where true learning begins!

    As a teacher, I want learning to be fun! I think back to when I was in school-"boring"-I was one of those passive learners-I just memorized what I needed to know. I think like you said-"it is the ownership of learning and their experience in building their own knowledge is where true learning begins". It's keeping students actively involved and gaining that "love of learning"

    Dr. Orey uses examples in a number of our resources emphasizing the value of the PowerPoint program. Not only is this a great tool but it engages our students in so many ways. In fact they are able to absorb information, construct a visual format on supplying information, and sharing it with others.

    This type of activity is so important for students to be exposed to because as you stated it keeps them from being bored. More importantly, it allows them more control in the educational process by giving them instruction that is unique and specific to them. More often than not upon completion of these activities it seems clear that students walk away with a clear understanding of the topic they addressed.

    This is just one technology tool out of a limitless options our students in creating and learning. Whether the tools be generating or testing hypothesis or other tools these are so important in creating hands-on experiences for our students to learn. I believe the constructivist/constructionist instruction is the best approach in preparing out students for future life situations.


  2. Marie,

    I am interested to know how you use Word to demonstrate for your classes. Is it possible that you might attach a document that shows your technique?

    As for note taking,I think that I am going to begin encouraging students to use their laptops to create maps in inspiration that can be used to organize their thoughts.


  3. Retta~
    I think you may have misunderstood what I was saying. I do not spend hours upon hours lecturing and making them take notes. I do spend many rehearsal periods going through the processes of note taking and use multiple disciplines to teach those lessons. I want students to become independent learners with a set of their own learning notes as a result of their findings. I spend time working through note taking skills, so they can use them throughout the year; I do review for a few moments whenever I introduce new concepts, but I am not a teacher asking for notes as a means to learning, just support for them. I actually use collaborative constructionism in my classroom as primary means of completing any type of work.

    Using word is easy when I have use of the SMARTboard in our 1 computer lab. I have information randomly typed in and leave all the spelling and grammar mistakes showing when asking for help from the students. Most times, they think everything is just fine, even with the easy to see errors staring them in the face. I find most often, the students want to write as if they were sending me a text message or an instant message note. I find the kids cannot fix mistakes because they have been allowed to “free write” and “don’t worry about the mistakes, we’ll fix them later” processes, while given praise for any effort of writing at all. Not a fan of the practice! I will attach a file from those I have at school this next week. Look for the updates on this post.

  4. Marie,

    You missed understood what I was saying figuratively speaking that is what is going on in classroom today. Integrating technology in the classroom is essential for preparing the students for success in the future. It is vital that we spend the time to get trained and comfortable with integrating technology on a daily basis. The better we are prepared to teach it, the more successful it will be for the students. Overall, integration of technology takes time to do it successfully.

    Thank you for your response,