Cognitive tools are generalizable computer tools that are intended to engage and facilitate cognitive processing. Cognitive tools can be thought of as a set of tools that learners need in order to serve cognitive apprenticeships
“ Cognitive tools are technologies that learners interact and think with in knowledge construction, designed to bring their expertise to the performance as part of the joint learning system.”
-Kim and Reeves
Why Cognitive tools?
The foundation for the use of interactive learning systems as “cognitive tools” (the “with” approach) is “cognitive psychology.” Computer-based cognitive tools have been intentionally adapted or developed to function as intellectual partners to enable and facilitate critical thinking and higher order learning. Examples of cognitive tools include: databases, spreadsheets, semantic networks, expert systems, communications software such as teleconferencing programs, on-line collaborative knowledge construction environments, multimedia/ hypermedia construction software, and computer programming languages. In the cognitive tools approach, interactive tools are given directly to learners to use for representing and expressing what they know (Jonassen & Reeves, 1996). Learners themselves function as designers, using software programs as tools for analyzing the world, accessing and interpreting information, organizing their personal knowledge, and representing what they know to others.
- Cognitive tools will have their greatest effectiveness when they are applied within constructivist learning environments.
- Cognitive tools empower learners to design their own representations of knowledge rather than absorbing representations preconceived by others.
- Cognitive tools can be used to support the deep reflective thinking that is necessary for meaningful learning.
- Cognitive tools have two kinds of important cognitive effects, those which are with the technology in terms of intellectual partnerships and those that are of the technology in terms of the cognitive residue that remains after the tools are used.
- Cognitive tools enable mindful, challenging learning rather than the effortless learning promised but rarely realized by other instructional innovations.
- The source of the tasks or problems to which cognitive tools are applied should be learners, guided by teachers and other resources in the learning environment.
- Ideally, tasks or problems for the application of cognitive tools will be situated in realistic contexts with results that are personally meaningful for learners.
- Using multimedia construction programs as cognitive tools engages many skills in learners such as: project management skills, research skills, organization and representation skills, presentation skills, and reflection skills.
- Research concerning the effectiveness of constructivist learning environments such as microworlds, classroom-based learning environments, and virtual, collaborative environments show positive results across a wide range of indicators.