Cognitive Learning Theory and Technology

           Cognitive learning theory has always focused on how students process information and the best educational strategies educators can use to promote student understanding of material. As educators, it is up to us to vary our teaching strategies with the understanding that individual students process information in unique ways. Students can process limited amounts of information at any given point in a class, but that information is far more likely to be retained in long-term memory if the information begin presented is paired with a unique experience or relies upon multiple sensory inputs during presentation (Orey, 2008). This week, I read another small portion from Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works by Pitler, et al and read of some technological additions to the classroom, particularly word processing software, concept mapping programs, and multimedia inclusion in lessons, that highlight cognitive processes and assist in greater student understanding.

            Pitler, et al. (2007) describe how students can better understand new material being presented by incorporating technology into their note-taking processes. For instance, students using word-processing software such as Microsoft Word to track changes made on a particular written passage to be better able to summarize the material. This type of technological use, particularly if it is done in large-group and then small-group or individual settings, can help students better understand the more meaningful portions of a text and develop the skill to edit down material for easier recall in the future. Also, many word-processing tools have a setting which can automatically summarize a section of text and provide a visual labeling of the most important points. This is another tool that can help students to better identify the important points of a text and highlight the need for revision of their own writing if necessary. Both of these technological tools in the classroom can be used to help students better understand material as well as allows, “…information to be presented in a meaningful and appropriate representation” (Robertson, Elliot, & Washington, 2007).

            Beyond word processing software, Pitler describes how concept maps, when used in conjunction with organizing material and note-taking, can drastically improve student understanding of material. Concept maps are a physical representation of the cognitive processes occurring within the students mind for processing, cataloguing, and understanding material. Through the use of programs such as Inspiration, educators can develop concept maps through introductory lessons, discussion of prior knowledge, or as summative assignments that allow students to visually see connections between questions, concepts, ideas, or words that can be constructed as knowledge within the student. By proving student’s a visual medium through which to view the varying and multiple connections between prior knowledge and multiple concepts being presented within the classroom, students are more likely to have a greater comprehension of the general topic of the map as well as the outlying connections being made.

            Although word processing software and concept map development can fulfill strategies outlined by cognitive learning theorists, on of the most powerful instructional strategies to assist in student learning in the virtual field trip. Particularly in the current economic climate, schools do not have the opportunity to provide students the opportunity to go outside the school walls and explore the world through field trips. Virtual field trips, however, allow the student to gain a better understanding about a place that the class may be unable to visit while allowing the student to practice with technological innovations that promote dynamic academic growth. This type of instructional strategy can touch upon student’s episodic memory which is incredibly powerful and found to help students greatly retain knowledge discovered throughout the process (Orey, 2008). Student’s are able to use various websites, software applications, and web-based programs, to explore and develop understanding through a virtual journey that helps to develop knowledge that is then, “….organized and synthesized” (Robertson,, 2007) for a presentation to the class.

            Overall, the technological instructional strategies outlined by Pitler et al. highlight the importance of cognitive learning theory. The incorporations of various technologies are used to highlight the diverse cognitive needs of individual students and promote knowledge that is easily accessible and promoted to long-term memory to be continually referenced as new knowledge is scaffolded with already learned material. Educators should stay continually abreast of current and new technological innovations as they can assist in greater acquisition of knowledge by the student and create more unique and creative learning experiences.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2008). Cognitive Learning Theories. [MotionPicture]. Bridging learning theory, instruction, and technology. Baltimore: M. Orey.

 Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

 Robertson, B., Elliot, L., & Robinson, D. (2007). Cognitive tools. In M. Orey (Ed.),Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved 7/12/2009, from


4 Responses to “Cognitive Learning Theory and Technology”

  1. Rebecca Green Says:

    I agree with you that the word processor summary function can be extremely useful for students. I teach middle school, and find that the students are still learning to understand the main purpose of a passage. However, I find your practical understanding of the virtual field trips is particularly noteworthy. It absolutely is more economical and allows for students to have experiences that they may not otherwise have the opportunity to explore. You are right that today’s economic climate makes this idea even more applicable and useful for our students. It is vital to make sure that the conditions of the country’s economy do not hold back the learning of our students. I look forward to using this idea with my students this upcoming year.

    R. Green

  2. Using virtual field trips in the classroom as much cheaper alternative to a real field trip is an excellent idea. This not only creates a unique episode in the students’ memories, but also gives them an opportunity to use technology to travel right from school. Doing this in combination with completing a concept map will give the students a great experience and a chance to make connections between new concepts and facts and the knowledge they already have. You do a great job outlining many strategies that support cognitive learning theory. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Your point about the importance for educators to be up to speed with technology is a must. I find that being aware of different forms of technology I am able to connect more with my students. This connection supports a positive learning environment with in the classroom. You also mentioned scaffolding which I find critical with my second graders. Great post!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: