This week we read how cognitive tools help integrate technology in the classroom as well as help our students learn through prior knowledge and connections. Cognitive theorists such as Jean Piaget concluded that children learn at stages that their brains are ready to handle through assimilations and accommodations. (Lever-Duffy & McDonald, 2008) Our students need to be prompted by environmental stimulus in the classroom in order for them to connect information or concepts in the classroom with prior knowledge that they already know.

To do this we must use cues, questioning, and advance organizers to help our students make the connections from the material and concepts in our classrooms to what they already know. This will help our student’s grasp new concepts much faster and easier because they are assimilating it with connections and concepts that they have already made. Cues are one of the easiest ways that a teacher can activate prior knowledge with our without technology. Placing a picture on an overhead that connects with a lesson or even decorating the classroom with what the lessons talks about will get kids excited about what they are about to learn. This will also give them time to start thinking about what they already know on the topic. Once it is time to learn the new material and concepts students have already activated and remembered that prior knowledge that they already have and the teacher has an easier time getting their students to learn new information by connecting it with stored information they already have in their brain. The brain then scaffolds this new information in with the old.

Another great tool that we can use to make sure that our students are connecting information they have stored in their brain with the new information being taught in the classroom is using a concept map. Students are able to visually brainstorm using a concept map. This is a great tool that students are able to constantly add new information to just as we do in our brains. When students are able to visually see what they are learning by filling it in with new information as they learn they are able to see the progress that they are making in class as well as seeing how it connects to information that they are already familiar with. It is also a great tool for teachers to use for assessment because we are able to see how our students are acquiring information and storing it.

Lever-Duffy, J., & McDonald, J. (2008). Theoretical foundations (Laureate Education, Inc., custom ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

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


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kristy Burrough
    Nov 19, 2010 @ 17:31:25

    I was intrigued with the idea of using concept maps as an assessment. I was not sure what my students would think. I decided to ask and they actually liked the idea. They felt that they would better be able to portray what they learned as opposed to taking a multiple choice test. I am going to try this with my students at some point.


  2. missengelhardt
    Nov 21, 2010 @ 16:17:47

    I haven’t done it yet either, but I can definitely see how it would work. Students are usually more excited when they are able to use any type of technology, so I bet if we use concept mapping as a tool of assessment our students would be more open to putting more effort into their work then they usually do.


  3. Sheryl W.
    Nov 21, 2010 @ 20:27:39

    Miss Engelhardt,

    Your description for using concept maps demonstrates that they can be used to meet many of the skills identified by cognitive learning theory. You pointed out their effectiveness for activating prior knowledge and organizing information, but also describe how to use them for summarizing and note taking since the students can continually add new information during the learning process. Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock (2001) stressed that “notes should be considered a work in progress” (p. 44), so constantly referring back to the graphic organizer to make additions or changes turns it into a “living document” for reviewing and deepening students’ understanding of concepts. To have the concept map then serve as the assessment is an excellent idea. Alternatively, you could provide a partially completed graphic organizer for the students to finish as the assessment. Since few students seem to utilize notes for test preparation, this would help them to develop this important final component of effective note taking.

    Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D. J., Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


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