From my research, I have endeavoured to demonstrate a communication model, which illustrates that to complete the communication link a basic set of components must be present. These components are based on the requirements of the basic communication model (Reber, 1985, p136). The use of this model, is only used in the explanation of what I propose, as a communication model for the application of cognitive processes, in design for multimedia. I am not at this stage, trying to introduce the concepts and communication theory of semiotics.
Under constructivism, educational researchers produced the concept of externalised cognitive processes, in the form of cognitive tools. My research, is based on the application of these cognitive tools, in the construction of communication environments. I use the term 'communication environments' instead of 'learning environments', because I see the application of cognitive tools, creating a unique communication link for wider fields of application. (i.e. Advertising interactive CD-ROM).
The goal of Open ended Learning Environments is "to provide authentic contexts for learners to identify their beliefs, test their validity, refine them in ways consistent with data, and gradually evolve alternative understanding" (Land et al, 1997, p69). In open-ended learning environments, the student is able to reconfigure the experiment, to produce variable conditions, gaining a wider set of results, and also a wider comprehension of the subject.
Some programs can also be developed as 'conscious' tutors, so that data collected by the student can be presented in the form of extended problems for the student to solve. This system of feedback, illustrates the point of using student driven data results to broaden the learning experience. The concept of open-ended learning environments has been successfully tested in both mathematics and science instruction.
The heuristic (learning through discovery) nature of constructivist learning environments, supports design strategies, that endorse the concept of the environment as a cognitive tool. Further to this idea, Richard Ennals states that "cognitive tools are partial models, generaliseable knowledge structures within which exploratory learning can be facilitated and generated" (Kommers et al, 1992, p139).
Heeren and Kommers, concept map for cognitive tools (Kommers et al, 1992, p86) (Figure 1), demonstrates the path of knowledge assimilation. This concept map describes how cognitive tools function, through the processes of guiding/ modelling and enabling , to enhance thinking and learning. That section of Heeren and Kommers diagram, which represents the process of cognition, has been adopted in my own concept maps. As I assumed the process of cognition would remain unchanged. I then proceeded to develop concepts to demonstrate the application of cognitive tools (Figures 2-4). These concept maps, illustrate my hypothesis, that the application of cognitive processes through interactive digital media, could enhance thinking and learning.
I propose in this first model, that a common code of cognition, occupies the process. In this model, which developed in discussion with my supervisor Michael Pearson, the cognitive processes inherent in the 'tutor' and the 'student', are recognised in relation to the cognitive tools applied thought 'digital media' (computer). The learning environment, in this model, encompasses the three elements of tutor, student and computer program.
Figure 3 demonstrates my proposed model for the application of cognitive tools through the process of visual communication design. In this model, I am trying to build upon the communicational capacities, of those cognitive processes involved. The design, which utilises prior knowledge of cognitive tools, demonstrates the application of specific cognitive processes, to create a communication link with the learner/user.
Cognitive Tools Identified: Cognitive tools are mental processes that allow the human to collate and categorise information in memory. The function of externalising cognitive processes frees up Short Term Memory (STM). In the complex environments of learning and instruction, where the mind no longer needs to hold extensive amounts of unessential knowledge, then the learner has more STM for the processes involved in understanding the instructional materials. This concept is where the inclusion of cognitive tools, in the form of visual aids and interactive functions, becomes relevant to the multimedia designer.
The use of 'cognitive tools' in commercially available learning products is not always shown to be a concsious act of the designer. Cognitive tools are meant to be designed into the program, at the initial planning stage, but due to the nature of cognitive processes, some 'tools' will be present with-out requiring conscious designed inclusion. Some included processes, which are designed to facilitate cognition, may fail to connect with other cognitive systems within the program, rendering it ineffective as a learning environment. Both the evidence and the questions, raised in this analysis, have proven that cognitive tools can make a difference to the value of digital media as communication environments.
What is needed in multimedia design, is a theory which can be applied in its same form to the construction of any interactive environment. The known and established processes of human cognition, have been identified by educational researchers. These processes, applied in the form of cognitive tools, have been successfully demonstrated in the analysis of commercial exemplars. The plug-in like concept, of cognitive tools, makes their use an attractive option, for the designer. These simple and identifiable theories, can act alone or be used in multiple concepts, to create and control the communication of interactive environments.
The fact, that constructivist research does exist, in commercially available educational products, does not suggest that all of the cases identified were planned as applied cognitive theory. It could be argued, that the unintended application of cognitive tools, will occur as a result of the natural cognitive processes and discussions between designers. This hit and/or miss, method of design, is the current technique applied in interactive multimedia. My investigation has proven that the prior knowledge of cognitive tools, for their planned use in interactive communication, will result in a more consistent and focused use in design applications. Exponents of the considered and practiced application of cognitive theory, for interactive communication, will be the long term beneficiaries of such knowledge.
The printed version's Appendices A-D, page 358, are reproduced as
Figures 1-4 in the web version, and are positioned in the text above.
Hannafin, Michael, Hannafin, Kathleen, Land, Susan and Oliver, Kevin (1997). Grounded Practice and the Design of Constructivist learning Environments Education Technology Research and Development, 45(3), 101-117.
Hannafin, Michael (1992). Emerging Technologies, ISD, and Learning Environments: Critical Perspectives. Education Technology Research and Development, 40(1), 49-63.
Kommers, Piet A. M., Jonassen, David H. and Meyes, J. Terry (eds) (1992). Cognitive Tools for Learning, NATO ASI series, Series F; Computer and System Sciences vol. 81, Springer-Verlag, Berlin.
Kozma R. (1987). The Implications of Cognitive Psychology for computer-based learning Tools. Educational Technology, 40(11), 20-25.
Land, Susan and Hannafin, Michael (1996). A Conceptual Framework for the Development of Theories-in-Action with Open-Ended Learning Environments. Educational Technology Research and Development, 44(3), 37-53.
Reber, Athur (1985). Dictionary of Psychology. Penguin, London.
Vosniadou, Stella, De Corte, Erik, Glaser, Robet and Mandl, Heinz (eds) (1996). International Perspectives on the Design of Technology - Supported Learning Environments. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, New Jersey.
|Please cite as: Robinson, K. (1999). Cognitive tools in interactive design for digital design. In K. Martin, N. Stanley and N. Davison (Eds), Teaching in the Disciplines/ Learning in Context, 354-359. Proceedings of the 8th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, The University of Western Australia, February 1999. Perth: UWA. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf1999/robinson-k.html|