Cognitive tools for learning

9223386478_20cf5bb693This image, from a recent blog post by B. Feriter, captures some of the original meaning of Jonassen’s ‘Mindtools’ concept (Jonassen, Carr,& Yueh, 1998). This notion of mindtools, discussed extensively in accompanying books such as Jonassen (2000), is underpinned by constructivism and was influential in the field of educational technology by encouraging thinking about learning with (rather than from or about) technology, ICT-mediated construction (rather than reproduction) of knowledge and learners as designers (rather than recipients of instruction). If you choose to investigate mindtools’, or ‘cognitive tools’ (Robertson, Elliot, & Robinson, 2007), in your project, be sure to view the following screencast. Also you should think beyond the use of traditional tools, like excel spreadsheets or desktop mindmapping tools, to use of more collaborative, mobile mindtools, possibly ‘beyond the classroom’. E.g. Web 2 software and/or mobile apps such as Google spreadsheets, or web-based mindmapping tools like Mindmeister or Mindomo. Image on LHS thanks to Flickerer B. Ferriter (click to enlarge)

Jonassen, D., Carr, C. & Yueh, H. (1998). Computers as mindtools for engaging learners in critical thinking. TechTrends, 43 (2), 24-32

Jonassen, D. (2000). Computers in the classroom: Mindtools for critical thinking. Merrill, Prentice Hall. Columbus Ohio.

Robertson, B., Elliot, L., & Robinson, D. (2007). Cognitive tools. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved 31 July 2013, from

Games and learning

Games-based learning appeared in the 2-3 year ‘time to adoption’ sections of the 2010, 2011, and 2012 K-12 New Horizons reports. (It would be interesting to observe on your upcoming professional experience if these predictions have been realized.)  Educational gaming has been a popular theme with our elective students’ ‘ideas Videos’ (Kearney, 2013) in the same time period, including two feature ivideos from students in 2011 and 2013 (also embedded below).  The student authors of this 2013 ivideo emphasise elements of instrinsic motivation and the development of ‘soft skills’ such as problem solving, reasoning, communication and teamwork skills (eg. see Gee, 2003). However, games are often viewed as irrelevant, risky distractions or simply a reward for finishing ‘legitimate’ learning tasks; rather than opportunities for literacy development or learning conversations. It is important that further research unpacks the relationship between deep learning and games—both recreational and ‘serious play’ (Zagami, 2012). For example, Steinkuehler (2006) investigated games-related forums (eg. in a MMO called World of Warcraft) and found valuable informal learning conversations, including debates of complex questions and a ‘collective intelligence’ where solutions were debated and built upon by other participants.

As well as finding and using existing games (e.g. via Spree or a blogger who regularly reviews games resources), students can also design their own games (Kafai, 2006). There are over 50 game-making tools for a ‘learner as designer’ approach to gaming in the K-12 classroom, including Scratch and Games Salad. A higher end tool is Gamemaker that has been used across the curriculum, for example in science teaching.

iVideo by 2013 UTS student teachers R. Shepanski and E. Sereni

Gee, (2003). High score education: Games, not school, are teaching kids to think. Wired 11(5).

Kafai, Y. (2006). Playing and Making Games for Learning: Instructionist and Constructionist Perspectives for Game Studies. Games and Culture, 1(1), 36-40.

Kearney, M. (2013). Learner-generated digital video: Using Ideas Videos in teacher education. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education21(3), 321-336

Steinkuehler, C. A. (2006). Massively multiplayer online videogaming as participation in a Discourse. Mind, Culture, & Activity, 13(1), 38-52.

Zagami, J. (2012, October). Serious Play. Paper presented at the Australian Council for Computers in Education Conference, Perth, Australia.

Building online tasks for your students

A regular theme in this blog over the years has been e-learning designs. Teachers can design their own online learning tasks for their students using sophisticated cloud-based authoring tools such as LAMS or Knowmia; or simpler tools such as Ko-su (for mobiles) or Ed Ted. Tasks can be informed by generic learning designs (sometimes called pedagogical patterns or instructional strategies), as discussed in previous posts. The webquestwebdilemma or ‘explore, describe, apply” (Oliver & Herrington, 2002) designs are simple examples but there are many other designs that can be tailored (or contextualised) to specific KLAs. Indeed, a project such as  the PEEL project has identified many effective science strategies  and many of these, such as predict-observe-explain , can be mediated by technology (e.g. see a LAMS-based POE or read Kearney , 2004). Initiatives such as the Dial-e project by Burden et al in the UK have taken a slightly different approach by exploring effective designs that can  be ‘wrapped around’ existing media assets such as Youtube videos (also see Bonk, 2009). Of course, teachers can also produce their own videos to be included in an online learning task.

Screen shot 2013-08-07 at 6.13.55 PM

As well as enacting these designs with learners (e.g. in a classroom or perhaps on a handheld device in less formal spaces), the authoring mode of a system like LAMS can be used to visually represent a learning design (e.g. the figure on the left is a visual representation of the webquest design) to stimulate professional discussion with teacher colleagues.Designs can be shared with creative commons licenses and re-used in learning design repositories and teacher communities such as LAMS community , Knowmia or Cloudworks.

A more emancipative, constructionist approach is to let students themselves act as online task authors. For example, rather than students using a teacher-designed LAMS-based webquest, they design their own webquest (for their peers) as LAMS authors.

Source of image: Cameron, L. (2010). LAMS sequence: 4 role webquest. From

Bonk, C (2009). Using Shared Online Video to Anchor Instruction: YouTube and Beyond, Faculty Focus.
Kearney, M. (2004). Classroom use of multimedia supported predict-observe-explain tasks in a social constructivist learning environment. Research in Science Education,34(4), 427-453
Oliver, R. & Herrington, J. (2002). Explore, Describe, Apply: A problem focussed learning design. Retrieved August 7, 2013 , from Learning Designs Web site:

Mobile learning in secondary schools

The use of handheld devices such as laptops, tablets such as ipads and phablets to support learning has been a feature in the last three Horizon Reports. As mentioned briefly last year, we recently explored distinctive features of mobile learning (Kearney et al., 2012), focusing on 3 areas: collaboration, personalisation and authenticity, as described in the following screencast.

Kearney, M., Schuck, S., Burden, K., & Aubusson, P. (2012). Viewing mobile learning from a pedagogical perspectiveResearch in Learning Technology 20:


Learner-generated digital media projects

 Students are invited to listen to the YouTube clip below (and if interested, see associated demos and resources

There is a range of rich learning experiences available to K-12 students who are given the opportunity to design, create, publish and talk about their own digital media products. In contrast to their often passive viewing and ‘consumption’ of existing new media (Youtube, podcasts, TV etc.), students can work in teams to produce their own ‘digital sandcastles‘. A key step is making time to celebrate these products through both face-to-face culminating activities (class presentations, grandparents night, film festival etc.) and also through online spaces such as school wikis, blogs and galleries. It’s all about giving students a voice (Bull & Bull, 2010) and eliciting learning conversations.

Bell, L., & Bull, G. (2010). Digital video and teaching. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 10(1).

2012 Ideas Videos

A regular theme in this blog is learner-generated video projects. Examples of video genres discussed in the past have been digital storytelling and  Ideas Videos (or iVideos). iVideos are succinct, advocacy-style video communications (Wong et al., 2007) that evoke emotion about a topic. Our pre-service teachers have created these videos over the past three years (see 2012 oscar winner below or full gallery from 2010-2012) as a conduit for further research of their chosen topics. These videos have attracted comments from around the world, either through the blogosphere or Youtube comments. Indeed, the audience has been a crucial factor leveraging motivation in these tasks. During this three year period, we investigated the efficacy of learner-generated ‘Ideas Video’ tasks in pre-service teacher education (Kearney, 2012). The findings indicate this immersive task, modelling a design-based pedagogy involving student teachers as filmmakers, leverages rich outcomes in relation to their professional knowledge, beliefs and competency development.

Kearney, M. (2012). How iVideos Inspire Teacher Learning. In P. Resta (Ed.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2012 (pp. 1389-1396). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Retrieved from

Wong, D., Mishra, P., Koehler, M.J., & Siebenthal, S. (2007).  Teacher as Filmmaker: iVideos, Technology Education, and Professional Development . In M. Girod & J. Steed (Eds.),Technology in the college classroom . Stillwater, Oklahoma: New Forums Press.

Oscar from 2012 gallery about teacher professional development (by by E. Fisk and A. Murphy):