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Ed in Reverse Info Tech and Cog Rev

Ed in Reverse Info Tech and Cog Rev

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Educational Philosophy and Theory, Vol. 39, No. 7, 2007
doi: 10.1111/j.1469-5812.2007.00314.x
\u00a9 2007 The Authors

Journal compilation \u00a9 2007 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia
Published by Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK and
350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA

Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Oxford, UK
Educational Philosophy and Theory
\u00a9 2007 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia
Original Article
\u2018Ed Tech in Reverse\u2019
Norm Friesen & Andrew Feenberg
\u2018Ed Tech in Reverse\u2019: Information
technologies and the cognitive revolution
N\ue000\ue001\ue002 F\ue001\ue003\ue004\ue005\ue004\ue006 & A\ue006\ue007\ue001\ue004\ue008 F\ue004\ue004\ue006\ue009\ue004\ue001\ue00a
Open Learning Division, Thompson Rivers University School of Communication,
Simon Fraser University

As we rapidly approach the 50th year of the much-celebrated \u2018cognitive revolution\u2019, it is worth re\ufb02ecting on its widespread impact on individual disciplines and areas of multidisciplinary endeavour. Of speci\ufb01c concern in this paper is the example of the in\ufb02uence of cognitivism\u2019s equation of mind and computer in education. Within education, this paper focuses on a particular area of concern to which both mind and computer are simultaneously central: educational technology. It examines the profound and lasting effect of cognitive science on our understandings of the educational potential of information and communi- cation technologies, and further argues that recent and multiple \u2018signs of discontent\u2019, \u2018crises\u2019 and even \u2018failures\u2019 in cognitive science and psychology should result in changes in these understandings. It concludes by suggesting new directions that educational technology research might take in the light of this crisis of cognitivsm.

Keywords: cognitive psychology, educational technology, arti\ufb01cial intelli-
gence, mindtools

With a precision that is perhaps characteristic of the \ufb01eld, the birth of cognitive science has been traced back to a very particular point in space and time: September 11, 1956, at a \u2018Symposium on Information Theory\u2019 held in Cambridge at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. On that day, George Miller, Noam Chomsky, Alan Newell and Herbert Simon presented papers in the apparently disparate \ufb01elds of psychology, linguistics and computer science. As Miller himself later recalls,

I went away from the Symposium with a strong conviction, more intuitive than rational, that human experimental psychology, theoretical linguistics and computer simulation of rational cognitive processes were all pieces of a larger whole, and that the future would see progressive elaboration and coordination of their shared concerns. (Miller, 2003, p. 143)

This remarkable sense of moment did not dissipate; neither did the synergy of disciplinary interests listed by Miller. Instead, this signi\ufb01cance and synergy strengthened and spread to include not only psychology and linguistics, but also

\u2018Ed Tech in Reverse\u2019721
\u00a9 2007 The Authors
Journal compilation \u00a9 2007 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia

philosophy, neuroscience and anthropology (Bechtel, Abrahamsen and Graham, 1998). And the shared concerns of all of these areas were increasingly understood as being coordinated and elaborated under the aegis of a bold new multi-disciplinary endeavour known as cognitivism (see also Piaget, 1971).

Given this momentous beginning, it is perhaps not surprising that some 15 to 20 years later, this revolutionary cognitive movement had all but \u2018routed\u2019 behaviourism as a psychological paradigm, and had founded societies, journals, and university departments in its name (e.g. Thagard, 2002; Waldrop, 2002, pp. 140, 139).

It is also not surprising that this \u2018\u201crevolution\u201d\u2019, as Bereiter & Scardamalia (1992, p. 517) observe, is correspondingly \u2018very much in evidence in education\u2019. As is the case in psychology, cognitivism has left its name on journals and programs of education. Prominent examples include Cognition & Instruction, theI n t e r n at i o n a l

Journal of Cognitive Technologies, and the \u2018Cognition and Technology Group\u2019 at

Vanderbilt University. Indeed, the cognitive revolution can be said to have rede\ufb01ned all of the key concepts in educational research: Learning itself is understood not as an enduring behavioural change achieved through stimulus and response condition- ing (Domjan, 1993); instead, it is seen as changes in the way information is represented and structured in the mind (e.g. Ausubel, 1960; Craik & Lockhart, 1972; Piaget & Inhelder, 1973). Teaching is no longer conceptualized as the provision of rewards for the successive approximation of target behaviours. Instead, it is understood in terms of the support of the effective processing, representation and structuring of information by the student\u2019s cognitive apparatus. Effective pedagogy then becomes the provision of these conditions and supports, such as computational modelling and constructivist scaffolding, for these processes and representations (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2003; West et al . (1991), p. 27; Wolfe, 1998). Educational research itself thus changes from the observation of persistent changes in behaviour to the use of computational modelling of constructs such as memory, sensory and information processing (e.g. Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1992).

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the birth of this powerful interdisciplinary paradigm, it is worth re\ufb02ecting on the impact of cognitive science on the \ufb01eld of education and particularly educational technology. This paper will consider the powerful in\ufb02uence of cognitivism on how we understand the value and use of information and communication technologies, speci\ufb01cally for education. It will examine the historical af\ufb01liations of cognitive science with educational technology, and consider critically how recent and multiple \u2018crises\u2019 and \u2018signs of discontent\u2019 in cognitive science (Bechtel, Abrahamsen and Graham, 1998; Gergen & Gigerenzer, 1991) are changing the disciplinary grounding available to educational technology. In doing so, this paper does not seek to deny the value and importance of individual contributions that cognitive science has made to education. (Prominent examples of these contributions might include the functions of long and short term memory, or the educational value of advanced organizers.) What this paperd o e s attempt, however, is to throw into question the overarching understanding of human thought as fundamentally computational\u2014an understanding that so often grounds the most ambitious pretensions of cognitivism. In addition, this paper also indicates how then o n-computational conceptualizations of thought and learning might

722Norm Friesen & Andrew Feenberg
\u00a9 2007 The Authors
Journal compilation \u00a9 2007 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia
change the ways in which we understand the value and potential of computer
technology in education.
Arti\ufb01cial Intelligence: Foundations

To understand the impact of cognitive science in educational technology and in education more generally, it is important to begin with what many have recognized as the foundational or \u2018central discipline\u2019 in cognitive science\u2014the one \u2018most likely to crowd out, or render super\ufb02uous, other older \ufb01elds of study\u2019. This is Arti\ufb01cial Intelligence or simply, AI (Boden, 1996, p. 46; Gardner, 1985, p. 40).

As a foundational element in cognitive science, and as an ambitious and contro- versial movement in its own right, it is signi\ufb01cant that AI itself has very deep roots in the intellectual tradition of the West. This is con\ufb01rmed by proponents and critics of AI alike. One critic of traditional AI, Terry Winograd, emphasizes its origins in what he refers to as the West\u2019s \u2018rationalistic tradition\u2019 (Winograd, 1991). A second AI critic, Hubert Dreyfus, characterizes the central concern preoccupying this tradition as follows:

Since the Greeks invented logic and geometry, the idea that all reasoning might be reduced to some kind of logic of calculation\u2014so that all arguments could be settled once and for all\u2014has fascinated most of the Western tradition\u2019s rigorous thinkers. (Dreyfus, 1992, p. 67)

Among the earliest thinkers included in AI genealogies are Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, George Boole and Charles Babbage (e.g. see Buchanan, 2004; Haugeland, 1985). The \ufb01rst of these dreamt of identifying the \u2018mathematical laws\u2019 or logical rules of \u2018human reasoning\u2019 (Leibniz, cited in Davis, 2000, p. 17) that could be followed in a kind of \u2018blind thinking\u2019 (Leibniz, cited in Schroeder, 1997). The last of these gave this dream a promising material instantiation in the form of the \ufb01rst large-scale mechanical computer.

The earliest mechanized anticipations of the computer were control systems for organs and music boxes, a bit like a player piano rolls, and for weaving patterns. These systems acted mechanically to produce an output that had meaning for human hearers or viewers. Eventually similar techniques were applied to mathe- matical computation. Babbage attempted to use mechanical parts to achieve what we now achieve with electronic components. His initial goal was to calculate accurate astronomical tables for the use of the British Navy and he received support in his project from the 19th century British equivalent of the Pentagon. When computers \ufb01nally became everyday facts of life for millions of people, they continued to operate in much the same manner but fast enough to appear far more sophisticated than their mechanical ancestors. All the time, underneath the surface, they remained fundamentally the same. As John Haugeland puts it, computers\u2014as well as their mechanical ancestors\u2014all operate as \u2018formal systems \u2026 in which tokens are manipulated according to rules, in order to see what con\ufb01gurations are obtained\u2019 (Haugeland, 1985, p. 48). The implications of this, as Haugeland further explains, are substantial:

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