Students’ perceptions of cognitive tools and distributed learning environments

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Research and Development in Higher Education: Quality Conversations Vol. 25

July, 2002, 794 pages
Published by
Tony Herrington
0 908557 54 X

What are tertiary students’ perceptions of using computers as learning tools? This question was posed in a PhD project where fourth year education students used computerised cognitive tools in a traditionally non-computer based unit. The overall aim of this project was to determine the extent to which cognitive tools contributed to effective learning when implemented within a distributed learning environment (DLE). In effect, this environment encouraged shared knowledge construction through the distribution of cognition across collaborative groups and contextual resources. Using action research methodology, student learning was evaluated in terms of the socio-cognitive processes that emerged within four of these groups, each of which consisted of three students and one computer. Even though the findings suggest that the cognitive tool clearly supported the development of deep socio-cognitive processes, the students’ perspectives were subsequently sought in an effort to determine the precise way in which this support manifested itself. A range of themes emerged from this inquiry, most of which relate to the students’ perceptions of the cognitive tool as a partner in their learning. This partnership is described in this paper, along with other themes that characterise both positive and negative issues related to the students' perceptions of the cognitive tool and the DLE.

Keywords: cognitive tools, distributed cognition, students’ perceptions

Students’ perceptions of cognitive tools and distributed learning environments

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Steketee, C.