Week 3

Cognitive Flexibility is the ability to use knowledge in many different ways to solve the problem at hand.  In order to develop the processing skills and knowledge to have this cognitive flexibility one must be taught content in a variety of different ways and for different purposes: “Cognitive Flexibility Theory is that revisiting the same material, at different times, in rearranged contexts, for different purposes, and from different conceptual perspectives is essential for attaining the goals of advanced knowledge acquisition (mastery of complexity in understanding and preparation for transfer)” (Spiro, Feltovich, Jacobson, & Coulson, 1995, p. 9).  Spiro et al (1995) suggest that the computer is better suited for flexible teaching.  They cite a body of studies that show that there is a common failure to reach goals of advanced knowledge acquisition.  There is a tendency for oversimplification, reductive bias, additively bias, discreteness bias, and compartmentalization.  In fact, they have found “that the very things that produce initial success for the more modest goals of introductory learning may later impede the attainment of more ambitious learning objectives” (Spiro et al, 1995, p. 6).


Clearly the Hole in the Wall experiments are constructivist learning.  The students are their own teachers as they discover, and share the knowledge of what they are learning.  They are learning about computers, and definitely some skills in using a computer.  They are also achieving skills like pronunciation skills, and some math facts.  This is not really applied learning, but it could be shaped that way by changing the learning task to do more than find facts, or repeat after a model.  Clearly, it is within their capabilities to move into more creative uses of the computer like creating their own multimedia like the boys who recorded their own music.


Mitra is using the computer as a teacher for the students and giving them access to the world’s information via the internet.  Students are clearly motivated to learn, and enthusiastic about their learning.  There is some evidence from the TED Talks clip that cognitive flexibility is happening.  In order to see whether the knowledge is truly flexible he would need to experiment with the same students in a different situation.  There is one example of cognitive flexibility when the students not only increase in complexity in their searches from the extinction of dinosaurs to the theory of relativity with increased speed in their search responses.  Again, the learning tasks need to be reframed a little to be really constructivist.  The students need to take the knowledge, and apply it somehow.  For example, now that they know how to find Calcutta can they research place they would like to visit, and some similarities and differences between their cultures.


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