Technology enhanced learning and cognition

Technology enhanced learning and cognition. Ed. by Itiel E. Dror. (Benjamins current topics 27.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. ix, 265. ISBN 9789027222572. $143 (Hb).

Reviewed by Ferit Kılıçkaya, Middle East Technical University

This book, originally published in issues of Pragmatics & cognition (2008, 16:2) and (2009, 17:1), aims to explore the research in cognition and language learning, putting forward that technology enhanced learning should  benefit from effective mental representations that will work in line with the human cognitive system to help learners to acquire and remember information more efficiently.

The book is divided into seven parts and opens with the editor’s very concise and efficient introduction to brain-friendly technology, discussing how it affects cognitive load and the human user and providing reasons why brain-friendly technology is needed. The second part deals with whether cognitive technologies can be adapted so as to benefit learning and, based on the experiments done, suggests that computer-based simulations can be effective to transfer learning when they are created with an understanding of concreteness and idealization and supported with a graphical interface. The third part provides interesting insight into dynamic and adaptive scaffolding which benefits from learners’ attentional states and interventions, rather than implementing a static and generic manner ignoring attention-related, finely-tuned aspects such as timeliness and fitness.

The fourth part discusses the role of wikis and blogs in teaching and learning with case studies of the two courses at the Open University, reporting on several aspects of these technologies such as usability and pedagogical features and the key success criteria to infuse wikis and blogs outside the walls of the classroom. The very detailed discussion in this section is worth noting. The fifth part, through discipline-specific strategic support (DSS), aims to figure out how DSS and software representations can be used to increase the efficacy of learning technology at the navigation and disciplinary-signification levels.

The sixth part examines how principles of perceptual learning can be combined with computer technology to address problems in fraction learning and algebra, through experiments conducted by developing and testing perceptual learning modules. The findings show learning gains, especially in pattern recognition, structural intuition, and fluency. The last chapter is devoted to an experiment carried out through two software systems, SIMCARS and SHADE, to bridge the design-science gap and overcome time and material constraints. As in the second part, to achieve this, scaffolding was integrated with modeling and simulation, showing that the technology applied improved the quality of collaborative understanding and social construction.

This is an excellent collection of articles on the use of efficient technology use, taking the human learner and cognitive load into consideration. The editor’s contribution, which deals with brain-friendly technology, is especially valuable. However, this section could have been developed and discussed in more detail with more concrete examples since it sets up the focus of the book. Overall, this book achieved its aim that technology should not shape the learning process but rather should serve the cognitive system.