Category Archives: Learning and Cognition

Book reviews, lessons, worksheets in English Language Arts and Social Studies, learning supports and other materials that shed light on basic cognitive mechanisms and their effect on learning–and vice versa.

Parents Across America: A Detailed Critique of the Dangers of Screen Time for Young Children

[Here’s something from Diane Ravitch’s Blog that should interest and concern all teachers; I post it here as much for my future reference as anything else, as I am planning to write a couple of lessons on smart phones and screen time and their threat to education.]

Diane Ravitch's blog

Parents Across America (an independent group of parent activists that is critical of the commercialization and corporate takeover of education) has created a valuable resource about the effects of screen time on children. 

It is titled “Our Children @ Risk.”

The paper is 26 pages long. It contains extensive documentation.

It is a valuable resource in light of the profit-driven effort to promote EdTech in the schools without regard to is effects on children.

Here is the introduction:

“Children have a basic right to live in environments that promote their social, emotional and intellectual well-being. They have the right to grow up, and parents have the right to raise them, without being undermined by greed.” Susan Linn

“Parents Across America has developed a position paper and associated informational materials which detail a number of concerns about the invasion of EdTech* into our schools, and which we have collected under the…

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Word Root Exercise: Esthes, Aesthes, Esthet, Aesthet

Here, for a Monday morning, is a short exercise on the Greek word roots esthes, aesthes, esthet, and aesthet. They mean “feeling” and “sensation.”

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Concept Formation

Process of developing abstract rules of mental concepts based on sensory experience. Concept formation figures prominently in cognitive development and was a subject of great importance to Jean Piaget, who argued that learning entails an understanding of a phenomenon’s characteristics and how they are logically linked. Noam Chomsky has argued that certain cognitive structures (such as basic grammatical rules) are innate in human beings. Both men held that, as a concept emerges, it becomes subject to testing: a child’s concept of “bird,” for example, will be tested against specific instances of birds. The human capacity for play contributes importantly to this process by allowing for consideration of a wide range of possibilities.”

Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

Literacy and the Learning Sciences

“A second program of research addressing multimedia learning has been conducted by Richard Mayer and his colleagues and is summarized in Mayer (2001). A caveat relative to this research is that multimedia are construed very narrowly in this research to mean ‘the presentation of material using both words and pictures’ (p. 2) and do not study information technologies specifically. Furthermore, the preponderance of his research has been conducted with young adults. Nevertheless, we include his work because: (a) it is informed by and contributes to a theory of multimedia learning, drawing upon Paivio’s (1986) dual coding theory, Baddeley’s (1992) working memory theory, and Mayer’s (1996) theory of meaningful learning; (b) it attends to the issue of individual differences; and (c) it may productively inform the work of learning scientists studying new literacies.

This program of research has yielded seven principles regarding the effective integration of words and pictures:

1. Multimedia principle–Students learn better from words and pictures than from words alone.

2. Spatial contiguity principles–Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are present near rather than far from each other on the page or screen.

3. Temporal contiguity principle–Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively.

4. Coherence principle–Students learn better when extraneous material is excluded rather than included.

5. Modality principle–Students learn better when an animation is accompanied by spoken text, rather than printed text.

6. Redundancy principle–Students learn better from an animation accompanied with spoken text rather than an animation accompanied with spoken text and printed text, and

7. Individual difference principle–Design effects positively correlate with users’ domain knowledge and spatial ability.

Learning scientists should study whether these principles still hold in the contexts they find most compelling: real-life settings in which learning is taking place through interactions with others and with technological artifacts.”

Excerpted from: Annemarie Sullivan Palincsar and Barbara G. Ladewski, “Literacy and the Learning Sciences,” in in The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences, ed. Robert Keith Sawyer (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 306.

One Thought About Teaching

“Drawing connections to students’ personal lives, embedding the introduction of new concepts and skills within meaningful tasks, and emphasizing the instrumental value of mastering a skill or or doing well in a subject area enhances value. For example, teachers can bring in speakers and experts from the local community to more authentically draw connections with life outside of school. A second way to enhance value is by incorporating topics that students find interesting (e.g. space travel, dinosaurs). Finally, value may be enhanced by having students work on questions and use practices similar to those used by members of the discipline (e.g. scientists and mathematicians).”

Phyllis C. Blumenfeld, Toni M. Kempler, and Joseph S. Krajcik, “Motivation and Cognitive Engagement in Learning Environments,” in The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences, ed. Robert Keith Sawyer (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 477.


Strategies for Creating Cognitive Apprenticeships

During the month of July, I generally try to work on planning and professional development, so I’ve had my nose in both for the past three weeks. The summer’s reading is The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences, which, 205 pages in, I have not found as useful to my own practice as I did The Cambridge Handbook of Literacy. Still, there are plenty of important ideas articulated in the book (Cambridge University Press has thoughtfully posted as a giveaway this PDF of the introduction to the book, by its editor, R. Keith Sawyer; if you search The Cambridge Handbook of Literacy, you’ll find a couple of different PDFs from its pages for free download as well.)

One of the first articles in this volume is by Allan M. Collins, who, as you can see from his Wikipedia page, is an important figure in the learning sciences. I like his ideas about cognitive apprenticeship. Here is an outline describing cognitive apprenticeship strategies that I took from his article and typed into a Word document.

I hope you find it useful.



The Weekly Text, July 14, 2017

While I like to think Mark’s Text Terminal adheres to relatively high standards in the tone it sets and the material it presents, I fear this week may be an exception to that rule (if indeed it exists, since I’m not necessarily the best or most objective judge, in the final analysis, of my own work). I’m having too much fun after a long and difficult school year to spend too much time this morning on a blog post; today I’m taking a day trip up to the charming town of Beacon, New York.

Here are two context clues on the verb deify and the noun deity. I think these are a couple of words high school students really ought to know. In any case, this pair provides you an opportunity to make connections between two parts of speech–verbs and nouns.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.