Wednesday, December 6, 2006


Is technology a tool or a mindtool used to enhance thinking in learning? Over a decade ago, Jonassen (1996) argued that computer applications that require students to think in meaningful ways and critically engage the mind could be considered “mindtools.” He recommended that educators provide students access to mindtools or a set of intellectual tools to facilitate critical thinking and construct knowledge. Those who believe in constructivist approaches to teaching and learning would agree that students learn from thinking in meaningful ways which could include the use of mindtools. What do connectivist (knowing and learning by making connections) theorists believe?

I would like to argue that today’s technologies provide opportunities to improve both constructivist and connectivist approaches to teaching and learning. Today’s students have access to numerous emerging technologies that seem to change on a daily basis including computer applications and various technological devices. Educators need to continue questioning whether the applications or devices are in fact mind tools that engage students in higher order thinking skills, construction of knowledge, or learning by making connections. Maybe we need to coin a term that combines both theories or perhaps we can still use the term "mindtool." (construct + connect = ?? mindtool)

When considering the use of emerging technologies, I believe we need to ask some critical questions:
Does the technology amplify learning?
Is the technology a cognitive tool that engages learners in deep thinking?
Does the technology stimulate learning by making connections?
What are indicators of a mindtool that supports constructivism and connectivism?

1 comment:

Sean Marchetto said...

I am reminded by Marshall McLuhan's thought that technology is not just a tool that man invents, but a process by which he re-invents himself. For example, the assembly line was a tool that increased efficiency by breaking complicated tasks into several simpler ones. The assembly line then became the inspiration for efficiency expert Frederick Taylor who exported these ideas to a wide range of non-assembly line jobs, transforming crasftsmen into line workers.