Posted by: soniahs | November 16, 2010

Exam readings: mental models and wireless devices

Not really related, but these two readings are on mental models (pretty theoretical) and things to think about when incorporating wireless devices into the classroom (more practical):

Nancy J. Nersessian. “Mental Models in Conceptual Change.” in Stella Vosniadou (ed.) International Handbook of Research on Conceptual Change, pp. 391-416. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Summary: Nersessian’s main idea is to outline a framework of how mental models work, and using that to support conceptual change (Kuhnian “paradigm shifts” in science & for science learners)- she spends most time on the former. One mechanism for change is building new mental models & conceptual structures. Aspects of mental model framework are debated; one constant is that mental representations are organized into some sort of units with a relational structure. Approach assumes that: “internal” & “external” are valid categories; internal symbolic structure is iconic (perceptual, properties based on those of objects in external world) rather than rule-based or linguistic; skill in modeling is partially biological, partially from learning in social/natural contexts. Discusses four different strands in research: “discourse models” derived primarily from language/instruction (we mentally manipulate these ideas by models, not words); spatial simulation (which seems to be perceptually-based, but not entirely visual); “mental animation” (more advanced-requires causal/behavioral knowledge); and internal-external coupling (we should define external representations as part of our extended cognitive capacities). Idea of embodied representation is that perceptual experience is fundamentally tied to mental modeling processes. Entire system has both modal and amodal aspects; some concepts & processes are grounded in context, others aren’t. For conceptual change, need to explicitly run people through model-changing activities; abstract activities can provide support in the form of mental inventories of affordances and constraints in different domains.

Comments: Specific tools that participate in coupled internal-external representational systems are “cognitive artifacts.” These include writing & diagrams; function as external and social memory supports. Ties together the cognitive model approach with theories of social and distributed cognition.

Links to: Rapp & Kurby (perceptual vs. amodal models of cognition); Lave & Wenger (social cognition); Zhang & Norman (internal-external coupling)

Jeremy Roschelle, Charles Patton, and Roy D. Pea. “To Unlock the Learning Value of Wireless Mobile Devices, Understand Coupling.” Proceedings of the IEEE International Workshop on Wireless and Mobile Technologies in Education, 2002.

Summary: The authors feel that handheld computers (wireless internet learning devices-WILDs) could become ubiquitous in classrooms, but conceptual issues need to be resolved before using them on large scale. The issue they focus on is “coupling” between social & informatic worlds with different expectations. Challenges are political, organizational, pedagogical: e.g., how/who to control messaging tech, how to regulate roles in shared info space, how should learning resources be stored & accessed, who decides about privacy levels, and how integrated or segregated should students’ learning environments be. Big issue is who will make these decisions- suggest that these things need to be worked out, or will risk rejection of these tools by students, teachers, or others. They focus on three main design problems. 1) Curricular activity spaces vs. personal learning connections: students perceive devices as comm. tools, teachers want to use to augment classroom activities (students may need separate devices for class). 2) Integrated vs. synchronized educational databases: what info will be centralized & who will have access to it. 3) Broad vs. narrow technological mediation of discourse: face-to-face interaction still important; may want to take minimal mediation route,

Comments: The authors outline some critical issues to take into account before using these devices in a classroom setting. Some of these things to think about would apply to informal settings as well, e.g., how much mediation ,what info is being stored by system (if any). Probably tangentially related to my project.

Links to: Sharples et al. (these concerns relate to AT framework for understanding learning tool use); Borgmann et al. (cyberlearning)



  1. […] to: Roth (AT); Nersessian (discusses dist. cog. and mental […]

  2. […] to: Kostelnick & Hassett (discuss the social context of design, rather than design principles); Nersessian, Gilbert (cognition & […]


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