Posted by: soniahs | November 25, 2010

Exam reading: “Practices of distributed intelligence”

Today’s reading ties together several themes from other texts on my reading list: using visualizations & networked tools for understanding science, distributed cognition, activity theory, and participatory learning.

This is my last (!) exam reading- I’m on to taking my final exam this weekend. Next step will be fleshing out my project ideas, so more about that later…

Roy D. Pea. “Practices of Distributed Intelligence.” In Gavriel Simon (ed.) Distributed Cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Summary: Distributed intelligence framework has implications for educational tech., both computational and social. Knowledge is socially constructed through collaborative efforts, as well as distributed into tools (which are in turn designed by social decision process); however, people are the ones that perform cognition. Intelligence connects means to ends via behavioral or mental adaptations. Object affordances “link perception and action;” objects are designed to be “smart” and simplify our cognition (we don’t notice this when we get used to using them). This includes symbol systems- calculus, numbers, etc. Environmental cues (in objects) help us get from diffuse desires to concrete goals and plans for action. Discusses history of dist. intelligence: AT (people shape/are shaped by their environments in dialectical fashion), computers reorganize (not just augment) mental functions. Some key tools: science visualization tools, “guided participation,” situated cognition. We should teach students to use tools (esp. computers) with the idea that they will change what they need to know, rather than just increase task efficiency. Some trade-offs with this approach: access to activity vs. understanding its foundations, static task definitions vs. dynamic definitions (more difficult to design for dynamic tasks). The main idea is to teach students to use tools (alone or in groups), rather than for individual testing.

Comments: Ties to distributed cognition, visualization, activity theory, and participatory learning. While focus is on school settings, some of these concepts could apply to informal learning situations (e.g., affordances in tools/devices, distinction between doing an activity and actually understanding the concepts behind it).

Links to: Roth (AT); Nersessian (discusses dist. cog. and mental models)


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