21st Century Cognitive Apprenticeship: 4 Ways We Make Thinking Visible

Back in 2005 Dorian Peters posted a summary of Mayer’s Principles for the design of Multimedia Learning I’ve visited frequently. I read it again today through the lens of cognitive apprenticeship and made some connections. Two essential components of apprenticeship models and multimedia design are narration and its timing, which is probably why software applications like Adobe Captivate, PowerPoint, or PowToons contain various ways to synchronize the appearance of objects with audio, visuals and text. The framework and principles can help form a checklist to improve the Who, What, When, Where, and How of choosing what to include in learning environments, all of which illuminate two distinct aspects of the Why — a given that someone wants to learn the stuff, and our ability to assess that including something in specific ways — or not — helps achieve that goal.

Mayer (2001, 2003, 2005) presented research-based principles for the design of multimedia messages. His fundamental principle is the multimedia principle itself: people learn better from words and pictures than from words alone. Peters has organized the principles into sets:

  • Principles for managing essential processing  more»
    • Segmenting principle: People learn better when a multimedia lesson is presented in learner-paced segments rather than as a continuous unit.
    • Pre-training principle: People learn better from a multimedia lesson when they know the names and characteristics of the main concepts.
    • Modality principle: People learn better from animation and narration than from animation and on-screen text.
  • Principles for reducing extraneous processing  more»
    • Coherence principle: People learn better when extraneous words, pictures, and sounds are excluded rather than included.
    • Redundancy principle: People learn better from animation and narration than from animation, narration, and on on-screen text.
    • Signaling principle: People learn better when the words include cues about the organization of the presentation.
    • Spatial contiguity principle: People learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near rather than far from each other on the page or screen.
    • Temporal contiguity principle: People learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively.
  • Principles based on social cues  more»
    • Personalization principle: People learn better when the words are in conversational style rather than formal style.
    • Voice principle: People learn better when words are spoken in a standard-accented human voice than in a machine voice or foreign-accented human voice.
    • Image principle: People do not necessarily learn better from a multimedia lesson when the speaker’s image is added to the screen.
  • One last principle,” the Individual differences principle.  more»
    Design effects are stronger for low-knowledge learners than for high-knowledge learners. Design effects are stronger for high-spatial learners than for low-spatial learners.

More about these in a moment. These principles illustrate a point of mine: that what Collins, Brown, Duguid, Newman, Holum et al. (see my posts here and here) bring with their theory of cognitive apprenticeship is a practical framework by which to apply such good principles. Conversely, the principles can guide the how, when, who, where, and why of specific situations. Consider the statement that teachers (who may often be more generally deemed “designers” of learning experiences) should show the processes of the task and make them visible to students (Collins et al.., 1991:). The common root of processes and processing reveals the relationship. The set of essential processing principles informs the design and planning stages, with a strong nod to individualization. Extraneous processing are filters and fine-tuning strategies. Both sets speak to content, method and sequence in Collins’s language. The fourth member of that set in cognitive apprenticeship lingo is sociology, and Mayer offers guidance here as well.

I’m going to apply Mayer’s fundamental principle now and try to enhance this communication with narration and pictures. Maybe you’ve never thought of footnotes as technology before, but they are a highly developed device1, designed to make an author’s thinking visible.

I use this icon to exclaim or assert something. I assert that this is one way to make thinking visible. For a web site, it’s easy to use CSS to make a set of icons. available, as I’ve done for this one. Of course the meanings of the icons must be communicated throughout the community and a common understanding shared by those who use them. Press the letter N to open this “Note” showing my growing list. The letter U opens my Audio narration in which I discuss 4 simple things we’ve done within documents to make thinking visible, and how each can be enhanced with the 3 main Web technologies, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Icons Used Here

  • Assertion 
  • Argument 
  • Audio 
  • Decision 
  • Web page 
  • Idea 
  • Issue 
  • List 
  • Idea Map 
  • Con 
  • Note 
  • + Pro 
  • Position 
  • Rubric 
  • Video 

This icon is not in the original Compendium set. I added it because I thought it filled a need.

Using icons is another thing on my list. It’s not a new idea, but applying it specifically when managing essential processing, thinking about segmenting and pre-training (prerequisite knowledge?) while imagining and planning authentic environments, or striving to reduce extraneous processing throughout demonstration and coaching phases. A consistent icon set provides coherence by signaling and providing cues about the content. For more ways, roll your mouse over the list icon, or press the L key to open my List. Press N to open a Note displaying the list. Press U to open my Audio narration for this content.

  • Icon sets
  • “More »” links  more»
    More links reduce extraneous information and communicate which points you think are important.
  • Footnotes2
  • Narration & animation

§


    Footnotes:
  1. Anthony Grafton, in The Footnote: A Curious History (1999) points to men like Pierre Bayle, who “…made the footnote a powerful tool in philosophical and historical polemics; and Edward Gibbon, who transformed it into a high form of literary artistry. Proceeding with the spirit of an intellectual mystery and peppered with intriguing and revealing remarks by those who “made” this history, The Footnote brings what is so often relegated to afterthought and marginalia to its rightful place in the center of the literary life of the mind…” (cover notes).
  2. With JavaScript the eye never has to leave the main text. It can count them for you, too!

References

Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2003). E-learning and the Science of Instruction. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Mayer, R. E. (2001). Multimedia Learning New York: Cambridge University Press. Mayer, R. E. (Ed.). (2005). The Cambridge Hanbook of Multimedia Learning. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Grafton, Anthony (1999). The Footnote: A Curious History, Boston: Harvard University Press, 241 pages.

IDEO (2011). The Design Thinking Toolkit for Educators, http://www.designthinkingforeducators.com/, 94 pages.

Peters, Dorian (2005). Mayer’s Principles for the design of Multimedia Learning, blog http://designerelearning.blogspot.ca/2005/09/mayers-principles-for-design-of.html retrieved 2012-10-10.

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