Into the Labyrinth : A PhD Comprehensive Portfolio

Cognition and Learning

"People are naturally curious, but we are not naturally good thinkers; unless the cognitive conditions are right, we will avoid thinking" (Willingham, 2009, p. 3)

     My field of study is Cognition and Learning. In reflection, the core text for the cognition and learning course, Why Don't Students Like School? (Willingham, 2009), became the catalyst for my own cognition and learning.      This course provided the right conditions for curiosity and deep thinking about theories and issues in teaching, learning, and cognition. I revelled in this coming home to my psychological roots. I was re-immersed in Piaget and Dewey but pushed to build new connections to consciousness, neuroplasticity, memory, and brain/technology connections (Boyd, 2015; Ihde, 1978, 2011; Pasquinelli, n.d.; Seely Brown, 2006; Seth, 2017).  

     Since I continued to blog during this course, I am now able to dip into my external cache of thoughts [Step By Step blog site] to explore my memories through my writing, the continuation of hupomnemata begun in DS1. Here in this comprehensive portfolio, I will demonstrate academic and scholarly readiness for the next steps in this labyrinthian PhD journey by discerning relevant ideas, culling and collecting those ideas together, contextualizing them, and entering into a conversation about them (Weisgerber & Butler, 2016). 

     In this course, I prepared two critiques of articles, as listed and linked here:
  1. The neuroscience of background knowledge: A schema about schema
  2. Just like riding a bike: A critique of caching to explain automaticity
     The knowledge I now own and have embedded into my long term memory, as well as filed in my external memory cache on my Step By Step blog site, is that a schema is a requirement for understanding, that schemata are neural mechanisms acquired over time, and that cognitive load impacts our memory retrieval. A fuller conceptualization of these two problematic concepts can be found by reading these critiques, and the related blog posts written during the course. For the purposes of this comprehensive portfolio I continue to explore the limits and horizons of my cognition and learning (Ihde, 2011, Seely Brown, 2006).

     The paper written as a culminating task for this course extended the workshopping experience from DS1 into a digital production where I explained the outline of my paper in a five-minute video production. This video [Essay Plan for 6411] is shared here as it exemplifies how my future research directions are connected to this course and how I model my research practice.

As I stated in this paper: 
While not denying the existence of differing theoretical perspectives as they relate to open educational practices such as social cognition (Seely Brown et al.,1989), constructivism (de Vries, 2008) and connectivism (Couros & Hildebrandt, 2016; Siemens, 2018a), this literature review is written from a cognitivist perspective (Codrington-Lacerte, n.d.; de Vries, 2008).  Cognition and learning are essential elements of OEPr. An awareness of cognitive processes is crucial in order to successfully navigate the complexity of teaching with OEPr, specifically internet-based, technology-enabled, accessible and multimedia-driven spaces. This literature review seeks to analyze, synthesize, and bring clarity to the relationship between cognition, specifically research on cognitive load, and technology-enabled OEPr. In order to transcend the limitations of the human brain, cognitive science can provide insights to inform teachers using internet accessed, multimedia resources in open educational environments."  

It was here in the paper for this course that I looked at bringing my research into focus. It was through the act of conversing with others and creating graphic images that the deeper impact of cognition and learning on my topic of research is crystallized.

     As a result of this comprehensive portfolio reflection I have researched the philosophy of technology as explored by Idhe (1978, 2004, 2011, 2012; Ihde & Malafouris, 2019) and readings about the technologies of self (Foucault, 1988).  Ihde (2011) suggests that our embodied phenomenographic limitations are extended beyond our horizons, as exemplified by the visual and auditory limitations of physical parameters of sound and sight, by the technological mediations of magnification and translation. My husband's newly acquired hearing aids is one example of technological magnification that enables him to hear beyond what his physical boundaries would otherwise allow. The binoculars I use to magnify my vision to allow me to see the bald eagles swooping over the river is another such example whereby the human < > machine interaction between myself < > binoculars allow my embodied experiences to reach beyond the boundaries and barriers imposed by my physical limitations. When it comes to cognition and learning, my cache of memories in both short term and long term storage is limited by the horizons of the physical grey cells of my brain. My research for this course, and into future academic literature review work, examines how these horizons can be extended by enacting connections to the cornucopia of information, ideas, writings, images, and sounds that abound in digital space. One interesting conception is the notion of collective cognitive load theory (Kirschner et al, 2018) whereby my individual cognitive load limitations extend beyond the physical boundaries by being shared with others through digital, connected, networked thinking and cognitive activities. In this way, the cognitive connections being made, both within my brain structures and memories, and outside my internal cognitive structures, as exemplified in this comprehensive portfolio, model a critical stance toward the concepts, theories and issues in my field of study. 

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