The paper, “What Does Distributed Cognition Tell Us about Student Learning of Science?” is a multi-layer analysis of Distributive Cognition research by (Hollan et al. 1999; Hutchins
1995). Distributive Cognition is acutely relevant for today’s education theory because of our collaborative society. Even though we have a global collaborative knowledge base (the Internet) that transcends and bypasses the academic system, most academic theory is not social by nature. The collaborative learning theories of Distributive Cognition have strong relevance in both collaborative web learning and classroom Project Based Learning. What is ironic about this contemporary theory is it establishes the importance of experiential learning theory (that is social) as set forth by Dewey (1916), Lendmen (1927) and Knowles(1980) years ago.
From this paper, Lave (1988) is quoted about Distributive Cognitions theory:
There is a reason to suspect that what we call cognition is in fact a complex social phenomenon. The point is not so much that arrangements of knowledge in the head correspond in a complicated way to the social world outside the head, but that they are socially organized in such a fashion as to be indivisible. “Cognition” observed in everyday practice is distributed—stretched over, not divided among—mind, body, activity and culturally organized settings, which include other actors (Lave 1988, p. 1).
This paper provides Distributive Cognition empirical evidence in science classes in a way that demonstrates that learning is a social process. Learning as a group is and more multi-dimensional and contextual than the student-textbook methods. We cannot learn to ride bikes, play baseball or be a physician from books and testing. This research demonstrates how immersion with other people merges cognitive learning in the full context of the human experience, thereby making learning relevant.
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