IT-Enabled Strategies for Mental Modeling in E-Learning

IT-Enabled Strategies for Mental Modeling in E-Learning

Shalin Hai-Jew (Kansas State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-654-9.ch011
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This chapter examines some ways information technologies (IT) are deployed in higher education courses to help learners create robust mental models. In e-learning, mental models are created through the following: digitally mediated (1) information visualization work; (2) virtual immersion, and (3) human interactivity. For (1) information visualization work, information technologies afford multi-sensory learning channels: texts, visuals, slideshows, screen casts and animations, audio, video, interactivity, immersiveness, and simulations. IT supports the archiving of digital learning artifacts through eportfolios, digital gallery shows, and informational multimedia databases. (2) Virtual immersion has been enabled in 3-D interactive spaces where learners may experience multi-faceted learning. More complex simulations have also been created with animations and long-term continuous learning. To promote (3) human interactivity, IT reifies human intellects and perceptions, and social software uses “swarm intelligence” to support consensus-driven realities. IT creates contexts for co-learning and intercommunications. Collaborative pedagogical strategies—online teaching case studies, mock trials, facilitated games, and various assignments and assessments—highlight the multiple-views, multiple-realities of constructivist learning.
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With the recent popularization of constructivist ideologies in e-learning, practitioners have found that information technologies may be used to help learners build efficacious mental models. Information technologies (IT) offer three main strengths for creating mental models: information visualization work, virtual immersion and human interactivity. This chapter will open with a brief definition of constructivism and mental models. Then five main IT affordances or “enablements” supporting the use of constructivist mental models will be introduced and supported with technological examples. Constructivism essentially posits that individuals learn when they self-create mental models and meanings, by visualizing certain roles and relationships, by understanding larger systems, and by engaging in human interactions. Individuals must be motivated to learn with authentic and applied learning situations.

A brief look at constructivism. Moshman (1982) suggests that there are three interpretations of constructivism: endogenous, exogenous and dialectical: The Endogenous focuses on the individualistic and internal nature of knowledge construction, unique to each learner. Here, an instructor facilitates the experiences which may lead to changes and maturation of existing mental models. Exogenous constructivism advocates formal instruction along with active exercises to help learners develop practical knowledge representations. Dialectical constructivism emphasizes the importance of realistic experience for the creation of sophisticated mental models (Dalgarno, 2001, p. 185). Learning contexts are viewed differently based on varying constructivist approaches: “Ontological. Contexts are constructed socially, in interaction with other agents in the world, and psychologically, in making sense of sense data. Epistemological. Interpretation of context is always constituted within a frame of reference. Pragmatic. Instead of labeling contexts, computers can provide resources for people themselves to create and maintain contexts in their action” (Oulasvirta, Tamminen, & Höök, 2005, p. 195).

Some tenets of mental modeling. A basic definition of a mental model is that it is the learner’s internal conceptualization of a particular system or paradigm, the functions of equipment, or phenomena. A mental model involves the respective learner’s sense-making and may involve both implicit and explicit ideas, both unconscious and subconscious beliefs, and internalized and externalized knowledge. To borrow a concept from Argyris and Schön, a mental model would involve the “theories in use” vs. rather than “espoused theories” (1974, as cited in Argyris, 1993, p. 20). A mental model captures the substructure or underlying theory by which a thing or phenomena may be understood. Making meaning from a mental model involves “balance, comparison and the reorganization of existing knowledge and the input of information,” assert Lei, Yang and Zhang (2006, n.p.). This incremental and cumulative process of building schemas is context-dependent. “Mental model construction involves mapping active memory objects onto components of the real-world phenomenon, then reorganizing and connecting those objects so that together they form a model of the whole situation” (Derry, 1996, p. 168).

Mental models affect decision-making; therefore, a mental model is also “a hypothetical knowledge structure that integrates the ideas, assumptions, relationships, insights, facts, and misconceptions that together shape the way an individual views and interacts with reality” (Steiger & Steiger, 2007, p. 1). Shared mental models strengthen the work of teams with “the ability to successfully navigate unforeseen situations or problems as they arise” (Thomas & Bostrom, 2007, p. 3). Knowledge structures show relationships among knowledge components and knowledge objects. A symbolic reasoning (instructivist) view would focus more on stored representations, and a situated learning (constructivist) view would focus on “connections, potentials” (Jonassen, et al., n.d., n.p.). “Mental models are particular organizations of memory objects that constitute a specific event interpretation,” writes Derry (1996, p. 169).

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Michael Sherman
Carla R. Payne
Chapter 1
Maria Luisa Pérez Cavana
Taking into account the complexity and multiplicity of constructivist theories, the first part of this chapter focuses on the relationship between... Sample PDF
Closing the Circle: From Dewey to Web 2.0
Chapter 2
Noel Fitzpatrick, Nóirín Hayes, K.C. O’Rourke
Constructivism has become the comfortable face of educational theory in recent years, due in no small part to the mainstreaming of learning... Sample PDF
Beyond Constriction and Control: Constructivism in Online Theory and Practice
Chapter 3
Barbara de la Harpe, Fiona Peterson
There is a strong move worldwide for a constructivist theory to underpin the way teaching and learning are viewed in today’s colleges and... Sample PDF
The Theory and Practice of Teaching with Technology in Today's Colleges and Universities
Chapter 4
Karen Swan, D.R. Garrison, Jennifer C. Richardson
This chapter presents a theoretical model of online learning, the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework, which is grounded in John Dewey’s... Sample PDF
A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning: The Community of Inquiry Framework
Chapter 5
Jennifer Lee, Lin Lin
Based on constructivist principles, this chapter provides a new instructional design map for online learning environments. This instructional design... Sample PDF
Applying Constructivism to Online Learning: A New Instructional Design Map
Chapter 6
Beth Rubin
Constructivist education usually involves authentic assessment, which is affected by the media used to teach. Information technology can enhance or... Sample PDF
Enhancing Authentic Assessment Through Information Technology
Chapter 7
Xenia Coulter, Alan Mandell
The adult college student, caught between the competing demands of work and home, has recently become a valuable commodity in today’s fast-changing... Sample PDF
Nontraditional Students and Information Technology: The Siren Call of the Virtual Classroom and its Impact on Progressive Educational Ideals
Chapter 8
Jakko van der Pol
This chapter aims to perform a thorough analysis of students’ online learning conversations. Although offering a high potential for collaborative... Sample PDF
Online Learning Conversations: Potential, Challenges and Facilitation
Chapter 9
Laura M. Nicosia
Contemporary educators have been reassessing pedagogical frameworks and reevaluating accepted epistemologies and ontologies of learning. The age-old... Sample PDF
Virtual Constructivism: Avatars in Action
Chapter 10
G. Andrew Page, Radwan Ali
The key idea that sets constructivism apart from other theories of cognition was launched about 60 years ago by Jean Piaget. It was the idea that... Sample PDF
The Power and Promise of Web 2.0 Tools
Chapter 11
Shalin Hai-Jew
This chapter examines some ways information technologies (IT) are deployed in higher education courses to help learners create robust mental models.... Sample PDF
IT-Enabled Strategies for Mental Modeling in E-Learning
Chapter 12
Roisin Donnelly
This chapter critically explores the design and implementation of a blended problem-based learning (PBL) module for academic professional... Sample PDF
Transformative Potential of Constructivist Blended Problem-Based Learning in Higher Education
Chapter 13
James G.R. Cronin, John Paul McMahon, Michael Waldron
Reception and use of information technology by lifelong learners within a “blended” learning environment needs to be articulated within a... Sample PDF
Critical Survey of Information Technology Use in Higher Education: Blended Classrooms
Chapter 14
M. Beatrice Ligorio, Nadia Sansone
In this chapter, the case of a blended university course will be described in detail. The main focus of this description will be on how some... Sample PDF
Structure of a Blended University Course: Applying Constructivist Principles to Blended Teaching
Chapter 15
Hwee Ling Lim, Fay Sudweeks
As educators utilize an increasingly wide range of technologies for facilitating interaction between distant learning parties, there are concerns... Sample PDF
Constructivism and Online Collaborative Group Learning in Higher Education: A Case Study
Chapter 16
Linda Lohr, Nicholas Eastham, David Kendrick
This case study describes how a constructivist theory of learning guided the design of distributed learning environment for a three credit hour... Sample PDF
Constructivist Strategies to Optimize Four Levels of Interaction in a Distributed Learning Environment: A Case Study
Chapter 17
Alessio Gaspar, Sarah Langevin, Naomi Boyer
This chapter discusses a case study of the application of technology to facilitate undergraduate students’ learning of computer programming in an... Sample PDF
Facilitating Students-Driven Learning of Computer Programming with Technology
Chapter 18
John Miller
A central component of constructivist pedagogy at the college level is the modeling and practicing of critical thinking, and since Socrates... Sample PDF
Designing Asynchronous Discussions to Teach Critical Thinking
Chapter 19
Mark H. Schulman
The challenges for Goddard College posed by 21st Century information technologies are their incorporation into, and reflection of, the foundational... Sample PDF
"To Be in Occasional Touch": Goddard College's Progressive Principles and Distributed Learning
Chapter 20
Carol R. Rinke, Divonna M. Stebick, Lauren Schaefer, M. Evan Gaffney
This chapter presents a critical case study on the use of information technology in a pre-service teacher education program. The authors integrated... Sample PDF
Using Blogs to Foster Inquiry, Collaboration, and Feedback in Pre-Service Teacher Education
Chapter 21
Michal Zellermayer, Nili Mor, Ida Heilweil
This chapter describes the learning environment that the authors created for veteran teachers, graduate students in Teaching and Learning who are... Sample PDF
The Intersection of Theory, Tools and Tasks in a Postgraduate Learning Environment
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