Cognitive Apprenticeship for Teaching Computer Science and Leadership in Virtual Worlds

Cognitive Apprenticeship for Teaching Computer Science and Leadership in Virtual Worlds

Cynthia Calongne (Colorado Technical University, USA), Andrew G. Stricker (The Air University, USA), Barbara Truman (University of Central Florida, USA) and Fil J. Arenas (The Air University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9679-0.ch010
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Cognitive apprenticeship refers to the development of skills under the guidance and tutelage of a domain expert. This chapter covers the theory and highlights 10 years of virtual learning experiences and 52 classes using the cognitive apprenticeship model. It reflects on the impact of presence and explores how learning communities develop as students assume roles and learn by working next to skilled faculty. The examples reinforce the value of deep immersion and identity in situated learning. The software design activities illustrate the benefits experienced when students assume ownership and structure their activities. Through self-reflection, learners illustrated the power of design thinking through group and individual design studios. The chapter concludes with observations from 400 eighth graders and reflections on future work in the design of sustainable learning programs for computer science and leadership education.
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Learning blends the pedagogy of facts and rules to form cognitive models for how learners think, reason, and respond to apply them in present and future situations. Craik and Lockhart (1972) turned cognitive models of learning upside down by introducing the levels of processing that describe memory recall and the depth of memory processing. Their model featured two categories: shallow processing and deep or semantic processing.

Memories decay under shallow processing and sensory data establishes connections in the mind.

  • How an object looks through structural processing

  • How something sounds using phonemic processing

  • How letters are symbols that when grouped together, become words as graphemic processing

  • How the shape of objects appear under orthographic processing

In contrast, the construct of semantic processing through deep immersion provides connections that support applied learning.

  • The relationship between objects or experiences

  • The deeper meaning of the experience

  • The importance of the experience

Craik and Lockhart (1972) researched deep learning and applied semantic processing theory to explain how the exposure to immersive experiences serve as patterns for memories that persist. Computer science education seeks to map the pedagogy related to programming languages and software engineering practices to applied learning activities to give students the tools needed to create and evaluate their products.

Cognitive apprenticeship blends the sensory data experienced in virtual worlds with design thinking practices (Brown, 2008) to form relationships with experts. Students work next to faculty experts, observing the skills and testing them in their early efforts. The practice benefits from the struggle learners experience when the project challenges them to exceed their current capabilities during its design. If the domain expert blends instruction and support with observation, the learner gains the skills, feedback, and support needed during the initial design and later refinement efforts to achieve a sense of accomplishment and mastery that Csíkszentmihályi (2008) described as the mental state of flow.

Experiencing the state of flow occurs when the challenge slightly exceeds the learner’s abilities, giving a challenge that is within reach, yet a stretch to achieve. McGonigal (2011) related the experience of flow to accomplishments within games as the feeling of fiero, the highest levels of excitement experienced when the player feels on fire or in the zone. Fiero describes an effervescent sense of accomplishment that excites and transforms players. In an educational context, a student who is new to learning within virtual worlds feels a sense of accomplishment that inspires further activity, leading to a sense of accomplishment.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Deep Immersion: Explores the deeper meaning behind a lesson after modeling life experiences and reflecting on why the experience matters. When the experience is life changing, it leads to what Morris Massey called a significant emotional event.

Agile Methods: A lightweight method that reduces the tasks to small segments and centers on stakeholder involvement and evaluation early and often throughout the development process.

Design Thinking: Focuses on problem solving, modeling ideas, and creating action-oriented outcomes. It builds on instructional systems design (ISD) to engage collaborators with a meta-awareness of the performance and behavioral goals of the task.

Avatar: Representation of the person within a virtual world. A person’s virtual identity.

Presence: The understanding and experience of self and others in the virtual world, based on dialog with individuals, an exchange of ideas with a class, shared perspectives with individuals, groups, institutions, or the world. Presence builds upon Otto Scharmer’s research at MIT’s Presencing Institute.

Appreciative Inquiry: Seeks to identity the successful outcomes and leverage them to build upon success. Discover what works and strengthen it.

Formative Design: The process of iterative design and evaluation early and often through the design process, continuing to refine, evaluate, and iterate the design and testing phases until it converges into a product. When used in virtual learning, it is the formation, creation, and evaluation of teaching and learning strategies in virtual worlds.

Virtual World: A simulated space located on the web or on a local grid that provides a view of the simulator from the server’s perspective. The virtual world is comprised of parcels of land, regions, and 3D content that residents create within them.

Participatory Design: The act of creating a product by involving the stakeholders and users of it, engaging their ideas and incorporating them in later versions of the design.

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