Monday, September 3, 2007

The Cognitive Tutor

I'm not sure if I put my review of the article on refworks in the correct spot, so I am just going to use this free-write blog to reiterate what I said for my review:

“Technology-Based Math Curriculums” is about how a high school in Pennsylvania collaborated with a local university to create a computer program called Cognitive Tutor to assist in math lessons. The high school teachers and university professors each used their own observations and ideas as to help create the program.

Based on what I read, I think that using such a computer program to aide and foster the learning of mathematics is more than just appropriate, but a superb idea. The article mentioned how the program uses real world problems that students will encounter in the work world. I think that this is important because, as the article also mentioned, students, who are tired of contrived problems, are much more interested in calculating the life span of a threatened rain forest, or how many trips a Medevac helicopter can make on a set budget, than in solving meaningless equations with no context. Furthermore, the program also presents problems in such a way that the students have solid numbers for their starting point, but do not know the ending point, instead of starting from an unknown point to reach a known goal. This is because the researchers at the university believed that students were more successful in solving problems in which they had solid numbers for their starting point. As it turns out, the word problems were easier, and students were more comfortable knowing their starting point.

I also thought it was very advantageous that the Cognitive Tutor was programmed to build a profile of the learning patterns of its users. The program tracks a student’s learning style and pinpoints flaws in reasoning. As mistakes are made, the computer gives the student clues for rethinking the problem so that he or she can get back on track. However, if a student still cannot solve a particular problem, the Cognitive Tutor does not simply tell the student the correct answer. Herein lies where the teacher comes into play. The student must ask for extra help from the teacher in order to solve the problem. I think that this component of the computer program is very important. The teacher must still be involved in the process; we do not want technology to completely replace the role of the teacher because then it would get too impersonal. However, I think it is great that a computer can provide such individual attention to each student. That is one of the difficulties that teachers face, especially now as class sizes continue to grow.

I would definitely like to see this computer program at work, not because I doubt it, but rather because I’m sure that there were plenty of details left out of this article. I have always been a big fan of integrating technology into the classroom, especially considering the fact that technology has become such a big part of our everyday lives. However, I think that teachers who do use technology like the Cognitive Tutor in their classrooms need to remember to not solely rely on the technology to do all of the teaching. I don’t think that anything can ever replace the personal teaching that comes from an actual human being. As we get more and more technological developments to aide in the learning process, teachers need to integrate those technologies while still remembering that they are the teachers and at the end of the day, they are responsible for what their students will learn.

1 comment:

Leah Nillas said...

Always remember that technology is an instructional tool. The teacher will still have an important role to play in a classroom where technology is integrated in the teaching or learning process.