Blog Post 13- Distributed Cognition

Below are three different technologies that I observed in the second grade classroom I was in.

Websites, Kiddle, Kidtopia and Brain Pop, used for research:

While I observed a second grade classroom, I saw the students work on a biography project.  The students were asked to research an important individual in society and used both books and their Chromebooks to accomplish this task.  While using the Chromebooks, the students specifically used the websites, Kiddle, Kidtopia and Brain Pop, to do their research.  The use of the three research websites was an effect with technology.  According to the Salomon and Perkins article, “effects with technology emerge through the interaction when certain intellectual functions are downloaded onto the technology, thus establishing an intellectual partnership with the user”.  While the students were able to do research through books, the research websites allowed the students the ability to find the answers to specific questions very quickly and opened a wide range of information for the students to read and use.  The purpose of this project was to learn about a specific purpose in history, and through the use of the research websites, that purpose was distributed from the student to the technology sites.  Without the use of the research technology, the students would not have been able to learn the breadth of knowledge that they did, in a relatively short amount of time.  While the students were researching there was a distinct partnership with the technology.  The students had to ask the appropriate questions on the research sites in order for the websites to come up with quality results.  This responsibility was spread out between the student and the technology and with the help of the technology; the students were able to create a quality research project.

In addition to being an effect with technology, the research websites are considered to be a pedagogical function of translating.  According to the Martin article, “the function of translation refers to the transformation of information from one representational system to another”.  The use of websites allowed the research to be translated into a fast and accessible format for the students.  If the students had only used research books or encyclopedias, the research projects would have taken much longer to complete.  While the cognition was being distributed to the technology and the students, the students needed to ask the research engines appropriate questions to get quality results, the cognition was also being distributed to the teacher.  Through the technology, the students were able to get many more insights, and information, that they may not have been able to get if the teacher was simply lecturing the students.  The use of technology allowed the teacher to have more time to spend on quality discussion and analysis of what the students had researched.

Compass Learning

                While I observed, the students often times used their Chromebooks during Mathematics and Language Arts lessons, and were often times instructed to go on Compass Learning. Compass Learning is an online website that has games in the Math and Language Arts subjects.  The students have to login to the site and take a pretest so the site knows where the students are at in the different subject areas and can then provide differentiated instructional games.  The content of the games is directly tied to the Common Core State Standards.  The use of Compass Learning was an effect of technology.  According to the Salomon and Perkins article, “effects of technology concern effects, positive or negative, that persist without the technology in hand, after a period of using it”.  The purpose of Compass Learning was to give the students a different mode to practice both Math and Language Arts.  The use of Compass Learning was done during centers so a small group of students were able to work on the computers, while a different group of students were able to receive small group instruction from the teacher.  This cognition was distributed among the students, the technology and the teacher.  The students learned new Math and Language Arts skills through the differentiated games, the games provided the students a new perspective of their learning, and the teacher was able to see the students’ results on the game to determine how well the students were doing in the different content areas and where they needed to improve.  While the game may have enhanced the students’ learning, the purpose of it was for the students to leave the environment with a better understanding of Math and Language Arts and apply that in different areas of their education, not just while they were on Compass Learning.  As Salomon and Perkins state in their article, an effect of technology is when there is “an acquisition of a new skill or the improved mastery of an existing one”.  Through Compass Learning the students were improving their Language Arts and Math skills through differentiated games and individualized instruction that one teacher could not possibly provide every student every day of the week.

The use of Compass Learning is considered to be the pedagogical functions of off-loading and monitoring.  According to the Martin article, “when off-loading increases the efficiency of some parts of the system, it can make individual change (individual learning) more likely”.  The use of Compass Learning allowed each student to easily receive differentiated learning, something that would be very difficult for the teacher to provide to every student every day.  Off-loading that responsibility onto Compass Learning allowed for individualized learning.  In addition to offloading, Compass Learning provided monitoring.  According to the Martin article, “monitoring refers to the function of assessing the quality of the coordination between systems and providing this information as feedback”.  Since the students have individual logins, the teacher is able to look at each student’s score after the lesson and see what students need help in and see where they are excelling.


The Smartboard is the final technology that I am going to discuss that I saw during my observations.  This is an effect with technology.  The teacher used the Smartboard in almost every lesson, from using it to solve math equations to using it to using it to explain letter writing to the students, it served as a staple in the classroom.  According to the Salomon and Perkins article effects with technology, “are what might be called cognitive technologies, technologies that enhance cognitive functioning through directly affording cognitive support rather than as a side effect”.  This point was made clear when the teacher stated that the school lost power and they were not able to use the Smartboard, which significantly impacted their day.  She stated that the loss of the Smartboard demonstrated how much she and the students rely on its benefits.  The Smartboard allows the students to come up and interact with a problem or word using different colored pens and in ways that a blackboard or paper and pencil are not able to do.  The Smartboard provides a different mode of learning to the students and that is distributed to the students and the teacher, as it also provides the teacher with a more interactive way of teaching which in effect helps the students.

The use of the Smartboard is considered to be a pedagogical function of connecting.  According to the Martin article connecting exists when there is, “information to pass between the systems, whether actively and intentionally through explicit messages, or passively and incidentally, through shared connection to some sort of intermediary. A technology that creates such a communication channel provides the function of connection between two systems”.  The Smartboard allowed the students to interact with information they were learning in a different way.  For example, when the students did math lessons they were able to come to the Smartboard, solve a problem, and explain it to the class.  The Smartboard added a beneficial element to their learning, and allowed them to connect to the topics studied.

The uses of the three technologies described above were very beneficial to the students and it was interesting to observe their benefits through my observations.

Martin, L. (2012). Connection, Translation, Off-Loading, and Monitoring: A Framework for Characterizing the Pedagogical Functions of Educational Technologies.Technology, Knowledge & Learning17(3), 87-107.

Salomon, G. & Perkins, D. (2005) “Do Technologies Make Us Smarter? Intellectual Amplification With, Of and Through Technology.” In: Robert Sternberg and David Preiss (Eds.). Intelligence and Technology: The Impact of Tools on the Nature and Development of Human Abilities. Mahwah, NJ : Lawrence Erlbaum and Associates, Publishers. pp. 71-86.



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