ICT as a cognitive tool

Well – should I talk about what makes every teacher keen to use ICT in his classroom very proud of himself? The webquest.

All right… so what is a webquest?

In the lecture material, webquests are described as ‘frameworks that allow rich learning experiences”. They are “inquiry based projects which are scaffolded to produce constructivist learning environments”.

Here and there, we have numerous descriptions of what a good webquest should look like, but Dodges (1995) gives us the main basic steps. According to him, every webquest should have:

  • an introduction
  • a task
  • some information sources
  • a process (which is divided into steps)
  • a guidance / assessment
  • a conclusion

Students should be split into group activities that should be “wrapped” with “motivational elements”. We should be giving students a role to play, such as reporter, travel agent, group leader, or whatever. Dodges gives us as well some very interesting ideas about what students may produce when doing their webquest.

For McKenzie (2000), motivation and questioning style are the most important factors in successful webquests. “Without strong questioning skills, you are just a passenger on someone else’s tour bus. You may be on the highway but someone else is doing the driving… The weaker the questioning and learning skills, the less value one is likely to discover or uncover.” I like that!

The prime questions are apparently ‘why?, how/ and which?”. McKenzie strongly advises us to put the motivation at the center of all things and to ask real questions – I mean questions which enable students to make their own minds. Empowering questions.

I have created my own webquest. I will ask my students to do it and I will provide some feedback.

Having said that, webquests are not the only exercise which make ICTs a cognitive tool.

On this blog, I have used a selection of graphics/images, video clips, sound files, graphic organiser and online learning games. The psychologist Howard Gardner has pointed out that people have different optimal learning styles. Even if I find his vision a bit simplistic at times, it helps us consider that students have special needs. Material presented in a way that is very helpful for the visual learner for instance may be quite difficult for a kinesthetic learner to apprehend.

The use of  different materials allows students to be engaged with material that cater for more than one learning style at a time. This will increase the motivation of the students and enhance the teaching.

Graphics and images help students who have a more visual/spatial learning style as well as the logical/mathematical learning style ones.

Video clips cater for the visual/spatial and the interpersonal styles of learning. I use numerous video clips in my French course. In my “Digital natives” post, I have summed up Prensky’s article. But why not insert a documentary on a related topic? All of this will add authenticity to teaching and learning and can give students an experience of somehow much more engaging.

Sound files can also assist the musical/rhythmic people to connect with what is being presented. They can just be used to add a ‘wow’ factor and increase engagement. On a cognitive level, material that is presented on paper and in sound is ‘encoded’ through two different modes of reception and therefore is more likely to be retained. For example, when presenting a video clip with a dialogue, make sure the students have a script of the dialogue.

Graphic organisers connect with the visual/spatial and logical/ mathematical learners. On a cognitive level, being presented with information graphically in place of or in addition to describing it in a narrative makes it again, more likely to be retained.

Online games can definitely help the bodily/kinesthetic learners. This is particularly so if there are tasks which call on them to manipulate objects on the whiteboard. These games again increase engagement/attention and use the “multimodal” effects ensuring that the effective learning will take place.

ICTs, when applied thoroughly in the classroom, can increase immediacy and “multimodality”.  But there is a risk that they may as well freeze creativity. In getting such a flow of rich, superbly organised material, students may not be inclined to expect that all the creative work should be done for them… by teachers.

That being said, ICTs can be used by students to create an enormous range of art, film, animation, music and language or literary productions.


Dodge, B. (1995). Some Thoughts About WebQuests.


McKenzie, J. (nd). The Question is the answer.


University of Michigan, Department of Psychology



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: