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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Information Overload, Time to Reflect

My Brain is Full! Time to Digest
Image Source: Found on Mimi and Eunice Cartoons

Cognitive Load Theory suggests that learners can engage and retain information effectively only if it is provided in a way that it does not “overload” the learners working memory (Ormrod,2012).  Each learner comes to the learning with their own personal schema, which are structures for the learner that help them link what they already know to something they are about to learn (Harvey & Goudvis, 2007).  There are three types of cognitive load to consider, intrinsic, extraneous, and germane.

  1. Intrinsic cognitive load has characteristic level of difficulty related to a specific topic,the more difficult the task the more the cognitive load will be experienced  
  2. Extraneous cognitive load has non-relevant information that is difficult for the learner to process, but isn't necessary needed for the lesson 
  3. Germane cognitive load is the amount of learners working memory is devoted to the processing, construction and automation of schema (Ormrod,2012)
Gaining a beginning understanding of Cognitive Load Theory this week really resonated with me as a learner and as a teacher of young children. Artino, states that the Cognitive load theory assumes “that learning will be hindered if the instructional materials overwhelm the learner, which will then limit the working memory resources (Artino, 2008).”  When I reflect on the numerous conversation about what young learners are being asked to do and as teachers we continually ask why these young student’s aren’t attending and why they are wiggly.  I wonder if we haven’t provided them with the opportunities to build their schema, with authentic learning environment. In my quest for knowledge on Cognitive Load Theory, I ran across some interesting articles about technology integration and young learners.

Image Source: NeuroWiki2012
One of the assumptions is that if we allow students to use the technology embedded into curriculum tasks it reduces the cognitive load and makes the work more easily accessible for students (Chu,2013). When I am in a classroom, I am an avid user of technology, I had not considered that the Cognitive Load on students could be negative and hinder learning. I know some in some of my Professional Development sessions that I've hosted adults who are not familiar with the technology seem to reach that I’ve had enough stage before students.  This had definitely made me think and re-think how I can use technology more effectively for students.


Artino, A. R. (2008). Cognitive load theory and the role of learner experience: An abbreviated review for educational practitioners. Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education Journal, 16, 425-439.

Chu , Hui-Chun. (2013) Potential negative effects of mobile learning on students’ learning achievement and cognitive load: A format assessment perspective, Journal of Educational Technology & Society. 2014, Vol. 17 Issue 1, p332-344. 13p.

Ormrod,J.E. (2012) Human Learning: Sixth Edition. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

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