When I first began thinking about my research project for my master’s program, I was drawn to the idea of using technology to foster growth in metacognition.
Metacognition was a word that I really enjoyed using. It sounded so good, the idea of thinking about thinking… so….educationally worthy. I thought I had the general gist of it – thinking about thinking, being reflective… but I didn’t realize just how much I didn’t know about it. Metacognition also involves being aware of learning strategies – having a broad repertoire – and knowing how and when to use each one. It is the idea that learners must monitor their progress towards a goal and use feedback (or lack of feedback) to make adjustments. I created the following visual aid based on information I found in Osman, M.E., Hannafin, M.J. (1992) Metacognition research and theory: Analysis and implications for instructional design. Educational Technology Research & Development, 40(2), 83-89.
The first, natural idea that came to mind for putting together technology and metacognition was the use of ePortfolios for students to document and reflect on their learning. This idea slowly transformed into using blogs as web-based portfolios, and I’m currently at the point where I am ready to use blogs with my 5th grade students to see if blogs can foster growth in metacognitive abilities.
Cognitive processes, and, by extension, metacognitive processes are intangible and thus present a problem for objective measurement. Indeed, measuring metacogntive abilities depends on outward manifestations of internal processes, or potentially subjective self-report by learners whose awareness of thought processes may vary significantly. Some techniques used to measure metacognitive ability: include verbal reports, think-aloud protocols, report writing or “thinking aloud on paper”, and self-report inventories. Pugalee’s (2004) work on the use of verbal and written protocols suggests that “writing can be a tool for supporting a metacognitive framework and that this process is more effective than the use of think-aloud processes” . Thus, writing can be a powerful tool for both fostering and measuring growth in metacognitive ability.
In May 2009, a survey was conducted in England and Scotland on writing, with subjects aged 8-16 years old. The survey was intended to provide information on young writers’ writing habits including, but not limited to attitudes towards writing, frequency, medium & type of writing, and perceived role of technology in the development of writing. Results seemed to indicate that although young people saw writing as an important skill to develop, over half did not enjoy writing. Furthermore, there seems to be some suggestion that writers who use technology such as blogs are more engaged in their writing, raising the issue of the possible relationship between technology use and motivation.
Best practices (and common sense!) seem to indicate that one must consider pedagogy before technology. Thus, the question I hope to answer is: Can the use of blogs with elementary students contribute to growth in their reflective and critical thinking skills, essential components of self-regulation/metacognitive skills? I, of course, know what my teacher’s instinct is telling me (yes!!) but, in this interest of scientific research, I’ll have to suspend judgment until there’s proof. So far, the only way I’ve come up with to objectively measure the effect of blogs is to have one group do paper blogs (sigh, not quite as exciting as weblogs, not sure how this will work either) and the experimental group doing weblogs. Any suggestions?
When new technologies are introduced, they may be adopted before they are proven to be effective tools for learning. Arguably, teachers who require students to use a computer in order to word-process an already written and revised piece of work may not be making the most effective use of the technology. Can you think of another example when a technology was adopted before it was proven effective (or worse, can you think of an example when a technology was used in the classroom and subsequently proven ineffective?) If so, please comment as it would add a great deal to the theoretical framework for my research!