Theorizing why in e-learning – a frontier for cognitive engagement
Mason, Jon (2012) Theorizing why in e-learning – a frontier for cognitive engagement. In Sampson, D., Spector, J., Ifenthaler, D., & Isaias, P. (Eds.) IADIS International Conference on Cognition and Exploratory Learning (CELDA 2012) Proceedings, Madrid, Spain, pp. 57-64.
Asking why is an important foundation of inquiry and fundamental to the development of reasoning skills and learning. Despite this, and despite the relentless and often disruptive nature of innovations in information and communications technology (ICT), sophisticated tools that directly support this basic act of learning appear to be undeveloped, not yet recognized, or in the very early stages of development. Why is this so? To this question, there is no single satisfactory answer; instead, numerous plausible explanations and related questions arise. After learning something, however, explaining why can be revealing of a person’s understanding (or lack of it). What then differentiates explanation from information; and, explanatory from descriptive content? What ICT scaffolding might support inquiry instigated by why-questioning? What is the role of reflective practice in inquiry-based learning? These and other questions have emerged from this investigation and underscore that why-questions often propagate further questions and are a catalyst for cognitive engagement and dialogue. This paper reports on a multi-disciplinary, theoretical investigation that informs the broad discourse on e-learning and points to a specific frontier for design and development of e-learning tools. Probing why reveals that versatile and ambiguous semantics present the core challenge – asking, learning, knowing, understanding, and explaining why.
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