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What is Distributed Cognition?


"Distributed cognition refers to the idea that cognition, knowledge, and expertise are not simply a property of individual minds or located and manifested in individual heads but are distributed among people and among people and cultural tools or artefacts" (Hann, 2002, p. 32)
"Distributed cognition is a branch of cognitive science that proposes that human knowledge and cognition are not confined to the individual. Instead, it is distributed by placing memories, facts, or knowledge on the objects, individuals, and tools in our environment." wikipedia
"Distributed intelligence is not simply a technical skill. Rather, it is a cognitive skill that involves thinking across 'brain, body, and world.'. The term distributed intelligence emphasizes the role that technologies play in this process, but it is closely related to the social production of knowledge" (Jenkins, 2009, p. 67))

If you are relatively new to technology or the idea of distributed intelligence and/or cognition, the video below will give you a good feel for the subject:



In the future technology will no longer be the enemy, it will be a vital and pervasive entity that empowers staff and students to enhance their capabilities beyond our wildest imaginations. Schools will no longer be physical structures full of individuals who embody intelligence separately from each other and the world. Schools will be specifically designed to allow each individual's capacity to learn, solve problems, and create to be augmented by their interactions with technology, each other, and the world at large. This fundamental shift in how we define cognition will allow for all individuals to experience unique and meaningful educational experiences. Teachers will understand that the tools they choose to use or restrict actually influences the cognitive abilities of their students. Technologies such as calculators and the internet will no longer be seen as crutches but as cognitive partners.

Think this is new or radical? Watch the following videos that involve traditional forms of distributed cognition. Remember this theory involves social structures and objects possessing meaning (cognitive power) that supports an individual's ability to problem solve. If individuals embodied cognitive processes then mental visualization would be the most efficient way to learn. Where is cognition present in these videos?






Where can you find resources that support this aspect of our vision?

**Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians**This resource by Joyce Valenza is fantastic. It is almost completely based on the power of technology itself and social connections to empower students and staff alike. As you read it, notice that the individual is empowered through connections and tools rather than relying on their own capacities.

International Society for Technology in Education This society has put out phenomenal documents around technological standards for almost every educational stakeholder. A great resource. Again, these standards are built on the premise that technology can improve our abilities if we learn how to harness this power.

Wesly Fryer Much of his work is around professional/social networking, one to one computing initiatives, and harnessing the social cognitive powers of web 2.0 tools. This site also provides a link to the k12online conference that can serve as a portal to fantastic professional learning communities which are also founded on the idea that our professional abilities are greatly influenced by the people we rub shoulders with.

Cathy Nelson Our understanding of the world continues to shift at a phenomenal rate and teachers/librarians are tasked with staying abreast of these developments for the benefits of their students. Traditional thinking would point to the teacher being smart enough to remember everything. We know that individuals have limited cognitive capacities so using tools to network with others and to gather/store information for us distributes the load and makes us more effective. Cathy gives some great tips and points the the necessity of teachers cultivating PLN's.

21st Century Skills Any resources you find on 21st century skills directly/indirectly pay homage to the theory of distributed cognition. This website includes resources and an overall framework to help you understand the topic and to implement change in your region.

Henry Jenkins This article is the foundational article for our project. It is a must read.

Haan, M.de. (2002). Distributed Cognition and the Shared Knowledge Model of the Mazahua: A Cultural Approach. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 13(1), 31-50. Norfolk, VA: AACE. Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/p/10779.

Karasavvidis, I. (2002). Distributed Cognition and Educational Practice. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 13(1), 11-29. Norfolk, VA: AACE. Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/p/10778.