What research says

Setting the students in action for a more effective learning is a centuries-old idea. The action of learning can be kinetic, but with two distinct objectives: manipulating an instrument to make a measurement or as a way to learn something new - a concept or a scientific fact. The action of learning can also be purely cognitive: questioning, rewording, drawing, etc. on a presented topic.

At the end what makes learning by doing effective is when the learner is cognitively active, even when she/he looks physically passive[1],[2].

Eight categories are proposed to make learners cognitively active[3]:

  1. Summarizing. Doing a written or oral summary about what is learnt - any kind of document, static or dynamic.
  2. Conceptual map. Constructing a conceptual or mental map, a table as a way to represent what is learnt. Concepts and their relations are represented as nodes and linking lines.
  3. Drawing/sketching. Representing graphically what is learnt.
  4. Imagining. Try to imagine mentally the drawing or conceptual map to be realised to describe what is learnt.
  5. Self-evaluation. Answer to questions or create new questions for herself/himself on the learnt topic.
  6. Self-explanation. Produce a written or oral explanation about the learnt topic.
  7. Explain to somebody. Explain to another person what is learnt.
  8. Act physically. Manipulate objects, making gestures related to the learnt topic.

Manipulating objects is not always pertinent, especially when the action is not related to the learnt topic. Indeed, in this case the physical action is an additional cognitive distraction, in which she/he could encounter additional (and unnecessary) difficulties[4]. The preexisting learner knowledge is another factor of success: the more the learner knows about the topic the more the success. Therefore such activities are not pertinent when new notions are learnt[5].

Dynabook implications

In this learning model what really matters is to make the learner cognitively active. Therefore the Dynabook must be helpful on the eight categories presented in the previous section. Particularly:

  1. Summarizing/self-explanation. A simple text processor to write notes. Such notes should be easily categorized using tags. They should be easily retrieved by tag and time. As well oral notes should be as easy to produce, categorize and search for.
  2. Conceptual map. A simple conceptual map editor, again searchable by tags and date. A table editor to arrange ideas/concepts in a matrix.
  3. Drawing. A sketch tool for free drawing, Dynabook should come with an electronic pen.
  4. Self-evaluation. An ad-hoc tool to compile questions and answers. Alternatively the simple text processor can be used.

Any opinion on the topic? If so leave a comment for further reflection.

Thanks to Chao-Kuei Hung for his editing.


[1] M.T. Chi, Active-constructive-interactive: a conceptual framework for differentiating learning activities. Topic in cognitive science, 2009

[2] M.T. Chi, R. Wylie, The ICAP framework: linking cognitive engagement to active learning outcomes, Educational psychologist, 2014

[3] L. Fiorella, R.E. Mayer, Learning as a generative activity: Eight learning strategies that promote understanding, MIT Press, 2015

[4] F. Bara, A. Tricot, Le rôle du corps dans les apprentissages symboliques : apports des théories de la cognition incarnée et de la charge cognitive, Recherche sur la philosophie et le langage, 2017

[5] J. Sweller, P. Ayres, S. Kalyuga, Cognitive load theory, Springer, 2011