Constructivism 9: Mindtools

David H. Jonassen, with his colleagues Chad Carr and Hsiu-Ping Yeuh in Computers as Mindtools for Engaging Learners in Critical Thinking, (1998) proposes that learning is an active and creative process in that information is processed “mindfully” (p.30), since the learner not only collects information but also constructs a format for representing that information and transforming it into knowledge rather than merely aggregating units of information. This active creation of knowledge reflects the learner’s particular understanding and conception of the information, their own act of [knowledge] creation requires a relevant, environmental context.

Jonassen argues that while there are

numerous solutions to over-reliance on single formalisms for knowledge representation, an effective method (though not the only method) for supporting the representation of learner knowledge through multiple formalisms is to use computers as Mindtools to represent their knowledge. Mindtools are knowledge construction tools that learners learn with, not from. In this way, learners function as interpreters, organizers, and designers of their personal knowledge. Each Mindtool uses a different formalism for representing learners’ knowledge, engaging a different set of critical cognitive skills.

(2000, p.1)

He posits that technology, and particularly networked computers provide an appropriate environment for Mindtools to function. Jonassen (1994) identifies eight characteristics of the constructivist learning environment. Computer-based technologies should be used to keep learners active, constructive, collaborative, intentional, complex, contextual, conversational, and reflective (pp.28-32) (see Figure 1).

Cognitive Web

Figure 1. The Cognitive Web (“Design of constructivist learning environments”, 2007)


Next: More Mindtools



Carr, C. Jonassen, D. H. & Hsiu-Ping, Y. (1998) Computers as Mindtools for Engaging Learners in Critical Thinking [Internet] TechTrends 43(2). pp.24-32. March 1998