Workplace Learning: Mindtools 2

In Computers as Mindtools for Engaging Learners in Critical Thinking (1998), David Jonassen, Chad Carr, and Hsiu-Ping Yeuh propose that learning is an active and creative process where 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 process of actively creating  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 (see Table 1). Computer-based technologies should be used to keep learners active, constructive, collaborative, intentional, complex, contextual, conversational, and reflective (pp.28-32) (see Figure 1).

The Cognitive Web

Figure 1. the Cognitive Web (after Jonassen, 2007)





Carr, C., Jonassen, D. H., & Hsiu-Ping, Y. (1998). Computers as Mindtools for Engaging Learners in Critical Thinking. TechTrends 43(2). pp.24-32. March 1998 [Internet] accessed 17 October 2017, <https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%252FBF02818172.pdf>.


  1. I totally agree with the basic tenet of this piece but…

    I’m increasingly allergic to T&L jargon such as intentional (many of the best ideas occur when people are half asleep or thinking about something else) and reflective (in T&L this means pretending you are concentrating for the benefit of the teacher, not trying to think objectively about an experience…)

    And I’m sorry but… that is an absolutely dreadful graphic – it means nothing! A bulleted list of words would have done the trick. They are not all equally interconnected in reality.

    Sorry Michael you caught me at a bad moment. Blame the volcanic ash from Iceland!

    Best wishes, keep blogging, Imogen

    • Oh dear; sorry to have caught you on a bad day Imogen!

      Broadly speaking I agree with you about the jargon (in general as well as in T&L specifically), and you’re correct – we’ve all been struck by inspiration when thinking about something other than the problem to hand. I’ll make two points:
      1] Sometimes using commonly-understood terms is the most effective way to get ideas across, and (for example) reflective practise is a well-established way of enhancing your skills. That is, you undertake an activity and upon completion you consider your work, what went well, what went not so well, what you would change next time, an so on.
      2] This series of E-Learning Curve Blog posts is specifically discussing learning practise in the workplace, where learning is typically aligned with workers’ performance in the organization, so you tend to find people actively (and intentionally) seeking out learning and training.

      BTW – Had a look at your site – it’s very interesting. As an allotmenteer here in Dublin I’ll definitely be checking out the iPhone apps you suggest.


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