Ken Robinson is one of the world’s most influential voices in education, and his 2006 TED Talk on the subject is the most viewed in the organization’s history. Now, the internationally recognized leader on creativity and human potential focuses on one of the most critical issues of our time: how to transform the nation’s troubled educational system. At a time when standardized testing businesses are raking in huge profits, when many schools are struggling, and students and educators everywhere are suffering under the strain, Robinson points the way forward. He argues for an end to our outmoded industrial educational system and proposes a highly personalized, organic approach that draws on today’s unprecedented technological and professional resources to engage all students, develop their love of learning, and enable them to face the real challenges of the twenty-first century. Filled with anecdotes, observations and recommendations from professionals on the front line of transformative education, case histories, and groundbreaking research—and written with Robinson’s trademark wit and engaging style—Creative Schools will inspire teachers, parents, and policy makers alike to rethink the real nature and purpose of education.
Cognition is thinking, and the product of thinking is knowledge. Our species’ unique capacity for language empowered us to “mind-read” one another’s thoughts, creating and curating knowledge jointly through distributed, interactive cognition. The first and greatest cognitive revolution – the birth of language itself – took place about 300,000 years ago and created the Oral Tradition. Writing was the second revolution, 6000 years ago, creating the Written Record; print was the third, 600 years ago, creating the Published Archive. The fourth cognitive revolution is ongoing in our own era. With the invention of the Internet and the Web, humankind is on the verge of creating a Cognitive Commons – a global collaborative medium in which knowledge can be created and communicated at the speed of thought. Well, in the PostGutenberg era, even publishing one’s findings for those users whose institutions can afford to access them via subscription is no longer enough. Perhaps the best way to encapsulate contributions to the creation and curation of the Cognitive Commons is to have helped extend the Gutenberg era’s “publish or perish” mandate to the PostGutenberg era of “self-archive to flourish.”
“Cognizing” (e.g., thinking, understanding, and knowing) is a mental state. Systems without mental states, such as cognitive technology, can sometimes contribute to human cognition, but that does not make them cognizers. Cognizers can offload some of their cognitive functions onto cognitive technology, thereby extending their performance capacity beyond the limits of their own brain power. Language itself is a form of cognitive technology that allows cognizers to offload some of their cognitive functions onto the brains of other cognizers. Language also extends cognizers’ individual and joint performance powers, distributing the load through interactive and collaborative cognition. Reading, writing, print, telecommunications and computing further extend cognizers’ capacities. And now the web, with its network of cognizers, digital databases and software agents, all accessible anytime, anywhere, has become our “Cognitive Commons,” in which distributed cognizers and cognitive technology can interoperate globally with a speed, scope and degree of interactivity inconceivable through local individual cognition alone. And as with language, the cognitive tool par excellence, such technological changes are not merely instrumental and quantitative: They can have profound effects on how we think and encode information, on how we communicate with one another, on our mental states, and on our very nature.
A strong case can be made that the cognitive system is designed for guiding action, not, for example, symbol manipulation. I review empirical work demonstrating the link between action and cognition with special attention to the processes of language comprehension. Next, I sketch an embodied cognition framework for integrating work on language understanding with a more general approach to cognition and action. This general approach considers contributions to action of bodily states, emotions, social and cultural processes, and learning within a framework that generates a dynamic system. This framework is used to consider the notion of distributed cognition and the prospects that technology might induce substantial changes in cognition. My assessment is that such changes are unlikely.
Humans are closely coupled with their environments. They rely on being ‘embedded’ to help coordinate the use of their internal cognitive resources with external tools and resources. Consequently, everyday cognition, even cognition in the absence of others, may be viewed as partially distributed. As cognitive scientists our job is to discover and explain the principles governing this distribution: principles of coordination, externalization, and interaction. As designers our job is to use these principles, especially if they can be converted to metrics, in order to invent and evaluate candidate designs. After discussing a few principles of interaction and embedding I discuss the usefulness of a range of metrics derived from economics, computational complexity, and psychology.
As is often the case when scientific or engineering fields emerge, new concepts are forged or old ones are adapted. When this happens, various arguments rage over what ultimately turns out to be conceptual misunderstandings. At that critical time, there is a need for an explicit reflection on the meaning of the concepts that define the field. In this position paper, we aim to provide a reasoned framework in which to think about various issues in the field of distributed cognition. We argue that both relevant concepts, distribution and cognition, must be understood as continuous. As it is used in the context of distributed cognition, the concept of distribution is essentially fuzzy, and we will link it to the notion of emergence of system-level properties. The concept of cognition must also be seen as fuzzy, but for a different reason: due to its origin as an anthropocentric concept, no one has a clear handle on its meaning in a distributed setting. As the proposed framework forms a space, we then explore its geography and (re)visit famous landmarks.