Teaching with ipynb, via Matt Davis

Matt Davis will be giving at talk at PyCon this year about teaching with the IPython Notebook. The part that interests me the most is that he intends to focus on how educators can minimize the cognitive load on students.

What is schema theory?

Schema theory suggests that individuals store all generic conceptual knowledge in mental structures called schemas. These schemas can: (1) vary in size, (2) be constructed in a hierarchy, (3) nest schemas within themselves, (4) interconnect with other schemas in many different ways.

What is cognitive load theory?

Human memory is divided into working (short-term) and long-term memory. While long-term memory is effectively infinite, working memory can only hold 5-7 items at a time. Cognitive load theory (CLT) suggests that methods exist for maximizing the working memory space and using it effectively/efficiently. Types of cognitive load that may be affecting working memory are:

Intrinsic cognitive load is imposed on memory by material that is to be learned. It varies according to the interrelatability of elements of learning – how many different learning tasks must be simultaneously held in working memory in order for a student to succeed.

Germane cognitive load occurs when a learner forms new schemas. This schema formation is the main goal of a teacher, since it refers to a student synthesizing information into their own existing world view and integrating it into their previous knowledge structures.

Extraneous cognitive load is nonessential and hinges on information/tasks that are not what the student is supposed to be learning.

CLT emphasizes the responsibility that educators have to minimize extraneous cognitive load for their students during their teaching. Currently, I’m not sure that ipynb actually does so, because installing and launching the Notebook is so difficult for new users. The interactive environment is definitely engaging, however.

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Image from Juha Sorva’s dissertation.

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