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Technology for Learning: Moving from the Cognitive to the Anthropological Stance

Michael Eisenberg
University of Colorado, Boulder
Thursday, February 16, 2012
11:00 a.m., Room 1000 SEO

Abstract: Heading link

Most current research in educational technology proceeds from a philosophical stance based upon cognitive science. Typical questions implied by this stance include: How do we help students develop more accurate or fruitful knowledge structures? How do we overcome misconceptions in science or mathematics? How do we train skills more efficiently, employing what we know of human memory and learning? How do we encourage the growth of metacognitive skills? While such questions are interesting, this paper argues that they are ultimately peripheral for the purposes of designing effective educational technology. Indeed, the “cognitive science stance” tends to ignore or take for granted issues that are, in fact, much more central and productive in guiding design. These are questions rooted in anthropology, not cognitive science. They include: How and why do children make friends? What features of physical settings encourage (or discourage) the development of children’s interest? Why, and in what situations, do children develop intense intellectual passions and obsessions? This paper discusses the sorts of questions that designers of educational technology need to ask in order to make progress beyond the confines of cognitive science research.

Brief Bio: Heading link

Michael Eisenberg is a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His research interests focus on mathematics and science education, and in blending novel technologies with the best traditions of hands-on crafts for children. He is the author of a programming textbook, a published play, and a (still frustratingly unpublished) murder mystery, along with lots of academic papers. He received his doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1991.

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