45 paper

The ‘copy and paste’ function: A flawed cognitive tool in need of redesign

Michael Morgan
Faculty of Information Technology
Monash University

Gwyn Brickell, Barry Harper
Faculty of Education
University of Wollongong

This paper argues that the traditional version of the ‘copy and paste’ function used in many computer-mediated learning environments is a flawed cognitive tool for learning applications and may in fact subvert the constructivist philosophy of many learning packages. An initial study was conducted, using distributed cognition theory to redesign the interface of the ‘copy and paste’ function, to examine the efficacy of embedding a specific interaction strategy (reported in Morgan et al., 2006a, 2006b). The embedded interaction strategy involved summarisation note taking tasks and the results of this empirical study are outlined in order to establish the efficacy of this approach. This paper goes on to argue that this principle can be extended to include a wider variety of interaction strategies designed to invoke different encoding techniques (Lutz, 2000), including note taking, categorisation and concept mapping. By embedding different interaction strategies into the interface of the ‘copy and paste’ function an effective processing strategy emerges as a consequence of employing the tool. In addition the learner is exposed to a range of processing strategies and may become conscious of choosing the appropriate interaction strategy for the specific task at hand, thereby improving their metacognitive skills. A series of further studies are advocated to examine the effects of the approach that has been outlined.

Keywords: distribute cognition, mediating artefacts, cognitive tools, constructivism