The new semester for Tallinn University students has started. Among others, there was a chance to listen Emanuele Bardone’s lecture “Philosophy of Cognition”. The course was held for the first time in Tallinn University and became popular among IMKE students. I, as one of IMKE students and participants, have only positive reflections to pass on. Although the course was very intensive with five long evening after hard working day, I always went to the classroom with excitement. The lecture had a frame with specific topics held every day, but eventually turned out as a mix of discussions and dialogues between the students and lecturer. I believe I am not wrong to suggest the course to others as well and hope to see mr. Bardone giving lectures here again.
At the end of the course, I asked on question from mr. Bardone about human cognition. The question was as follows: “Recently you have published the book … and in this book you write interesting ideas about human cognition as a chance seeking system. This viewpoint is well related to our own research in distributed learning enviroments, where each learner can perceive different learning affordances. Would you like to tell about how your ideas could be used in computer-based education with new media, what are your future plans in this area.”
Here is the answer: “Contrary to popular belief, learning is not just storing some piece of information in our mind to be retrieved some other time independently from environmental conditions. I strongly support the idea that learning sort of implies the reconfiguration of the way we are used to engage our environment – our cognitive niche, in my terminology – for solving problems. Basically, as we start learning, we sort of establish a better functional relationship with our environment so that new problem-solving capabilities are successfully unfolded and eventually added up to our cognitive repertoire. But how could we facilitate or favor this process to happen? The very idea is that much of this job consists in seeking chances. A chance is not meant to be just an accident or uncertainty. Conversely, it’s a particular situation or event from which we can get information about how to get further information. In education the great challenge faced by the teacher is to collaborate with the learner so as to explore and exploit such environmental chances. With the advent of computer-based education and digital ecosystems the need to take on this challenge has become more pressing than ever. Consider this: if learning can really be described as a process aimed at establishing a better functional relationship with the cognitive niche, then the challenge learning designers are facing is huge, as they literally become part of the learning process. But what kind of approach should we adopt? So far Peeter Normak and Kai Pata have done a great job in the direction to tackle down this issue. Central to their approach is the idea that the learning process in technologically rich environments is an emergent phenomenon analogous to the way an individual organism as part of a species adapts to a specific environment, namely, a niche. In their analogy, learners are like organisms acting in a ecological niche – the learning space – which dynamically evolves. As a future project, to me it would be absolutely interesting to see how the chance-seeking approach can really be contributing to develop this ecological approach.”