During the testing of Cognaware, something struck me. While answering the questions, you have to think about them. Not just a quick answer kind of thinking, but a dig deep to see if I know this kind of thinking. Not a difficult dig deep, but a digging that is required to judge whether you know the answer or not. Talk about a simple desirable difficulty.
Work spanning 30 – 40 years has found that introducing anything that makes a learner slow down and think about something increases the probability that they will remember it increases – sometimes dramatically. The testing effect is the current leader in embedding memories that don’t go away. The one week delayed recall with the testing effect demonstrates that the forgetting index is 30 – 40% lower than when learners simply study the material over and over.
Other effects that take advantage of the slow down and think desirable difficulties phenomena are the disfluency effect, spacing effect, organization effect, and the effect of discussions on learning. Getting learners to think about something involves deeper processing which has been shown again and again to foster better understanding and longer retention of information. In other words, the deeper processing of information actually leads to transforming information into knowledge and keeping the learning in there for longer than four days after an exam.
Desirable difficulties are a good thing in learning. Often the difficulties introduced are seemingly very slight (disfluency effect), but they work.
Cognaware introduces a new desirable difficulty in remembering information. We observed that the subjects in our studies quickly learned the answers to the questions that we were using, meaning that we had to constantly use new material in order to test the metacognitive effects. But, this learning can be hugely advantageous for students trying to remember the material.
Anyone who has read my writings will know that I do not equate memorization with learning. However, I have also acknowledged that remembering information – memorizing material – is crucial to building understanding. It is just that in today’s world of education, memorization has become the definition of learning – which I strongly disagree with. Before I get carried away, I will move on from the memorization = learning idea.
Memorization plays a central role in learning. My new app, Cognaware, helps learners remember material as a new desirable difficulty.
Although my app will be missing some of the components that I was hoping to include (shallow pocket syndrome), I am hoping to be able to generate enough money from the app to be able to incorporate a user upload feature for question banks. Right now, I have to upload all the question banks, which I’m happy to do if you ask me to.
We’ll have to see how things play out, but for now, one of the things that I can say, with confidence, is that using Cognaware, as a way for learners to remember material, will increase the ability and speed of memorization as well as the retention of information exponentially when compared to regular quiz practice, flashcards, or repeated studying of material. Something worth thinking about.
The app is still free, but there is a revenue-generating feature that I am hoping will allow me to fully develop the app to meet the needs of researchers and teachers wanting to use it for other purposes.
Watch for it next week – or more likely two weeks since nothing is ever finished when you want it to be done.