Once information is brought into working memory through sensory reception, encoding and processing of that information must begin as, previously discussed, in order for knowledge to be stored in long-term memory. Whereas short-term (working memory) emphasizes the “perceptual qualities” of sensory data, long-term memory emphasizes “meanings” (Eichenbaum 407). Processing activities in the classroom aim to use the sensory data in a way that facilitates the complex processing activities of working memory.
Rhetorical Analysis and Process Pedagogy
Rhetorical analysis, or analysis of audience, purpose, context, etc., helps to deconstruct content down to individual components making it easier to make connections with prior knowledge. Thinking about the broader topic of an assignment may not cue any connections with prior knowledge. However, students who analyze the assignment and topic in terms of the rhetorical situation may find numerous connections between the audience or purpose, for example, which may open a domain of knowledge for them to use in this new context. The writing process itself, in many ways, mirrors the sort of analytic and organizational process happening in memory. As students engage in writing as an activity, they are practicing memory processes which strengthen transfer. Jody Shipka asserts, "writing is rarely depicted as an activity that 'unfolds over time,' demanding of writers the ability to manage physically, emotionally, and temporally the complicated, highly distributed, and oftentimes, less-than-glamorous 'busy work' of writing" (57). When students resist engaging in the process of writing by haphazardly, without much thought, throwing words quickly on a page, they miss the benefits to memory and transfer which await those willing to struggle through the process of writing. Engaging rhetorical analysis and process pedagogy in the classroom can help students reap the benefits in memory processing that writing mirrors.
Brown, Roediger, and McDaniels define elaboration as a “process of giving new material meaning by expressing it in your own words and connecting it to what you already know” (5). Elaboration was one of the milestones students were required to overcome in classical rhetorical pedagogy and was viewed as an important skill for the orator. What is important for memory, though, is that students are being pushed to try to make connections. Elaboration asks students to draw upon stored knowledge and experiences to "draw out" an explanation using only the knowledge they have stored. This practice forces students to participate in effortful connection-making between new and stored knowledge which strengthens synaptic connections, "improves mastery of new material," and multiplies mental cues available for later recall" (Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel 207). Studies have found that contextualizing knowledge helps strengthen learning because the more that is known about a subject, the more can be learned (Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel 5-6). The more meaning information is given through connections to current memory, the better ones long-term retention (Brown, Roediger, and mcDaniel 6). Elaboration can be used in the classroom by giving a concept and asking students to expand it, such as is often done during a free writing or journaling activity. The internet offers the potential of using weblogs or websites for such purposes that can engage students visually and make their writing more meaningful since it is published in a real context online.
Generation helps prepare students minds for learning by asking them to generate responses to a problem or question for which they do not have the solution. This struggle not only gets students to think about the content, but also helps them be more open-minded about learning while strengthening memory. "Generation has the effect of making the mind more receptive to new learning" (Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel 208) and acts as a form of experiential learning where the learner sets out to learn through their own personal experience and attempt of trying to solve a problem through a personal store of knowledge and experiences. Having students try to solve a problem before coming to class or generate lists of important ideas in readings, etc. can be a great way to incorporate generation in composition courses. The internet can also be used by asking students to, for example, describe the rhetorical strategies used on a given website before telling them what specifically to look for. After investing in generation of ideas prior to class, students are sure to pay closer attention when the same item is discussed in class.
Constructing activities are those which constitute the majority of graded assignments in a course and are "performance activities that ask students to expand, reform, apply, or extend their knowledge by making something, producing something, building something, or creating something" (Norton and Wiburg 49). In other words, constructing activities ask students to make use of, or apply, knowledge and skills they have learned. A variety of writing, speaking, multimodal, and research oriented projects constitute constructing activities. Digital Technology offers may new tools and resources to make these sorts of activities engaging to students. Some ideas include creating concept maps using visual design programs, presentations, and website or weblog design. Norton and Wiburg recommend a three-step process for designing cognitive (or concept) maps: "1) brainstorm collectively for main concepts; 2) build a web of relationships and connections between ideas; 3) make connections between the main concept map" (104). Constructing these sorts of road maps illustrates pathways for "connecting meanings of concepts in propositions" which can be a "powerful tool in facilitating learning and recall" (Norton and Wiburg 102). Digital technology offers numerous programs that can be utilized for presentations such as PowerPoint, Google Presentations, Slide Share, Prezi, and PechaKucha. Each of these offer benefits for learning and sharing knowledge in a digital processing space focused on the presentation of information through organization and sequencing. However, Prezi and PechaKucha provide benefits that differ from the others and may proove especially useful for memory building and connection. Prezi offers a non-linear format which researchers Howland, Jonassen, and Marra say "encourages students to analyze the information they are using, make connections, and consider how the visual display of information may affect the message. A Prezi enables users to show relations and context" (108). PechaKucha Asks students to find visual representations of their messages and gives them timed slides to recall and verbally share the information. The practice using images to trigger memory can strengthen memory connections by practicing retrieval.
Lastly, designing websites or weblogs asks students to visually and textually engage in the communication of ideas. This online presence brings with it exigence and experiential learning. A unique, and effective, aspect of web design is the capability to create hyperlinks which "contribute to meaning relations between the elements in a text in ways that can amplify the question of what to attend to, what to select--or put differently, what to 'make meaningful'" (Jewitt 77). Hyperlinking provides a visual tool for making connections between material and can push back against the restrictions imposed by linearly written textual formats. Greater connectivity can happen when the bounds of linear formats are removed. As J. Lemke says, "It is not simply that we juxtapose image, text, and sound; we design multiple interconnections among them, both potential and explicit" (300). In design of the website that accompanies this thesis, I found that the non-linear format offered online through inter-connectivity between pages allowed me to make greater connections between data that was more challenging to do in the traditional spreadsheet format.
As one of the trends for learning in the digital age, sociocognitive learning can act as a powerful tool for cognitive processing. The use of discussion boards, social networks, group collaboration, etc. can be beneficial for practiced recall, elaboration, generation, learning from peers, and constructing cognitive structures. Howland, Jonassen, and Marra assert the value of social learning when they write "Conversation centered on project work is instrumental in building knowledge in the cognitive domain; informal conversation initiated by students and focused on student's lives and personal interest has great potential not only for cognitive learning outcomes but also for constructive outcomes in the affective domain" (97). Asking students to work in groups, discuss topics with one another, and communicate in online forums are some of the ways to reap these cognitive benefits in the classroom.