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Higher Order Thinking in an Online World: Toward a Theory of Web-Mediated Knowledge Synthesis

by Michael DeSchryver - 2014

Background/Context: The rapid pace of technological change, undergirded by near ubiquitous access to the web, is producing a new learning ecology—a new ecology of information, of knowledge, of reading, of teaching, and of thinking. This instant availability of digital resources frees both time and cognitive energy that may be used to facilitate higher order thinking. This article provides a framework through which to better understand, evaluate, and scaffold the generative synthesis of knowledge in a web-mediated world.

Purpose/Objective: The purpose of this article is to describe a theory that can stimulate additional scholarly work examining higher order, or generative, thinking in web-mediated environments.

Research Design: The author outlines theory development based on two explicit steps. First, he reviews scholarly literature from educational psychology, reading comprehension, hypertext and web-based reading, cognitive flexibility, and creativity. Based on this process, he develops a proto-theory for web-based synthesis. Then, using this three-fold operationalization of synthesis, the author reports findings from a multiple-case study of advanced learners on the web, resulting in further elaboration of the concept of web-based knowledge synthesis.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The author proposes a theory of web-mediated knowledge synthesis comprising seven interacting elements: (a) divergent keyword search phrases; (b) synthesis for meaning; (c) in-the-moment insights; (d) repurposing; (e) reinforcement; (f) note-taking; and (g) creative synthesis. Through these elements, this theory provides a road map for further exploration of how web users can construct knowledge that adds value to the information they encounter every day.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 12, 2014, p. 1-44
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17692, Date Accessed: 10/28/2020 10:23:21 AM

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About the Author
  • Michael DeSchryver
    Central Michigan University
    E-mail Author
    MICHAEL DESCHRYVER is an assistant professor at Central Michigan University. His research explores the nature of teaching, thinking, and learning in the new ecology of digital information and knowledge. Recent publications include Technology, Learning, Creativity, and Design: The Habits of Mind Necessary to Generate New Ways of Teaching in a Career of Constant Change (with Sean Leahy, Matthew Koehler, and Leigh Graves Wolf) and New Forms of Deep Learning on the Web: Meeting the Challenge of Cognitive Load in Conditions of Unfettered Exploration (with Rand Spiro).
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