Monday, July 21, 2008

Donald Norman: A Scholar of Interest to Educational Technologists

When I was a doctoral student, I took graduate courses in computer science, psychology, management of information systems and educational psychology. One reason for this interdisciplinary choice of courses was the nature of educational technology itself, and my felt need to broaden my scholarship and doctoral coursework to include an understanding of other related disciplines. Another reason was that I had completed my master of science degree in the same educational psychology department, and had already taken most of the 'in-house' courses in my area.

In a computer science graduate course, Dr. Mildred Shaw assigned a paper entitled, "Norman, D. A. (1980). Twelve issues for cognitive science. Cognitive Science, 4, 1-32." Our task was to publish a brief review of the article on our web sites. In brief, Norman discusses 12 concepts, or issues, that must be considered in the study of Cognition (i.e., belief systems, consciousness, development, emotion, interaction, language, perception, learning, memory, performance, skill, thought). My "take" was that Norman argued for the discipline of cognitive science to adopt a broad view which includes consideration of evidence from various disciplines, such as the neurosciences, cognitive sociology and anthropology, linguistics, psychology, education, and the study of artificially intelligent mechanisms. Norman asserted the value of multiple philosophies, multiple viewpoints, multiple approaches to common issues -- which rang true to my developing understanding of educational technology as an interdisciplinary field of study. Norman argued that cognitive science could / should bring together heretofore disparate disciplines to work on common themes.

Norman's ideas about an interdisciplinary, multi-perspective approach to scholarship in this article resonated strongly with me and I began to gather and read his other works. In this context, I recommend that educational technologist students and researchers might like to read other books by this great thinker - I have read most of Donald Norman's books, and have used 3 of them as course texts*.

- Norman, D. (2007). The Design of Future Things.
- *Norman, D. (2004). Emotional Design: Why we love (or hate) everyday things.
- *Norman, D. (1999). The Invisible Computer: Why Good Products Can Fail, the Personal Computer Is So Complex, and Information Appliances Are the Solution. See review.
- *Norman, D. (1994). Things That Make Us Smart: Defending Human Attributes in the Age of the Machine.
- Norman, D. (1992). Turn Signals Are the Facial Expressions of Automobiles.
- Norman, D. (2002). The Design of Everyday Things: (originally under the title The Psychology of Everyday Things, 1988).

Learn more about Donald Norman and his works at these websites:
Donald Norman's jnd website:
Podcast on Emotional Design:

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