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Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Information Processing Theory and Its Effect on Children and Learning

"You are the watcher; the mind is the watched. It is a beautiful mechanism, one of the most beautiful mechanisms that nature has given to you." -
The mind is truly an amazing thing, and the information that it processes is immense. The intrigue that the mind provides for people causes it to be a subject of much study. In order to be an effective and understanding teacher it is important to understand how information is processed by the mind. As a teacher you must be able to maximize the amount of information the brain processes, and maintain and encourage normal development of abilities and thought processes. The information processing theory is an interesting theory that discusses how a person processes information as a child and how the child's processing develops as the child ages; environment and heredity can influence information processing and the intelligence of a person.
From birth, people are confronted with stimulation and information that their minds must process. The information processing theory is a "group of theoretical frameworks that address how human beings receive, think about, mentally modify, and remember information, and on how such cognitive processes change over the course of development" (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2004, p. 186). There are many key components that are involved in the information processing theory. The three areas of the memory that hold information are called the "sensory register", the "working memory", and the "long-term memory"; information is first received at the sensory register, it is then processed by the working memory, and after some other complex processes it may be transferred to the long-term memory (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2004, p. 186). There are many things that cause information to move through these memory banks. These components are called "attention", "rehearsal, organization, and elaboration" (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2004, p. 186). There are factors that influence how and what information is processed, and the processes develop as a person grows. Without all of these factors a person would not be able to perceive, understand, use, and remember the information they are given everyday. The information processing theory is a theory that explains how people perceive, remember, and store the massive amounts of information they are subjected to everyday.
Information is received through a person's senses, it comes from the environment around you, and it is referred to as the sensory register (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2004). There are two other places where information is stored in the memory, and they are called working memory and long-term memory. Working memory is where information is processed and "problem solving" occurs; the working memory usually only processes things for a short period of time. The working memory will process information for longer periods of time if the person is actively concentrating on the information. Long-term memory is where the information remembered over time is kept; there are many ways that information is moved from working memory into long term memory (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2004, p. 187). Attention is another key idea in information processing because it is what causes information to move from the sensory register to the working memory. There are many processes that cause information to move from the working memory into long-term memory. These processes are called rehearsal, organization, and elaboration (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2004). People have a mechanism that controls the information they process. This mechanism is called the "central executive", and it is "critical for planning, decision making, self-regulation, and inhibition of unproductive thoughts and behaviors" (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2004, p. 188). Another idea in the information process theory is that the development of abilities and cognitive processes occurs steadily and gradually through trends. The mind and the way it processes information is very complex and continues to develop.
As a child grows the way they process information and how the process work develops and changes as the child grows. In infancy babies show signs of learning as soon as they are born; they also show a "preference for moderately complex stimuli" at this age (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2004, p. 201). The ability to classify objects is evident during infancy, and an infant's "attention (is) easily drawn to intense and novel stimuli" (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2004, p. 201). During early childhood the attention span of a child is short, and children are easily distracted. At such a young age children are limited in relation to their knowledge because they have not had much experience with variable stimulation. From the age of 6 to ten years old children are more capable of focusing on important information, and they are not distracted as easily as before. Middle childhood is also characterized by "increasingly symbolic nature of thought and knowledge", "gradual automatization of basic skills", and an "expanding base of knowledge" (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2004, p. 201). Early adolescence is a point for children where their ability to focus on one task for an hour or so is developed. Basic skills such as writing and math are basically automatized, and knowledge base is expanded in relation to school subjects and interests. During late adolescence a child's ability to focus on tasks is extended to lengthy periods of time instead of an hour, and their knowledge has increased to become "extensive and somewhat integrated" in some areas of content (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2004, p. 201).
Environment and heredity are both factors that can influence intelligence and the processing of information. Environment influences perception, and "perception of one's surroundings is essential for survival, the human species has undoubtedly evolved some biologically built in perceptual mechanisms" (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2004, p. 201). Children are born into environments and the information they are first confronted with comes from direct stimulation from the environments they are in. The environment inevitably has an affect on what a child perceives and what information is remembered and thought about. Environments vary and the factors instilled in children in relation to knowledge vary as well. As a child grows older the child's environment expands as does the child's base of knowledge. Heredity is also a factor that affects the development of processing information and intelligence. Heredity can cause children to have mental illnesses that can cause mental developments to not happen at the normal rate. Heredity is also relevant to processing information because it affects children's natural inclination of what information to remember; this is also caused by the environment. A child is born into an environment that is completely determined by the parents and surrounding society. The society's thoughts and actions are presented to the child. I do believe that heredity and environment automatically influence a child's development because of the issues both the environment and heredity present the child with from birth, but I also believe that the child is born with freewill and free thought, and the child can overcome most influences of environment and heredity if the child chooses to; I think this may be affected by the complex executive mechanism that is involved with the information processing ability of he mind. I also acknowledge that the impact of the child's heredity and environment may cause the child to develop in a different way than anticipated because of negative environmental situations.
The information processing theory is a very complex theory that attempts to categorize the way information is recognized, utilized, and stored in the memory. It is an extremely intense topic to approach because it is abstract ideas that are being studied and recorded. This theory recognizes the ability for a person to control what information is processed and the changes and developments of these abilities. The mind works in mysterious ways, and it is important for teacher's to be aware of how a child develops to be to truly reach students. It is also important for teacher's to be able to recognize the development of children in order to teach effectively and maximize the student's information processing ability; it is also relevant because teacher's can plan lessons that are structured in accordance with the developmental needs of the students. If a child is not developing at a normal rate, a teacher will be more aware of this problem, if the teacher is already knowledgeable of the information processing theory. Overall the information processing theory is a valuable tool in order to teach effectively, and understand how the memory actually works.
Think Exist. (2006). Finding quotations was never easier! Retrieved October 28, 2007, from
McDevitt, T., & Ormrod, J. (2004). Child Development: Educating and Working with Children and Adolescents (2nd ed.). : Prentice Hall

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