You are here:

Applying distributed cognition theory to the redesign of the ‘Copy and Paste’ function in order to promote appropriate learning outcomes

, ,

Computers & Education Volume 50, Number 1, ISSN 0360-1315 Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


This paper explores the application of distributed cognition theory to educational contexts by examining a common learning interaction, the ‘Copy and Paste’ function. After a discussion of distributed cognition and the role of mediating artefacts in real world cognitions, the ‘Copy and Paste’ function is redesigned to embed an effective interaction strategy, based on encoding strategies, into the interface. The current affordances of the ‘Copy and Paste’ interaction derived from its business heritage (speed and accuracy of reproduction) are contrasted with those needed for a learning interaction (the meaningful processing of content for understanding). An empirical study was conducted to test the efficacy of the redesigned function through an experimental treatment. The study examined the impact of an experimental treatment based on changes to the ‘Copy and Paste’ function in terms of:changes to interaction strategies employed by learners;changes in learner familiarity with note taking and summarisation interaction strategies;changes to the features of the text produced by learners.The experimental task consisted of participants completing three short written assessment tasks based on multiple text resources using either: (i) Control treatment: standard notepad tools supplemented by a text-based resource outlining note-taking and summarisation strategies; or (ii) Experimental treatment: the modified notepad. The results of the study showed that participants in the experimental group spent significantly more time engaged in activities that indicated higher levels of cognitive processing and produced notes that contained text features that also indicated significantly higher levels of cognitive processing.


Morgan, M., Brickell, G. & Harper, B. (2008). Applying distributed cognition theory to the redesign of the ‘Copy and Paste’ function in order to promote appropriate learning outcomes. Computers & Education, 50(1), 125-147. Elsevier Ltd. Retrieved November 14, 2019 from .

This record was imported from Computers & Education on February 1, 2019. Computers & Education is a publication of Elsevier.

Full text is availabe on Science Direct:


Cited By

View References & Citations Map

These links are based on references which have been extracted automatically and may have some errors. If you see a mistake, please contact