Open-ended learning environments (OELEs) use the capabilities of technology to provide students with opportunities to engage in authentic problem solving; generate, test, and revise hypotheses; explore and manipulate concepts; and reflect on what they know. By design, such environments require sophisticated levels of cognitive functioning. The purpose of this paper is to critically analyze assumptions underlying learner-centered, technology-based environments in light of how well learners appear to meet the cognitive demands for engaging them. Implications for design include the following considerations: (a) direct learner attention to key variables and visual cues; (b) prompt and guide connections to prior knowledge; and (c) provide explicit scaffolding of metacognition and teaching-learning strategies.
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