Thoughts About Off-Loading

Off-loading happens when a piece of technology is sued to help us in a difficult task. As described by Martin in his article, examples of off-loading may be “the use of a written list to aid in remem- bering a series of items, the use of calculators to do arithmetic during mathematical problem solving, or the use of an autocorrect function in a word-processor while com- posing text.” (Martin L., 94) We use off-loading in our every day lives.

In the classroom, off-loading is often utilized. They have calculators, and computers that make searching or figuring something out very simple and fast. However, there is off-loading that really benefits children, and acts as translation as well.

In my post about Translation in the Classroom, I discuss how the use of manipulatives (marshmallows) helped students learn how to solve story problems. To recap, I taught a lesson about solving story problems in math. I used manipulatives to help students visualize the problems. Then, we translated this strategy into just drawing dots to save the problems. This helped students make the connection between using physical objects to solve problems, and just drawing dots. I stressed this because this is something they will be able to use as a strategy to solve problems on standardized tests in which manipulatives are not available.

This is an example of off-loading. Solving story problems in first grade can be hard. Using manipulatives is a great way to make this task a little easier to tackle. This is because they can physically add or take away objects in order to solve the problem.

In this instance off-loading is needed because it does more than just make the problem easier to solve. It helps students imagine the problem in their minds and the process of adding or taking away. It is very helpful and often necessary for students to grasp material. It acts as a model for the students to use, and then do it themselves.

In that case, off-loading was beneficial because it helped the students make connections to their learning and act as an effect of technology because they will be able to solve story problems in the future without the help of technology.

There are some off-loading that is not beneficial. These cases would be when students are using materials and skills for the mere purpose of completion. An example of this would be using a search engine to find answers to a work sheet. If the students are using the search engine to just “copy and paste” the answers, then they are not benefitting in any way. They are using the internet to off-load finding the answers to make it easier. Like we have learned in the Morgan article, “copy and pasting” is ineffective.

In my classroom, I will be offloading in an effective way. I will absolutely have manipulatives available for use and other tools that help difficult problems become manageable when necessary. However, I will not provide tools for students to use that make problem solving easier, with no benefit.


Martin, L. (2012). Connection, Translation, Off-Loading, and Monitoring: A Framework for Characterizing the Pedagogical Functions of Educational Technologies.Technology, Knowledge & Learning17(3), 87-107.

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.


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