1. AI Episode 1: Intro to Artificial Intelligence in Teaching
  2. AI Episode 2: What Does An AI Teaching Assistant Look Like?
  3. AI Episode 3: Implications for Thought Leaders and Policy Developers
  4. Introducing Simulations into Teacher Preparation Programs
  5. Assistive Technology to Support Writing
  6. Enhancing Instruction and Empowering Educators with AI Tools and Technology
  7. So, AI Ruined Your Term Paper Assignment?
  8. Step by Step Use of Chat GPT
  9. CIDDL ChatGPT: Summarizing Text
  10. CIDDL ChatGPT: Solving Multiple Choice Questions
  11. Equity, Diversity, and Access to Technology in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
  12. CIDDL ChatGPT: Writing Programs
  13. CIDDL ChatGPT: Solving Word Problems
  14. Artificial Intelligence: Positives and Negatives in the Mathematics Classroom
  15. AI to Support Literacy
  16. Using the AI Bill of Rights to Guide Education’s use of AI and the European Commission’s “Ethical Guidelines for Teaching and Learning” to Guide the Future of AI in Education Part 1 of 2
  17. Using the AI Bill of Rights to Guide Education’s use of AI and the European Commission’s “Ethical Guidelines for Teaching and Learning” to Guide the Future of AI in Education Part 2 of 2
  18. Three Free & Easy Tools to Support Tiered Reading in Your Classroom
  19. The Question of Equity in the Age of ChatGPT
  20. CIDDList: 5 AIs You Need to Check Out This Summer!
  21. Mixed Reality Simulations, Personalized Learning, AI, and the Future of Education with Dr. Chris Dede
  22. Foundations for AI and the Future of Teaching and Learning from the US Department of Educational Technology
  23. Apple Enters the AR/VR/MR/XR Scene
  24. ChatGPT, AIs, and the IEP?
  25. There’s An AI for That: A Site Dedicated to Curating AIs
  26. UDL, Design Learning, and Personalized Learning
  27. Embracing the Future: How Teachers Can Harness AI at the Beginning of the School Year
  28. Empowering Special Education Faculty: Navigating the AI Landscape in Higher Education for 2023-2024.
  29. CIDDList: Back-to-School Checklist for Technology in Teacher Preparation Courses
  30. Cracking the Code: Students with Disabilities in the Computer Sciences 
  31. UNESCO Discusses Artificial Intelligence
  32. AI-integrated Apps for Those with Visual Impairments: Camera-Based Identifiers and Readers
  33. Publishers Respond to Generative AI
  34. K-12 Generative AI Readiness Checklist
  35. CIDDL Talks How AI Will Change Special Education at TED
  36. Re-designing and Aligning an Intro to Special Education Class to the UDL Framework through Technology Integration: Minimizing Threats and Distractions
  37. Resources for Learning About AI Going Into 2024
  38. Artificial Intelligence in Education 2023: A Year in Review
  39. Revolutionizing Mathematics Education in K-12 with AI: The Role of ChatGPT
  40. Image Generating AI and Implications for Teacher Preparation
  41. Are We There Yet? AI for Statistical Analysis
  42. Answers to Your AI Questions: A Conversation with Yacine Tazi
  43. Emerging Trends in Special Education Technology: A Doctoral Scholar Symposium
  44. 2024: A Space Odyssey? How AI and Technology of the Present Compares to HAL9000 and the Predictions of 2001: A Space Odyssey
  45. Using ChatGPT for Writing Lesson Plans
  46. Updates in the World of AI
  47. CIDDList: Exploring GPTs Available with ChatGPT Plus
  48. Prompt Engineering for Teachers Using Generative AI: Brainstorming Activities and Resources
  49. Understanding the AI in Your Classroom
  50. Jump on the MagicSchool.ai Bus!
  51. Using AI-Powered Chatbot for Reading Comprehension
  52. The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Cognitive Load
  53. Apple Intelligence: How Apple’s AI for the Rest of Us Will Impact Special Education Personnel Preparation
Parents and teen working on homework on a laptop

The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Cognitive Load

Authors: Yerin Seung; info@ciddl.org

Integrating technology into education is inevitable and potentially transformative in the digital age. Artificial intelligence (AI), in particular, stands out as a powerful tool with significant implications in education. AI may influence several cognitive variables in learning processes. One of the critical factors is cognitive load—the total amount of mental effort used in working memory. Understanding how AI influences cognitive load can help educators optimize educational practices to meet students’ diverse needs better.

What is Cognitive Load?

Cognitive load refers to the mental effort exerted in the working memory during learning activities (Sweller, 1988, 2011). It is typically categorized into intrinsic, extraneous, and germane cognitive loads. Intrinsic load is inherent to the difficulty of information and the knowledge material, the extraneous load is tied to how information is presented, and germane load is related to the effort put into schema construction or permanently storing knowledge in long-term memory. Effective educational practices aim to minimize intrinsic and extraneous loads while maximizing germane load.

Potential Advantages of AI on Cognitive Load

Artificial intelligence (AI) can significantly enhance the learning experience through personalization, optimization of information delivery, and increased engagement. By tailoring the learning experiences to the unique needs of individual students, AI can adjust the difficulty and presentation of materials. This maintains an optimal intrinsic cognitive load, making learning more efficient and less overwhelming. Additionally, AI tools can streamline the presentation of information and reduce extraneous cognitive load. For example, AI-powered tools or platforms can simplify complex concepts with visual aids or interactive simulations, making it easier for students to understand challenging topics. Furthermore, AI technologies such as gamified learning environments can positively influence germane cognitive load by deeply engaging students with the content and promoting effective schema construction, thereby enhancing motivation and knowledge retention.

Potential Disadvantages of AI on Cognitive Load

Integrating AI into education can benefit many aspects, but it also carries disadvantages if not used wisely. Most importantly, it has a risk of fostering an over-reliance on technology. Students may become excessively dependent on AI, diminishing their ability to engage with learning materials independently. Such dependence can take away even the proper amount of intrinsic cognitive load required for learning. It can adversely affect learning basic knowledge and skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Additionally, if AI tools are not designed to be user-friendly, their complexity can increase extraneous cognitive load by complicating the learning process rather than easing it. This could make educational experiences more challenging and undermine the very benefits that AI aims to provide.

Implications in Education

Integrating AI into education offers significant opportunities but also requires careful consideration of its effects on cognitive load. Educators must strive to balance the use of technology with traditional learning methods to ensure that AI tools enhance, rather than hinder, educational outcomes. The challenge for educators, policymakers, and technologists is responsibly and effectively harnessing this potential. By critically assessing AI's advantages and disadvantages in managing cognitive load, we can better prepare for a future where technology and education are increasingly intertwined.

Keep the Conversation Going

How do you think leveraging artificial intelligence will impact students’ learning? Share your thoughts in our community.


Sweller, J. (1988). Cognitive load during problem solving: Effects on learning. Cognitive Science, 12(2), 257–285.

Sweller, J. (2011). Cognitive Load Theory. In Psychology of Learning and Motivation (Vol. 55, pp. 37–76). Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-387691-1.00002-8