Learning Through Experience: the dialogue necessary to learn with technology

September 26, 2005

“. . empowering learners to design and produce their own knowledge representations and educational communications can be a powerful learning experience” -Reeves, 1998 .1

We propose integrating video technology into course content in a way that allows learning with the technology in addition to learning from it.2; 3 Learning from technology is frequently a component of coursework. Instructors use technology to create and present course information in multiple representations – text, audio, images, and problem solving exercises. Cognitive psychology-based research on learning and performance demonstrates that student learning can be facilitated by appropriate use of multimodal information.4 Thoughtful incorporation of information in multiple formats during instruction presents the information at the right level of abstraction for the learner. 5 When designed with the learning outcome in mind, integrating multiple formats should minimize the cognitive workload. It boils down to interpreting the signal-to-noise ratio for a particular learning task. In general, learners perform better at less complex tasks with fewer stimuli. If text will meet the learner’s needs, then do not add graphics or audio. Extraneous information in multiple forms becomes “noise” to the learner. Learners are more likely to benefit from more stimuli or signals when they are presented with greater levels of abstractness in complex tasks. The multiple representation of information is interpreted as part of the signal, not as noise, and is used by the learner to solve the task.5; 6 This expression of the signal-to-noise ratio is very dependent on the specific learning task and emphasizes the need for careful evaluation of the levels of abstractness within a learning task. 7

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