Reflection for the 4th week.

Articles read:
Barron, A.E., & Kysilka, M.L.(1993). The Effectiveness of Audio in Computer-based Education. Journal of Research on Computing in Education 25(3), 277-289.
Beentjes, J.W.J., & van der Voort, T.H.A. (1993). Television viewing versus reading: Mental effort, retention, and inferential learning. Communication Education, 42(1), 191-205
Roberts, D. S. L., Cowen, P.S., & MacDonald, B.E. (1996). Effects of narrative structure and emotional content on cognitive and evaluative responses to film and text. Empirical Studies of the Arts, 14(1), 33-47.
Salomon, G. (1984). Television Is "Easy" and Print Is "Tough": The Differences investment of mental effort in learning as a function of perceptions and attributions. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76 (4), 647-58.
Salomon, G. (1979). Differential uses of mental skills for learning. In Interaction of media, cognition, and learning (pp. 88-112). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


While reading the articles of this week, I noticed that the main course I read are well-designed quantitative study while the side courses have more theoretical inspiration.

Barron (1993). In this paper, Barron and Kysilka provided a good direction, channel hypotheses, in interpreting the potential effects of media in learning. The related hypotheses are powerful and natural in connecting the research on learning and media with the study on the central nervous system, or the brain. The purpose of the study was to investigate the effect of Computer-based training (CBT) program delivered through different communication channels (audio and text) and redundancy level. The authors assigned 60 undergraduate students to groups with different treatments of Text, Full, and Partial, regarding to different combination of text and digital audio learning material. They did a good job in testing the reliability and the validity of pretest and posttest. After a series of statistical analysis with t- test, ANOVA, and Chi-square, there was no significant difference found in the different delivery methods and the corresponding comprehension of learning materials. This is a well-presented paper. However, there is unnecessary confusion for the data in table 2 where there are obvious mistakes in the Sum of Squares for Sources of Between and Within.

Beentjes (1993). This article developed its idea based on the study of Salomon’ work on TV and print. This is another well-presented paper with a favor of qualitative experimental study. The most important facts of this paper is that it was conducted with the awareness of the comparison between Netherlands young students and US young students. The contribution of this study to the field is that the authors applied retrospective measure in a more extended time frame. However, some important factors that may potentially affect the research result and conclusion were not concerned, such as extent of the parents’ supervision in Dutch students’ TV time in their daily life compared with that of the US families. For example, the difference of supervision activity may affect Dutch students’ behavior towards TV based learning materials. Please see Salomon, G. (1979).

Roberts (1996). The study focused on the comparison of media in forms of films and text. The authors studied the effects of the structure (linear, quasi-linear, and nonlinear) of narration in film and text, the emotional aroused (negative or positive), and the individual difference (gender and personal preference of different media) on the recall of narratives (primary and secondary information, and aesthetic). The authors provided a good comparison on film and text processing that gave the explanation to the question why film and text were not equally recalled. Their supporting theories were based on codes (i.e. film “consists a set of codes” like “iconic, verbal, and auditory”, while “text is the notation of a code” (p.34).). They also introduced Salomon’s perspective of different media affecting acquisition and mastery of intellectual skills. Furthermore they discussed the influence of depth of processing on memory. This is also a key player in the study of effects of media difference on recall. The authors’ findings were consistent with prior studies. However, they implicitly showed intention of study on cognitive level of the phenomena, they did not really investigate it.

Salomon (1984): Television is “Easy” and Print is “tough”…
In this paper, Salomon focused his research target on the learners’ side in the media effects on learning study. The concepts of amount of invested mental effort (AIME), learners’ perceived demand characteristics (PDC), and learners’ perceived self-efficacy (PSE) were all tightly bonded with learners. According to his reasoning, “PDC of the task, material, and context are possibly related to… PSE, and both affect AIME, which in turn influences learning” (p. 649). Based on this interpretation, Salomon formed four hypotheses on children’s behavior towards TV and print. He used print and silent TV film as the learning materials in the absence of clear instruction. His research conducted on 124 sixth graders “tend to support the claim that differential perceptions of classes of materials, …, are related to perceived self-efficacy in learning from them, and that these factors are related to AIME, which in turn is related to learning…” (p. 655). However, the roles of different stimuli in the learning phenomena were left unsolved.

Salomon (1979). This paper is very informative in a sense that it develops the consideration of symbolic form, mental scheme, and coding elements into a very constructive discussion of generalization of the whole symbol system. In this paper, the authors presented three hypotheses based on a well-developed rationale related to coding elements and symbol system and symbolic form. In later discussion in this paper, the authors also used cognitive effects and instructional effectiveness of a symbol system to illustrate the hypotheses: “…effects reflect the interaction between a symbol system and one’s mastery of the needed mental skills, effectiveness reflects the interaction between the activated mental skills and the skill-requirements of the task…” (p. 110). I briefly described them as, based on my understanding of the rationale, hypotheses about layman, when supplant exists, and automaticity. The authors investigated these hypotheses on 220 fifth graders with a TV experiment designed by conducting six pretests for specific mental skills and posttests with two knowledge-acquisition tests. The result showed supportive evidence that there were specific or unique code elements presented in the mental coding system. Later on, their discussion of top-down vs. bottom-up processes explained well the phenomena accompanying with the three hypotheses. Two additional findings make this paper more advanced in understanding the construction of the fundamental factors that can potentially explain the phenomena in this field. The first is about the range of stimuli. “…large stimulus units call upon more general abilities, and smaller coding elements call upon more specific skills” (p.112). The second is about the role of learning tasks play in the picture. “… task requirements, whether imposed or self-selected, determine what kinds of information are to be extracted, and this choice determines in turn what kinds of coding elements within the message are to be addressed…” (p.108). I am much more comfortable reading this paper since it gave me more answer to the chaos raised by Clark and other empirical studies in this week’s readings where the research was not touching on one of the core issues of media difference and their impacts on learning: the symbolic system of the task and the capacity of learners mastery level of different mental skills.
There is another part of the discussion providing me a good picture of understanding media and its functions in learning: “… One medium will yield the same learning outcomes as another whenever common coding elements are employed, leading in effect to the activation of the same (task-relevant or irrelevant) mental skills. …, when different coding elements are used, different mental skills will be activated. To the extent that some of them are more task-relevant than others, one medium will yield better learning outcomes than another…” (p. 110). Apparently, more well designed empirical study need to follow to make this statement more reliable.

What do you think makes for a good research question to address with respect to learning via differing media? Why is this question better than others?

I think there should be two aspects that a good researcher should consider when they generate their research question. The first is the big idea. For both this week and last week’s reading, some of the papers do not really capture the core issue of the media study and its impact on learning, such as Clark who just stayed in the zone of method and media debate without really connect the media, cognitive psychology, study on brain/nerve system, social cultural difference (while conduct comparison study), and individual difference etc. Only after understand the bigger picture, could a good research question be proposed to investigate problems in learning via different media. I think the work of Salomon could be a good example. The second is if or not the question is doable or practical.

1. In Beentjes's study, did they investigate if or not some of the students already watched that TV program, or some version of that?
2. Why a silent film instead a real film with sound was selected in Salomon's work (1984)?

In class discussion:
1.I'd like to connect the readings so far with three key words: code, channel, and automaticity. I want to hear how others generalize the common factors shared by the readings or the researches we have been studying.
2.Also, it would be nice if we can generate a list of visual media that are active in learning and teaching. Add to that list, a list of media in general that is applicable to learning task.
The list for visual media I have so far: map, words/text/book, film, TV, hypertext, flash/animation, sign, drawing, music notes, braille...