week 5.2 – Cognition, Multimedia, and Saving the World

This week in ED 256 we read two articles concerning the propensity for human cognition (Burleson, 2005: Moreno and Mayer, 1999), and a TED talk by Jane McGonigal: Gaming Can Make a Better World.

Winslow Burleson’s article brings together contemporary research related to ideas about “creativity, motivation, and self-actualization” in a somewhat abstract and broad overview. There are many terms and concepts that are culled from psychology, engineering, education, and computer science that Burleson brings into this article. I occasionally found it difficult to follow Burleson’s use of these terms because I do not have a background in those disciplines. But since Burleson is highlighting the work of others, a few research topics and ideas garnered my attention. Ultimately, I realized that this article reminded me of what it is like to learn play a musical instrument.

Burleson begins his article with a literature review of leading contributors who have discussed “creativity, motivation, and self-actualization” (437). I immediately connected with Edgar Faure’s work because it reminded me of how I learned to play music. Faure contends that people should be encouraged to develop their “individual gifts, aptitudes and personal forms of expression” (437).

Burleson then discusses other researchers who develop ideas about realizing one’s self. Wildfogle’s idea of role-playing to improvise and reminisce about the “next five years” was very intriguing. Burleson elaborates on Wildfogle’s work: “This process is repeated with different conversational partners, allowing diverse ‘possible selves’ to emerge. Participants can try futures on for size in new and different ways until they develop a strategy that fits at an internal level of personal well-being” (442). This would be an amazing way to have students think about their future desires. I believe that if this is a continual process, those desires might bring students a step closer to making them realities.

I am not at all clear from Burleson’s piece how he is really explaining motivation. This is definitely one of education’s most difficult challenges. But I definitely connected with the following: “Notable educators and psychologists agree that learning is enhanced when it is pursued as a creative and self-actualizing passion. Imagination, meta-cognitive awareness, and the development of multiple perspectives are fundamental to deep understanding. Because failure, over and over and over again, is a prerequisite to becoming an expert, so too are the abilities to persevere through failure” (449). This is exactly what takes place when learning how to play a musical instrument. I realize that not everyone has the desire to become a professional musician, but the process of learning an instrument very effectively embodies these learning attributes.

In Moreno and Mayer’s article, the author’s research and experiments resulted in an increased learning capacity when visual and auditory materials were in close proximity. Close proximity meant multimedia images accompanied by auditory narration. This seems fairly straightforward because two of the body’s senses are involved in the learning process.  The authors take great care to present these experiments in very controlled circumstances, and they are very well done.

This study is fascinating as it develops the two effects that are central to the results of their tests: “a spatial-contiguity effect and a modality effect” (359). The researchers hypothesize, and ultimately show, that “students in the N group should outperform both on-screen text groups because of the increase of effective working memory created by mixed modality presentations” (360).

What I do not understand is why these researchers do not mention that two of the human body’s senses are actively involved in the learning process – sight and sound. It seems obvious to me that the interaction of sight and sound would easily eclipse sight alone when brought together in the human mind for processing.

In Jane McGonigal’s TED talk, she asks why, when we play games, we feel that we can accomplish anything, yet in real life, failure wears us down? McGonigal’s innovative approach to gaming is an attempt to tap into the cognition of millions of gamers in hopes of using their power to change the real world. World of Warcraft is the example game that McGonigal suggests demonstrates the potential of her vision. She then proposes a similar game format, but replaces the content of the game with real world issues. I really like this idea and approach because it does have great potential. A larger problem that is not addressed is how to motivate all those gamers playing World of Warcraft to accept a real world challenge. A major selling point for World of Warcraft is the idea that it is NOT the real world!

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