Monthly Archives: September 2014

The best of both worlds

Prompt: What have you learned thus far about designing instruction from a multiple media perspective? How do you think the use of visual-text instruction will benefit teaching and learning? What do you think will be potential issues with the use of visual-text instruction? How do you think it will affect your teaching and learning? What do you think is better about using both images and text? What not? How do you feel about using multiple forms of media instead of a single medium for delivering instruction?

With this project, we started by creating instructional sets with the basics, text. Designing with only text was easy and familiar. While I did have to consider what I wanted to say, how I wanted to say it, and the design and layout of the instructions for the most part, it was simple to create an instructional set explaining how to checkout a book from an academic library. Then, the following week we modified our instructional sets so that we explained our instructions using only images. That was definitely not so simple or straightforward. It took a lot of planning and time to determine which steps could and should be explained using images and how to depict the steps with pictures. To complicate the process, we had to create our own images using Photoshop, which was another matter in and of itself.

What I learned from these two projects is that the designer has to plan, plan, and plan. The point of instructions are to allow your audience to understand, follow, and accomplish an end goal. If the instructional set is faulty, it defeats the purpose and learning cannot occur. I also learned that designing with just one medium is very limiting. Braden (2004) discusses how using text and pictures together promotes learning over text alone. I agree with this statement. In my personal experience, if I am having trouble understanding a complex topic but can see it described pictorially, it helps me better understand the concept.

For this next part of the project, we are to combine our text and our images from the previous weeks to create our next instructional set. I am looking forward to this project as I think that the combination of text and images will make this instructional set stronger over the sets with just text or just images. What will be difficult about this coming week is that I will need to make sure that I do not distract the learner with my combined instructional set. Images and text can make learning easier but it can also make learning harder if I make poor design choices.

Some issues designing with text and visuals are that people overlook the need to add alternative text descriptions to images for visually impaired people. When designing with images alternative text should be included to assist translating the image. A side benefit is that it also helps non-visually impaired people understand the images as well. Another issue with designing with text and images is that some designers clutter up the instructional set with extraneous and unnecessary images, and even text. Too many images, especially ones that do not support the point of the instruction detract from the learning process (Braden, 2004).  When combining two media, it is still important to consider the overall objectives of the instructional set and ensure that the text and images used support the goals of the learning process. This way the learner has the best of both worlds.

Braden, R. A. (2004). Visual literacy. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (2nd ed.). Mahwah, N. J.: Erlbaum.

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Can you visualize this?

Prompt: Write a blog entry reflecting on what you have come to understand about the design of instruction that primarily or exclusively employs a single media such as graphics to teach. What did you learn about designing instruction from a single media perspective? What are its limitations? How is it beneficial? How can/will you use it for teaching and learning in the future?

What are the limits to the use of media in general for learning and teaching? If Clark is correct, why do we bother? How did this perspective change the way you think about learning and teaching?

Yesterday, I got my new iPhone 6 in the mail. As always, when I first turn on the phone, I stop and think about how beautifully designed the product is. I’m not just talking about the outside. I am talking about the entire package. The icons that appear on the cell top are simple, effective, and aesthetically pleasing. Looking at the icons on my iPhone, they quickly and clearly convey what the purpose of an app is. With a single glance at my phone, I can easily understand what each of my apps do. Yet, it wasn’t until our assignment this week that the true value of clearly designed images resonated with me. I never fully realized how difficult it can be to convey information until I was limited to the use of a single media, images. I had to reconstruct my text instructions from last week and transform them into image only instructions.

In Braden’s (2004) article, he discusses how relying solely on visual cues can be misleading and cause for misinterpretation. What I discovered during this project is that my version of an image doesn’t necessarily match other people’s schemas. My topic is how to check out a book from an academic library. Originally to represent the instructor assigned book cover and title, I had designed a copy of the actual book cover to convey that message; however, what I found when testing the images on people is that the image was confusing and caused the learning path to stop. They got hung up on trying to determine what the point of the image was and what it was supposed to mean. After talking with them about their confusion, I ended up redesigning that step in my instruction set. When I retested my audience, they all agreed that the new image made more sense and was easier to follow. What I learned from this is that it’s not enough to simply design images, the instructional designer needs to put some thought in the best images to use to replace the text and also to test them out on other people.

Benefits of good visual images are that they can help support learning. Research has shown that by combining text with corroborating visual images, i.e., images that match the purpose of the text, it helps learners retain and recall information (Braden, 2004; Kozma, 1991). Images can help explain complex topics by providing the learner with another way to process the information. For example, think about installation instructions. Invariably, the process is complicated with multiple steps. Good installation instructions contain images to visualize the installation process. I know that I always rely on the images to help me put my electronics and furniture together. Designing instructions with only images as cues is extremely difficult and not something I think I would continue to do in the future. For the future, I will use a combination of text with supporting images.

In Clark’s (1994) article, he states that “instructional methods are the underlying common element of all substitutable media and attributes of media” (p. 7). His issue with instructional designers is that they are more focused on the media that they are using than the learning theories that form the foundation for educational technology. He believes that regardless of the media used that it should always be tied to a learning theory and that the underlying learning theory is what produces the learning, not the media itself (Clark, 1994). I agree with Clark to a point. I agree that when designing instruction that before you decide on a medium, or media, a solid instructional approach must be chosen. Only after one has determined the learning outcomes and objectives should the media be picked. The point of using media should be to facilitate the learning and not make the media fit the instructional approach.

I disagree with Clark in that I really do feel that certain types of media increase learning (1994). For example, when I was learning computer science in high school, we had a lesson in writing our own code to create a graphic of our choice. Now, I could have read about the process and looked at pictures, but that wouldn’t have been as effective as actually using a computer to write my own code and seeing what the code did while I was writing it. In this case, the media, the computer program actually helped me to learn more. I feel that the combination of an effective instructional method with the use of appropriate media actually makes for a stronger learning connection, which is the ultimate goal of instructional design.

References

Braden, R. A. (2004). Visual literacy. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research on
educational communications and technology (2nd ed.). Mahwah, N. J.: Erlbaum.

Clark, R. E. (1994). Media and method. Educational Technology Research & Development,
42(3), 7-10.

Kozma, R. B. (1991). Learning with media. Review of Educational Research, 61(2), 179-211.

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Color theory and visual design: an inseparable pair

Prompt: Write a blog entry reflecting on the use of color theory and visual design in instruction. How do you think they interact with each other to aid with teaching and learning? How is the use of visual design and color theory helpful? How can it detract from the learning process? How can you use it in development of media for teaching in learning? Do you think it transcends media formats?

Color theory is an attempt to classify colors in a way that effectively organizes color for meaningful visual applications (Cousins, 2012). Design theory is an attempt to identify essential perceptual experiences for maximum impact communicating a message, concept or idea (Lovett, 1999; Williams, 2008). Since color is one element of design theory, understanding both design and color theory should provide a synergistically positive impact on the overall instructional design process.

Memory falls into four categories: sensory, short-term, working, and long-term (Goldstein, 2011). Color theory and design theory both work together to draw the learner’s attention, which involves sensory memory. Once the learner’s attention has been successfully engaged then color and visual design work together to enable the learner to transfer the information from the short-term memory to long-term memory; thus, completing the learning process (Goldstein, 2011).

Proper use of color and design theory will help reduce the learner’s effort to organize the presented material, thus increasing the learner’s attention and short-term memory on the content of the information. Visually organizing the information will help draw the learner’s attention to the important concepts and help them make sense of what they are viewing (Williams, 2008). In Williams’s book, she discusses the design elements of Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity, or CRAP (2008). Effective instructional design should incorporate all of these elements. In fact, each of these elements cannot exist without the other when designing useful instructional content.

Failure to understand design and color theory could result in a chaotic, or worse, failed learning experience. If the instructional content lacks organization, unity, purpose, and/or balance, i.e., an obvious and sound visual relationship, the learner may not be able to successfully understand and process the knowledge (Cousins, 2012; Lovett, 1999; Williams, 2008). If the content is visually unappealing, hard to read, or difficult to decipher, the learner may ignore the instructional material in favor of other less educational and untrustworthy materials that do catch their attention. Effective instructional design materials are aesthetically pleasing yet also effectively and clearly convey information using the design principles of contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity (Williams, 2008). Like items are grouped together, important details stand out, and the overall product has a cohesive design and feel.

Design and color theory are essentially ideas used to understand perception among human beings. As a result, both theories are applicable to any media format. Perception begins to direct our comprehension and learning with the automatic memory processes of our brains, such as sensory memories, and may continue to influence our entire learning process. Maximizing the benefits of learning and color theory may help reduce the comprehension and cognitive challenges of a learning task, thus increasing the possibility of a successful learning experience.

References

Cousins, C. (2012, February 28). Principles of color and the color wheel. Retrieved from http://tympanus.net/codrops/2012/02/28/principles-of-color-and-the-color-wheel/

Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Lovett, J. (1999). Elements and principles of design. Retrieved from http://www.johnlovett.com/test.htm

Williams, R. (2008). The non-designer’s design book: Design and typographic principles for the visual novice (3rd ed.). Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press.

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Text Me, Text Me Not

Our prompt for this week is, “Write a blog entry reflecting on what you have come to understand about the design of instruction that primarily or exclusively employs text and hypertext to teach. How could this format be helpful to students? Do the restrictions help or hurt in terms of not being able to use video and images? How does this format impact you as a designer of instruction?”

I think the main point that I learned this week is that before implementing a design, the designer must make time to think about the overall text to be designed. What is the purpose of the design and why is it being created? Who is going to access the design? How are they going to access the design? Is the text written at a level appropriate for the target audience? As you can see from these questions, one shouldn’t just jump into a text design and hope for the best. According to Hartley (2004), when designing text there are multiple aspects that must be considered: page size, font style, size, and color, the structure and organization of the text, the actual words used to make the text, i.e., how easy or difficult it is to read and understand the text, and the accessibility of the text.

Fonts should be easy to read. The text shouldn’t be written in all italics, bold, or capital letters. Colors should complement each other and be easy to read together. For example, use light letters on dark backgrounds or dark letters on light backgrounds; not light on light or dark on dark as that is very hard on the reader’s eyes. There should be a clear structure applied to the document and the structure should be easy to follow. If used, headings and subheadings along with bolded and underlined words should supply the reader with learning cues as to the areas of focus in the text. In order for a text to be helpful and effective for the learner, each of the above questions as well as all of components discussed by Hartley (2004) have to be taken into account before, during and after design implementation. Planning and revising are key elements of an effective and efficient design.

Other questions to consider during text design are, is it better to provide a navigational structure, such as an outline or concept map? Or is it better to let the learner dictate the learning path (Shapiro & Niederhauser, 2004)? One of the benefits of designing with hypertext is that learners have the ability to click through in any order and go back and forth between items. During the design, the designer must consider how they want the learner to progress through the document. Is the purpose to let the learner explore the topic on their own and amass a deeper understanding or is the purpose to pull out facts? If it’s the latter, Shapiro & Niederhauser (2004) state that defeats the purpose of designing with hypertext.

The authors also state that it’s crucial to test the design with a small sample of the target audience and to watch how they navigate the text to determine if there are blocks or confusions that arise. They recommend checking for understanding and comprehension along the way (Shapiro & Niederhauser, 2004). Ask your test sample if they understood the learning goal and if the text was clear and easy to follow. Ask them if the text made sense. Ask them about their preferences. An example would be if the absence or presence of a concept map or outline would help or hinder their learning.

During the exercise this week, I realized that a benefit of designing primarily in text is that with simple concepts text can be an easy way to explain uncomplicated topics. Using a well-designed step-by-step written instruction set provides learners with a clear learning path. Learners begin at step one and follow through to the end. With this though, the onus is on the designer to ensure that no steps are skipped and that that instructions are understandable, in the correct order, and are easy to follow. Text also allows students with visual disabilities to follow along with the assistance of text-to-speech or screen reader technologies.

A major disadvantage of relying solely on text is that any learner, especially those with learning disabilities may not be able to understand the text, especially if the topic is difficult or advanced. In those cases, supplying additional explanations in other media formats, such as with video, audio, or pictorial explanations, would help them to better navigate through and understand the concept. For example, with a complicated topic, the learner could watch a video tutorial and follow along with the steps. Long passages of text can be interspersed with images to break up the monotony. Images and audio can supply navigational tools and help the reader progress through the text.

After this week’s experiment, I would not design using only text. I think it limiting to the learner and to the instructional product to rely on only one form of media. In an optimal situation, I would first consider the learning goal, the audience, and the learning environment before deciding on the best types of media to relay the information.

References

Hartley, J. (2004).  Designing instructional and informational text.  In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research in educational communications and technology (2nd ed.) (pp. 917-947)Mahwah, N. J.: Erlbaum.

Shapiro, A., & Niederhauser, D. (2004).  Learning from hypertext: Research issues and findings.  In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research in educational communications and technology (2nd ed.) (pp. 605-620)Mahwah, N. J.: Erlbaum.

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