Edward Thorndike, a pioneer in learning theory once beliefs Psychology as being the science of the intellect, character and behaviors of animals including man. Considering the technological advancements of the twenty first century, Thorndike might be amazed by the way web architects have applied learning theories in their websites designed for educational purposes. A good example of how learning theory has been applied in technology is the popular kids site PBSKids.org.
PBSKids.org is a website designed for kids in which they can play games, watch web clips, and find activities such as coloring and music that enhance learning. PBS claims that its online programing and interactive games such as ‘Between the Lions’ and ‘Word World’ has a significant impact in children’s literacy skill development and math skills. PBS may be correct that their website design and programing can make a positive impact for school age children, particular given recent studies done on the topic. For example, emerging research suggests that educational computer games and online activities, as well as linking online and offline content through cross-platform learning has a positive impact on learning. MediaKidz an Indiana Based Research & Consulting company conducted a two year study funded by the National Science Foundation and focused on PBSkids.org, and some of its multiple-media mathematics content. Nearly seven hundred kids in nine public schools in Michigan and Indiana participated in the study as they moved from third to fourth grade. Researchers tracked children’s informal use of their online activities, and measured the degree to which children use media from PBSKids.org in the real world. Children were assigned to groups that used different combinations of offline and online programming, (TV, online games, hands-on activities) over a two-month period to assess their impact on mathematical problem solving and attitudes toward math an e-series and supporting web games. The study targeted children ages 8 to 11, and measured their enthusiasm for math, model math reasoning abilities and problem-solving skills. The study found that by telling compelling online stories and narrative which incorporate familiar characters that serve as role models to demonstrate effective skills, provide a powerful means to convey and organize information, can have positive impact on all measured criteria. The study also found that children who utilized PBSKids.org were likely to stay on the site longer than other educational sites, and showed significant improvements in their (math) problem solving skills than children who were not using the site.
Other research has uncovered similar results as the study conducted on PBSKids.org. In a 2000 paper titled Examining information processing on the World Wide Web using think aloud protocols, researchers William Eveland and Sharon Dunwoody found that certain website designs can increasing meaningful learning by utilizing a node-link type construction, mimic human information storage, and encourages users to process information efficiently and effectively. Critics however argue that web navigation increases cognitive load and often produces disorientation which decreases processing devoted to meaningful learning .
Interesting information – which you can learn more about in MSPPs media psych program!
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