Monday, August 3, 2015

A bad reading

When I was teaching writing, I would often have to tell students to ensure they were in control of the language that they were using. Don’t use a fancy word just for the sake of using a fancy word if you are unsure you are using in a proper context (probably influenced by Orwell). Otherwise, it is better to use the simple word in the correct context for the sake of clarity and exactness. A fancy word should only be used when it is more exact than the simple word. That is what came to mind as I tried to read Gifreu-Castells and Moreno’s “Educational multimedia applied to the interactive nonfiction area. Using interactive documentary as a model for learning.” The language was so out of control that I found myself using an excessive amount of cognitive load to decipher the text. Too often, the article veers between the painfully obvious and undecipherable nonsense. Fortunately, the article is from a conference proceeding and not actually a published work.

On every page, there is some incongruent turn. Why, for instance, bring up Piaget in the second paragraph of the Introduction, except to attempt to give the appearance of being educated? Do you mean that children should construct “knowledge by physically interacting with media and objects”?  Or adults? Did Piaget study adult learning? Or is the interactive documentary field aimed at children? Bringing up Piaget in such a way is confusing. The same could be said when the authors bring up the subjects of blended learning and MOOCs in the second paragraph of Section 4.3. It is as if they are interested simply in throwing as many educational buzzwords as they can. The painfully obvious tautology of “InterDOC mainly provides online content, so it can serve as online learning material” is used to describe how the interactive documentary can support blended learning. The next sentence bring up MOOCs, relating their appearance to some fallacious idea that “collaborative learning has become the new dominant trend.” The only way that sentence makes any sense is that they are referring to cMOOCs, and not the more teacher-directed xMOOCs. Rather than making any such clear distinction and attempting to be informative, they appear to be more interested in just throwing in another buzzword to appear “current.”

The “hypothesis” they seek to test—“that interactive documentary could be a suitable education tool because it offers new ways to approach, understand, play and learn from reality”—vacillates between the obvious (of course, it’s a suitable education tool) and the nonsensical (even ignoring the poor grammar, is the genre of interactive documentaries really providing a new way to learn? Neurobiologists might have a different opinion). The source material, the interactive documentaries, are actually interesting as a subject matter. An actual testable hypothesis would be comparing the learning, engagement, and emotive-ness of the regular documentary with the interactive version. Does one actually learn more from interactivity or does the cognitive load of interacting with the material interfere with how much one learns? Similarly, do viewers (or “interacters”) actually spend more time with the interactive documentary? Finally, would they report greater or lesser emotional attachment to the subject matter based on the interactivity? All three aspects of the hypothesis are easily testable: the first through a post-test; the second through recording visitors time on site; and the third through self-reporting. Rather than just assuming that interactivity is better, they actually could add to our knowledge base about the subject.

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