Jeremy O'Shea

Applying Educational Technology in Technology Education

Month: October 2019

Games and Equity in the Classroom

After watching my classmates’ videos on varying topics of technology education research, I found myself most interested in gamification and digital equity. Both topics interest me for different reasons but I think both are important topics to consider in both the current and future state of education.


Video games have been a household reality for many decades now and, in recent years with the advent of smart phones, video games have made their way into the classroom, whether educators like it or not. This new reality should not be despaired though, as it creates an opportunity for greater engagement for many students who would otherwise have little interest in more traditional forms of teaching/learning. When I was in high school (the age range I teach) I was very into video games. I have a pretty good memory of being bored to death in classes while being able to go home and play video games for hours on end. I did not interrogate this until much later in my life and I have found that video games offered something that school was not, letting me take control and explore at my own pace and with minimal pressure to perform perfectly.

Games in the classroom can take many forms, from being as simple as a Kahoot quiz, to open building with Minecraft, to scientific modeling/simulators. All of these examples are relevant but what a teacher needs to ask themselves before implementing a game is, “is it worth it? Does the game meet the students needs and is it effective beyond more traditional methods of educating?” These are not easy questions to answer and require some serious time and criticism of the game.

Games in Action

In the past I had a student who was struggling in my electronics class to complete some hands-on work addressing the application of digital electronics. The class took place in a computer lab and the student had been avoiding class work by playing Minecraft.  Fortunately, I knew a little bit about the game and knew that there was an aspect in the game that could be used very similar to digital electronics using switches. I asked the student if they wanted to use the game instead of doing it by hand to demonstrate the concepts being learned.  They were extremely happy to do that and ended up not only completing what I asked them to but also built upon it, expanding the scope of what they learned. I was very surprised at the success. It is important to note that not all students would initially have the same success as this student did. They were well versed with the game and did not require tutorials. In the end, I was glad to offer an option, even an out of the box one, to help the student learn and show the digital electronics concepts.

This example only worked because I and the student had a foundation in games and that game. If that had not been the case it would have likely not have been such a success. Therefore, it is important for educators to receive support and training in the implementation of gaming in the classroom. It is also important to select educational games that meet all students needs equitably. Most games are made in a way to be as accessible as possible but sometimes some students differing abilities may leave some behind and this needs to be factored into any gamification usage.

Digital Equity

Digital equity is a real concern in the public-school system. Students come from a range of backgrounds and have a range of varying abilities. This can quickly lead to some students having and some having not. To further compound this, most schools’ budgets for new tech is not high and often spent strictly on maintaining the current equipment rather than addressing new technology options.

Internet access has become nearly common place but in communities, such as in the one where I work, not every student has reliable internet at home. This limits options such as inline learning or flexible classrooms. The internet is a great thing to have access to, but internet literacy is still a thing being learned by adults, let alone kids. When I was growing up, I recall being told that anyone can write a book so make sure you think about it critically and don’t just believe it. That concept is a hundred-fold more important now with the internet and it is giving everyone with an opinion a platform to say whatever they wish, whether they know what they are talking about or not. This creates a very dangerous reality and can lead students to finding incorrect knowledge and believing it to be true.

Teachers and Technology

Teachers have a tough job at the best of times but add on keeping up with their discipline, their teaching methods, and new technologies and there is little time for a life outside of the job. Therefore, it is important for teachers to be supported when implementing new tech in the classroom by their administration. Without training, tech being put in the classroom is almost surely doomed to fail. Only the teachers most interested in the tech will likely put in the time and effort to learn and implement it.

Basic Principles Of Multimedia Learning (EDCI 570/71 Assignment) – Sean, Jeremy, Clay

In the introduction article, multimedia is defined by presenting both words (spoken or printed text) and pictures (illustrations, photos, animation or text). Multimedia teaching is presenting words and pictures that are intended to promote learning by building mental representation from words and pictures, in order to teach a deeper understanding of concepts rather than words alone. There are over 20 principles of multimedia instructional design .


Split-Attention Principle

The split attention principle happens when the learner must focus on two or more sources of instructional information simultaneously to understand the material. This in turn adds a stress to the cognitive load of the learner which slows the learning process. For example, a worksheet with instructions on one side of the page and a diagram on the other requires the learner to read the instructions, hold that knowledge, scan the diagram (while still holding that knowledge), and then attempt to apply/combine that knowledge with the diagram. If the concept is too complicated for the learner, their attempts at understanding the information may be slowed or halted.

By integrating separate instructional material into a single form, the cognitive load is lessened, and learning and performance generally increases. To build on the previous example an educator could take the information from one side of the page and break it into parts, applying it to the diagram when and where it is required to be the clearest. This in turn will allow the learner to focus in one place and see where that information will be applied as well.

There has been some interesting research done into the split attention principle. Some surprising research by Sweller and Chandler (1994) and Chandler and Sweller (1996) suggested that students learning to use a computer program who initially learned strictly from using integrated learning techniques and no computers met greater learning outcomes than students who learned using a computer-based information and a manual. This initially sounds counter intuitive to the learning process but demonstrates the effect split attention instruction can have on a learner.


Modality Principle 

The modality effect or principal exists when learning occurs through a mixed-mode (partly visual and partly auditory) presentation instead of a single mode of presentation. This creates a balance in the visual and auditory pathways and does not create an extraneous cognitive load.

  • Mousavi, Low and Sweller (1995 )The modality principle works under the same conditions of the split-attention principle.
  • It is essential that the auditory information is necessary to understand the visual information and that it is not redundant (Kalyuga, Chandler and Sweller ( 2000 ).
  • Modality effect depends on the logical relationship between the sources of information and that the information is connected, similar to the split attention effect. 
  • Mayer & Moreno (1998) Modes that over-stimulate the visual or auditory pathways inhibits the learning process.
  • Using graphics and narration in lessons establishes a balance between visual and verbal channels, allowing processing in working memory. 
  • An example of the above, is showing a screenshot of information (graphic) and narrating (auditory) along with it which allows a balance between the visual and verbal processing channels. This allows for essential information to be processed and avoids creating an extraneous cognitive load. 
  • Alternatively, animations (graphic) grouped with only text (visual) can overload the visual channel making it much more difficult for the learner to process the information.   

With teachers using technology in the classroom it is important to keep the modality principle active in your practice. Children can easily become overwhelmed by stimulation from media and by controlling the modes by which information is communicated you increase the opportunities for successful learning. 


Redundancy Principle

The redundancy principle effect happens when information is presented in multiple forms simultaneously, such as a picture with words describing said picture. By adding further information to a full body of information learners may become confused.  A further example would be, adding a summarization to a full body of information. Excluding this info may be better for learning, by eliminating redundancy.

Much like the split-attention principle, having to coordinate resources (i.e. visual and audio) requires a heavy cognitive load and may prevent learning success. To prevent redundancy, any repeated information should be removed.

Often, educators feel that presenting information in varying forms is more advantageous (or at least neutral) to having only one. This assumption has been proven incorrect by current research into students and the cognitive loads they can handle during the learning process.  


Signaling principle

The signalling principle explains how a signal or cue can have a learner fixate on information that is deemed important or crucial in a topic. Fixating is a way to view how a learner can focus on one particular component of what they are trying to learn in order to lessen their cognitive load during a lesson.

While learning something which is delivered or supplemented with multimedia, a teacher can use the technological properties of the media to cue fixation. For example, a student could be presented with a diagram of an internal combustion engine. The first part of the lesson could be to learn what a piston is. Using an animation or slideshow, the main block of the engine could be greyed-out or fogged and only the details of the piston would remain.

Research was conducted to ascertain which method of multimedia signalling was the most beneficial to learning. Some examples are: Visual paragraphs with colored words, visual paragraphs with narration, pictures with colored portions, pictures with on-screen text bubbles…and so forth. 

The researchers found that there was no ‘perfect’ method for multimedia delivery, and suggested that it was likely that certain delivery methods would have their own best fit for use, depending on the content.

In relation to the theme of the chapter, I found it quite that this principle and research offered some answers to questions about multimedia learning, such as:

  • What are the consequences of adding pictures to words? 
  • What happens when instructional messages involve both verbal and visual modes of learning? 
  • What affects the way that people learn from words and pictures? 

However, I believe the most important part of the signalling principle research was the use of eye-tracking. When possible, researchers tracked the physical position and fixation of participants’ eyes in order to ascertain what cues they responded to. Mayer favors learner-centered approaches in regards to multimedia learning. Perhaps, in subsequent research, the development and improvement of eye tracking software could be used to answer his question “How can we adapt multimedia to enhance human learning?”


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