Interactivity: Learning by Doing

This week’s discussion topic reminds me of the old proverb, “You can lead a horse to water, but can’t make him drink.” Despite the historical definitions of interactivity leaning towards superficial characteristics whether an instructional or functional approach, Kennedy sums the reality of “interactive” multimedia succinctly stating, “But an educational multimedia program cannot be interactive; it only has the potential to be so. A user is required to release this potential, thus establishing the dynamic relationship” (Kennedy, 2004, p. 44-45). This point seems so clear in that the very concept of interactivity infers action as a verb, as in something is being done by someone, somehow. Therefore, any instructional program, well designed or not, is inherently only as interactive as those putting in effort to make it so. In my world, learning is an active sport.

Despite my overly simplistic perceptions, it would seem there are many researchers and/or educators who doggedly aspire to “solve” the never ending dilemma of how to get the horse to drink (or in our case, how to get the learner to interact and learn). Towards this end, Chou addresses the issues of interactivity via a thorough literature review resulting in a nine dimension classification system consisting of choice, non-sequential access of choice, responsiveness to learner, monitoring information use, personal-choice helper, adaptability, playfulness, facilitation of interpersonal communication and ease of adding information, further divided into four types of interaction (learner-interface, learner-content, learner-instructor, learner-learner) (Chou, 2003) For complete definitions, including sources and examples, please see Chou, 2003, p. 270-271, Tables 1 and 2.

In light of the information gained from the resources and in an attempt to address the questions posed in this week’s discussion, I reviewed the suggested websites, specifically comparing different levels of interactivity and/or whether my learning positively benefitted from the interactivity delivered at each website.

Napa Valley Clickable Map (http://napavalley.com/maps/)
The pdf map was not very user friendly nor did I find it overly interactive. True, it allowed for zooming in and out, and had a colorful legend designating certain areas; however, when I see “clickable map” I envision a website wherein I can click a section of the map and hyperlink to another site with detailed information regarding the section I clicked on. For instance, selecting a portion of the map could hyperlink me to a site regarding different types of grapes for different varieties of wines and/or famous vineyards in the region. Overall, either I did not utilize the map correctly, or it was not user friendly enough for me to spend very much time with it. It seemed a little more colorful than MapQuest.

Ethics Training for Special Government Employees (http://www.usoge.gov/training/module_files/ogesge_wbt_07/10.html). As is the case for many websites designed for mandatory (i.e., non-voluntary) training, it appears to have been constructed by in-house IT, human resources and/or legal department. The graphics are cute, but a distracting attempt to compensate for poorly designed instructional material that is over the top dry. Although there are hyperlinks sprinkled throughout the dense information they simply lead to more even drier information that most learners and certainly non-voluntary learners would most likely avoid at all costs. It is unlikely any information garnered through this training will be retained for any length of time.

Colonial Williamsburg Museum Project (http://www.history.org/history/museums/murraySisters/).
I really enjoyed this website for a variety of reasons. Initially, when I reviewed the site I did so from work. Apparently, the browser at work operated a little differently than the one I have at home. When I accessed the site from work my interactive options were limited to selecting next and going through the various stages of the restoration. The written explanation along with the visual effect of each stage in the process was very informative and engaging. I was very intrigued. I enjoyed it enough to show my husband at home. Then I discovered the additional interactive features allowing for comparisons of the various stages and different aspect sizing. Interestingly, I found the additional interactivity options to be a little too much. It was difficult to configure the settings to reflect what I had seen previously, which is what I wanted to demonstrate to my husband. In some ways the advanced features actually got in the way of the basic information. This website, in particular, demonstrates my perspective regarding interactivity and the role of the learner. This website was interesting, informative, and amazing from both an artistic and scientific perspective. The interactivity of the website may have been too much or just right, but in any event, it was my desire to continue learning the information and reviewing the site that was most important for me to learn anything. I did not make it through very many screens of the Ethics Training website before my dull meter was overrun and I went in search of another site.

BrainPop (Digital Animation) (http://www.brainpop.com/technology/computersandinternet/digitalanimation/).
As the mother of an active 9 year old boy, I am familiar with BrainPop and in fact, have both the iPad and iTouch versions of BrainPop for my son. However, I had not realized there was an actual website for BrainPop and loved the site. Many people might say it was a little too much from the perspective there is a great deal of information and options available to the user. However, I found the animation engaging and informative. I was able to navigate the various options easily enough and they were not complicated to use.

Of the four sites I reviewed (the fifth was inaccessible), the BrainPop site met most of the criteria set forth in Chou’s list of interactivity dimensions, including choice, non-sequential access of choice, personal-choice helper, adaptability, and playfulness. The dimensions lacking were facilitation of interpersonal communication and ease of adding information largely as a result of this being an independent website, rather than a formal in-house educational site. Although, it is possible with a subscription that there may be optional forums for communication. This website is perhaps the best example in contradiction of the premises you can’t make a horse drink. If the interactivity inherent in this website is not encouraging enough to engage learners then I am doubtful there is any “definitive” amount of design that could.

Lynn Munoz

References

Chou, C. (2003). Interactivity and interactive functions in web-based learning systems: a technical framework for designers. British Journal of Educational Technology, 34(3), 265-279. doi:10.1111/1467-8535.00326

Kennedy, G E (Spring 2004). Promoting cognition in multimedia interactivity research. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 15, 1. p.43 (19). Retrieved June 15, 2011, from Expanded Academic ASAP via Gale:
http://find.galegroup.com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/gtx/start.do?prodId=EAIM&userGroupName=minn4020

Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. (2007). Interactive Multimodal Learning Environments. Educational Psychology Review, 19(3), 309-326. Doi: 10.1007/s10648-007-9047-2

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2 thoughts on “Interactivity: Learning by Doing

  1. Pingback: Exploring The World Of Interactive Graphics And User Interface « Becoming is Superior to Being

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