Interactivity and Affective Design Essay

Abstract

Interactivity allows for the presentation of multimedia devices in instructional material in order to facilitate learning. In this paper, an online tutorial pertaining to food hygiene and sanitation was reviewed. Proposals were made regarding probable interactive content that might be integrated in the tutorial in order to improve learning. The first proposal dealt with a setting that could be manipulated by the learner wherein sanitation hazards should be identified and controlled. The second proposal included an inclusion of a video presentation of different sanitation experts located in different fields of work. Both proposals discuss the cognitive and constructivist enhancements that are to be offered should such be implemented. The paper also discusses affective education, the utility of emotions and affects arousal in order to facilitate cognition and learning. The strengths and weaknesses of affective education were discussed and applications were provided.

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Interactivity and Affective Design

(1)       A possible interactive activity that might be added to the tutorial would be a simulated laboratory setting. The scene may present a kitchen with several food contamination hazards. The learner would then be asked to identify the contamination threats and use objects found in the scene to control for identified hazards. For example, one object could be food on the table just placed on a plate. The potential answer would be to contain the food in a plastic air-sealed container. This could be done through a simple dragging of the plate of food to a plastic container and the animation changing the image with the food already found inside the container. Similarly, birds could be seen inside the kitchen perched on top of a pole and simply tied to it. The learner would thus be required to drag a cage, found elsewhere in the scene, towards the birds in order that bird feathers, droppings, and the like might be better contained.

            In order to improve comprehension of the tasks being conducted, a brief instruction and clarification message should be displayed once the learner has made a correct manipulation. There is a limited feedback mechanism in this activity as only correct responses are given feedbacks. However, constraints will be in place as not all the objects in the scene are capable of manipulation. The learner will observe that every time the cursor hovers over an item which may be manipulated, the cursor icon changes shape. This allows for constraints in the range of actions that the learner may attempt to perform.

            This activity is supported by constructivist principles concerned with the learner manipulation and experimentation of the environment. The learner is given free reign to identify potential hazards in a given scenario as well as to identify means by which the hazard may be addressed. This allows for a practical application of the concepts learned through the slideshow. The slides basically enumerated the potential hazards as well as potential answers that a health expert might resort to. However, there was no significant pairing demonstrated as to the problems and solutions in potential hazards to be met in the field. The activity would thus serve to give the learner a means of experimenting with the appropriate pairs.

            Cognitive theories would also support the enhanced learning that takes place in such an activity. Because of the personal identification of problems and solutions, the learner is able to consider the task as more relevant to him or herself. This association and personal manipulation allows the learner to encode the information more firmly in his memory store. Where the simplistic list-and-read tutorial would only have served to encode the data presented in the short term memory store, unless rehearsal took place, the activity would trigger episodic memory and thus encode the data in the long term memory store. The cue cards to be displayed affirming the correct solutions chosen by the learner would also be linked to the episodic memory and thus be better encoded in the long term memory storage.

            An alternative activity which may be used to enhance instruction of the tutorial would be to embed a video with a certified food sanitation expert speaking about basic protocols in his or her line of work. Since food sanitation covers various industries not just restaurant businesses, several food sanitation experts might be asked to speak regarding common problems that they encounter in particular industries. Take for example a food sanitation expert who is assigned to inspecting food packaging companies would speak of the common health hazards that he or she would expect to find in such a set-up. Alternatively, an expert assigned to bottling companies would also speak of the commonplace problems that are present in bottling corporations. This video could focus only on the most common problems that are present in specific food production and packaging places but would still serve to enhance knowledge regarding hygiene measures.

            This activity would serve to reflect the application of the health hazards in particular settings. This permits the learner to build more relevant associations between personal experiences and the material being learned. The actual viewing of the setting in which the learner might him or herself expect to work serves to enhance attention given to the discussion being conducted. Furthermore, the video presentation allows multiple encoding of data as the learner is exposed to an audio discussion with concepts being related to visual images. This is also better than the mere flashing of pictures as the movement in the presentation focuses the attention of the learner providing for closer attention to detail. The exposure of the learner to such a presentation would also facilitate retrieval of information once the learner is placed in an actual hazard prone setting. Having already been exposed to images similar to the setting exposed to, the learner would thus be able to more easily recall the data learned regarding the particular situation.

(2)       It has been discussed that education has two dimensions, affective and cognitive. For the longest time affective education has been relegated to experiences outside the classroom. However, recent studies have shown that affective education may be more than just a second dimension of learning; rather it has risen to be viewed as a necessary precursor to cognitive learning. This finds basis in the dimensions of long term memory storage. The types of memory that are stored in long term memory are highly episodic and highly affective. Situations therefore which elicit high affective responses are often directly stored in the long term memory and are thus more effectively encoded than low affect arousing situations.

Let us take as an example the study of the social sciences. The concepts in these domains are often in-depth and often in need of application in the social context. Should an instructor choose to arouse sympathy from his or her students given a particular social phenomenon then cognition of the underlying relationships to be observed in such a concept would be facilitated. Take for example the concept of ethnocentrism and the multiple applications that this has around the globe. Once the emotions of the students are aroused, the lesson and the concept become more relevant to them. They are thus able to better process the material that is being taught them.

Other methods of utilizing affect in the facilitation of cognition resort to means wherein emotion is aroused even when such emotion is not directly linked with the material being studied. It is generally accepted that memory recall is enhanced when the affective state during the time of encoding is presented again during the time of retrieval. Thus, some educators have utilized music – in several genres – in order to encourage the arousal of particular emotions. This helps in the encoding and later retrieval of the material studied. Alternatively, some instructors use their reputation to instill fear in their students. This aroused state encourages greater performance from their students as well as increased levels of studying.

However, these scenarios are not always effective. Affective education may serve to enhance cognition through increased attention and stronger memory encoding and recall mechanisms. It should be borne in mind though that the motivation of a student to learn particular materials is also an important indicator of learning. Therefore, a student who is not intrinsically motivated to learn about a particular field or area might not be influenced by the external motivators being presented. However, the correct affective states stimulated in the students might cause a growth in interest and motivation. Furthermore, affective education is highly concept dependent. The ability to retain rote memory is therefore still a challenge that is dependent greatly on rehearsal mechanisms.

Let us examine the case of mathematics. Although states of affective arousal would serve to facilitate learning of logical relations between variables, the actual recall of numerous formulas would be dependent more on data rehearsal. Therefore, regardless of affective education, the academic performance of the student might not reflect improvement. Furthermore, the utilization of pressure by instructors and the presentation of affect arousing stimuli, such as music, might not have the intended effect on students. As previously mentioned, should students attend class with limited interest in the subject material, then limited learning would also take place.

 

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