Monday, 12 July 2010

Quick summary of an MW2002 paper: How do you like to learn?

I just read an interesting paper that was referenced in some research by my former colleague Mariruth Leftwich. I would recommend reading it if you're interested in Museum online learning. It's a little out of date now but I think it still has some interesting findings.  The article is by David T. Schaller, Steven Allison-Bunnell, Minda Borun and Margaret B. Chambers and was presented at the Museums and the Web conference in 2002. You can read the full article here: How do you like to learn? Comparing User Preferences And Visit Length Of Educational Web Sites (and I recommend that you do!)

This is just a quick summary of some points that I found particularly useful from it.
  1. They use a typology from Gammon (Ben Gammon, 2001 - Assessing learning in museum environments: A practical guide for museum evaluators. Unpublished Science Museum (London) report) to identify five types which museums should choose from when thinking about what kind of educational experience they want their users to have: cognitive, affective, social, developing skills and personal.
  2. Their research was based on six activity types - creative play, guided tour, interactive reference, puzzle/interactive mystery, role-playing story, simulation
  3. They found that adults preferred interactive reference and simulation and children preferred creative play and role-playing
  4. They found that boys preferred creative play and girls role-playing story and puzzle/mystery
  5. They concluded that: 'Adults prefer the information-based activities of Interactive Reference and Simulation, whereas children, not surprisingly, are more inclined to prefer the exploratory experiences of Role-playing and Story and Creative Play. The adult sites yield more straight-forward cognitive information while the sites preferred by children have strong affective components and allow more personal choice and interaction, but can lead to "dead ends" or less utilitarian solutions.  Apparently, adults bring an intrinsic motivation to the learning experience... Children on the other hand, need to be motivated. They respond positively to the opportunity for interaction and choice within a goal-based environment that offers them an extrinsic purpose.'
  6. They unpick this idea of a goal-based environment, quoting Roger Schank (1992) and explain that the goals are not things like high scores or prizes but things that 'stem from the activity itself - solve a crime, reach a destination, create an original artwork.' Using an example of stuff that I've worked on myself, the Create a costume game for 3-5 year olds that we produced last year uses this kind of goal (dragging shapes onto a costume and then colouring it in based on items from the Museum of London's collections).  The authors here point out that puzzle/mystery and role-playing story lend themselves particularly well to this kind of idea of a goal.
  7. They explain that 'Young or novice learners who are unfamiliar with a particular learning domain need such guidance and structure to attract and hold their attention'. They also point out, however, that 'Within the structure and guidance provided by [goal-based scenarios], young learners prefer some degree of freedom.
  8. They round up their paper with a list of things that developers of educational web activities should consider:
i. the fact that children like to have goals whereas adults prefer reference sites
ii. the need to choose a pedagogical approach i.e. which kind of activity they're going to produce
iii. the expertise of the audience in the subject in hand - they conclude that 'Expert learners with existing interest in the domain are more likely to favor interactive references sites. Novice learners, regardless of age, are more likely to need and prefer a guided experience to introduce them to the subject and motivate them to learn about it.'
iv. the fact that this level of expertise also affects the learning goals of an activity

9. They end with a caveat to their conslusions, saying that just because something holds people's attention doesn't mean that it is achieving its goals but that 'a web activity or any other learning activity must first attract and hold the interest of learners in order to have the opportunity to achieve its learning objectives.'

I hope others find this quick summary as useful as I found the article and are tempted to read it in full.  It's certainly useful to me for a project I'm currently working on to be able to quote studies of the different behaviours of adults and children in their online learning and interesting, generally, to slot the projects that I've worked on into the different categories above and assess them from that perspective.

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3 Comments:

Blogger elodie said...

Thanks Rhiannon for this paper ! I had probably read it already but your summary makes it easier to remember! It's worth another read! :-D

13 July 2010 at 11:14  
Blogger Rhiannon Looseley said...

Thanks Elodie! Glad it was useful!

13 July 2010 at 11:43  
Blogger Auckland Museum Lifelong Learning Team said...

Hi Rhiannon - thanks for posting this. I am the Online Producer eLEarning at the Auckland Museum in New Zealand and as it is a new role I'm keen to find out what other people are doing. I was previously at Tyne & Wear Museums and the National Railway Museum in York before heading over here in 2008.
Paul

15 July 2010 at 02:47  

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