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Back Next Contents Digital Video for Multimedia: Considerations for Capture, Use and Delivery

Section 1: Video and Learning

Visuals and Learning:

It is very tempting to use the latest computer wizardry to represent information and develop computer enhanced learning materials. However, the instructional design of these systems should be based on a careful examination and analysis of the many factors, both human and technical, relating to visual learning.

In a number of, now very famous, experiments carried out in the 1970s it was concluded that not only does the brain have an extraordinary capacity to imprint and recall, but that it can do so, with no loss of accuracy, at incredibly high speeds (Haber, 1970; Standing, 1973). Standing (1973) commented that "the capacity of recognition memory for pictures is almost limitless". Pictures have a direct route to long-term memory, each image storing its own information as a coherent 'chunk' or concept (Standing, 1973; Paivio, 1975; and Erdelyi and Stein, 1981). There is no limit to the number of "chunks" or concepts that that can be stored and retrieved (Miller, 1956; Gage and Berliner, 1988).

The reason for this is that images make use of a massive range of cortical skills; colour, form, line, dimension, texture, visual rhythm, and especially imagination (Buzan, 1990). Imagination comes from the Latin imaginari, meaning to 'picture mentally'. Images are generally more evocative than words, more precise and potent in triggering a wide range of associations, thereby enhancing creative thinking and memory.

However, before any image offers the potential for increased learning, a need for external aids to visualisation must be established. Reviewers (Dwyer, 1978; Levin, Anglin & Carney, 1987) have stressed the importance of first determining whether a textual passage alone elicits adequate internal imaging by students. If internal imaging does not take place, then evaluate the effectiveness of including a picture. If the use of text alone succeeds in creating adequate internal imaging, the inclusion of external visuals will probably not result in any additional learning gains. One could argue that adding such visuals may add aesthetic quality and render the material more attractive to users. Users often regard material as being of higher quality if images are present. However, there is always the potential that unnecessary visuals may distract. Even if text alone does not sufficiently induce appropriate mental imaging, visuals must be congruent, relevant, and consistent with the information presented in the text in order to be effective (Levin and Lesgold, 1978).

Care needs to be taken when using visuals for aesthetic reasons. The misuse of a single visual element can cause misrepresentation of information and become a barrier to content and impede learning, even if the program overall may, in all other aspects, follow the principles of instructional design. It is important to bear in mind the nature of the audience, especially their age group and culture mix; computer enhanced materials for education and entertainment have different objectives. Each have their own set of implications and considerations. That is not to say, however, that educational materials need not be exciting.

Literature on the educational use of video and animation is scarce. However, we believe that it is not unrealistic to apply the above to the use of video and animation.

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