WikiEdProfessional eLearning Guidebook/Pedagogical designs for eLearning/What is the role of media in learning?

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Therefore, it is arguable that in most contemporary technology enhanced learning environments where media is skillfully integrated with the instructional method, media can and do play a very influential and critical role in learning and teaching. Some prominent examples of such educational environments are the Jasper Woodbury Series (see Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1992: 1993), and Exploring the Nardoo (see Hedberg, & Harper, 1995; Harper, Hedberg, Wright, & Corderoy, 1995). In these contexts, media play a critical and a very important role in achieving the intended learning outcomes for the students. They serve to motivate students with clever use of sound, pictures and animation. They are also very useful in representing contexts and situations from the real world which are harder to bring into the classroom for live demonstrations.

When using media within learning environments, particularly e-learning environments, it is important to recognize the way media is processed by the brain. With too much media the learner can experience a cognitive overload. Essentially the idea of more media is not necessarily the best for learning. To find reference to what skillfully integrated looks like, the work of Mayer and Moreno (2000) is an excellent place to begin. The work of Mayer and Moreno is significant for they provide valuable insight into how the brain processes images (and animations), text, and sound; and what are the best approaches to using these media together.

The majority of these learning environments such as the Jasper Woodbury Series and Exploring the Nardoo are grounded in constructivist principles of learning, and situated cognition (see Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbuilt, 1990). These learning environments skillfully utilize the strengths of various media attributes with powerful learning strategies such as problem solving, collaborative inquiry and critical reflection to engage learners in meaningful and motivating learning tasks. In such educational settings media take on a very important role in both learning and teaching. Learning and teaching is adversely affected when media are not skillfully integrated into the learning experiences. Conversely, learning and teaching is optimized when media have been carefully selected and applied with sound instructional strategies to serve specific learning needs in different domains of learning.