"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Pictures Help Us Learn..., Or Unlearn...

Reading a science article from a primary source is not that easy. I remember one scientist I worked with at the National Institutes of Health. He often emphasized the importance of figures in an article to his students during group meetings. A well-written piece in a journal is one whose figures allow for a reader to digest the main findings of an article without reading fully the text. For learning materials in basic education, pictures may have other purposes than figures do in a science journal article. Pictures may be present in a child's textbook not only to help explain a text, but also to elicit positive emotions. Figures therefore can be decorative as well as instructive.

Pictures like baby animals can elicit positive emotions.

Above copied from the Denver Post

One can imagine having the above photo accompany a text that discusses endangered species. This picture is both relevant and positive.

In contrast, a photo of maggots does not.

Above copied from The Shiznit
The above photo can be used within a text that describes the life stages of insects. It is relevant but the picture is generally unpleasant.

Recent research shows that relevant and positive pictures (PS) that accompany text actually help learning. Surprisingly, irrelevant pictures (simply decorative) but evoke positive feelings (PW) somehow benefits a reader as well. On the other hand, relevant but negative pictures (NS) are detrimental. And not surprisingly, irrelevant and negative pictures (NI) are worse. These findings are summarized in the following figure:

Above copied from
How Affective Charge and Text–Picture Connectedness Moderate the Impact of Decorative Pictures on Multimedia Learning.
Schneider, Sascha; Dyrna, Jonathan; Meier, Luis; Beege, Maik; Rey, G√ľnter Daniel
Journal of Educational Psychology, Jun 05 , 2017, No Pagination Specified. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/edu0000209
Clearly, we need to be thoughtful when composing learning materials in basic education.

Unfortunately, such thoughtfulness is severely lacking in the Philippines. In one textbook for children, there is even a need to add a new category: Incorrect Figures (IF). These images are related to the text, but provide the wrong information. The Cordilleran Sun highlights this in one of its posts:

Mario L. Flores II, Jessica Mariz R. Ignacio, and Rowel S. Padernal are listed as authors of this textbook intended for third grade social studies. The book introduces several indigenous cultures in the Philippines. The boy in the above picture is saying (translated to English), "A good day to you. I am Gambo. I live in Zambales. I like to play with my friends." At the bottom of the drawing of the boy, the caption says "Gambo is an Igorot". The picture is relevant and looks positive since the boy is smiling. Unfortunately, Igorots in the Philippines do not live in Zambales. Zambales is home to a different indigenous group called Aetas. Igorots actually live near the Cordilleras.

This new category (IF) is not included in the recent study on how picture connectedness impacts learning. I am guessing that such category, if included, will have the worst impact on learning, even worse than negative and weakly connected pictures. 

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