Cognitive Learning with Electronic Media and Social Networking

Cognitive Learning with Electronic Media and Social Networking

Anna Ursyn (University of Northern Colorado, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8142-2.ch001
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This chapter explores the existing and potential possibilities of exchanging information through the means that exceed those relating only to a text. Discussion entails knowledge visualization and the verbal and nonverbal ways of communication in the physical and online settings. After giving some consideration to the ways we communicate, cognitive activities are discussed by examining notions of cognitive thinking, cognitive science, and cognitive learning. Then follow some remarks on cognitive learning with knowledge visualization, whether occurring in a classroom and online with the use of computer technology, carried out through the social networking, or conducted with the use of educational games. Descriptions of the visual/verbal approach to learning with communication media and a discussion about criticism and assessment with respect to digital art and graphics conclude the chapter.
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The purpose of this chapter is to discuss several areas of interest in the spirit of the STEAM movement (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) and examine how to apply knowledge visualization to support teaching and cognitive learning of particular fields of knowledge. Themes discussed include cognitive thinking and learning in a classroom and online, exploration of several science areas, social networking, educational games, and digital art, and then analysis of what have been done and what can be done toward developing interactive, integrative learning environments. This chapter also examines how the skills of computing and programming can be applied to make them helpful in teaching and cognitive learning with the use of electronic media and social networking. Description follows, of the author’s approaches to visual learning with the use of integration of art and science: (1) visual presentation of scientific concepts; (2) creating art by finding inspiration in a science-based topic; and (3) learning visually for other courses taken concurrently by arranging data into a structured whole. Several learning projects have been developed for this purposes – some in collaboration with scientists. A short account on research studies conducted by the author on the themes under narrative concludes the chapter.

The words ‘cognitive’ and ‘learning’ might to some people seem synonymous. However we consider the rote learning to be less cognitive than for example, drawing a chart for the electric circuit distribution in a new house. More and more, the ability of abstract thinking is expected from any prospective employee. Cognitive skills such as abstract thinking ability might not be needed for successfully answering some questions in a multiple-choice test, yet they might be crucial for writing a code for an interactive novel or setting up a project based on an open-source Arduino platform.

Programming has been considered a difficult skill and many may choose not to do it. On the other hand, a product of programming with a rich visual component may become an artwork. With visualization techniques computers transform data into information, and visualization converts information into a picture form. Because of this, scientists and teachers explore ways of applying a visual language to present information with images, symbols, signs, metaphors, and allegories. The idea of going beyond the verbal implies seeking for the progressive, proactive, and inclusive ways of thinking about achieving knowledge, creating art, or providing amusement and enjoyment. Mastering computing solutions for knowledge visualization may open new venues for an ambitious or creative person working in areas such as art, design, communication, networking, writing, as well as business or computer science.

We may see computing as a common trait that defines our frame of reference both in the online social networking and the electronic media. Many emphasize impact of computing technologies using bio- and evolutionary computing, applications, robots, smart and intelligent apps, bots, ubiquitous devices, tools for mobile apps, and smart phones that provide networked, interactive communication. The interactive or virtual encounters may refer to various configurations and appearances, involving visuals, the use of light, sound (such as music and voice including songs) , haptic experiences, touch, and gesture. Particular solutions may be also attained with the use of avatars, telecasting, TV, groupware implementations, social networking, You Tube, and any other ways of social activities such as blogosphere or wiki applications. Media employed online may include and often combine video strips, immersive virtual reality, the Web, wireless technologies, performances, art installations, and interactive presentations. The meaning of the new media art has shifted to broader understanding of the concepts beyond artistic creation. We often refer as an artwork the works aimed at entertaining, educating, or otherwise involving the audience.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Sign: A conventional shape or form telling about facts, ideas, or information. It is a distinct thing that signifies another thing. Natural signs signify events caused by nature, while conventional signs may signal art, social interactions, fashion, food, interactions with technology, machines, and practically everything else.

Artworld: In 1964 Arthur Danto (1964) introduced the term “Artworld” as informal groups of art-related people. In many cases the status of the work as a work of art depends on the opinion, cooperation, and recognition of the Artworld. Works of art can be appreciated in relation to other artworks, whether they are providing enjoyment, aesthetic experience, and some social benefits. Stephen Davies (1991) discussed functional and procedural approaches to art definition – two strategies that might be adopted to define art. For the functionalist, an artwork performs functions distinctive to art, usually providing a rewarding aesthetic experience. For the proceduralist, an artwork is created in accordance with certain rules and procedures.

Knowledge Visualization: The use of visual representations to transfer insights and provide new knowledge in the process of communicating between at least two persons.

Semiotics: The study about the meaningful use of signs, symbols, codes, and conventions that allow communication. The name ‘semiotics’ is derived from the Greek word ‘semeion’ which means “sign”. “Meaning” is always the result of social conventions, even when we think that something is natural or characteristic, and we use signs for those meanings. Therefore, culture and art is a series of sign systems. Semioticians analyze such sign systems in various cultures; linguists study language as a system of signs, and some even examine film as a system of signs. The semiotic content of visual design is important for non-verbal communication applied to practice, especially for visualizing knowledge.

Visualization: The communication of information with the use of graphical representations. Interactive visual representations of abstract data use easy-to-recognize objects connected through well-defined relations.

Cognitive Load: Cognitive psychologists provide a term ‘cognitive load’ to denote the amount of information and its necessary processing placed on the working memory of a learner (the part of short-term memory involved in conscious perceptual and linguistic processing). The amount that can possibly be processed without causing the cognitive overload depends on the amount of working memory one possesses and how much information can a learner retain in short-term memory.

Pattern: A regular order existing in nature or in a manmade design. In nature patterns can be seen as symmetries (e.g., snowflakes), and structures having fractal dimension such as spirals, meanders, or surface waves. In computer science, design patterns serve in creating computer programs. In the arts, pattern is an artistic or decorative design made of recurring lines or any repeated elements. We can see patterns everywhere in nature, mathematics, art, architecture, and design. A pattern makes a basis of ornaments, which are specific for different cultures. Owen Jones (1856) made a huge collection of ornaments typical for different countries. He wrote an amazing monographic book entitled “The Grammar of Ornament.”

Icon: Icon represents a thing or refers to something by resembling or imitating it; thus a picture, a photograph, a mathematical expression, or an old-style telephone may be regarded as iconic objects. Thus, an iconic object has some qualities common with things it represents, by looking, sounding, feeling, tasting, or smelling alike.

Symbol: Symbols no resemble things they represent but refer to something by convention. We must learn the relationship between symbols and what they represent, such as letters, numbers, words, codes, traffic lights, and national flags. A symbol represents an abstract concept, not just a thing, and is comparable to an abstract word. Highly abstracted drawings that show no realistic graphic representation become symbols. Symbols are omnipresent in our life. Examples may include: an electric diagram, which uses abstract symbols for a light bulb, wire, connector, resistor, and switch; an apple for a teacher or a bitten apple for a Macintosh computer; a map – typical abstract graphic device; a ‘slippery when wet’ sign. Signs, icons, and symbols are collectively called signage. Icons and symbols help compress information in a visual way. Designers choose signs, symbols, and icons that are powerful and effective; for example, a designer may look for an icon showing the essence of the meaning related to scissors and common features characteristic for this product. Effective design of a complicated product may help memorize and learn how to use the product.

Concept Map: A graphical two-dimensional display of knowledge that is comprised of concepts (usually represented within boxes or circles) connected by directed arcs encoding brief relationships (linking phrases) between the pairs of concepts (Cañas, A. J., Carff, R., Hill, G., Carvalho, M., Arguedas, M., Eskridge, T. C., Lott, J., & Carvajal, R., (2005).

Algorithm: A mathematical recipe, a sequence of instructions telling how to carry out computation to implement it as a program. Algorithm is a mathematical equation used to create repetition, a procedure for solving a problem by carrying out a fixed sequence of simpler, unambiguous steps. Such procedures are used in computer programs and in programmed learning.

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