Television, Games, and Mathematics: Effects of Children’s Interactions with Multiple Media

Television, Games, and Mathematics: Effects of Children’s Interactions with Multiple Media

Sandra Crespo (Michigan State University, USA), Vincent Melfi (Michigan State University, USA), Shalom M. Fisch (MediaKidz Research & Consulting, USA), Richard A. Lesh (Indiana University, USA) and Elizabeth Motoki (Indiana University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jgcms.2011070101
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Research has shown that educational media, such as television series or interactive games, can promote significant learning. However, it is quite common for producers to create several interconnected media, such as a television show and an associated web site, under the assumption that multiple platforms elicit greater learning than a single medium would. The research reported in this paper uses Cyberchase media as the setting in which to investigate the effectiveness of multiple media as a tool for mathematical learning for elementary school children. The study includes both a naturalistic phase, which mirrors children’s typical use of the media, and an experimental phase, which allows for causal inference to be drawn about their learning outcomes.
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Theoretical Background

Our study of children’s cross-platform learning is grounded in the theoretical and empirical literature on transfer of learning – students’ ability to apply concepts or skills acquired in one context to a new problem or context. The literature has documented many different types of transfer of learning (for example Haskell [2001] distinguished among 14 types of transfer), and numerous theoretical mechanisms have been offered to explain how and why they occur (e.g., Gentner, 1983; Greeno, Moore, & Smith, 1993; Holyoak, 1985; Salomon & Perkins, 1989; Schwartz, Bransford, & Sears, 2005).

Particularly relevant to our research is the principle, adopted by several existing theories, that transfer can be elicited through varied practice (i.e., providing learners with multiple examples of the same concept or repeated practice of a skill in multiple contexts). Varied practice helps learners create a generalized mental representation of the material that is less context dependent, and more easily applied to new tasks and situations (e.g., Gick & Holyoak, 1983; Salomon & Perkins, 1989; Singley & Anderson, 1989). For informal education, we hypothesize that encountering similar content (e.g., a mathematical concept or problem-solving heuristic) in multiple contexts and media would lead, not only to a better grasp of the content, but also a greater likelihood of transfer to new problems as well.

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