Learners’ Cognitive Load When Using Educational Technology

Learners’ Cognitive Load When Using Educational Technology

Renae Low (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia), Putai Jin (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia) and John Sweller (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-195-9.ch708
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Taking advantage of the rapid evolution of educational technology, simulations and games have been embodied in a variety of teaching and learning procedures. To a large extent, their effectiveness, in common with the effectiveness of all instructional design relies on how material and activities are optimally organized. That organization should be determined by the nature of human cognitive architecture when dealing with complex, biologically secondary information. Cognitive load theory has been devised to deal with such knowledge. Therefore, embodied simulations and serious games should take evidence-based cognitive load principles into account in both design and implementation.
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Games, with features such as voluntariness, fantasy, specific rules/goals, artificial gains/payoffs, competition or cooperation, sensory and motor involvement, challenge, control, low costs of trial and error, and associated amusement (Garris, Ahlers, & Driskell, 2002), might have existed as a type of leisure activity as early as the dawn of civilization, when adults had sufficient food and children were not habitually starving (Dempsey, Haynes, Lucassen, & Casey, 2002). Games not only can be used for recreation but also for educational/training purposes. For instance, in ancient China, individuals learned to play games like Weiqi, or “Go” as it is known in Western countries, to practice various moves in order to become commanders or military strategists. In the modern world, serious, game-based computer systems are widely used for military training as well as for classroom learning (Raybourn, 2007). Currently, learners have an exponentially increasing quantity and variety of educational games available to them (Dipietro, Ferdig, Boyer, & Black, 2007).

During the last two decades, software developers and instructors have introduced a variety of educational games to learners at all levels. According to a recent review of 55 popular educational games and relevant publications/information, 22 games were claimed by their designers to be constructed and developed on the basis of established learning theories or instructional strategies (Kebritchi & Hirumi, 2008). Educational game developers have shown increasing interest in understanding and implementing various pedagogical principles. The pedagogical foundations for some educational games include (a) behaviorist learning theory (e.g., the educational game Destination Math uses a stimulus–response model that reinforces desirable learning outcomes during problem solving); (b) experiential learning theory (e.g., students in medical science assume the role of authentic medical practitioners and refer to their authentic experience when playing the BioHazard game to deal with simulated medical emergencies); (c) discovery learning theory (e.g., college students are guided to discover a number of basic concepts and underlying processes of market economy by playing Gamenomics, which allowed players to explore demands, change purchasing or selling prices, and manipulate supplies and other marketing parameters); (d) situated cognition (e.g., cognitive apprenticeship is employed for teacher education in a classroom management game simSchool, which includes a database of realistic student profiles and provides trainees with step-by-step scaffolding, hints, and feedback to acquire essential classroom management skills); and (e) constructivist learning theory (e.g., students learnt electromagnetism by playing SuperCharged!, in which they have the discretion to construct their own game level and build up their new knowledge “blocks” toward an optimized level). These examples indicate a growing trend of using extant learning theories and instructional principles in the design and delivery of educational games.

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