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Education Software

Interactive Learning Fails Reading Test 299

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the literasy-iznt-a-prublem dept.
motivator_bob writes to tell us the Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that the latest craze of interactive computer software is actually hurting the education level rather than helping it. From the article: "Parents have also bought into the enthusiasm for technology, spending millions on educational computer games for their young. However, research published in the journal Education 3 to 13 has found that pupils who use interactive programs cannot remember stories they have just read because they are distracted by cartoons and sound effects."
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Interactive Learning Fails Reading Test

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  • I'll say (Score:5, Funny)

    by RedNovember (887384) on Monday January 09, 2006 @08:34PM (#14432202)
    I tried this out when I was a OOH SHINY!
    • So true. What the hell is wrong with people? The written word isn't SUPPOSED to have SHINY MOVING NOISY stuff. It's just supposed to SIT THERE. It is not supposed to READ ITSELF TO YOU if it senses you're having trouble.
      • Re:I'll say (Score:5, Informative)

        by bunratty (545641) on Monday January 09, 2006 @09:19PM (#14432445)
        RTFA. The program that read the story didn't cause problems. It was the program with the gratuituous animations that had nothing to do with the story that distracted kids from the story and caused a drop in comprehension.

        I know from experience at a company that makes a very successful literacy program that a computer reading a stories to children and providing exercises in phonics, vocabulary, and comprehension can help children's reading and writing skills immensely. At that company, competing "edutainment" programs were dismissed as inferior, and this study proves that the "entertainment" portion just distracts kids away from the education part of the activity.

        • Re:I'll say (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Saven Marek (739395) on Monday January 09, 2006 @10:25PM (#14432713)
          > At that company, competing "edutainment" programs were dismissed as inferior,
          > and this study proves that the "entertainment" portion just distracts kids away
          > from the education part of the activity.

          The problem I think is parents dont dismiss those ones as inferior because they hold the attention of kids more and the kids sit there agog at the pretty lights and the pictures and the animations and it distracts them and acts just like the television as a babysitter. And so the kids end up dumb and can't read and the parents end up getting time to themselves and a way out of having to actually 'parent' the kids.

          people like that should have their kids forcibly removed and the parents sent to prison. its unethical.
          • Re:I'll say (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Just Some Guy (3352)
            The problem I think is parents dont dismiss those ones as inferior because they hold the attention of kids more and the kids sit there agog at the pretty lights and the pictures and the animations and it distracts them and acts just like the television as a babysitter.

            And another way of looking at it:

            Parents have been told for years, nearly decades, that computers make their kids smarter. Open the newspaper and see the local school district asking to raise taxes to buy new computers. Read about teache

        • Swamp Gas (Score:2, Interesting)

          by jd0g85 (734515)

          I must say, the best computer learning game I ever used was Swamp Gas (and Swamp Gas Europe). I memorized random facts about the states (or the european countries) so that I could 'beat' the game. This would then unlock a few relatively fun arcade games. After I ran out of lives, it was back to the learning so I could get back into the arcade.

          Oh ya, Oregon Trail was fun too. Stupid Buffalo.

    • Re:I'll say (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mr. Roadkill (731328) on Monday January 09, 2006 @09:25PM (#14432477)

      I tried this out when I was a OOH SHINY!

      You're missing the fundamental point of the article, which is OOH SHINY!

      Sorry, the point of the article is "We've got to sell papers by scaring you, and this is going to get your attention for the thirty seconds we've conditioned you to spend on a newspaper article that can't possibly do justice to the topic at hand."

      On a serious note, ration access to the things. "Interactive" is not necessarily a good thing. You thought TV was bad for attention spans? You thought old-style video games were bad? Heh... use the right things at the right time, and in the right proportions. The problem is, many parents who wouldn't dream of letting their kids veg out in front of the television simply substitute one electronic babysitter for another.

      Read to your kids, encourage them to read, let them play interactive titles like the Broderbund stuff assessed, and let them watch TV and DVDs. They all complement each other.

      Reading to kids exposes them to material they wouldn't be able to access themselves because of the reading level required, but which they may well be able to understand - kids can generally listen and speak several years ahead of their reading level, and if they gain knowledge that there's all this interesting stuff in books and see adults reading they'll get interested in gaining the skills needed to read it themselves.

      Interactive stuff makes for good reading-drills - it gets their attention and gets them practicing the skill, and they don't even know that they're doing it. Just don't expect them to be able to absorb a whole story in a single sitting. They're just not designed that way. They're frequently either non-linear, or have an overall linear progression that allows diversions along the way - that's deliberate, and is meant to enhance the long-term playability and make it easier to get the kids to repeat the practice reading exercises hidden as sets of directions or comments on objects or people. They're good for picking up related facts, but picking a narrative out of them could be difficult because the reader/player partially directs how things unfold rather than passively following a narrative that already exists. If they're related to other dead-tree materials, like the Little Monster title is, it could be a good way to get an interest in the related books too.

      TV, videos and DVDs also allow some complex ideas to be presented if done right, and can encourage imagination and thought. I'm not talking about reruns of Magilla Gorilla... I think we all know what kind of crap has been on television... but there is a lot of stuff out there that can stretch the imagination, get kids thinking about moral and behavioural issues at an early age etc. Care Bears, good targetted kids sci-fi of the kind that our national broadcaster seems to show from time to time, kiddy documentary-style series and the like can help provide an interest in what's right and wrong and an interest in people and the world. We don't sit around reading the bible and Pears Cyclopedia to the family by gaslight any more, so the old "do unto others" and "things are interesting out there" messages aren't quite so common in everyday family activities these days - education is in some ways all about programming your kids to be the best people they can be, and their flexible and absorbent little minds will be shaped by what you expose them to, so look at this as an opportunity to expose them to new, interesting and challenging material rather than a way to keep them out of your hair while you watch the news.

      As for purely entertaining interactive titles, like video games, they're not necessarily bad either. Reasoning, imagination, memory skills, attention to detail, cause-and-effect and the like are all things that their gameplay can rely on. They're all important life skills too.

      Just because kids couldn't remember what they saw in the program the previous day is no reason to assume the technology is evil

      • Re:I'll say (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Thangodin (177516) <elentar@sympatico.STRAWca minus berry> on Monday January 09, 2006 @10:32PM (#14432738) Homepage
        If you want your kids to read, make reading a comfort activity. Snuggle up with the kids and read to them and with them. Get them to associate books with contentment, and with love, and they'll be readers all their lives. They will learn to read because they want to. If they never feel that desire, they'll never bother to make the effort, and their reading skills will be poor.

        What's missing in all of these educational products is a human being. This is why I don't believe that video games have any more than a marginal effect on behaviour; they simply don't have the emotional influence of another human being, especially of a parent. In order for any of these things to have a deeply significant impact, the child would have to be starved of human contact, and the damage caused by this would probably outweigh all other influences combined.
    • Re:I'll say (Score:5, Funny)

      by wmajik (688431) <wmajik@CURIEyahoo.com minus physicist> on Monday January 09, 2006 @09:40PM (#14432550) Homepage Journal
      I tried this out when I was a OOH SHINY! Somewhere in the Army, someone is just now figuring out that chrome on the grenade pin might have been a bad idea...
    • Re:I'll say (Score:4, Funny)

      by WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) * <sexwithanimals@gmail.com> on Monday January 09, 2006 @09:40PM (#14432552) Homepage
      As someone with ADHD, I have to say that your comment is HEY LETS GO RIDE BIKES!
  • And then made cartoons and sounds behind the couch. She was going to learn to read, but HEY, those clothes in the dryer want to play tag!
  • accelerated reader (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Donniedarkness (895066) <Donniedarkness@NoSPaM.gmail.com> on Monday January 09, 2006 @08:41PM (#14432241) Homepage
    When I was in middle school, my county had just bought some software called "accelerated reader". This had tests for basically every book you could find (...but you had to pay up the ass for each 10-question test). The school pressured the reading teachers into totally relying on this, and grading completely on our AR tests.

    AR had you take a test at the beginning of the year to determine your "reading level", and it had a "reading level" for practically every book out there. Kids were intentionally doing poorly on the test so that they could read 2nd-grade level books. Because the kids were only graded on what they could take an AR test on, these kids were given high grades for reading books that did them absolutely no good (whereas only one other student and I were actually reading above the 7th grade level).

    Sometimes, educational software (and software in the schools) can be useful, but the biggest problem is that it seems like we use computers for the sake of using computers, and not for the sake of learning. Despite the fact that AR was KILLING our reading classes, the administration demanded that we continue to use it simply so they could brag about their computer software.

    • by Bing Tsher E (943915) on Monday January 09, 2006 @08:56PM (#14432325) Journal
      I attended an 'experimental school' from fourth to sixth grade, back in 1967-70 (aprox.). It was an 'unstructured' 'classroom without walls' approach. We were using all the latest techniques, and the SRA learning modules. There was a great science cart with all kinds of stuff to experiment with. I got into electronics about that time, though mostly from my own exposure and exploration at home.

      What they found out over a few years time was that the average performance of the pupils was about the same. But, looking closer, they discovered that motivated kids were learning MORE and the average kid was learning LESS. I remember spending long classroom hours making clay log cabins and such. The experience set me back severely in some areas but raced me forward in others. Within a few years of the time I attended the school, walls and much more structure had been added. It was viewed a failure.

      I wish, in a way, that I had been given a regular education, though it's always hard to say what difference it might have made.
      • Yeah, I was in an advanced program myself, in California, in the mid-70s.
        Less 'trons, more math and reading. I was several years ahead, but then we moved north (the life of a Navy brat) and I just slimed my way through the rest of school.
        Education, as a subset of life, is something from which you take what you desire.[1]
        As much as I enjoyed Animal House/Tommy Boy, the American Asshat archetype is probably the biggest threat to the education system going.
        But maybe that's more of a feature than a bug: "W
      • I had the same sort of experience, only mine was only about eleven or twelve years ago. A friend and myself scored highly on some standardized tests in grade three and were subsequently "identified" as being (and I hate to use this term because it makes me look like I'm bragging) gifted, or exceptional. We were then moved to another school in the city (quite a ways away from where we lived, mind you) where they offered the sorts of classes that you're talking about. Through grades five and six, we basica
    • by jgc7 (910200) * on Monday January 09, 2006 @09:13PM (#14432412) Homepage
      Despite the fact that AR was KILLING our reading classes, the administration demanded that we continue to use it simply so they could brag about their computer software.
      I went through the same "accelerated reader" program except that the administrators my school did what the program suggested and required each student accumulate a certain number of points. The harder books rewarded students with more points requiring them to read fewer, and the slower students had to read more easy books forcing them to catch up. The scoring system created healty competition and without that program I surely would have never read Anna Karina in middle school. (It had the highest point value of any of the books on the list.)
    • This comment could apply to many pedogical methods. School systems could rely upon drills, not really accomplishing any higher level learning, thereby trying to prove that their system works through targeted assessment. It is absolutely correct that computers for computer's sake is really a disservice to both education and computers. But, as a developer of educational materials, not software, I believe that educational technology is on the verge of actually taking off in a useful way. The problem is not the
    • A similar story:

      In 1973, I was in second grade. My parents had naively bought a house in a neighborhood with really bad schools (we moved away the next year). My school sucked big time, but had gotten some money for computer-aided instruction. That meant a room full of noisy teletypes, with a woman running them who wore earplugs to avoid hearing damage. The teletype would spit out a problem like 12x3, and I was supposed to type in 36. Once you had demonstrated mastery of a particular subject, it would aut

    • by Trip Ericson (864747) on Monday January 09, 2006 @10:18PM (#14432686) Homepage
      Ah yes, the system that destroyed reading for me.

      I recall it fondly, ever since they started requiring it in 6th grade, I've hated reading. I'm now a junior in high school.

      The system was so broken. 11th grade level nonfiction books were virtually worthless, and since that's what I liked to read, I was not allowed to read them anymore. I had to read a bunch of crappy fiction books instead. And even then they'd ask stupid questions that were way too specific that nobody in their right mind could remember. And of course, reading a book that didn't have the AR sticker on it was FORBIDDEN! How DARE you read a non-AR book!

      AR is an example of technology that's NOT right. I was taught to read stuff that was of value and to enjoy those things. Fiction was not one of those things. So then they made sure to break non-fiction for me too. Thank goodness we have Accelerated Reader!
      • Do you happen to be from tiny Decatur, Tn? Your experience is very similiar to mine.

        Another thing that I hate is the fact that other kids are forbidden to read books that are ABOVE their level. I can understand not letting them read ones that are below, but ABOVE?

        And even after we reached our required 5 books, we STILL weren't allowed to read non-AR books. I feel your pain, brother.

        Fortunately, I still love to read.

        • Nope, central Virginia, middle of nowhere. Fortunately, every time I was tested I maxed out the test, so they made an exception for me and pretty much let me read anything from my grade level up.

          They'd set limits based on points and encourage people to get as many as possible. There was a waiting list for all the Harry Potter books as they were worth huge points. People read for the awards, not for the reading. Thus defeating the purpose.
    • The school I went to implemented AR when I was in 6th grade. I tested into the 13+ reading level, and the middle school, naturally, had nothing of the sort. So my teacher just let me read Star Trek novels and I was just given an A as long as I was demonstrably reading. Now, my brother's in the 6th grade, and it's become much more structured. They refuse to give credit for any book not on their list. It's rather disappointing, really.
  • by Toby The Economist (811138) on Monday January 09, 2006 @08:42PM (#14432243)
    Education requires focus and concentration.

    Entertainment amuses and distracts.

    Education is not and cannot be entertainment.

    It's a dangerous fad, I think ultimately brought on by the entertainment power of TV; children can be so involved in TV it's hard to get them to focus on education, so the idea arrives that if the TV can be used for education...

    However, entertainment is fundamentally antagonistic to education.

    Everything education is, entertainment is not.

    Neil Postman wrote about this in "Amusing Ourselves to Death", a book which inspired Roger Waters epochial album, "Amused to Death"; a recommended read and a recommended listen.

    • I can't speak for everyone, but I find education quite entertaining. There are times where I'll be reading Wikipedia for hours, engrossed in all the stuff there is to read about.
    • Ah. I read Amusing Ourselves To Death for summer reading this past summer. It was indeed a good look at what newer, more "glitzy" forms of media have done to the basic ways we communicate information. One example was television news: In "olden times," you would get your news from a local newspaper, and it tended to be things relevant to you personally, or to people you knew around the neighborhood. But now that we have satellite links and the ability to basically broadcast video to everyone's houses fr

    • That's what the History Channel is all about. I watch it as much as I can (which isn't much, b/c I don't have cable or anything at my house) just because I love learning new things.

      But it's one of those things that depend on the activity and subject. If you teach something in videos or whatever, there are tons of history or language or geometry things that would go along with it. But reading isn't one of those automated-type activities. Reading is learned simply because you see the use for it and have the d
    • by Copid (137416) on Monday January 09, 2006 @09:57PM (#14432622)
      As one of my wisest college professors said when students were grubmling about having to learn formal definitions for a mathematics class, "I don't know where people get the idea that learning is supposed to be fun. Learning can be fun, but it can also be really tough--even downright miserable. Knowing is fun."

      I'm all for making learning fun when it can be, but we often sacrifice too much in order to achieve those ends. Sometimes you just have to sit down and memorize your multiplication tables, read your textbooks, and do your problem sets. Sadly, no amount of fun will get you there faster than that.

    • I'm not sure that I can agree with your oil-and-water viewpoint, which is based on an unequal comparison ("A requires this, B does that"). Nevertheless, it's a step in the right direction, because we do need to distinguish between the two.

      I think it's possible (sometimes) both to educate and entertain. My daughter (not quite 3) seems to have learnt quite a bit from some of the videos and TV shows she's watched - letters, numbers, names of things, etc.

      And what people find entertaining varies from person to p
    • Thats a dangerious assumption you make. Education can be fun, the trick is to find how to make it fun. There are a lot of people doing a lot of research in education to figure out how.
    • Education is not and cannot be entertainment.

      You need to be careful with your definition of "entertainment".

      If "entertainment" includes all of the things we choose to do for the enjoyment of it, then I've got to disagree. Want to teach kids about ecosystems, animal habitats, plant biology, simple thermodynamics, simple geology, and a whole lot more? Go on a camping trip in the mountains (or backwoods... whatever's local) and insist that the GameBoy be left in the car. There are uncountable things to be l
  • And make sure that spell check and grammar check are on.
    After all book learnin is over rated.
  • For the most part I believe the studies that were just published. I have tried many computer based classes and I did find myself distracted by the "media supplements" and "interactive" links, etc. On the other hand, I think that book learning also has its flaws.

    Classical education theory suggests that people can be categorized by visual, aural, touch, smell, etc learning capacities. I found that a careful combination of each of the senses works for me.

    Irrespective, I think that interactive learning
  • by a_greer2005 (863926) on Monday January 09, 2006 @08:45PM (#14432262)
    No really, the big animated ad thingy under the summery whiped it from my oh so fragile short term memory.
  • Creative Juices (Score:2, Insightful)

    by oc-beta (941915)
    I think that part of learning is creating the connections between synapses (of course) I believe that happens mostly when doing creative thinking. Like using your imagination. Imagination is like working out on a treadmill. When it is time to run, you are well equiped.
    • Let's just all sit around all day imagining stuff. Like let's imagine that we know how to read and write and do arithmetic. That way, when we actually have to do it, we'll be ready!

      We can just imagine up computer manuals. Or better yet, let's just pretend we are computer experts who know how to write software to fly airplanes! Then we can imagine that the software passes the FAA certification process. And we can imagine that that plane just didn't fall out of the sky, killing hundreds of the passengers on b
      • I think you miss the point. I do not think the parent intended to say that if we imagine how to do arithmetic then we will be able to do arithmetic when the times comes- I beleive instead it was that if we do not use our imagination to think creatively we will not be able to come up with creative/imaginitive solutions to problems when we need to do so.
        I agree on this point- I've noticed that if I take a break for even a month from certain activities it takes me a while to ease back into them because I've
  • by dtfinch (661405) * on Monday January 09, 2006 @08:46PM (#14432268) Journal
    That's nothing like my first computer, where the only fun thing I could do on it was learn to program.
  • just like "evoting", this shouldn't shock. In theory, interactive learning with the aid of a computer should benefit the students who get to use it. In practice, this turns out to be just another give-away to cronies with schlock product - just google "bush brother educational software texas schools" to see what I'm talking about. One of the Bush bros was charging millions for totally useless software that was just worthless - really lame, mindless crapware aimed at the lowest common denominator. I'm all f
  • A couple of points (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BertieBaggio (944287) <bob.manics@eu> on Monday January 09, 2006 @08:48PM (#14432277) Homepage
    From TFA, emphasis mine:

    The other half used an interactive program which, in addition to telling the story, encourages pupils to click the computer mouse on page illustrations, triggering almost 300 animations and sound effects.

    Only two-thirds of the pop-up cartoons were relevant to the storyline.

    -----

    Firstly and seriously, of course children will be distracted by animations and sound effects. Knowing this, and if they are irrelevent, why did the writers of the software put them there? Why not add some animations that explained part of the story? Fair enough no kid's book should read like a tech manual (and vice versa), but putting in distractions will distract the reader - child or otherwise.

    Secondly and less seriously... they're surprised 'only' two thirds of the popups are relevent? Put the kids on the net instead of using that software and we'll see how many 'relevent' popups they get.

    Actually, that might not be such a good idea...

    • I agree with that. Here's what you need if you're designing a program to teach kids to read: Pictures relevant to the story, text, and a good text-to-speech subsystem. That's it. No fscking cartoons, no animation, no SOUND EFFECTS! Just click on the word and hear the computer speak it, and that's it.
    • OK, so their test programs implemented interactivity badly. Therefore, interactivity is bad.

      Of course, given that people often judge video games, comics, genre fiction, etc. only by their worst examples, why should anyone be surprised by this conclusion?
    • Just to throw in my two cents, the interesting portions to me was all about this:

      A day after the exercise, children were asked to recall the story and the characters in it. The findings showed that 90 per cent of the group that used the first program had good or excellent recall of the story.

      It doesn't seem like the researchers are testing reading ability, they're "just" testing memory. And of course you're going to have poor memory when you have multiple distracting events going on as well. It looks
  • by Rahga (13479) on Monday January 09, 2006 @08:51PM (#14432301) Homepage Journal
    These researchers can blame the bells and whistles all they want, but I doubt they tested the interactive books against a real control... If you give a 5 year old a copy of Curious George, be prepared to watch them struggle at the rate of 30 seconds per page, or 5 to 10 minutes for a whole book, reading and figuring out each word. By the end of the ordeal, they plot of the story and details wont matter to them. What matters is that they've read every word, and the monkey somehow managed to rescue his banana.
  • Duh. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pair-a-noyd (594371) on Monday January 09, 2006 @08:51PM (#14432307)
    I've been saying this for years. I saw this happening with my kids in the 90's and got them away from it.

    And guess what? It's not just kids and "educational" programs,
    the same thing applies to adults and movies/TV..

    Think about it...

  • by G4from128k (686170) on Monday January 09, 2006 @08:55PM (#14432319)
    I'd also fault spelling and grammar checkers in the continuing decline of proper language skills/skill's. Too/to/two many people play loose/lose with their/there/they're word processor's/processors checking facilities. If the text passes the checker, then they're/there/their convinced it's/its fine.

    I'm no speeling or grammar fiend but even I am horrified by the basic language errors that now appear in supposedly edited works (e.g., the New York Times and in books). Some people claim the trend is due to e-mail/IM, but I'd argue that a well trained person doesn't make such basic mistakes even on a fast first draft.
  • Lab rats (Score:4, Insightful)

    by msbsod (574856) on Monday January 09, 2006 @08:56PM (#14432322)
    I have seen similar experiments like the reported one in Great Britain. In the US (university) students are pushed through labs where they are suppose to learn things like physics. Those labs come with special computer programs to train the students. Before the lab begins, the students have to complete an online test. Then they conduct a few simple experiments. In the final last step they are suppose to use the computer and compare their experimental results with theoretical calculations. For example, they take a little vehicle on a ramp and measure the distance as a function of time. Then they are suppose to fit the data. The computer programs offer various functions with generic variable names. The students try them all and sometimes find the right formula. So, they pass. But, most students give the wrong answer when asked which variable in the formula represents the acceleration. They learn nothing. They quit without any idea about physics, units, and never have to do an error calculation. At some universities things went really bad: TA's are told be the professor that the students by definition do not give a "wrong" answer. Instead, students should simply discuss their results and it does not matter what their results are. I have seen it. The students are becoming the lab rats of instructors who want to find the perfect teaching method. Somehow I am wondering how the students pass the test before the lab, and what they do later in their life. What I do know is that not every faculty member is happy with the situation. But, these are new "learning techniques", funded with a lot of money. Everybody better shut up, as long as the money flows.
    • TA's are told be the professor that the students by definition do not give a "wrong" answer. Instead, students should simply discuss their results and it does not matter what their results are.

      Sounds appropriate to philosophy, not science.

  • Does Zork count? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Monday January 09, 2006 @08:58PM (#14432329)
    When I was a kid, educational software like Zork really helped, typing and spelling especially. Plus I learned never to go into a dark room lest I be eaten by a grue.
    • Plus I learned never to go into a dark room lest I be eaten by a grue.

      More insightful words have never been spoken?
    • by chriss (26574) <chriss@memomo.net> on Monday January 09, 2006 @09:51PM (#14432602) Homepage

      When I was a kid, educational software like Zork really helped, typing and spelling especially.

      Yes, it does. And it is a good example for how educational software should be:

      • You played, because you wanted.
      • The learning happened because you needed the knowledge for yourself, so learning made sense.
      • The situation required you to think how to apply your knowledge in the "real world" of Zork.
      • There was an instant reward.
      • You could start and stop the learning process at any time.
      • It was fun.

      For me it was "Wishbringer" and "Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy". Since my first language is German, it was even more usefull, since I usually had no opportunity to really try my English communication skills in my natural habitat. SimTalk is way more efficient than NoTalk.

      Chriss

      --
      memomo.net - free online language training [memomo.net]

  • This study confirms what we've all long suspected. MUDs are superior to graphical games, and stuff like World of Warcrack and Evercrack really are bad for you. All those bright pictures, colors, and songs just ruin your focus. If you want your children to grow up smart, park them in front of telnet, not teletubbies.

  • Ugh, I knew it. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by d34thm0nk3y (653414) on Monday January 09, 2006 @09:00PM (#14432344)
    Only two-thirds of the pop-up cartoons were relevant to the storyline.

    A day after the exercise, children were asked to recall the story and the characters in it. The findings showed that 90 per cent of the group that used the first program had good or excellent recall of the story.

    This figure dropped to 30 per cent with the children who had used the interactive program.


    Hmm, one program had 2/3 superfluous material and their story retention dropped by 2/3. What a coincidence.
  • From the article: "The children were more highly motivated to read a talking story than a conventional book."

    Shouldn't she have said "listen to a talking story"? Apparently the teachers need some help. If nothing else, they should try reading stories to the kids.

    Also: "the vast spending on information and communication technology has had little or no impact on standards."

    That's true in the corporate world, too. I guess we truly are preparing the kiddies for real life!

  • ...that most Slashdot readers learned to write "interactively" [mac.com] growing up?

    Proof is in the pudding.
  • That is most important. Teaching children at a young age to use technology will possibly help them later on in life.
    • I totally disagree. Merely giving young kids access to computers, only learns them to be icon punching monkeys. If you really think that teaching technology is important for kids, then teach them eg. a little boolean logic and math and let them apply this knowledge to problems _using_ a computer.

  • Phony test (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chriss (26574) <chriss@memomo.net> on Monday January 09, 2006 @09:23PM (#14432464) Homepage

    Man, do I hate those studies. What the hell were they measuring? Two groups of six years old listening to a story while the text ist displayed on a computer screen.

    Group A
    Will only have the posibility to listen to the story while the currently read line is highlightened on the screen.
    Group B
    Will additionaly be encouraged to click on illustrations, triggering almost 300 animations and sound effects. 100 of these have nothing to do with the story whatsoever

    When asked about the story, 90% of group A will remember it correctly, but only 30% of group B. So what is the conclusion? Maybe that distractions, especially those that are not related to what you are currently doing will harm your concentration and therefore you will remember not as well as if you were left alone? No, the conclusion is:

    Interactive learning fails reading test

    WTF?

    • Maybe I would have bought it if they did not add 33% of noise to the experiment.
    • Maybe I would have bought it if the animations were designed to give an insight into the story. (Were they? They don't say. Animations and sound effects may be "Hit the monkey, win an iPod" flash banners displayed because the story is about a monkey).
    • Maybe I would have bought it if they had tested for some positive reaction to the added interactive component (Were the children that did not follow the linear story able to tell the story in a nonlinear context? Could they seperate the single elements of the story more easily? Did anybody care to check?)

    I don't claim that it is impossible that interactive learning is the wrong educational tool for six years old. I don't believe it, but I just can't prove it. But I'm annoyed by all these stupid studies making statements based on unprecise conditions, which will not allow to deduce verifyable conclusions, but will be picked up by the press (and slashdot) nonetheless.

    They're just like those studies that claim over and over again that playing counterstrike will turn kids into brutal killers. Proven wrong again and again, but nobody cares.

    Chriss

    --
    memomo.net - free online language training [memomo.net]

  • If parents want their children raised and educated by robots, they shouldn't expect them to excel using normal organic brains. Perhaps parents should hold off on reproducing and wait until technology advances to the point where silcon-based children can come pre-assembled and pre-programmed, knowing whatever lucrative skills will make them a success (helping to supplement their parents' inevitably meagre social security safety net, which by then will have surely acquired rather massive tears).
  • What is Learning? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Quirk (36086) on Monday January 09, 2006 @09:30PM (#14432505) Homepage Journal
    To the best of my knowledge no one has answered the simple question, 'what is learning?'. Is it just pattern recognition? What are the memory requirements? Is it both a rote act and a creative act? To what extent does peer pressure and the desire to excell play a part? What part does good parenting play? What about diet and overall health?

    Guys like Edward De Bono [edwdebono.com] have made a career by claiming to have the inside track on creative learning. I've studied epistemology since my mid teens and in answer to the question 'what is learning?' I've acquired a vast ignorance. Ultimately, for me, learning is a nurtured drive with inherent requirements, that is nourished by the new, by information, difference that makes a difference (Bateson). The high of learning comes when one recognizes that nature has given rise to you, an individual with the potential to encompass the principles of life in the small shell that houses your brain.The truth is most people are driven by the more primitive drives and default to being entertained.

    Gregory Bateson [edge.org] suggested we can learn to learn, possibly learn to learn to learn; but, first we must experience what it means to learn. I believe that learning is a unique multifaceted experience that, once experienced, can, depending on the individual, entice the practioner ever onward.

    The day my older sister took me by the hand and walked me into the nearest library I was hooked. I knew how to, read, loved to read, but had no idea of the universes of knowledge available. Yet even into grade 1 I stubbornly refused to learn to write. I read, I had lots to read, other people were doing the writing, what need had I to write?

    Whatever learning is, whether it be as simple as deriving new patterns, or, as profound as Archimedes' Eureka!, we first must introduce children to the joy of learning. Most of them can take it from there.

    just my loose change.

  • What the.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by StikyPad (445176) on Monday January 09, 2006 @09:36PM (#14432530) Homepage
    I can attest to the validity of this study. I don't have kids, but when I was one, I had a plastic learning device called a "Speak & Spell." Some of you may have heard of it. The only thing I can remember about this device is that if you pushed the L button, it sounded a LOT like "hell." We would use this exceedingly amusing, at the time, coincidence(?) to get around actually using bad words through such techniques as saying "What the" and then pushing L. Surprisingly, this technique proved to be completely ineffective at avoiding a spanking.
  • I read the exact same thing on Fortune last week. Or was it Forbes? It was one of those webpages
    with all the float-over windows with sound and graphics ... it's kind of hard to remember now which.

  • Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Monday January 09, 2006 @10:01PM (#14432637)
    It's about time that people noticed this. Ever since the first "leapfrog" system came out, education has taken a backseat to marketing.

    Parents are willing to spend an arm and a leg "for their child's education", but would be appalled at buying that child an equally-priced "toy".

    It seems that all any company has to do anymore is design something that has more than a few words and numbers in it, call it a "learning device" or "educational system" and it sells like you wouldn't believe.

    The newest leapfrog toy, "the fly", seems like a really useful invention again passed of as an educational device without any real educational content.
    It can mimic a $5 pocket calculator, a $3 pocket dictionary, and a $0.50 pen all while taking up way too much space and being much to loud/obnoxious/distracting.

    The potential of this technology is immensely great, but of course, what does that matter if it won't sell and make the company lots and lots of money? Best to strip it down, paint it bright colors, have it make noise, and say it helps kids learn.
  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Monday January 09, 2006 @10:45PM (#14432806)
    I really agree with this synthesis. Computers per se can't teach you the most critical skills - including reading, writing or mathematics. The interaction with a teacher is so much more richer than with any machine yet devised. Socrates is still right, the best school is a log with the student on one end and the teacher on the other.

    A computer can alleviate some of the drudgery in education, but it cannot replace or even significantly augment the teacher. We are impovershing our children if we think otherwise.

    • by adrianmonk (890071) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @12:04AM (#14433174)
      I really agree with this synthesis. Computers per se can't teach you the most critical skills - including reading, writing or mathematics. The interaction with a teacher is so much more richer than with any machine yet devised.

      I would have to mostly disagree. Even though I think computers in education are the most wasteful, overhyped thing in decades, I think a properly made computer program probably could teach you to read. And I know you can learn math from a computer: in college, I took M311 (Linear Algebra and Matrix Theory) by correspondence, and I did just fine in it and got an "A", despite not being that great at math (for example, I failed second-semester calculus the first 4 times I took it).

      In fact, that Linear Algebra experience taught me just how superfluous the teacher can be. I just had a book and a guide that told me what to read and what problems to work, and I did fine. I had the same experience with the other correspondence course I took, which was US History. All I did was read the book and mail in an essay for each chapter to be graded. I got an A in that too, and I still remember what the prof wrote on one of my essays: "I have rarely seen this kind of insight from an undergraduate."

      Now, this might all have more to do with my learning style than anything. But the point is that I was able to learn just fine without ever even meeting the teacher and just reading a book. Obviously, any content you can put in a book, you can put on a computer, so you should be able to learn anything from a computer that you can learn from a book. Of course, that does require that the software isn't so brain-damaged that it detracts from learning.

  • Over Christmas I learned and then taught my nephews about the flypen I got them. It was both fascinating and discouraging, and I think on topic too.

    First, let me say that I was already familiar with the principle since I worked with Anoto a little (I ran a show in Toyko where we showed the Anoto pen), they make the underlying technology. This may have contributed to unfulfilled expectations.

    In case you don't know what it is, the Flypen [flypentop.com] (very heavy flash site!)is a pen-shaped device based on Anoto [anoto.com]'s techno
  • Dr. Richard Mayer has done extensive research on the effect of offtopic multimedia thrown in to eLearning projects(cognitive overload).

    He wrote a great introductory book (with Ruth Colvin ClarK) on how to use multimedia to improve student learning, rather than hinder it [amazon.com].

    For a good look at an online course done pretty much right (at least based on current, peer reviewed research) see the WCLN's Flow course on water resource use & river management [wcln.org] (click the login as guest button).

    And see the adaptation n
  • by Julian Morrison (5575) on Monday January 09, 2006 @11:54PM (#14433129)
    1. Bedtime stories
    2. Synthetic phonics [wikipedia.org]
    3. Visit the library, buy them their favourite books as presents
    4. Upgrade to meta-reading using this [amazon.com].

    At no point in the above does a computer feature as anything other than a source of readables.
  • by corngrower (738661) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @12:05AM (#14433182) Journal
    That article was pretty good. But I think it just needs some sound effects and cartoons to go along with it. They could play when you clicked on some pictures or icons around the text.
  • by hansreiser (6963) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @04:13AM (#14433987) Homepage
    In any discussion of whether a new medium of expression is a good thing, never pay any attention to the disparaging remarks of anyone who is old enough that the medium is new to them. It does not matter how they dress it up as a study, they are too old to be unprejudiced.

    If you don't agree, read about the furors over dime store novels, talking movies, or, greatest horror of horrors, the dramas that Plato complained of.

    I don't do instant messaging, but at least I have the wisdom to know that it is because I am old and not because I am wise.

    Hmm. Ok, I will go login to gaim, out of shame at being so old, it just doesn't excite me though....

    Hans
  • perhaps... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Foobar of Borg (690622) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @10:51AM (#14435540)
    However, research published in the journal Education 3 to 13 has found that pupils who use interactive programs cannot remember stories they have just read because they are distracted by cartoons and sound effects.

    Perhaps that would explain all the dupes on slashdot. The editors are too busy looking at the shiny icons and banner ads, so they can't remember the stories they have just read.

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