Keynote Speeches

"Imagination through Virtuality for in-depth Learning"

Professor Piet Kommers (Profile)
Faculty of Educational Science and Technology
University of Twente, The Netherlands

"Does Your Training Rate 5 Stars?"

Professor David Merrill (Profile)
Department of Instructional Technology
Utah State University, USA

Imagination through Virtuality for in-depth Learning
(Professor Piet Kommers)

It is not a recent phenomenon that during the further evolution of learning methods and further learning practices various streams meander and sometimes diverge to a large extent. The first one is mainly keen on supporting students in the executive aspects of learning; its concern is the correct manifestation of skills and knowledge. The second one is primarily concerned about facilitating prerequisite steps in a learning process. Due to the nature of conceptual understanding I would like to stress the need for more adequate methods and tools that bridge the gap between intuitive notions and prior imaginations about the topic to be learned and the final well-integrated and particularly well-understood knowledge.

The third one is the paradigm that gives prior attention to the embedding of learning in the longer-term process of cognitive and professional development. Here we perceive often the complain that the long chains of training programs finally bring fragmented and isolated knowledge with a low transfer and a low contribution to the students' real life problem solving.

My speech will address ongoing research in the second stream. My attempt is to avoid using the labels 'Constructionism' and 'Constructivism' as they have already dissipated a great deal of discussions with a high load on ideology. The thesis I will defend is that effective learning needs initially a student to mentally imagine the topic, concepts and its mechanisms. Most important in this respect is 'mentally' as it is not necessarily a visual, tactile or acoustic impression. Crucial is that the student goes beyond rephrasing the instructor's formulations about what should be learned. Problem-oriented learning has already quite a record in how to promote the student's apprehension of the topic to be learned. A crucial question to a first-year medical student would be: "what do you understand by curing a patient", or "What could be the underlying mechanism if a patients complains about a severe headache". These kinds of questions are not aimed at philosophizing; they should bring the student in the right position even before having met disciplines like anatomy, pathology, histology etc.

In our research together with the Faculty of Biology, State University in Groningen, The Netherlands, we have developed a rationale for introducing Virtual Reality in the courses on animal physiology. Cases like the 'closing of the foramen ovale during the birth of a mammal'. Together with Salah Al Thuwaini and Dr. Mahed in the University of Kuwait we implement 'differential electrical and chemical processes in the synaptic gap' in VR, aiming at finding out the best visualizations for confronting students in the initial stages of learning. A secondary question became how to optimize existing VR models for being used by teachers in plenary presentations.

An even more drastic conclusion is that academic learning often means 'learning the unknown'; Studying by visualization soon brings both the teacher and the expert to try and shift the barrier from 'knowing that' towards 'knowing how' and 'knowing why'. VR provokes us to express our momentary understanding of for instance the human heart in a dynamic 3D model, where flow and pressure are articulated and where transparency allows seeing processes in several layers at the same time. Our experiments intend to find adequate rules of thumb how to facilitate navigation and how to sequence the graphical articulations in order to promote the students' intuitive understanding of its functioning.

The empirical evidence that learning in conceptual domains is highly sensitive to the balance between memorization and semantic elaborations was recently investigated. (Heling Huai, 2000). She found that students with a holistic learning style (based upon Pask's Smuggler Test) also have a significantly smaller short-term memory capacity. But even more remarkable is the fact that the students with the serial style (highly capable to follow and remember sequentially fixed information) showed a considerable smaller learning effect in the long run. Also they could not integrate their knowledge that good in an open design task; in this case the design of a new living creature that could survive in a specific environment. Extrapolating these findings into VR learning systems brings us to the recommendation to stimulate especially the more fluent students (with a good STM) to activate prior conceptions before being confronted with new topics. Holists will do this already by themselves, as they need it for the sake of compensating their weaker STM. Concept mapping proved to be a good candidate for stimulating students to imagine and negotiate about complex interdependencies between the key concepts in a domain. (Carla van Boxtel, 2000).

Does Your Training Rate 5 Stars?
(Professor David Merrill)

In this paper we will describe and illustrate what is required for 5 star instruction. Over the years the author has had the opportunity to evaluate hundreds of instructional products. An amazing number of these are surprisingly ineffective and some do not teach at all. Too much instruction is judged by the glitz, glitter, or game-like interaction that too often is irrelevant to the effectiveness of the instruction. In this paper we will look beneath the "production quality" of the instructional product to the instructional strategies involved, those aspects of the instruction that are hard to observe on the surface, but that determine whether or not the product will really teach.

First Star -- An Environment for Learning

Learning is best
when knowledge is connected to the experience of the learner.
when expert knowledge is presented and demonstrated.
when the learner applies his/her knowledge.
when the knowledge is integrated into the learner's world.

Second Star -- A Problem to Solve

Learning is best
when the learner is engaged in a real world problem.

Third Star -- Information to Learn

Learning is best
when the learner is shown rather than told.
when the information is consistent with the learning goal.
when media plays a relevant instructional role.
when the learner is directed to important information.

Fourth Star -- Skills to Practice

Learning is best
when the learner practices the skill.
when practice is consistent with the learning goal.
when the learner can demonstrate skill improvement.

Fifth Star -- A Coach to Guide

Learning is best
when the learner is shown how to detect and correct errors.
when problems start easy and then get harder and harder.
when coaching is gradually withdrawn for succeeding problems.

Ratings based primarily on production value and appearance do little to inform you about the instructional quality of a product. By applying the ideas taught in this paper you will be able to judge the instructional effectiveness of an instructional product.