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Computer-based tools to overcome obstacles in the learning process

Computer-based tools to overcome obstacles in the learning process Visualization Part 1: Translating communications- and brain research theory to practice

A computer is designed with the human brain as a model. It includes a sensory system that is a poorer version of the human senses. While the computer’s operating memory (RAM) often can be a more powerful information processor than the working memory of the human brain. The third part is the hard drive that corresponds to human’s long-term memory. These similarities and the computer’s systematics make it an excellent tool to practice human characteristics that the computer lacks. One example of this is practical learning, learning by doing, with possibility of individualisation, e.g. learning paths.

Jean Piaget, the Nestor of the theory of knowledge, argues that the essential characteristic of an intelligent mind is the ability to work with the following four categories in the thinking-process: object, space, causality and time. The individual must therefore be able to group the reality in different classes of objects, understand the spatial relationships in every situation, while working with the causal and time relationships in the given situation. The acquisition of these categories is according to Piaget essentially an empirical process, which means that humans acquire their knowledge by incorporating them from the surrounding reality.

Masano Toda, Japanese psychologist, deepens Piaget’s analysis when he suggests that the consciousness main function is to simulate the environment. The only problem is that human consciousness simulates the environment in their own way after their own experience and knowledge. This means that the consciousness does not copy, which is mainly good because the human is an individual with each preference. But in a learning process, for example in an introduction to a new subject area or to quickly raise their level of a known subject, people will react differently depending on their experience and knowledge. This partly could be solved with use of computers.

The written word or verbal introduction based on Piaget’s research and Toda’s an indirect method to influence the brain’s awareness process. A story can indeed be complemented with illustrations, but is still not a direct model of reality. In the computer the simulating process could be created, not just as a movie to show a development, but a simulation that the students can influence. And then follow the consequences of their activities. One can also focus on the essential points of the course or subject area, by “forcing” the student to focus on these points in the simulation. From this position the computer simulation is becoming a great support in the learning process since it works in the same way as the brain’s consciousness processes. The outcome will be understanding and knowledge.

With this method a context of meaning thus has been created. At the same times as it has created “rules of thumb” in mind to understand, remember and reflect on the subject by forcing them to undertake activities. Since there is a difference between understanding a sequence of a nuclear reaction or best practice to work with a new computer program and to learn the name of the south-western rivers of Sweden. The Communications scholar, Peder Hård af Segerstad, argues that both require a purposeful context. However, at same time it requires different processes for knowledge. In the first case, the focus is to follow and understand the processes, functions and the concepts described. In the second, with the Swedish rivers, requires the context of meaning is created by a rhyme. All Swedish school-pupils learn: we should eat, you will cook, (in Swedish: vi ska äta, ni ska laga, the name of the rivers is from the north Viskan, Ätran, Nissan och Lagan) as an aid.

In the first case, the computer is an ideal tool for visualization, activity and meaning-creation on the basis of Piaget’s four categories of thought; object, place, causality and time. The computer simulation is working on this basis consistent with the brain’s awareness and understanding process in the form of pictorial objects, causation, room- and time relationships. In the second case, the computer offers interactivity and personalization with unlimited opportunities for repetition with feedback for the memory, which creates spatial, cause- and/or time relationships.

Article Author: LarsGöran Boström

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