Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Using Animations to Learn - No Matter What Your Learning Style

In the last blog post I described how to interpret your results of the Learning Styles questionnaire.  Once you know about how you learn, you can tailor your studying to try to maximize learning based on those styles.

In class, I use a number of animations and videos to help demonstrate some of the physiological processes that we are studying.  From the Interactive Physiology cd that I recommend on the syllabus to the Wiley Plus online material that accompanies the textbook, there are a number of animations that we view in class.  Added to that are videos and links posted in Blackboard, and there could be hours of materials to view for each chapter or system.

Many times, students who score more strongly as Verbal tend to steer clear of animations, thinking that because they are not a Visual learner, that they might not be able to benefit from the videos and animations.  In this post, I would encourage students of various different learning styles to use the videos and animations, although the way you use them may vary.

Active Learners will likely benefit from animations or videos that are presented in a step-wise manner.  By being forced to click to advance to the next step or screen, students remain engaged with the process.

Reflective Learners might benefit from animations or videos that are short and present a single concept at a time.  These students can watch a single concept, and then take the time to process the information, before moving on to the next concept.  If you are a Reflective learner and you find yourself watching an animation or video that is long or covers several concepts, feel free to pause or stop it, make notes or review the material in your mind, and then resume with the next concept.

Sensing Learners often enjoy learning from animations because watching and listening cater directly to their learning style.  These students should be careful to understand the entire process, rather than memorizing exactly what the animation displays.

Intuitive Learners can benefit from animations that are part of a series.  Because Intuitives like to look for relationships between concepts, they enjoy hearing more than one animation explain the same concept or demonstrate relationships between them.

While it is obvious that Visual learners often use animations because of the movement and visual effects, Verbal learners should not discount the use of animations and videos in their studying.  Many animations and videos also contain narration that many Verbal learners find just as useful as the visual effects.  Also, many Verbal students find that a static figure is too difficult to decipher, but an animation that introduces just a section at a time, or that gives verbal explanation alongside, is enough to help them understand the visual aid.

Sequential learners often benefit from animations and videos that present information in a logical sequence.  Because this is how these students process information best, the stepwise sequence helps them to understand the process they are studying.  As in the previous post, I encourage Sequential learners to stretch themselves by summarizing to try to see the “big picture” and the connections with other processes.

Global thinkers often find animations tedious if they seem to be a series of details that the Global learner has trouble fitting together.  Check to see if the video or animation has an overall summary – this might even be at the end.  By quickly reviewing the summary, you can have a kind of overview that might help you understand where the details fit when you re-watch the video or animation from the beginning.

As you use your learning style to get the most from animations and videos, keep track of the kinds of animations or videos that seem to work the best for you.  Is there a particular textbook publisher’s animations that work well – because they give an overview, for example, or they are short and focus on a single concept?  Bookmark their page, or look for other animations by the same publisher.  Is there are YouTube user whose videos you found especially helpful?  See if that user has posted videos on other topics you need to learn about.

I am of the opinion that animations and videos can help every student learn new concepts.  Different learners might use different ones, or might use them in different ways, but I encourage you to give them a try, and see what works for you.