Attributes of Animation for Learning Scientific Knowledge

Article excerpt

The main purpose of this study was to explore different instructional attributes provided by animation in facilitating descriptive and procedural learning. In the study, subjects were eighth-grade and ninth-grade students. Spatial ability was used as a variable to observe students' learning of different knowledge. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were employed in exploring how students learned physics concepts.

Animation has been used in instruction in scientific and mathematical learning for many years. However, recent advances in technology have permitted the creation of desktop animations for a wide range of instruction (Szabo & Poohkay, 1996). With the advent of Internet technology in recent years, various computer-based learning courses employing animation techniques have been developed to assist learning. The use of modern technologies has become common in education and is considered necessary for computer-based materials. For example, various mathematical problem-solving courses developed on the World Wide Web highlight the impact of visualization on learning (Dixon & Falba, 1997; Halpin & Kossegi, 1996). Many medical simulations using state-of-the-art technology are also available on the web to provide real-time animation for medical learning (Grange, Bunker & Cooper, 1997; Lehmann, Lehmann & Freedman, 1997).

In designing interactive multimedia applications, animation is seen as an integral component in presenting information on the computer screen. The use of animation provides potential visual interest for presenting computer-based materials, which makes scientific learning more appealing and enjoyable to learners.

Defined as a series of graphics that change over time and/or space, animation has been found effective in illustrating the complex structural, functional, and procedural relationships among objects and events (Park & Gittelman, 1992). Through the use of a model for interpretation, students can form accurate schematic representations while learning abstract concepts.

The most effective arrangement of animated visual aids may vary with the differing spatial abilities of students. Literature suggests that students scoring high in spatial abilities should be able to conceptualize the processes of diffusion in animation more completely or to a greater depth of elaboration (Hay, 1996). Individual differences in the use of their perception and judgment have become an indicator for analyzing students' learning patterns, especially in hypermedia learning environments. It therefore seems useful to determine whether the use of visual strategies produces different effects on different learner groups. The ultimate aim is to design learning materials optimized for the preferred modes of presentation among groups with differing characteristics to improve their performance. How users evolve an appropriate strategy during the process of learning is also highlighted in the study.

Static and Dynamic Graphics

Park and Hopkins (1993) use the terms "static visual display" and "dynamic visual display" to differentiate between the use of graphics and animation. From their definition, "graphics" refers to representations that do not rely solely on the use of text or numbers to provide informational content, while animation is the combination of a series of graphics and motions to form a visual scenario to represent information. Rieber & Hannafin (1988) define animation as a series of rapidly changing computer screen displays that represent the illusion of movement. In recent years, the increased availability of design tools has also permitted the design of instructional materials that incorporate unlimited variations and forms of verbal and visual information for presentation (Rieber, 1995). The representation of motion provides potential learning interest and stimulates viewer's attention.

The effectiveness of the use of animation is confirmed only when appropriate learning content is provided. …