Teaching using transmedia to spur cognitive conflict and curiosity

Last night in my class, I tried to get them to think more deeply about how transmedia may be used to target affective and higher order thinking skills and not just to spur content acquisition. That is in part because it is not one of my major learning goals for them and because and there are other, better tools for direct instruction. In particular, I had them spend 20-30 minutes exploring itwpathway.com and compare that with The Door, Broken  Window, and 2015 Project approaches to using transmedia to prompt cognitive conflict for problem-based learning and to attempt to spur curiosity in learners.

Three (or more) of my doctoral students had already visited and sent me some thoughts about the professionally constructed and interesting http://itwpathway.com/ transmedia site since I posted it on my blog and re-tweeted it the other day. Some provided feedback to me in Facebook about their experiences, though it has been limited and generated some confusion about the goals/purposes of the site. It also appeared to inspire curiosity about why such high-profile people would be involved in the embedded Flash videos. For example, the site included some famous actors and musicians including
?uestlove, Rosie Perez, Terrence Howard, and Moby.

As they begin, the user is walking through the woods and experiences textual questions and other audio information and thought-provoking discourse given in videos by the actors. Not much of it makes a lot of sense. I’m guessing it is for some product or cause, but have not figured out what yet. If you keep exploring to the end, it asks for your e-mail address and you have to confirm it. I have yet to receive any further e-mails. One of the students said he has been receiving e-mails, so I’m not sure what is going on there.

The discourse and theory building  approach

I had each of the doctoral students go through it in small groups or individually and again in a large group and ask them to make predictions about what they think is going on and to give evidence. I posed the question as to how they might discover the purpose of the site and they offered suggestions of technology tools (such as boolean searches.) I further connected it in some ways to providing research evidence and writing article arguments. Then, we talked about how a large-scale implementation like this (which includes Twitter, Facebook, and other media portals) can be challenging and what it can be good for in terms of learning/cognition. I worked pretty hard to move them off the content acquisition model of learning for a while and into how it might be used to engage learners in higher order thinking such as critical and creative thinking and problem solving as well as seeking to get learners comfortable with abstraction and affective components they may be struggling with in their learning environment. Thus, my nascent theory is that the benefit to transmedia products is to spur curiosity, problem solving and information seeking behaviors, as well as to engender cognitive conflict in learners. Many transmedia projects are in and of themselves ill-structured problems with no one correct answer intended to get players to engage more deeply similar to those described by Savery & Duffy, Duffy & Cunningham, and Jonassen with problem-based learning and constructivist learning environments.

At that point, we compared this to the approaches taken in The Door, Broken Window, and the 2015 Project to see how we might better use game constructs and transmedia to try to engage learners through cognitive conflict and curiosity. This should inform our developing theory of technology implementation in different systems over the course of the remainder of the semester.

Cognitive aspects, learning assessment, ethical, and game dimensions

Further, we discuss how we might assess learning, increases in different cognitive aspects (affect, curiosity, etc.) as a means of determining effectiveness of the approach and especially how we may evaluate an implementation such as this. We further discussed how we might evaluate the effectiveness of a design focused on affect or higher order thinking skills differently than content acquisition as well as had a refresher on knowledge construction vs. knowledge acquisition. Within this context, we discussed ethical and structural dimension of what constitutes and does not constitute a game (from my published perspective) and what I believe should be at the center of any theory or discussion of technology use in learning settings which is the people involved. Therefore, we should consider about the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains before we worry about the technology being used and those considerations should be paramount. Further, when it comes to games, we discussed comparisons between how video game designers are using psychologists to make games more addictive and keep people coming back for sequels and to pay monthly fees similar to the approaches past advertisers such as cigarette companies have before being shut down by law. We (and I) are not saying that they are equally addictive, only that we do not really know enough about the long-term psychological, affective, and social effects of games to leave them completely unregulated sources of stimulation. This led to discussion about how visually, auditorially, and otherwise stimulated we and learners are and how that creates problems for getting students to attend to the stimulus we want them to attend to in an instructional design or learning experience. I also complained that a reviewer of an article that was just rejected referred to the technologies being used as “mundane.” I wrote a whole theory of lateral about why we should be re-examining older technologies for use to create games for learning a couple of years ago that they were apparently not familiar with:

Warren, S. J., & Jones, J. (2008). Yokoi’s Theory of Lateral Innovation: Applications for learning game design [Special Issue on Educational Games]. i-manager’s Journal of Educational Technology 5(2), 32-43.

Oh, well. There are other journals to publish in and perhaps they can better accept our claims to truth as being valid in the future.

SOTL Study and seeking truth

I’ll be doing a video reflection for my SOTL study about this later and may try to incorporate some of the captured video from last night to illustrate some of my points. I may set up a second camera next time we have a face-to-face meeting to better capture what I am writing on the whiteboard, since the existing set-up is panned out too wide in a weak attempt to capture more of the classroom interactions.

As part of class last night, I also argued that seeking truth as part of any research endeavor including my Autobiographical Critical CineEthnography Project (long title, yes?) involves being as truthful and honest as one can be with oneself in critique of instruction, instructional design, etc. However, it cannot end there. Seeking these truths towards a goal of improving teaching and learning also requires one to be open to outside critique by learners and peers and revising methods and thinking in response to feedback. Further, I noted that this kind of truth-seeking requires a reflexive stance in which one is willing to not only capture one’s thoughts, but also spend time reviewing and analyzing them later alone and with the aid of others. This process allows for the development of normative expectations to be communicated among participants in the research, sets up opportunities for constative communication or argument, and recognizes teaching as a dramaturgical communicative action, which is extremely identity intensive and expressive.

When I claim that teaching is identity intensive and expressive, I mean that

  1. the curricular and instructional designs an instructor creates are very much part of them just as much as a work of fiction;
  2. critique of these designs is often perceived as an attack on the individual that created them and therefore it is likely that they may not be open to suggestions for improvement;
  3. teaching is more like acting than most other professions and involves the dramatic presentation of material in order to engage learners (hence, dramaturgical);
  4. this teaching communicative action is open to critique by learners, but also may not be received well if the critique is not performed well;
  5. critique of the dramaturgical communicative act of teaching is necessary for improving teaching and instructional designs created by the instructor, and finally;
  6. learning to design instruction and teaching/learning activities to include critique and revision based on this critique from learners and peers is a challenge to one’s own identity as a teacher and is therefore a.) very difficult to learn to accept and b.) difficult to structure so that learners and peers understand how to engage in appropriate, supportive and meaningful critique towards improvement.

That is all for today. I have more for later if there is time.


One thought on “Teaching using transmedia to spur cognitive conflict and curiosity

  1. Thank you for posting the pictures from last night and for the recap of the class. It was great to go over it again and refresh what you presented to us last night. The class last night still has me blown away with the Identity part of the lesson which is something I know I am struggling with at this point. What I wonder about the identity is how to you allow correction without losing all of your own Identity?

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