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VIDEO SCREENS: ARE THEY CHANGING THE WAY CHILDREN LEARN?





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The video screen has become omnipresent in our society. Along with television, action video games are now a mass medium. In a recent survey of children in southern California, conducted by Sarah Rushbrook, 94 per cent said they had played video games either at home or in an arcade*.

When parents and educators worry about the amount of time children spend in front of video screens, they usually focus on the content of particular programs or games.

Traditionally the term "literacy" has been defined as the ability to read and write. Formal education itself grew up around the technology of print. The video screen is helping children develop a new kind of literacy – visual literacy – that they will need to thrive in a technological world.

In television or film, the viewer must mentally integrate diverse camera shots of a screen to construct an image of the whole. This is an element of visual literacy: an understanding of the code by which to interpret links between shots or views.

In an experiment at the University of Rome I compared children's responses to stories presented on television and on radio. The major advantage of television was that the combination of image and word led to better overall memory for information than did word alone. In addition, television led to better memory for action information in particular. On the negative side, television – with its visual images – was less stimulating to the imagination. After watching an incomplete story on TV, children were less likely to add new or original material than after listening to a similar story on the radio. We found that children exerted less mental effort after watching TV than after listening to the radio.

In sum, the dynamic imagery shared by film and all of the video media produces a number of cognitive benefits: 1) an array of visual literacy skills, 2) better acquisition of information in general and 3) better acquisition of action information in particular. On the negative side, dynamic visual imagery leads to: 1) decreased stimulation of imagination, 2) a decrease in mental effort and 3) a decrease in attention to purely verbal information.

Among educators today, the general philosophy is that we should compensate for the large quantities of television and video games children are exposed to outside school by relying exclusively on other media – notably print – in school.

Each media has its strengths and weaknesses. No medium – not even print – is perfect for education. The implication for education is that each medium should be used to do what it does best. Schools need to learn how to use each medium to its best educational advantage.

 

* an arcade– (зд.) компьютерный клуб

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