Patrick Bawn has been delving into the science behind using animation in education.
Research suggests that by the time you reach the end of this sentence, your interest in this article will be long gone and you will already be looking at something else.
If you’re still there then good – you’re the exception. I will carry on.
In a world where the attention span of a human has decreased to just eight seconds (one second less than a goldfish), it is vital to determine scientific methods that counteract this reduced level of attentiveness, and ensure that our time is put to good effect. This is especially important within education – after all, how can anyone expect to learn anything if they can only hold their attention for eight seconds?
The answer is surprisingly simple, and involves nothing but your eyes and a screen (and an engaged brain ideally).
Numerous studies throughout the years have found that using animated videos as an educational tool is a very effective way of grabbing the viewer’s attention, engaging their brain and educating them about varying topics.
In a study by Soika et al in 2010, they compared the difference between two teaching methods – traditional paper teaching and teaching via computer animation. The differences seen were comprehensive, with education via animation proving substantially more effective than the alternative paper format. Not only is animation more interactive and visually appealing, its ability to hold a viewer’s attention and motivate them to learn is what really sets it apart.
So how about animations with a voice over? Does having a narrative make a difference?
This was particularly investigated by Danton O’Day during a study back in 2007. For this, he looked at the effect narrated animation had on communicating complex biological processes when compared with the same animation, but without a narration on top. Surprisingly, he found that more people could better retain information without a narrative than with one. So, in other words, having a voice over isn’t as important as the animation itself.
Watching interactive animations is not only great at educating the viewer, but can be a lot of fun too. The beauty of animated design is the flexibility it can provide – a blank canvas on which creativity can flourish and make education exciting. This level of fun can increase the likelihood of a viewer returning to the animation to watch it again which, in effect, makes the learning aspect a secondary, sub-conscious process. It’s like when you watch a TV show you’ve never seen before; you don’t deliberately learn each character’s name – you pick them up sub-consciously.
Overall, animation is a fantastic tool for breaking down complex science and explaining it quickly and easily in an engaging, visual format. As research continually makes clear, its function needs to be effectively utilised within the modern day world of teaching and education – especially now our attention span is worse than a goldfish.