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Perceptual Factors and Learning in Digital Environments

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Educational Technology Research and Development Volume 64, Number 3, ISSN 1042-1629


The purpose of this study was to examine if student understanding of new material could be promoted by manipulating the perceptual factors experienced at the time of learning. It was hypothesized that the thematic relevance of perceptual factors would be a significant contributor to learner understanding. To test this hypothesis, one hundred seventy-three (n = 173) first and second grade students with limited prior knowledge were introduced to multiplication using a virtual manipulative environment. While interacting with the environment, participants encountered varied levels of thematic relevance in the audio and bodily-kinesthetic modalities. The audio perceptual factor varied what learners heard while the kinesthetic perceptual factor varied how learners moved. The results show that changes in the sensory experience at the time of learning have a "bottom up" impact on learners' ability to process new content. Evidence also suggests that the thematic relevance of perceptual factors mediates learner understanding in different ways over different time scales. The study concludes with a discussion of design-related issues and suggestions for future research.


Paek, S., Hoffman, D.L. & Black, J.B. (2016). Perceptual Factors and Learning in Digital Environments. Educational Technology Research and Development, 64(3), 435-457. Retrieved April 10, 2020 from .

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