This week I am attending "Slice of Life," a medical educators' conference in Salt Lake City and at the same time working on a piece about the movie "1408" where I wonder what it would have been like if Stephen King had written Metamorphosis:
"I was warned not to go into this evil motel room. Now I can't check out. If only I had listened."
Anyway, if there is anything of import to Media Ecology at the conference, you'll read it here first.
Well, my trip to the conference was done in by Wednesday night's thunder storm. After sitting six hours on the JFK runway, the flight was cancelled. Meanwhile, my luggage managed to make it to Salt Lake City the following day. Something is not right when your BVDs have been to Salt Lake City and you haven't.
However, I was able to watch the morning's proceedings, which were webcast. The keynote speaker, Geoff Norman of McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada, discussed a topic of interest to Media Ecologists: Which type of illustration is more conducive to a medical learning environment, a still image or an animated one? Dr. Norman's research suggests that in most cases an animated image is distracting; medical students who study a static image of human anatomy perform better on tests. Via email I posed the following question:
In evaluating your test results, how do you allow for the fact that students who do better on static vs. animated views do so because our education system has better equipped them to interpret static views? Future generations, the so-called "digital generation" may test differently.
Dr. Norman's response is that we seem to be hard wired that way and we shouldn't blame our educational system.
I have my own preconceptions about how we are hardwired. It is possible that Dr. Norman's test subjects favored still images because their education provided them with more experience interpreting them than animated images. As schools adopt more interactive media, the balance may shift.