Multimodal Learning Through Media: What the Research Says

 

 

Introduction

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” –Author Unknown

People have long quoted this statement, often attributing it to an ancient Chinese proverb. Emergent neuroscience and visualization research now reveals glimpses of the science behind the saying. Visuals matter. The rapid advances of technology in literally every field, including communication, medicine, transportation, agriculture, biotechnology, aerospace, and energy, have tremendously increased the amount of data and information at our fingertips. As we strive to make sense of unimaginably large volumes of data, visualization has become increasingly important. Why? Our brains are wired to process visual input very differently from text, audio, and sound. Recent technological advances through functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans confirm a dual coding system through which visuals and text/auditory input are processed in separate channels, presenting the potential for simultaneous augmentation of learning. The bottom line is that students using well-designed combinations of visuals and text learn more than students who only use text.

A Myth Shattered: Bogus Data

Educators are in constant search for more efficient and effective ways to advance student learning. Thus it is no surprise that educators have been interested in the often-quoted saying that:

We remember...

10% of what we read 20% of what we hear 30% of what we see 50% of what we see and hear 70% of what we say

90% of what we say and do

Unfortunately, these oft-quoted statistics are unsubstantiated. If most educators stopped to consider the percentages, they would ask serious questions about the citation. They would inquire about the suspicious rounding of the percentages to multiples of ten, and the unlikelihood that learners would remember 90 percent of anything, regardless of the learning approach.

Despite these obvious signals, many people have blindly perpetuated these mythical statistics without ever checking the source. Following are just a few of the many examples where this data has been inappropriately used. (Because all instances could not be included, the specific citations used as examples here are not referenced.) Readers should conduct a Web search with the term “cone of learning” or “10% of what we read” to see firsthand the extent to which these incorrect statistics are perpetuated.

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