Media Characteristics and Online Learning Technology

Patrick J. Fahy, Theory, Practice of Online Learning, Feb 23, 2004
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I am going to recommend this paper even though I disagree with it, with the caveat that readers watch for dated references and descriptions (the assertion, for example, that a computer monitor is one third the size of sheet of paper, while true for a paper published in 1997, is no longer true today, and particularly ironic given that I was reading the entire page on which this was printed on a single monitor screen). The paper gives a standard (more or less cognitivist) treatment to such topics as cognition, pefception and concept formation, and from this perspective analyzes properties of different forms of electronic media with respect to teaching online. Assertions like "text is text" in this paper demonstrate a certain distance from the material, and I don't think the author grasps that online media, for a variety of reasons, can become immersive in a way that traditional media cannot, and that this has an impact not only on the types of cognition, but whether a cognitivist (symbol-based) approach is warranted at all.
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