By Thomas Krischan
There are several different techniques for presenting educational material via computer. Far too often, the presentation turns out to be a reading assignment off the display screen. Text books are far better media for this technique. Computers have the ability to display charts, graphics and illustrations dynamically.
Line drawings in text books are static. The text refers to these line drawings to enlighten the reader about the topic being discussed. How often have you looked at some text book drawing that is full of imposing lines and dots? The text had referred you to this drawing because of the obvious trend of some line. You say to yourself, "What trend? Perhaps it's obvious to the author, but it's sure not obvious to me!".
If, on the other hand, you were able to first see the dots and then watched as the line was being drawn, then it would be obvious. Computers can do this task very nicely. My suggestion to the educational software developer is to use text to enlighten the viewer about the drawing and not the other way around.
The example program presented here is an astronomy quiz. Dots are plotted to represent a star arrangement and lines are drawn (connecting the stars) for their appropriate constellation. The example could easily have been a graph of GNP or stock charting, but I preferred to demonstrate something that was a little less abstract and a little more down to earth. Hmm, scratch that.
When you run the program you will see the title display screen and a bell will ring; class is in session. The program will ask you a question and give three possible answers for you to choose from. Select any one and you will immediately find out whether you were correct or not. Your answer is displayed as an arrangement of stars. The program will pause here to allow you to read the additional material, press any key to continue. The program will automatically continue on after 45 seconds; just in case you didn't read the instructions.