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Be wary: animations risk embedding confused metaphors


Professor Andrew George, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Education and International), wrote for Education Technology this week on the risks of using animations in teaching.

Building on his recent piece for The Conversation, ‘Antibodies are not magic bullets – more like sticky drunkards’, Professor George explores how misleading animations can lead to fundamental misunderstandings for students down the line, when they may be designing or trying to understand experiments or treatments:

"It is vital to use diagrams, animations, and metaphors in teaching, but they can never show the entire truth. We have to simplify what we are explaining to give the essential points that are needed for our students' understanding, stripping out information that is not directly relevant to the issue at hand. We have to give them metaphors that inspire them and illuminate their understanding.

However, we need to think through and be aware of these simplifications and what the hidden assumptions are so that we can show our students their limitations.

We need to be less lazy and more imaginative about the images that we use and the way in which we describe things. If you open an online resource or a text book, too often you see the same types of diagram or animation used to describe some process or system. There is a surprising, and rather depressing, lack of diversity.

If we gave our students more variety then they might understand that any one animation or image represented a partial view of the truth and needed complementing by others. They might (indeed we might!) develop more flexibility in thinking to use different imagery and metaphor to challenge their (our) deep assumptions."

Read the full article on the Education Technology website

Follow Professor Andrew George on Twitter @ProfAGeorge

Reported by:

Sarah Cox, Media Relations