Animated cartoons for early childhood science education
Teachers teaching methods change because of the new generation of children. For this reason, teachers should use contemporary teaching methods for improving the quality of learning. In this framework teaching innovations which can meet such expectations are needed. This paper is a report of work describing curriculum which involves cartoons as a basis for teaching science. Here we can picture young pupils gaining knowledge through texts, teacher lectures and cartoons.
It is important to realize that one of the reasons why science is thought to be difficult by many students in elementary education is that it is viewed as dealing with concepts which are often difficult to be explained and understood. Some students feel that they have to learn a lot of theory without considering how this theory might apply to the real world they are living in. This study represents findings on the use of animated cartoons and how they are able to evaluate the effectiveness in supporting teaching and learning in science. The research results provide evidence that the use of animated cartoons significantly increases the young students` knowledge and understanding of specific science concepts.
The importance of cartoons in science education has been recognized in recent years as they received an increasing amount of research attention. The presentation of ideas in visual form has been proven to be particularly important as it helps the educational process in a very up-to-date way.
Why are cartoons so popular among young children and how can they be used for the purposes of teaching as well as learning? Research evidence indicates that cartoons are widely used as innovative and supporting tools in science teaching. Actually, they represent a form of art that has been promoted into an important visual language, which influences the human feelings and transmit messages using symbols and pictures. They are a combination of humour , exaggeration and symbols but in a very simple way. Eulie/1969/ pointed out very successfully that cartons, contain messages and when they are selected carefully, they can easily provide information via the symbols and the exaggeration. Most important is that they use familiar pictures and objects from daily life. In addition, cartoons can be used effectively in the teaching process when they provide information with regard to concrete objects. They were used by many researches in the classroom in order to promote learning, esp. in teaching children./Madden,Chung$Dawson,2008;Peacock,1995;Tsou,Wang&Tzeng,2006/. More over, the most innovative use in the instructive practice is that they easily capture students' attention and then they allow them to' travel with their mind 'in the world of imagination and amusement while they are learning. Not surprisingly, cartoons have rapidly become a popular teaching and learning approach. Keogh and Naylor /1999/ ,he creators of the 'concept cartoon strategy, have used it increasingly in both primary and secondary education.
Concept cartoons offer an innovative approach to gaining access to children's ideas in science. They have been used in different ways and in different situations to teach science, to assess pupils' levels of understanding of science matters and to involve them in scientific discussion as well as to promote children' s argumentation in primary science /Naylor,Keogh and Downing,2007/.
We must take into consideration that in the learning process attention gaining is one of the most important factors. Certainly, animation affords many practical methods of gaining and maintaining attention, such as special effects during transitions between screens and mainly moving icons or characters, including cartoons and text/narration,
HOW DOES CARTOON-STYLE MULTIMEDIA APPLICATION WORK ?
The cartoon-style multimedia application is designed from scratch using appropriate programs. It consists of two major parts. In the first part, the basic science concepts as volume, mass and density are presented via animated cartoons and hearing dialogues. Combination of words and images is aimed at both the comprehension and the assimilation of the above concepts. Specific animated cartoons could be made up as a whole story which to be used as auxiliary material. In the second part of the application, a series of a few closed-type questions are presented. The questions are of the multiple- type, and each student has three choices and one attempt to make in order to give his/her answers to each question.
Due to the fact that cartoon-style application is addressed mostly to young children / 9 years/, it should be built in such a way in order to be easy in use and navigation by them. The same simple cartoon-style is used in the question section.
PROCESS AND EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN
In science mass, volume and density are often considered to be abstract notions, causing not only difficulties in the learning process but also misconceptions to the young pupils. Researchers /Adey&Shayer,1988;Smith,1985/, have already pointed out the problems that students at early age confront as they find it difficult to differentiated the conceptions of size, weight, mass, volume and lastly density. A difficulty with density is that there is no direct way of measuring it
For the aim of the experiment two groups of pupils are used. The research is conducted by the same visitor- investigator , who is a science teacher and the creator of the cartoon application. Different instructional methods are used in each group but in both groups the same concepts /mass, volume, density/ are presented.
The first group followed the classic instruction method. The science teacher uses the teacher s' usual methodology, which included the theoretical explanation of the concept in class with analytical comments. In the second group, the animated cartoons multimedia application is used only, which includes the introductory story , and a questionnaire , all in a form of animated cartoons. It must be noted that the questionnaires have exactly the same questions, the same concepts are addressed and they are differentiated only in the way that questions are presented /multimedia cartoon - style versus text - style/.
It become apparent from the comparison of the two methods and the results followed them , that a significant difference is observed . Percentage of students who answered correctly to the questions is respectively 80,3% for the animated cartoons method and 61,3% for the classic method.
The present study gives an insight into how students at the age of nine can better understand scientific concepts with the help of cartoons . The principal findings of this study show that students' knowledge and understanding was upgraded through the differentiation of the concepts of mass, volume and density with the use of animated cartoons.
In this research young learners are faced directly to their misconceptions. From misconception research, there is a widespread agreement that learners construct concepts from prior knowledge / Novak, 1990/. Prior knowledge is an important determinant of learning /Johnson & Lawson 1998/ and has been studied extensively in science education. It is evident that animated cartoons help children recall prior knowledge more effectively, as it is confirm by the success rates of the students. Consequently, according to he research , children can understand concepts with the help of cartoons because they use simple lines. Also, at this age children are familiarized with the figures at the cartoons heroes whom they are watching on TV /e.g. Disney/. As Rieber /2000/ said animation has greater acceptance in children than adults. All these reasons coincide that perhaps the children's working memory is not overloaded. So , students do not find difficult to add revised and upgraded knowledge to their existing conceptual structure , when it is consistent with the knowledge that is there already even from every day experience. After all knowledge acquisition is a gradual process during which existing knowledge structures are revised.
As it has been demonstrated, animation cartoons do in fact help the learning process. The main care of the teacher is to make his/her students see science as interesting and easy task provided that they engage them in innovative and challenging science learning activities. Thus, well designed multimedia material such as the animated cartoons can be used as a supplementary didactical tool.
Multimedia application with animated cartoons is a successful attempt, as confirmed by the results of audiovisual media as an instrument for achieving scientific literacy. A possible explanation is that when the animation in cartoons is further elaborated with dynamic visuals, the narration not only draws students' attention towards the dynamic visual, but also explains step by step the visual that has helped to build the connection between the presented concepts and the animated cartoons.
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