Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Fontastic" anchoring of sound!

Clip art: Clker
Credit: Science/AAAS
Taken a close look at a learner pronunciation book lately? (I have some insider information here . . . ) The assumption is that, other than the usual selection of boldface, italics and underlining, the character of the visual display presented in working with sound is essentially no different than any other subject matter. The best analogy might be teenage middle school social science texts--the book making one last effort to mimic the web. Even if the text has brilliant color, artistic images and other text manipulation as a few do, to paraphrase a recent pop song far too often: What happens in student books . . . stays in student books! INTEGRATED pronunciation instruction? Now that is another matter. Sorry, that's about all the special effects blogger will allow: boldface, italics, underlining, all caps, font color and background color. The research on those text features in marketing and advertising is extensive, all of which seem to come to the same conclusion: Try to hold the eyes hostage for a bit. A recent study (using fMRI, of course) summarized by ScienceShots looked at the relationship between font size and emotional response " . . . emotional signals [in the brain] elicited by the larger font size lasted a total of 180 milliseconds longer. The results are similar to emotional responses to large and small versions of pictures with fearful, disgusting, or sex-related content. Pictures hold biological relevance for people, since a big photo of a predator probably signals proximity to you." And then comes a classic "Well . . . Duh . . . ": "Similar emotional effects on font sizes probably reflect the importance language holds in our society, the authors speculate. " (Italics, mine.) So what is the bottom line here in creating classroom-visual materials in haptic-integrated anchoring of pronunciation change, especially in terms of prominence? More and more teacher-based publishers are going to e-Materials, where you can adjust font and visual display characteristics yourself. For the time being, however, --after the Pedagogical MOVEment Pattern is anchored, of course--stick on a few extra milliseconds of visual processing whenever you can--anyway you can. And may your FONTs be with you! 


r.m.smith said...

I agree whole heartedly that visual anchoring plays an important role in data storage and retrieval and should not be overlooked in the learning process. I agree that it is important to not overlook culturally-held learning beliefs and their relationship with various sensory anchoring systems. It seems to me that anchoring and culturally-held learning beliefs are types of conditioning. Therefore, their successfulness seems to be associated with the point in which the anchor is positioned on the learning curve. Regardless of the type of anchoring used to link experience and learning, anchor timing seems to me to be critical, in that if done too early in the learning curve, it will not get the learner to notice the event, and too late, would be redundant because the point of learning is over. Another interesting aspect of visual anchors is that they seem to be initially external but are rapidly internalized. It would be interesting on how subtle visual anchors are used in subliminal advertising to create a long term emotive response to specific stimulants, such as caffeine.

Bill Acton said...

R.M. makes a great point. The research on the "competition" and interplay between the senses in learning systems has been reported on several previous posts but the question of how that interaction plays out in instruction, especially as it relates to haptic-integration is key. That comment deserves new blogpost. I'll do that!

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