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External Representation of Learning Process and Domain Knowledge: Affective State as a Determinate of its Structure and Function

Barry Kort, Rob Reilly, Rosalind W. Picard

M.I.T. Media Laboratory

{bkort ,reilly, picard}@media.mit.edu


External representations can fulfill a number of roles in artificial intelligence systems. But the external representations need to be sensitive to the affective state of the learner, which varies through the learning journey, and, in large measure, impacts how efficiently and effective a learner acquires and processes information/knowledge. Based upon an understanding of this model, the structure and function of external representations would vary according to a learner’s affective state as opposed to the assumption that one-size-fits-all. For example, some representations would provide ubiquitous hints that would not interrupt the focus of a learner who is acquiring an accurate understanding, or, at the other end of the continuum, would provide distracting external representations designed to intentionally redirect the focus of a learner who is constructing incorrect knowledge.



The extent to which emotional upsets can interfere with mental life is no news to teachers. Students who are anxious, angry, or depressed don’t learn; people who are caught in these states do not take in information efficiently or deal with it well.

                                                             - Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence

Given new computational media such as virtual reality, dynamic animation, and wearable devices, the design of innovative learning environments, their structure, their functional features, and the educational pedagogy that underpins them open challenging questions about their design and human factors.

While it is necessary to explore future directions for research in regard to external representations of knowledge domains and learning processes, our primary interest is to develop an understanding of the requisite educational pedagogy. This is necessary in order to answer such questions as: ‘How intrusive should an intervention be and how extensive need a given external representation be,’ or ‘How do we manage the trade-off between the amount of information and the cognitive load of integrating multiple displays when learning from more than one representation?’ It is also necessary to determine the nature of the external representation(s). Too much ‘external representation’ could distract a learner from the task at-hand if the learner is developing an appropriate understanding of the material, but if the learner is not developing a correct understanding a highly intrusive intervention may be in order to intentionally distract the learner and provide correct information.

However current day educational pedagogy is lacking in certain areas and must be reengineered before it can serve as a useful foundation for determining the structure and function for external representation(s) of learning process and domain knowledge.

But reengineering educational pedagogy is a non-trivial task. To justify change, it must be shown that past research or legacy research, which was based upon earlier technology or pencil and paper based tasks, is obsolete or irrelevant.  For general educational pedagogy this is not a difficult task. We need only

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