Category Archives: 3.2 Diffusion of Innovations

Ed Tech 513- Coherence Principle Analysis

Jon Freer
Ed Tech 513
Coherence Principle Analysis

Coherence Principle Description

The coherence principle essentially states that superfluous material, in the form of visuals, audio or text, should be avoided when preparing a multimedia lesson (Clark & Mayer, 2008, p. 153).  In each of these cases, there is support for the idea that the extra information that is not directly related to the learning objectives can distract the learner and hinder the learning process.

The most important aspects of the coherence principles focus on the avoidance of extraneous material.  In terms of audio, it is best to avoid the inclusion of background music or sounds in a lesson.  With a limit to the amount of working memory a learner has, the background music or other sounds can lead to overload of the working memory and hinder learning.  Eliminating or avoiding superfluous graphics is also recommended. While graphics related to the learning objectives are important to include, adding graphics not related to those objectives for the purpose of “spicing up” the lesson causes the learner to divide their attention between the learning material and the graphics.  When graphics are used, they should be simple in nature to improve the learning process.  Detailed graphics may depress learning, especially among beginners in a particular subject.  Lastly, it is best to avoid the use of extra words.  Words added to interest learners, expand on ideas or go into technical detail can all be distracting for the learners and hinder the learning process.

Examples of Coherence Principle

An example of successful adherence of  the coherence principle is the following slide from the instructor materials from Campbell Biology, the support site for the Biology textbook by Neil Campbell.  The slide presents a clearly identifies the “key to flight” as “aerodynamic structure and provides an image that illustrates this structure in a simple, relatable way.  In addition, the slide avoids going into the technical details of the airfoil in either words or images.  This allows the learner to come away with the simple idea that it is the structure of a wing that allows a bird to overcome gravity.

Another source provides an example of suspect adherence to the coherence principle.  In the slide below from a slideshow on evolution, focus is on Lamarck’s contribution of evolution theory.  While the limited text implies that this slideshow is being used while a teacher narrates, there is also the inclusion of a picture (perhaps one of the students) and the words “Are you still paying Attention?”  Both of these seem to be an attempt to retain the attention of students, but as they do not directly relate to the information being related, serve only to distract and disrupt the learning process.  They most certainly do not add to the learning experience for the student, nor do they effectively make the material more interesting.

Relationship of Coherence Principle to Other Multimedia Principles

Prior principles discussed include the multimedia principle, which states that learners benefit from having words and images together, rather than words alone, and the contiguity principle that states that those included images should be relatively close to the words to which they are related.  In short, these principles state that images should be included and be close to the words they are illustrating.  The relationship this has to the coherence principle is something like a reality check for image inclusion (or other media such as audio).  It is important to include multiple forms of media to allow users to access both auditory and visual learning channels, however, it is equally important to be sure that the images (or audio) serve a specific purpose.  Images must be related to the learning objective.  If they are not, the benefits of adherence to the multimedia principle may, in fact, be contradicted by the lack of adherence to the coherence principle.

Coherence Principle Related to Psychological Theories

Beginning with arousal theory, many instructors seem to face the challenge of keeping the attention of the learner.  To do this, they make attempts to grab or keep attention through the inclusion of “exciting” images, “fun” audio or “interesting” facts or stories.  Arousal theory assumes that the learners will become emotionally engaged and, therefore, have greater interest and focus in the main learning material (Clark & Mayer, 2008, p. 156).  In many ways, it seems like arousal theory makes perfect sense.  If I am attentive to the screen, thanks to the included media, I must be attentive to the topic at hand. Cognitive theory, however, contradicts this.  Essentially, it comes down to the idea that we must process information through our working memory and that working memory has limited capacity. Inclusion of images that do not specifically and coherently relate to the learning objectives will utilize some of the working memory space and may overload the working memory.  This would lead to decreased learning, rather than increased.  The dual-coding theory goes on to imply that improved learning comes from utilizing both the auditory and visual channels (Moreno & Mayer, 2000).  An example of this might be using an image along with narrated text.

My View of the Coherence Principle

The aspect of the coherence principle that strikes me as being right on target is that the illustrations used in a multimedia presentation should be simple in nature.  As a science teacher, I am faced with the constant challenge of helping students to better understand complex systems.  Clearly, images and video go a long way towards helping a student visualize a process such as muscle contraction.  However, there exists a wide variety of diagrams that can show this.  Diagrams that are simple and focus on few specific details help beginner students to pay attention to the process in general without getting lost in the details.

The one aspect of this idea that I would say warrants qualification is that not all students possess the same knowledge base.  Advanced students, who may already have an understanding of the basic ideas, would likely benefit, or at least not be distracted by, a more detailed view of this same material.  They key to this is that the advanced students have prior understanding of the material to link the details to, whereas the beginner students do not.


Campbell, N. A., & Reece, J. B. (2001). Campbell Biology. San Francisco, Calif: Benjamin Cummings.

Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2008). E-learning and the science of instruction, 2nd edition. Pfeiffer: San Francisco, CA.

Mayer, R. E. (1999). Multimedia aids to problem-solving transfer. International Journal of Educational Research, 31(7), 611-623.

Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. E. (2000). A learner-centered approach to multimedia explanations: Deriving instructional design principles from cognitive theory. Interactive Multimedia Electronic Journal of Computer-Enhanced Learning, 2(2), 2004-07.


Campbell Biology Online (subscription needed)

Southgate Schools Biology presentations


Science/Fiction Podcast- Episode 1: Extinct Species, Zombies, Time Travel and Tricorders

For this assignment, I created a podcast called “Science/Fiction” (or perhaps Science-Slash-Fiction” to add emphasis to the slash).  The idea behind this podcast was to spark the imagination of the listeners.  As a Science teacher, all too often I see student that become disenchanted with science because so much of it seems to be fact memorization.  While I can sit back and be amazed by the work of Charles Darwin or Gregor Mendel, student don’t see it that way.  So, I wanted to create a podcast that reminded listeners that there is a connection between real-world science and science fiction.  Through this series, listeners will see connections between dreams of the past and the realities of the future (or present).

In the pilot episode, the four topics I chose to look at were the possibility of bringing extinct species back to life using their DNA, parasites that infect the brain of their hosts turning them into zombies, the ins and outs of time travel and science fiction devices that will soon be a reality.

This was a very enjoyable assignment.  While I can’t say I am natural at podcasting, I do feel like the process is a great learning experience that helps you delve deeply into topics that are interesting.  I would love to make this particular podcast a series in which my students are the contributors.

EdTech 543- PLE Depiction and Analysis

Entering into this class, I was certainly aware of the term Personal Learning Network.  I had been through a professional development ‘workshop’ on web 2.0 and it’s potential uses in education.  I had embraced Facebook as a way to connect socially, Twitter as a way to see what others are doing and various Ning Communities as a way to converse while still be distant.  If anyone asked, I would have said that I had a PLN.  Looking back, I am not so sure.  I had connections, for sure.  I lurked in the background and cherry-picked the good stuff.  I read blogs posts here and there, but never commented.  I tweeted experimentally, but with little of substance to add.

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So what has changed.  In some ways, not a great deal.  I am still more lurker than contributor…but I am working on that.  More importantly, I have come to gain a better appreciation of the fact that the PLN is simply a portion of the Personal Learning Environment (PLE).  When push comes to shove, this is about my own learning.  For that to happen, I need to have a variety of ways to obtain and process information.  The tools for finding information vary from Google to Twitter to Facebook.  (For the sake of this assignment, I am limiting myself to the online communities, but understand the role of my offline interactions as well.)  From there, learning becomes an interactive process.  I reflect in a blog or comment on someone else’s blog.  The dialogue begins and I build on a base of understanding.  From there the cycle builds and grows over time.  Interestingly, I used to feel like I could “master”  a topic.  I may not have known everything, but I knew everything that was reasonable to know.  Now, it seems there really isn’t such a limit (or achievement?).  With so much to know and so many potential teachers, all PLE supported,  the sky is the limit.

One thing became apparent as I viewed some classmates’ own PLE diagrams- mine showed less distinction about what each tool/community is for.  That is not to say that mine is better.  Truth is I really don’t know.  Distinctions about personal vs. professional seem like they should be distinguished.  But, for me, as I view my own learning, they all blend together.  This class brought my social world, Facebook, into my professional world.  One of my students follows me on Twitter, which I use for Professional Development.  We chat about golf.  So many of the tools could be placed in every category.  Even in my depiction this was true, but I went with what I use it for most.  Heading forward, this is both a challenge and an opportunity.  I have to be aware that my audience is very diverse.  It includes my colleagues, my boss, my students and even my mother.  However, it also brings the opportunity to catch things that might pass by otherwise and to get input on professional topics (or personal ones) from unlikely sources.

I’ll be interested to do this again in a few years.

Ed Tech 543- Curated Topics Criteria Group Assignment

While I have been studying Ed Tech at Boise State for a year and a half, this was the first true group project I have been involved.  There have been opportunities, but it always seemed that it would be easier to work alone.  Something about individual work just seems more efficient.  Much of this comes from outdated ideas that linger in my head.  Collaboration across the internet means creating a document, emailing it to your partners, each suggesting or adding changes and emailing it back, changing the original to reflect the new material, emailing that updated copy to partners, getting an email pointing out errors or omissions  changing the new original to reflect those changes, emailing it out, and on and on.  Frustrating right?

Leave it to Social Networking Learning to disprove that.  This assignment was something of an eye-opener in terms of showing me the ease of group collaboration across social networks.  To be fair, my group was actually a pair and my partner was outstanding.  Both of these facts contributed to the success of the project.

My partner Fabio Cominotti, and I come from different backgrounds.  I teach Science and Fabio’s background is in
English.  Despite this, we seemed to be on the same page from square one.  Our busy schedules limited our time and made efficient work a must.  We quickly settled on Google Docs as our medium and the project on curation came together seamlessly   The use of Facebook for conversation (and the fact that I get updates on my phone and can respond quickly) help ease the process of communicating changes and helped us stay on the same track.  Fabio learned and introduced me to Scoop.It, which is an exciting tool that I will be using quite a bit heading forward.

Overall, this group experience has been excellent.  A great partner, amazing tools and a cool subject all contributed to a positive experience.

Integrating Technology into the Teaching of Science

One of the best parts of being a Science teacher is that my students get to investigate the world on a regular basis.  So much of science is based on observing the world around you, asking questions about that world, investigating your questions and drawing conclusions from those investigations.  It is formal inquiry at it’s best.  For most students, however, there is a limit to what they can see.  Even now, in the 21st century, most of the world we experience is fairly limited in scope.  We know our houses and families, our schools and friends, but only rarely get to peek to the world beyond.

Assuming one has a curious and inquisitive mind, this is where technology can step in and pay huge dividends in the science classroom.  While I am a firm believer that the bulk of science that our students do should be hands-on work, there are many ways that technology adds to that experience.

Looking into Other Worlds

As stated, our view of the world is fairly limited.  Technology allows students to look into the heart of an atom or out into the unknown reaches of the galaxy through experiences like Absorb Learning’s atom tutorial or the Hubble Deep Field Academy.  The fact is that resources are being developed all the time that broaden students world and what becomes observable.  This broader view leads to more interest and investigation on the part of the students.

Learning from Others at Your Own Pace

Another wonderful aspect of technology integration is the fact that students learning is no longer limited to the teacher’s experiences.  Nowadays, students can learn from MIT professors or experts on subjects from around the world.  They need only reach out (with guidance) and follow their path at their pace.  Unlike any other time in history, students can truly follow their passions as far as they desire.

Using Inquiry to Learn

All science education should be inquiry based to some degree.  Technology integration supports such learning by allowing students to learn through experience as they tweak conditions in simulations, design and run experiments online or use tech-based data collecting in their own in-class experiments.   Technology supports a number of various ways for students to both gather information about their world and to visualize that information as they work to draw conclusions.

The fact is that the list goes on and on.  Students can utilize tutorials to gain better understandings of concepts, make connections and develop learning projects with partners around the world or simply track their own learning through the keeping of a blog.  Technology has always played an important role in the teaching and learning of science and that connection is growing deeper every day.


Haury, D. L. (1993). Teaching Science Through Inquiry. ERIC CSMEE Digest (March Ed 359 048).

Roblyer, M.D. & Doering, A.H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

An Integrated Curriculum- Worth the Effort

What is the daily experience of most teachers?  Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but for me it is, sadly, a fairly isolated experience.  I plan my lessons on my own, I prep them on my own, I deliver them on my own and evaluate their effectiveness on my own.  Do I do a good job?  I like to think so.  I also work hard to stay innovative and to make the work and learning interesting for my students.  When push comes to shove, however, my students are working in isolation much the same as I am.  They are studying Biology (or Chemistry, or whatever subject I happen to be teaching) in isolation from other disciplines.  Sure, I like to slip in historical context when I can and I certainly help them through math skills, but the reality is that this type of isolation just isn’t real…except in school.

What happens when the students toss their caps and head off into the real world?  They are asked to complete projects for work that integrate all of the subjects they learned separately in school.  In some ways it seems like learning to hit a golf ball by learning small parts of the golf swing, the initial takeaway, taking the club up, starting the downswing, etc., from different coaches, only to ever take a full swing when it really counts- on the course.  Chances are the first few times you try that full swing, it will be awkward and not so successful.  The same goes for those first integrated, real-world projects.  Awkward and, perhaps, unsuccessful.

What would serve the students better?  An integrated curriculum.  A curriculum in which they develop English skills, Math skills, Science skills and all of their other skills through work on the same project.  A chance to see how the world connects outside the classroom walls.  Imagine a student who spent their time in school in this fashion as they attack that new, but familiar real-world project when they get their first job.  To say the least, they will be better off for the experience thay had in school.

So how does a school deliver such an experience?  To be honest, I don’t know.  It seems to take dedicated teachers, hard work and long hours.  What I do see, however, is that the first step is to create a culture of collaboration.  Administrations must make this a priority.  Creating lines of communication between faculty members is the essential first step to building an integrated curriculum.  Perhaps replacing faculty meetings with grade-level check-ins is a start.  Simply getting teachers together to talk about what they are teaching and how they are teaching it.  Can’t you just imagine the conversation as teachers begin to see the overlap in their subject matter.  It seems to me, it wouldn’t take much for that conversation to turn into an idea for small-scale collaboration, which could lead to…who knows.

The reality is that such conversation would not likely turn into a fully integrated curriculum.  That type of teaching is just too complex to come by through sheer enthusiasm.  But, the conversation is the starting point.  The communication between the people students spend their day with.  The realization that there are common goals and ways to make every subject more relevant, real and meaningful.

I like the sound of that.

Walled Gardens Voicethread Post

Voicethread on Walled Gardens

This post is a Voicethread completed as part of work in Ed Tech 541.  The topic is on the opening of so-called “walled gardens” in school settings.  (I attempted to embed the voicethread, but had no luck.  Sorry about that.)

Ed Tech 542 Learning Log Entry #2

Having settled on a school garden as a project, I am quite optimistic about where I can go with this idea.  In my vision for this project, students will start by seeing the issues that exist in our modern world of industrialized agriculture.  Utilizing a film such as Food, Inc. I hope to help them see there is a problem.  From there, they will learn alternatives through research and begin to design a small garden that will become part of the school.  School gardens are not new, but the development of a garden seems to allow for so many learning opportunities across the field of biology.  Students will learn about plant needs, photosynthesis, nutrient cycling, nutrition and more.

As far as tools go, it seems like a great opportunity for students to share what they learn with others.  Development of a school garden website that can be a future resource for other class and school and some sort of multimedia project (I can see a public service announcement made by students) seem like very good, authentic forms of assessment.  I am still struggling a bit on how to create an audience for the students.  Ideas like fellow teachers, and students (maybe an assembly) see ok, but it keeps the work of my students within the school community.  It would be nice to expand their audience beyond the school grounds.  Perhaps involving parents would be a nice addition.

Is it PBL without an audience?  I would have to say yes, as long as the students are motivated by the learning.  However, most students need added incentive.  This, in my mind, is where the audience comes in.  By expanding the audience to include people outside of the students world, the motivation to do well increases.  This comes not just as fear of looking foolish, though many students will see that, but as an opportunity to look great.  A chance to make a difference.  That is something that is different about today’s students- the work they do doesn’t just hang in hallways, it has the potential to impact society.  So, while the project can carry on without an audience, clearly, students benefit from having one.

Ed Tech 503- Instructional Design Models Concept Map


Learning Objectives of this activity

Learners will be able to

  1. Synthesize 4 Instructional Design Models found in Gustafson & Branch (2002) book.
  2. Represent their synthesis of the Instructional Design process model in a concept map format. The map will exemplify the format where each node represents a concept and where a link between two nodes represents the relationship between the concepts.
  3. Use a concept mapping tool (e.g. Google Drawing) to draw the synthesized model and publish it to the web.
  4. Compare and contrast one’s own model with those of peers.

As a classroom teacher, I chose to focus my attention on the models geared towards that setting. While I did feel that there were moments of clarity gained by mapping out the ideas within each model, I was also taken aback by how complicated they can look on paper. Much like Professor Freed’s PB&J example (I used to use the same activity in my labs, something that seems simple can end up appearing complex when care is taken to mention details.

I used for my concept map. Although I like the tool, I am a bit unsure of how to present the results here, so I will go with overkill.

Ed Tech 504 Reflection on Module 1

As the first module of my Ed Tech 504class wraps up,  it’s time to look at I look at where I am, where I want to go and the

Photo Credit: Nedra

ripple effect that may have.  In my world as a Science teacher in a small private school, I am pushing to include the use of technology in as many ways as I feel is prudent.  The word “prudent” being the key.  Since my introduction into this field just two years ago, I have certainly become enamored with the tools that educational technology provides.  I have created wikis for my classes and my school, attempted to get teachers to move discussions to a Ning and begun to record lectures via podcast on a regular basis.  I have sought out different experiences for my students to have through online tutorials and a wide variety of online web 2.0 tools.  The tools are very seductive and exciting to say the least.

Personally, I find using technology very exciting because it can offer a very multifaceted approach to learning.  Nowadays, however, I am taking a hard look at the reasons and best methods for inclusion of technology in my classes.  In addition, I have begun a transition towards being a leader in educational technology at my school.  Beginning this year, I have started to drop classes in favor of exploring technology use and sharing the results of that exploration with my colleagues.  While this is a very exciting time for me, the idea of becoming a leader in a field that is ever shifting and difficult to define is also a bit intimidating.

In terms of my teaching, a student in one of my classes- I teach a variety of Science and Math classes, but am most comfortable in a Biology classroom- can expect to spend a number of days on a computer and relatively fewer days listening to a lecture.  I have opened my eyes to the fact that a lecture based class is not an effective learning situation for most students.  As I learn more about learning, I see that the majority of my knowledge has come through experience, not through listening to lectures or following step-by-step lab procedures.  I learned best when things got messy. When I was unsure of how to proceed and had to figure it out on my own.  That is the experience that I hope to bring to my classes and the incorporation of educational technology in a myriad of ways helps make that possible.

In our wired world, technology is so much more than the computer in front of me or a lab simulation- though I do think they are both helpful in their own way.  Instead, the world is at my fingertips.  I can head out and find the information I want or need.  I can share ideas with colleagues, watch tutorials on astronomy or cell biology and even tweet a cookbook author to ask a question about a recipe.  (I did this last one just the other day and was very excited to hear that the rubbery texture of my vegan burgers was normal!)  The point is that everyone with an internet connection can head out and seek information.  Doing so well is another story.  Learning about the foundations of educational technology can only help me gain a better global view of what it is I am trying to accomplish.  As a teacher, I can get very myopic about the inclusion of technology.  I look at this web tutorial or that blog and choose it for a given assignment.  While this turns out useful more often than not, it does leave me wanting a bit in terms of being able to share the virtues of educational technology with my colleagues in other departments.  I am

Photo credit: Robin_24

hopeful that learning more about the core of the educational technology field will help me to better reach out to my colleagues.

The ripples of what I am doing are certainly being felt by my colleagues already.  I am doing my best to model technology inclusion in a meaningful way so that teachers around me might see it and ask about what I am doing and give me an opportunity to share ideas with them.  Once the dialogue is open, I truly believe that most teachers will see the value of helping their students make connections, making connections themselves and being part of a global community.