Anchored Instruction & The Jasper Series

The Jasper series uses context-specific stories (“anchors”) to serve as a guide for problem solving.  Anchored instruction, in the Jasper series, uses interactive video clips stored on a videodisc and accompanying physical items (such as maps) to help students with problem solving by presenting to them a situation.  Anchored instruction and examples such as the Jasper series help to support learning by providing meaningful, real-world contexts to math concepts as well as a way to scaffold complex problem solving.  The authors note that Jasper provides generative learning; a way for students to regularly use their current understanding to connect and construct new knowledge.  

As technology has improved vastly since Jasper’s invention, there are now ways to further enhance Jasper’s effectiveness.  For example, the amount of data that can be stored on a flash drive many times greater than that of the videodiscs the researchers used.  This would allow for many more or longer videos, providing opportunity to develop more engaging and deeper problems for students to view.  It would also be quite the experience for the students if anchored instruction were to take place in virtual reality.  This would allow students to explore the environment that the problem is situated in, perhaps looking for clues or manipulating objects to learn more about them.  In addition, the researchers noted that another benefit of the Jasper series was the embedded data in the problems themselves, and virtual reality would allow even more data to be shown when a student examines an object.

In particular, the object manipulation will be extremely useful in math learning.  Particularly in junior grades, many math concepts focus on objects and their characteristics such as surface area and volume which lends itself well to augmented or virtual reality manipulatives.  As they progress into senior math with more abstract concepts, dynamically changing graphs will allow students to alter equations and see, in real-time, the effects on the graph to better understand the patterns and relationships between values.

However, the Jasper method is not without fault.  Its narration still feels as if someone is reading a word question from a textbook, but overlaid on top of visuals.  Perhaps relaying the information (such as the plane’s fuel tank size) in dialogue between the characters in the video, as opposed to narrating it, may have it feel more natural.  Also, aside from its somewhat dated delivery method, one aspect that may be limiting is that the videos do not provide any feedback or ability to adapt to students’ progress.  For example, assessment of alternative solutions would have to be done by the teacher, but an expanded, interactive virtual reality environment may allow students to test solutions and self-assess their viability and validity.  But the concept of provide an interactive space to “anchor” student learning is one worth considering.

 

References

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1992). The Jasper experiment: An exploration of issues in learning and instructional design. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 40(1), 65-80.

2 comments

  1. HI Lawrence,
    I really like the direction you took, looking at how technology today could improve the Jasper experience for students. When I was doing the readings and watching the videos I was thinking along similar lines. Imagine if the Jasper series was refined to include tasks for students, especially special needs students that could allow them to test in real time on the computer their ideas. What I am thinking about here, for example, is looking at the payload capacity of the “plane”. Students could add up the weights of the various items (by placing them on a frame provided ( I am thinking of a pick up the time, and drop it onto the plane. As the items are dropped the weight is added to a box on the screen. If the students forget something (like gas) or the payload is too heavy, the plane will not take off. If they have everything in order, it takes off but students watch the flight path and see if the plane makes it. If it crashes or doesn’t make it they have to reevaluate their plan or their assessment may be to explain why the plane ended up not making it.
    So many thoughts…
    Catherine

  2. Hi Lawrence,
    I really enjoyed your virtual reality approach to improving on the Jasper experience! I had not even considered a virtual reality platform, but I absolutely love the idea! One of the difficulties that I really noticed for myself when watching the videos was the fact that I struggle with converting auditory information I receive into action, as well as with spatial awareness. The various videos about the aircraft, headwinds, and so on, were confusing for me at first and I had to rewind and record information in note form before I could get my mind fully around the problems. Once I see something in writing, or I can manipulate an object, it becomes much easier for me. Luckily, I have developed many supports to help me throughout the years, but for younger students, this is often not the case. In a situation like the Jasper series, I would have to take a lot of notes in order to sort through all of the information systematically. Having said that, I think your virtual reality idea would go a long way in countering this issue. If students were able to be active participants in the receiving of information through a simulated environment, it would truly bring the “problem” to life and allow them to be involved on a whole new level with their learning and problem-solving experience.
    I thought your point that the narration in the Jasper series “still feels as if someone is reading a word question from a textbook, but overlaid on top of visuals” was a very good point to consider in terms of creating our own TELEs. As you point out, a change in delivery could make the information seem more realistic and interesting for learners. In addition, I love the idea that students could then use simulations as a way to test their theories through trial and error, allowing them to develop new questions themselves to help them solve the original problems. By anchoring the instruction in a situation they can actively engage in and connect with, the learning becomes far more engaging and relevant.
    I appreciated your point that “one aspect that may be limiting is that the videos do not provide any feedback or ability to adapt to students’ progress. For example, assessment of alternative solutions would have to be done by the teacher, but an expanded, interactive virtual reality environment may allow students to test solutions and self-assess their viability and validity.” This is an excellent point and when I reflect on assessment options, I feel this is an area a teacher would have to think long and hard about before beginning a project like the Jasper series. While group work is wonderful for collaboration and the sharing of collective knowledge and skills, it also makes the assessment piece more difficult in terms of determining which students have a solid understanding of the various concepts being addressed, and which students do not. Teachers could spend time working with each group to determine how well students are understanding concepts, but because there would be multiple groups, a teacher would only be able to spend perhaps ten minutes per group during a sixty minute class. A simulation system may have the ability to chart individual progress, but of course would also be time consuming as far as charting the progress of each individual. So many variables to consider! Ultimately, of course, Jasper series-style videos would be part of a larger framework, so there would be other opportunities to assess individual skills and perhaps in some cases, the group work would be more about peer modelling of inquiry and problem solving techniques (so procedural learning) for struggling learners than about actual assessment of specific concepts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.