Based on Stanovich and Stanovich’s (2003) framework for evidence-based practice in education, Memory Tutor and Wordle have markedly different evidence bases linked directly to their relative effectiveness, as well as the strength of the theoretical foundations upon which the techniques are based. The three factors upon which a teacher should found their evaluations of an educational practice can be reduced to the following: publication of findings in peer-reviewed, refereed journals; replication of results by other reputable investigators and; consensus on the research within the community (Stanovich & Stanovich, 2003, pp. -9). It can be seen, through examination of these bases, that Memory Tutor has a greater strength of converging evidence than does Wordle a result of the lack of sufficient research to ascertain its efficacy in education. A theory is defined by Stanovich as “a causal model of the effects [this educational method] has” (Stanovich & Stanovich, 2003, p. 28); comparing the theoretical bases of both Wordle and Memory Tutor, we can identify some interesting, contrasting features.
The theoretical base for using Wordle in education seems to be lacking; indeed, there seem to be little, if any, strong evidence that confirms that the underlying principles of word clouds are valid, or effective as teaching aids. While it can be used as an advance organizer, which have been shown to be effective by meta-analyses (Petty, 2009, pp. 197-198), it is flawed in its principle; “the frequency of a word does not necessarily denote its importance in a given text” (Berson & Berson, 2009).
Memory Tutor, which is based on the Fact and Concept Training (FaCT) System, is said to be based on a system that is said to optimize “practice schedules according to model-based predictions” (Pavlik Jr. , Presson, Dozzi, Wu, MacWhinney, & Koedinger, 2007). The Adaptive Control of Thought-Rational Theory (ACT-R) is the model upon which the predictive capabilities of the System is based. ACT-R Theory has been used in environments where the recollection of related facts is required, for example, in a trial involving undergraduate 2 hemistry students (Taasoobshirazi & Glynn, 2009). This study, utilizing the model, uses a self-reported assessment of thought processes to evaluate the efficacy of various response structures to well-defined, quantitative problems. Although the ACT-R is not the centre of this study, it is concluded that “… a model is an important theoretical tool in understanding a process … By providing an insight into this process; the model can be used to improve programs for teaching and learning…” (Taasoobshirazi & Glynn, 2009).
The theoretical base for Memory Tutor, therefore seems to be more solidly grounded in fact and science than does the base for Wordle, However, more important than the theoretical bases are the evidence bases – the results of scientific inquiry alone can determine the effectiveness of educational strategies. Again, there are marked differences in the data available to us on both Wordle and FaCT. The evidence base for Wordle seems to be lacking as much as its theoretical base.
Sandy Hayes writes in the journal Voices From the Middle, supporting the use of Wordle in an educational capacity, and proffering suggestions for ways in which it might be used. However, it appears that the suggestions are mere conjecture by the author; there is no evidence, nor any attempt to justify the application, other than the author’s belief that they will be of benefit. It is said that Wordle can be used by students to predict the main idea of by running a prologue to a book, or unit through the system (Hayes, 2008).
However, this may not represent the true sense of the book or unit; frequency is not as strong an indicator of significance as is context. Additionally, an article published in Social Education suggests that there are applications of using word clouds in analysis of prose texts, in particular, the text of speeches of political leaders. However, it seems to represent an anecdotal experience of a limited nature; indeed, the article itself concedes that it is merely a “government class” (Berson & Berson, 2009) which is referred to in the article.
The article itself points out that the use of word clouds are limited, since the importance of a word is determined as much by the context in which it is used, as the frequency with which it is used (Berson & Berson, 2009). The evidence base for using Wordle seems therefore to be limited in quality and quantity. In contrast, the research done on FaCT is greater in quantity, and in depth. The experiments are done on a class of undergraduates, in French, Chinese and Chemistry (Pavlik Jr. Presson, Dozzi, Wu, MacWhinney, & 3 Koedinger, 2007; Taasoobshirazi & Glynn, 2009). This research shows that there are significant advantages for retaining and refining the constructs by which patterns can be recognised. Additionally, the tests done to measure the effectiveness of memory Tutor as a tool for learning is quantitative, and therefore may be replicable. Proponents of Wordle, on the other hand, give qualitative judgements of correlation, which may be harder to replicate.
In conclusion, both the theoretical and evidential bases for Memory Tutor far outweigh those for Wordle in both support and weight. The discerning teacher, in accordance with Stanovich & Stanovich’s principle for using research and reasoning, would prefer to use Memory Tutor as an educational supplement. This is based on the principles of publication, replication and consensus. Works Cited Berson, I. R. , & Berson, M. J. (2009). Making Sense of Social Studies with Visualization Tools.
Social Education , 73 (3), 124-126. Hayes, S. (2008). Wordle student words. Voices from the Middle , 66-68. Pavlik Jr. , P. I. , Presson, N. , Dozzi, G. , Wu, S. -M. , MacWhinney, B. , & Koedinger, K. (2007). The FaCT (Fact and Concept) system: A new tool linking cognitive science with educators. Proceedings of the 29th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1379-1384). Nashville, TN, USA: Pittsburgh Science of Leanring Center. Petty, G. (2009).
Evidence-Based Teaching: A Practical Approach (2nd Edition ed. ). Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes. Stanovich, P. J. , & Stanovich, K. E. (2003). Using Research and Reason in Education: How Teachers Can Use Scientifically Based Research To Make Curricular & Instructional Decisions. Jessup: ED Pubs. Taasoobshirazi, G. , & Glynn, S. M. (2009). College students solving chemistry problems: A theoretical model of expertise. Journal of Research in Science Teaching , 46 (10), 1070-1089.