Characters, cartoons or photos?

Last Tuesday’s post by Ariculate’s Tom Kuhlman A Three-Step Process to Create Hand Drawn Custom Characters got me thinking. For college students is it best to illustrate a course with photographs of people or with custom drawn characters, or cartoon figures? Does it matter?

Research tells us that it can make a difference! And, believe it or not, graphics that are less realistic, or have low-fidelity, can actually improve learning. Connie Malamed in Realistic Graphics and Learning: What’s most effective? simplifies the research by pointing out that simple, low fidelity graphics:

Permit quick scanning: we can extract the message rapidly without having to search all of the details of a realistic scene.

Eliminate misunderstandings: choosing the correct image, correct nationality, correct racial or cultural image, can be difficult. Often a stick drawing or cartoon can eliminate the worries that you are including all groups or deliberately depicting one group and not another. Misunderstandings can be avoided keeping things simple.

Reduce distraction: with less information to overload our working memory, the simpler the graphic, the more the brain can concentrate on the essential information.

Robin Bartoletti uses Prezi to encapsulate these ideas in 4 Rules for Using Graphics in eLearning. Most of these authors agree that research has shown that experts and more advanced learners benefit the most from realism and detailed photographs.

Click for Tom's postOK, then this brings us back to Kuhlman’s post on how to easily create your own hand-drawn custom characters! Back in October 2009 we created a post about two tools Pixton and Powtoons that we think are easy to use and clearly create simple representations of people. Kuhlman brings this simplicity into even simpler terms with his hand-drawn images, created no less in PowerPoint! As always, his post is clear, easy to follow and simple to execute. Give it a try!



    • Rosemary Walling on August 31, 2015 at 7:45 am

    Thank you for this post. It comes at a good time for me…

  1. Another note on using characters, cartoons, or photos – be consistent. Make sure they support and are relevant to your content and not just decorative. Use similar clipart or images. Be careful if you mix and match!

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