This study investigated whether arrow-line cues can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of learning in a mobile device supported learning environment on leaf morphology of plants, either with or without the use of real plants. A cued and un-cued condition, in which primary school students used text and pictures on a tablet PC, were compared with a cued and un-cued condition, in which the students used the text and pictures on the tablet PC and real plants. Using the theoretical framework of cognitive load theory, it was expected that arrow-line cues would decrease extraneous cognitive load and that the availability of real plants would increase germane cognitive load. Arrow-line cues were hypothesized to decrease split-attention effects by supporting the students' mental integration of different sources of related information on the mobile device, materializing in a more favorable relationship between learning time and test performance (ie, higher learning efficiency) in the cued conditions than in the un-cued conditions. The availability of real plants was hypothesized to foster learning efficiency by providing a more motivating physical environment, in which the students could verify the knowledge available on a mobile device with real plants. However, this positive germane cognitive load effect was only expected in combination with decreased extraneous cognitive load in the cued condition. Whereas, the results showed higher efficiency of the cued conditions than the un-cued conditions, no difference was found between the cued conditions with or without real plants. The implications of the results for research and design of mobile device supported learning environments are discussed.
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