Two experiments examined the effects of prior knowledge on learning from different compositions of multiple representations in a mobile learning environment on plant leaf morphology for primary school students. Experiment 1 compared the learning effects of a mobile learning environment presenting text and photos of plants on a tablet PC, either in combination with or without real plants in the physical environment. Results indicated that there were no interactions between prior knowledge and experimental condition. Students who learned with tablet PCs only outperformed students who additionally learned with real plants on a comprehension and an application test. In addition, high prior knowledge students outperformed low prior knowledge students on both tests. To investigate whether these effects were caused by the specific characteristics of the combination of photos of real plants and real plants, Experiment 2 compared the differential effects of prior knowledge on learning with the combination of texts, photos and real plants to a combination in which the photos were replaced by schematic hand drawings. Results indicated that both low and high prior knowledge students, who learned with the combination of texts, schematic hand drawings and real plants performed better on a comprehension and an application test. High prior knowledge students performed better on both tests. It is concluded that the number and type of representations used is critical for the effectiveness of mobile learning environments.
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