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The modern classroom is a constantly changing and evolving place. Part of this change and evolution is the impact of multimedia and how it in integrated into the classroom environment. We will look at the various multimedia packages available and how they integrate into the modern classroom. Students live in a technological world where information and communication technologies (ICTs) are integral to everyday situations (Queensland Study Authority, 2007).
What is Multimedia
Multimedia was a term that was initially used to refer to the purchasing of advertising on commercial television, radio, billboards etc. The PC industry then picked the same name to define an activity that was interactive, in colour and had sound. Sadly for the PC industry, the term was a poor comparison when a PC was running next to an Apple Macintosh, which had far superior video and sound capabilities.
As PC's evolved, the faster processing speed and third party sound cards allowed them to run applications that were nearly comparable to what you could find on a Mac. Modern PC's now have faster processors than most home equipment, and with surround sound, HDMI and high definition monitors becoming standard, they can easily match it with Apple and can outperform most televisions.
There are plenty of Multimedia authoring packages around, from Java software to Flash and Fireworks. The most widely recognised and most commonly used software would be Microsoft's PowerPoint. With PowerPoint you can mix pictures with text, movies and sound to produce a slideshow that's perfect for classroom presentations.
In time, digital media will become embedded in web pages, thus possible making PowerPoint obsolete.
The basic elements of multimedia on a computer are:
Multimedia in the Classroom
As teachers, it is important to keep in mind that multimedia technology is simply another teaching tool designed to enhance and simplify what you are already doing. Keeping this at the front of your mind, the easiest way to use multimedia in the classroom is to establish how media rudiments will fit into the existing classroom routine. The approach to integrating technology into your classroom is to adapt it to what you are already working on or plan to work on, rather than change your curriculum to match the technology. Remember that knowledge is the main objective; technology is used to enhance the knowledge and the gaining of knowledge.
The development of multimedia has made it possible for learners to become immersed in their work. With multimedia, students can create multimedia projects as part of their assessment requirements. Multimedia also promotes cooperative learning between students, which only serves to better prepare them with skills for real life situations (Roblyer & Edwards, 2000).
With multimedia, students can expand on the knowledge that is given to them by the teacher, which can then be represented in a more user friendly way, using different elements of multimedia. These elements can be transformed into digitised form and tailored and customised for the final project. By incorporating digital media elements into the project, students are given the ability to gain knowledge better as multimedia is multi-modal, which only assists in getting the students to pay more attention to the content provided and also assist in retaining the content as well. Therefore, multimedia application design offers new insights into the learning process of the designer and forces him or her to represent information and knowledge in a new and innovative way (Agnew, Kellerman & Meyer, 1996).
The constructivist based learning environment is designed to empower students to become independent learners involved in their own learning process. It is also designed to help develop their skills in problem solving, and promote critical and creative thinking. Projects created for multimedia are parallel to the constructivist theory, being that numerous perspectives to a problem can be found, by using multiple modes such as sound, pictures and video is encouraged and students can contribute to provide their own answers to the problem (Cunningham, Duffy & Knuth, 1993). So in designing a multimedia project, students are challenged to become skilled at more about their selected focus material and to develop their abilities to synthesise, organise and analyse their work as a group.
A sample project development procedure could be mapped out as follows:
Project ideation. In this stage the group leaders would discuss the topics that are of concern to them and select one that each person could agree on. After deciding on their topic, the groups would then develop story boards for their ideas. These would then be presented to the teacher for discussion. The storyboards would then be developed into the main project.
Planning and organising. The groups would then make time during class and also in breaks if necessary to research and develop their chosen topic. That may also appoint certain tasks to individuals within the group such as a graphic designer, sound editor etc.
Multimedia authoring. Once all of the elements of the project have been completed, the group leader or Director would bring everything together for a final edit. All of the group members would have their chance to say what they think needed to be improved in the final edit. It would also be useful for teams to refer to their final storyboard and develop their ideas in line with what they wanted the original project to look like.
Delivery. Typically, most groups would present their work as a PowerPoint presentation. There may be some groups that have created a slide show in Movie Maker, Kahootz or another authoring software.
Presentation. Once all projects have been received and graded, each group is given the opportunity to present their project to the class. This could also be used as part of their assessment by using and developing their public speaking skills.
The teacher's role in the development of the projects was that of a consultant to the students. The teacher would always be available for technical support for the chosen software, but to develop themes or assist in making the software do something, such as make a ball spin etc.
Multimedia used for Assessing
More and more multimedia programs have been developed to not only engage students with a particular topic, but also to evaluate students' knowledge. Tests and quizzes are provided to ensure that the program is a total, well rounded package that can be used assertively without the assistance or presence of a teacher. Despite a wealth of research to show that there are clear educational advantages to be derived from assessing higher order thinking in collaboration with others (e.g., Dwyer, 1995; Qin, Johnson, & Johnson, 1995; Del Marie Rysavy & Sales, 1991), evaluation plans that assess higher thinking and develop the use of group work are rarely entrenched in computer software . The focus is usually placed on the individual; lower-order student thinking should be assessed independently of the group context in which the learning takes place
Multimedia authoring software has many and varied features that should offer circumstances that assist students create projects that genuinely reflect their understanding, with minimal teacher assistance. Student produced multimedia projects can make known some aspects of presentation that traditional tests and examinations may not recognise. If such assessment techniques that utilise multimedia, such as quizzes, tests or other projects (fling the teacher) are to be accepted at the policy level, a shared set of criterion for attainment must be developed in terms of technical operation and content clarification.
Disadvantages of Multimedia
Today's Multimedia software generally requires high-end computer systems. Audio, graphics, cartoons, and especially digital video, take up large amounts of data, which can slow down, or may not be a viable option to use on an older computer. Unlike simple word documents created in Microsoft Word, multimedia software packages require good quality, reliable computers. One chief disadvantage of writing multimedia software is that it may not be available to a large sector of its proposed users if they do not have access to a computer that is able to run the software package. With this limitation in mind, software developers should be mindful about what multimedia elements that may be needed to be included in projects and include only those that have significant value. Multimedia is not without other weaknesses. While those quick to defend of this new technology are very passionate about its potential, they often forget the technical and financial issues. Developments in multimedia are very rapid and the process of developing useful multimedia has taken some time. Time spent on developing the software package requires money, so that the true cost of a program mounts with each delay. These costs are nearly always passed on to the end consumer by way of a higher purchase price.
Another thing to consider is if the basics for using multimedia include computers with related software, the student must have a certain level of computer literacy to take advantage of the capabilities of this medium for learning. And finally, for the teacher that is unfamiliar with the construction and design of multimedia software packages can be just as complicating.
The significant question, then, is: How do we rise above some of the known barriers and begin the development of multimedia execution alongside the teacher, textbooks, and blackboard? It is the hurdles that need to be overcome rather than the technology which we must address before any media technology becomes as widely accepted as the printed textbook.
We need to keep in mind that "Computers play an increasing role in our everyday lives, and children should be educated in their use in order to get prepared for their encounters with them in the workplace and elsewhere." (Underwood, J. & Underwood, G., 1990) As teachers we must maintain an equilibrium between inclusion and delivery of multimedia tools and multimedia projects. Our lives are quickly moving into the digital age, however we must stay true to what has worked, not everything is to be done in a digital world. At some point, we must produce some concrete evidence of how new technology can aid us in refreshing standard techniques for teaching and learning.