Does Multimedia Enhance Learning?

This research project will investigate whether multimedia can enhance student learning in the classroom.  This literature review will address some of the modern uses of multimedia technology in the classroom including interactive websites, podcasts, student-produced multimedia, as well as other technology integration.  This literature review will analyze the effectiveness of multimedia to enhance learning by covering both the benefits and barriers associated with multimedia technology in the classroom.

Exploring Interactive Websites and Podcasts

In the Era of Technology, when every person has access to the Internet, multimedia in the classroom has transformed from the traditional educational television stations and video tapes to interactive learning websites and instructional podcasts.  “Internet resources are offering multimedia communications as a way to bring history, literature, science, and other topics alive for visitors” (Lamb & Johnson 2007).  The word podcast comes from combining iPod, trademarked by Apple, and broadcasting.  Podcasts can be played on mp3 and mp4 players, computers, and now televisions with the aide of Apple T.V.  According to Lamb and Johnson (2007) podcasters provide a variety of programming formats and content.

  1. Collaborative projects include those podcasts that have an interactive component.  Some websites invite listeners to participate in local and global projects.
  2. Current events are accessible by most news sources who are now producing podcasts, such as CNN.
  3. Many government documents have been translated into podcasts to provide students a different format to learn and understand well-known documents such as the Declaration of Independence.
  4. Interviews of experts in content area fields are also accessible via podcasts.  These podcasts can reinforce concepts, provide personal examples, and generate interest in current events.
  5. Controversial issues are also accessible via podcasts.  They can provide unique perspectives and thought-provoking discussions.
  6. Podcasts can also be created for language lessons and how-to projects specifically designed for instruction.
  7. Critical reviews of books, television, movies, and games are also accessible via podcasts.
  8. Podcasts can also be produced to provide virtual tours of museums and zoos.

Although podcasts have been developed for nearly every subject and purpose, there are a number of disadvantages associated with podcasts.  It can be difficult to locate quality programming due to the limitations of search engines (Lamb and Johnson, 2007).  Another disadvantage is the time it takes to design an efficient and effective method for storing and accessing these resources.  The most difficult aspect of podcasts along with other new and popular technology is integrating them into established curriculum.

Integrating Technology in the Classroom

Integrating technology and other multimedia into the classroom efficiently requires a number of tools to be in place.  Project TIES (Technology Integration Enhancing Science), a four-year Technology Literacy K-8 project, combines technology as a tool for teaching and learning with earth and environmental science education (Shane and Wojnowski, 2005).  This experimental program was implemented by two schools on the east coast with the goal to produce a successful, creative, and replicable model for inquiry and project based instruction that uses technology to integrate science and other curricula.  The keys to success were identified as professional development for teachers, easy accessibility to all technology needed by teachers and students, and patience when converting a traditional classroom curriculum into a technology-rich classroom curriculum.  The obstacles of such a program were quite common but minimal in this case: allocating teacher and classroom time for setting up equipment, finding a sufficient number of substitutes, and the occasionally steep learning curve when moving from a more traditional, text-based approach (Shane and Wojnowski, 2005).    Shane and Wojnowski (2005) have identified six significant components  that are necessary for technology and multimedia to be an effective learning tool in the classroom:

  1. The idea of building new understandings through active engagement in a variety of experiences over time, and doing so with others in supportive learning environments, is critical for effective professional development.
  2. The combination of new knowledge and behaviors as a result of professional development, combined with the needed equipment, will help to provide profound and lasting changes.
  3. Technology can be a powerful entity in classroom instruction when adequate resources are seamlessly incorporated into instructional approaches and strategies.
  4. Local school district budgets have to be modified to accommodate updates and repairs of project hardware and software.
  5. For many teachers, the idea of student-centered inquiry and project-based instruction is novel.
  6. The change from a traditional to a technology-based pedagogical approach is very dramatic and will be met with resistance in some classrooms.

Student-Produced Multimedia

Student-produced multimedia provides students with the opportunity to learn about technology, express themselves through creativity, and showcase their work to a larger audience.  Student-produced multimedia provides teachers with an efficient way to integrate technology into an established curriculum, design inquiry-based lesson plans, and assess student learning without having to use traditional tests.  One type of student-produced multimedia is digital storytelling, which incorporates images, audio, video, text, and image effects.  When creating a digital story, students develop the skills necessary to research, playwright, design, produce, and educate (Chung, 2007).  Digital storytelling integrates the arts, education, local communities, technology, and storytelling.  According to Chung (2007), students develop and apply multi-literacy skills, aesthetic sensitivities, and critical faculties to address greater issues of importance to a larger audience.  Digital storytelling is applicable for all school subjects, but as Chung (2007) points out, many schools in America have ample funds for maintaining a computer lab while funds for art supplies are either minimal or non-existent.  The implementation of digital storytelling offers art educators another avenue to implement an innovative and relevant art program for the technology-savvy digital generation (Chung, 2007).

Digital storytelling is an example of a constructivist approach, which puts interactive technologies in the hands of student producers.  According to Brown (2007) when students are given creative freedom to construct with multimedia tools in an activity that is personally meaningful, they exhibit high levels of motivation and task engagement, develop skills through directed and needs driven episodes, exhibit higher order thinking, and individual differences are valued, accentuated, and expressed through interface design.  One approach to designing student produced multimedia for web based classrooms is to use competency-based learning (CBL), which is self-directed, individual, and a mastery learning method allowing students to achieve predetermined competency standards with the master knowledge and skills that they have learned (Chang, 2007).  According to Chang, since web learning has recently gained much attention in college, CBL on the Web has a certain level of demand and feasibility.

Technology Obstacles to Overcome in the Classroom

Whether teachers are looking to integrate pre-produced multimedia such as videos or podcasts into their curriculum, or looking to transform from a traditional classroom to a more technology-rich classroom, there will be many obstacles that will have to be defeated.  These obstacles include identifying the appropriate content (Lamb and Johnson, 2007), providing the appropriate professional development for teachers (Shane and Wojnowski, 2005), identifying limitations to technology access (Brown, 2007), and emphasizing inquiry-based learning (Chung, 2007) while promoting self-directed learning (Chang, 2007).  For multimedia to enhance learning in the classroom efficiently, each of these barriers much be addressed and eliminated before students will achieve the desired success.

Conclusion

Can multimedia enhance learning in the classroom?  In the Era of Technology, the abundance of opportunitites to utilize technology and multimedia in the classroom is endless.  The integration of multimedia into classroom curriculum can be as simple as professionally developed podcasts, or as complexed as implementing student-produced multimedia.  Multimedia can produce excitement in learning, generate inquiry-based learning, open students up to creativity, and provide another method to emphasize important topics in the classroom.  With the appropriate integration of multimedia and the ability to overcome the obstacles attached to technology integration, learning can be significantly enhanced in the classroom.

By Higher Power Training: Providing Instructional Design and Training Services since 2000

References

Brown, Christine (2007). Learning Through Multimedia Construction-A Complex Strategy. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 16(2), 93-124.

Chang, Chi-Cheng (2007). EVALUATING THE EFFECTS OF COMPETENCY- BASED WEB LEARNING ON SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING APTITUDES. The Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 26(3), 197-216.

Chung, Sheng Kuan (2007). Art Education Technology: digital storytelling. Art Education, 60(2), 17-22.

Lamb, Annette and Larry Johnson. (2007). Podcasting in the school library, part 1:integrating Podcasts and vodcasts into teaching and learning. Teacher Librarian, 34(3), 54-57.

Shane, Patricia M and Brenda S Wojnowski. (2005). Technology Integration EnhancingScience: Things Take Time. Science Educator, 14(1), 49-55.

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