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TEACHING AND LEARNING WITH MULTIMEDIA TECHNOLOGY
PATTY BECKER (FALL, 2000)
          Computer-based environments that utilize multiple media to deliver instruction in the schools are the subject of great debate. Multimedia instruction has been equated with “multi-learning” through it’s use of text, graphics, photographs, sound, voice, animation, and video. It is reported to: increase understanding and application, allow for active participation in the learning process,motivate and maintain attention,accommodate for special needs, and increase independent work(Olesky, 1995). On the other hand,Dr. Jane M. Healy(1998), educational psychologist,addresses the need for research on it’s affect on children’s physical health, learning, and development. She questions it’s value as an educational tool versus it’s use to entertain and appease “children of the media.” This paper will explore both sides of the issue, outline strategies/interventions to facilitate successful integration of technology with curriculum, apply the research with information acquired at the sessions “Quick and Easy Literacy Activities” and “Visual Strategies Make and Take,” and outline current and future uses of the computer for teaching and learning. 
          Business agendas and parental pressure may drive the integration of technology and curriculum more than the prospect of improved learning(Nelson, 2000). Hypermedia learning has not been proven more effective than book learning, and computer use has done little to improve student achievement(Healy, 1998). Students need challenge, not entertainment(Vail, 1999) to learn, and the instant gratification that multimedia “edutainment” provides may encourage intellectual passivity(Stoll, 1999) rather than foster creative thinking and problem-solving skills.
          Healy(1998) believes that there is no critical period for learning computer skills, and does not recommend it’s use with children under the age of seven. If computer use is introduced too early and too intensely,she feels it may interfere with developmental tasks, teach inappropriate learning habits, and lead to poor motivation and internal focus. Children that are drawn to computers may be susceptible to “computer addiction,” and may exhibit symptoms of social withdrawal, obsessive behavior,and difficulty with age-appropriate physical activity and imaginative play skills. There are features of multimedia-based instruction that may be problematic for students with learning disabilities, as they may not have the ability to select, regulate, or control their own learning experiences, or may not demonstrate the memory, attention, and comprehension necessary to efficiently and effectively navigate and explore the visual information presented to them(Wissick and Gardner, 2000). Finally, reading from a computer screen is slower, more fatiguing, less accurate and subject to overload(Healy, 1998), than compared to reading from a book.
          Advantages to sharing traditionally teacher-based responsibilities with computers include increased:(1) individual attention, (2)support for students to progress at their own rate, and (3) ability to integrate subject matter.Individual as well as group or classroom activities that foster interaction and teamwork can be facilitated by the teacher(Roth, 1999). Healy(1998) notes that “one of the most promising uses of computer technology with young children...is as a supplement to a well-planned literacy program.” Children can be motivated to talk together, write, read, and collaborate in creating, printing, and rereading their own stories. The “Young Children’s Literacy Project” at Vanderbilt University designed and implemented MOST (Multimedia Environments that Organize and Support Text). The project utilized oral language, computers, print, and videodisks to practice “mental model building” of story structure and sequence. Oral and written text was elicited and recorded by a teacher, video was used to review and resequence story pictures, and books were created to take home(Sharp and Risko, 1993). Another program developed at the Learning Technology Center at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University called the “Little Planet Literacy Series” combines CD-ROM technology with “old-fashioned storytelling.” Children in kindergarten through second grade create their own narration(oral and written) for the computer program, and use paper, pencils, and books to do related activities. Results have shown increases in reading comprehension, and reading/writing fluency and complexity(Fox, 1999). Many strategies and curricular activities have been developed and successfully implemented with IntelliPics, a multimedia authoring tool. IntelliPics can accommodate a variety of learning ability levels and styles to develop reports, adapt or modify stories, create and use overlays and switches, develop and administer quizzes, and review thematic units and vocabulary(Feit and Hoberman, 1998). 
          To successfully integrate technology with curriculum,Wissick and Gardner(2000) recommend that educators select materials that are content related and accommodate individual needs, consider “video game” features that distract or deflect learning, and base choices on a theoretical framework for instruction. Computer instruction should: (1) teach basic skills through automaticity and overlearning, (2) allow for high levels of mastery learning for all styles and rates, (3) build context and memory to assist in the transition to higher order thinking, (4) structure the environment with objectives, feedback, and explicit examples, (5) provide realistic problems and situations, (6) assign roles to accomplish cooperative tasks, (7) give visual and auditory clues to enhance reading comprehension, and (8) provide models for management and research. Educators should provide organizational guidance, activate prior knowledge, and support computer instruction with nontechnological activities as well. Healy(1998) offers similar recommendations, and also warns parents and educators to discourage impulsivity and trial/error responding, be aware of excessively stimulating software, insist on physical breaks, and assure cognitive/developmental appropriateness. Because “dialogic reading” of picture books has positive effects on children’s language and reading skill development, Healy particularlyencourages verbal discussion before, during, and after computer use.
          Nancy Marks’ “Quick and Easy Literacy Activities” follow many of these instructional guidelines. Her IntelliPics-based programs utilize familiar children’s stories to teach and reinforce prewriting and reading skills, sentence structures, vocabulary, articulation, concepts, sequencing, rhyme, associations, and descriptive and figurative language. She notes “Please be sure to purchase these books or have them in your school library if you use these activities. It is important to connect the activities with the books and draw the children into activities away from the computer in the real world.”The activities provide children opportunities to individually or collaboratively write, print, listen to, respond to, read and re-read adapted or modified stories. Overlays allow for individualized participation, and quizzes/games check comprehension.All activities can be printed out to produce hard copy books for children to take home.Use of the Boardmaker software was emphasized in “Visual Strategies Make and Take” to support children with autism. Many children with and without disabilities, however, could benefit from visual schedules, transitional markers, and representations of abstract concepts/vocabulary to assist and support their learning. Children do not necessarily interact with this software, but rather with the product. These, and similar strategies, could be utilized to provide the “scaffold” children need to efficiently and effectively use other forms of multimedia technology. 
          In my position as a speech-language pathologist in the public schools, I often rely on books to provide a context for learning speech sound targets, rhyme, vocabulary, grammatical structure, and question comprehension, much like Nancy Marks. I follow book reading with an art, music, motor, dramatic play, or game activity that reinforce my learning objective. In regards to technology, I rely on my home computer for administrative tasks such as report and IEP writing, and for “surfing” and seeking out web sites that provide lesson plans, journal updates, continuing education/professional development, and parent resources. At work, I have not incorporated computer-based instruction into my lessons for several reasonsincluding: (1) inaccessibility, (2) lack of training in the newest software applications, and (3) skepticism as to the “developmental appropriateness” of computer use in an early intervention program. Recently, the district that I work in received a technology grant and implemented an extensive plan to increase the integration of technology in the curriculum. Because of this grant, accessibility and training issues have changed.In addition to the current workshops I have attended through WATI, district support staff have provided training in the use and application of KidPix, Inspiration, and the digital camera. I hope to attend future training in multimedia presentations such as Power PointWhile my skepticism regarding developmental appropriateness remains unchanged, I have been inspiredby my research and workshop training to explore use of organizational tools such as Inspiration, multimedia authoring tools such as IntelliPics, and visual strategy/augmentative communicative tools such as Boardmaker in my work with elementary-age children. Inspiration will provide my students with another means for visually mapping key words and concepts. IntelliPics will supplement book reading and provide another means for extending, supporting, and interacting with targeted speech sounds, vocabulary, and language. Boardmaker will simplify the time-intensive production of visual support systems for the children who need them to understand and communicate within their school, home, and community environments. Hopefully, these applications of my recently acquired skills will serve to enhance the programming I provide, and stimulate myself, my colleagues, and my students to continue to forge bravely(but cautiously!) ahead into the world of multimedia technology.

 
 
REFERENCES

     Cuban, Larry.(1999)High Tech Schools, Low Tech Teaching.Education Digest, 64, January, pp. 53-54.Condensed from AFT on Campus, 18, October 1998, p. 14.
 

     Feit, Suzanne and Hoberman, Cyndy(1998).Inclusive Curriculum Adaptations Using IntelliPics.Closing the Gap, October/November.Retrieved from http://www.closingthegap.com.
 

     Fox, Sherry(Ed)(1999).Innovations in Literacy.ADVANCE for Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists, June 28, p. 15.


 

     Healy, Jane M.(1998).Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children’s Minds-forBetter and Worse.New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

 

     Healy, Jane M.(1999).Why Slow Down the Rush Toward School Computers?Education Digest, 64, November, pp.32-37.Condensed from The School Administrator. 56, April 1999, pp.6-10.
 

     Nelson, Susan A.(2000).Technology in Schools: Whose Best Interest?Education Digest, 65, May, pp.45-47.
 

     Olesky, Walter(1995). Education and Learning.New York, NY: Facts on File, Inc.
 

     Roth, William F.(1999)Computers Can Individualize Learning AND Raise Group Interaction Skills.Education Digest, 64, November, pp.27-31.
 

     Sharp, D.L.M., and Risko, V.J.(1993).Integrating Media to Enhance Story Comprehension of Young, At-Risk Children.Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Reading Association, San Antonio, TX.Abstract by the National Center to Improve Practice in Special Education Through Technology, Media, and Materials.Retrieved from htttp://www2.edc.org/NCIP/library/mm/Sharp.htm.
 

     Stoll, Clifford(1999).High Tech Heretic - Why Computers Don’t Belong in the Classroom and Other Reflections by a Computer Contrarian.New York, NY: Doubleday.
 

     Vail, Kathleen(1999).Student Learning: Make it More Than Fun and Games 101.EducationDigest, 64, January, pp.55-57.Condensed from The American School Board Journal185, April 1998, pp. 56-58.
 

     Wissick, Cheryl A. and Gardner, J. Emmett(2000).Multimedia or Not to Multimedia?That is the Question for Students with Learning Disabilities.TEACHINGExceptional ChildrenVol 32, No 4, pp. 34-43.
 
 

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