There is a clear disconnect between the media students are accustomed to using outside the classroom and the media they predominantly use within the classroom. Students spend copious amounts of their free time socializing, shopping, and even studying on the Internet, where they are flooded with text, images, video, animation, and sound in what is a complex multimedia environment. The younger generation is intimately familiar with multimedia, accustomed to receiving and sharing information in a range of formats. In contrast, students spend most of their time in the classroom viewing printed text and listening to a teacher. This disconnect is troublesome. While students are accustomed to having a range of means to communicate and process information outside of school, they must conform to a more restrictive media environment within school. Printed text is one-size-fits-all, but students' learning strengths, needs, and interests are all over the map. Thus, the traditional print-driven curriculum raises a number of barriers to access and learning.

Integration of multimedia into instruction can help to reduce curriculum barriers and improve learning for all students. This article provides a basic introduction to multimedia and describes how it can be used to support student learning.

A general definition of multimedia

Multimedia is in essence a presentation of information that incorporates multiple media such as text, audio, graphics, and animation. The representations can be redundant, incorporating the same content, or complementary, offering additional information. Multimedia need not be computerized, but computers offer some of the most seamless multimedia presentations. Moreover, digital multimedia, such as a simple CD-ROM, can offer teachers greater ease of presentation.

References [Hide]

Rose, D. H., & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal Design for Learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).

Schwartz, J.E., & Beichner, R.J. (1999). Essentials of educational technology. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Types of multimedia and their classroom applications

There are numerous types of multimedia. Below we review a selection of different multimedia forms, focusing on their potential for supporting diverse learners.

Talking books and speech synthesis

Digital texts can be read aloud using recorded human voice or synthetic text-to-speech programs. Read-aloud is an intrinsic feature of so-called talking books, but with text-to-speech software, virtually any digital content—including web-based texts—can be read aloud, with or without synchronous highlighting of the printed text. Speech synthesis can be segmented at a variety of levels, providing feedback at the level of the passage, sentence, word, onset rime, syllable, or subsyllable. Read-aloud offers potential benefits to many students, including students with visual deficits, students with decoding problems, and reluctant readers. In addition to providing access to curriculum content for those who cannot see or decode printed text, read-aloud can support the development of key literacy skills such as fluency and reading comprehension, and increase engagement and motivation.

Text-to-speech is also a beneficial writing tool. It may be easier for students to recognize errors when listening versus reading a composition. By using text-to-speech to read back the text they have written, students may be able to revise more successfully.

References [Hide]

Borgh, K., & Dickson, W. P. (1992). The effects on children's writing of adding speech synthesis to a word processor. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 24(4), 533-544.

Elbro, C., Rasmussen, I., & Spelling, B. (1996). Teaching reading to disabled readers with language disorders: A controlled evaluation of synthetic speech feedback. Scandivian Journal of Psychology, 37, 140-155.

MacArthur, C. A., Ferretti, R. P., Okolo, C. M., & Cavalier, A. R. (2001). Technology applications for students with literacy problems: A critical review. The Elementary School Journal, 101(3), 273-301.

CD-ROM storybooks

CD-ROM storybooks offer digital text in combination with features such as animations, illustrations, speech, and sound. For example, a CD-ROM storybook might offer the story text together with animations, vocabulary definitions, and sound effects. Some storybooks incorporate an audio version of the text. CD-ROM storybooks offer great potential for engaging students, and some incorporate valuable literacy supports. Thus, they can benefit reluctant readers and students with deficits in basic literacy skills. However, their multimedia features are not always instructionally germane. Some storybooks feature entertaining animations and sound effects that, while entertaining, do not directly support access or learning. In fact, they may be distracting for some students. Thus, teachers are wise to select CD-ROM storybooks carefully and with consideration of individual student characteristics.

References [Hide]

Doty, D. E., Popplewell, S. R., & Byers, G. O. (2001). Interactive CD-ROM storybooks and young readers' reading comprehension. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 33(4), 374-384.

Trushell, J., & Maitland, A. (2005). Primary pupils' recall of interactive storybooks on CD-ROM: Inconsiderate interactive features and forgetting. British Journal of Educational Technology, 36(1), 57-66.

Video/videodiscs

Video/videodiscs offer a means to contextualize curriculum content and instruction across the curriculum. For example, video can be used to anchor mathematics instruction to an authentic context. That is, video can be used to present to students a real-world context within which mathematical problem-solving can then be situated. Video/videodisc-based anchored instruction can similarly be applied to contextualize instruction in other content areas. These approaches are valuable in helping to engage and motivate students, in providing students with alternatives to text, and in supporting differences in background knowledge.

References [Hide]

Bottge, B. (1999). Effects of contextualized math instruction on problem solving of average and below-average achieving students. Journal of Special Education, 33(2), 81-92.

Xin, J. F., Glaser, C. W., & Rieth, H. (1996). Multimedia reading using anchored instruction and video technology in vocabulary lessons. Teaching Exceptional Children, Nov/Dec, 45-49.

Hypermedia

Hypermedia refers to hyperlinked multimedia—the linkage of text, audio, graphics, animation, and/or video through hyperlinks. For example, a hypermedia study guide might offer illustrated textbook content hyperlinked to web-based video and other content, glossary entries, and comprehension questions. Other hypermedia applications for the classroom include supported digital reading environments and lessons.

Hypermedia offers a powerful means to integrate curriculum content with instructional supports and address varied student needs. Digital texts can be enriched with a range of instructional supports such as vocabulary definitions, glossaries, translations, explanatory notes, background information, and instructional prompts. Each of these supports can take the form of varied media. For example, vocabulary definitions might be presented as text, pictures, and/or animated graphics. Background information might be presented as a map, video, annotated bibliography with text and audio, or illustrated timeline.

Hypermedia can support differences in students' ability to access specific media forms and differences in their literacy and media literacy skills; they also provide alternative means to engage learners. Using hypermedia, teachers can help a variety of learners, including English language learners, second language learners, and students with comprehension problems, to overcome important barriers posed by printed texts. Moreover, because the various supports are present as hyperlinks, students can access them individually, as needed, and on-demand.

In addition to offering new means to present curriculum content, hypermedia offers new means for students to demonstrate knowledge and skill. Using hypermedia design software, students can construct multimedia compositions that afford them a much greater range of possibilities than text. This is particularly important for students whose difficulty with writing might obscure their mastery of curriculum content.

References [Hide]

MacArthur, C. A., & Haynes, J. B. (1995). Student assistant for learning from text (SALT): A hypermedia reading aid. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 28, 150-159.

Moore-Hart, M. A. (1995). The effects of multicultural links on reading and writing performance and cultural awareness of fourth and fifth graders. Computers in Human Behavior, 11(3-4), 391-410.

Tierney, R. J., Kieffer, R., Whalin, K., Desai, L., Moss, A. G., Harris, J. E., et al. (1997). Assessing the impact of hypertext on learners' architecture of literacy learning spaces in different disciplines: follow-up studies. Reading Online(1096-1232).  Retrieved from the World Wide Web: http://www.readingonline.org/research/impact.

Computer simulations

Computer simulations are computer-generated versions of real-world objects (for example, a brain) or processes (for example, an election). They may be fully automated or interactive, eliciting user input. Computer simulations are a means to "open up the walls of the classroom," providing students with an opportunity to observe, manipulate, and investigate phenomena that are normally inaccessible—an orbiting satellite or foreign culture—using tools and materials that are not available in the classroom. In this respect, they provide an advantageous alternative to learning that might otherwise rely on lecture and printed text. Not only do simulations reduce barriers for students who struggle with these conventional media, they provide multiple models for skill learning, and can increase the immediacy and authenticity of learning content, which is advantageous to many learners.

Computer simulations can be used to increase content knowledge. For example, a simulated marine ecosystem can be used to teach ecology concepts. Simulations are particularly well suited to confronting students with their misconceptions about essential learning concepts and helping them to develop more accurate conceptual models. Simulations can also be used to develop skills. For example, simulated science experiments can be used to facilitate mastery of science process skills. Computer simulations are available on the web, as well as in software form.

References [Hide]

Goldenberg, L. B., Heinze, J., & Ba, H. (2004). What middle grade students say about learning science with multimedia. Presented at the National Educational Computing Conference, New Orleans, LA.

Sierra-Fernandez, J. L., & Perales-Palacios, F. J. (2003). The effect of instruction with computer simulation as a research tool on open-ended problem-solving in a Spanish classroom of 16-year-olds. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 22(2), 119-140.

Stohl, H., & Tarr, J. E. (2002). Developing notions of inference using probability simulation tools. Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 21(3), 319-337.

Woodward, J., Carnine, D., & Gersten, R. A. O. (1988). Teaching problem solving through computer simulation. American Educational Research Journal, 25(1), 72-86.

References

Borgh, K., & Dickson, W. P. (1992). The effects on children's writing of adding speech synthesis to a word processor. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 24(4), 533-544.

Bottge, B. (1999). Effects of contextualized math instruction on problem solving of average and below-average achieving students. Journal of Special Education, 33(2), 81-92.

Doty, D. E., Popplewell, S. R., & Byers, G. O. (2001). Interactive CD-ROM storybooks and young readers' reading comprehension. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 33(4), 374-384.

Elbro, C., Rasmussen, I., & Spelling, B. (1996). Teaching reading to disabled readers with language disorders: A controlled evaluation of synthetic speech feedback. Scandivian Journal of Psychology, 37, 140-155.

Goldenberg, L. B., Heinze, J., & Ba, H. (2004). What middle grade students say about learning science with multimedia. Presented at the National Educational Computing Conference, New Orleans, LA.

MacArthur, C. A., Ferretti, R. P., Okolo, C. M., & Cavalier, A. R. (2001). Technology applications for students with literacy problems: A critical review. The Elementary School Journal, 101(3), 273-301.

MacArthur, C. A., & Haynes, J. B. (1995). Student assistant for learning from text (SALT): A hypermedia reading aid. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 28, 150-159.

Moore-Hart, M. A. (1995). The effects of multicultural links on reading and writing performance and cultural awareness of fourth and fifth graders. Computers in Human Behavior, 11(3-4), 391-410.

Rose, D. H., & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal Design for Learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).

Schwartz, J.E., & Beichner, R.J. (1999). Essentials of educational technology. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Sierra-Fernandez, J. L., & Perales-Palacios, F. J. (2003). The effect of instruction with computer simulation as a research tool on open-ended problem-solving in a Spanish classroom of 16-year-olds. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 22(2), 119-140.

Stohl, H., & Tarr, J. E. (2002). Developing notions of inference using probability simulation tools. Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 21(3), 319-337.

Tierney, R. J., Kieffer, R., Whalin, K., Desai, L., Moss, A. G., Harris, J. E., et al. (1997). Assessing the impact of hypertext on learners' architecture of literacy learning spaces in different disciplines: follow-up studies. Reading Online(1096-1232). Retrieved from the World Wide Web: http://www.readingonline.org/research/impact.

Trushell, J., & Maitland, A. (2005). Primary pupils' recall of interactive storybooks on CD-ROM: Inconsiderate interactive features and forgetting. British Journal of Educational Technology, 36(1), 57-66.

Woodward, J., Carnine, D., & Gersten, R. A. O. (1988). Teaching problem solving through computer simulation. American Educational Research Journal, 25(1), 72-86.

Xin, J. F., Glaser, C. W., & Rieth, H. (1996). Multimedia reading using anchored instruction and video technology in vocabulary lessons. Teaching Exceptional Children, Nov/Dec, 45-49.


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