A misnomer I had and feel many do: multimedia = technology. Untrue. Written words next to a bar graph is technically multimedia. Sorta seems obvious once I read it, but there it is.
On to this post's main idea...
Multimedia improves learning, but delivery determines the strength of the media.
People are so sure media improves learning because it provides a recorded history of knowledge learned. Without media (i.e. books, video, computers, graphs, etc.) we are relegated to original experience. While hands-on, original experience enhances learning, the recorded success found in media validate that which can be experienced. Further, culture and knowledge grow by an awareness of what has been accomplished before, using the past as a starting point for growth.
But what makes one medium better than the other? A particular pairing in multimedia superior? Why can a thirty year veteran teacher prepare students with dusty books sprinkled with charts better than some teachers armed with eBooks and wireless Internet? The answer is delivery.
The passionate veteran with books and charts is using multimedia to deliver context. If his or her approach in using these tools is authentic, real-world learning, student growth follows. I’d be surprised to hear that any of us cannot recall a teacher, even if they were only the wise old geezer down the hall you didn’t get to have in high school or a current colleague one floor down, that doesn’t resemble this description.
Contrast this wily vet with the technology laden colleague. The teacher who sticks a computer in the face of every student in order to complete online worksheets or answer multiple choice questions based on the reading. The computer/Internet multimedia marriage does not preclude student growth unless wielded with the same passion and authentic experiences the veteran provides with books and charts.
As I’m only in my fourth year of teaching, I’ve often been guilty of smothering students in technology for what truly only benefits me, the teacher. I’ve had students take electronic versions of tests and quizzes, allowing me to grade on my iPad. After typing essays, I’ve sent kids to Web. 2.0 Tool sites to review content knowledge. These are personal conveniences that do little to nothing for student learning that paper versions couldn’t. What is lacking is multimedia and authentic context.
The multimedia experiences I’ve successfully combined with authentic learning provided those smile moments when a classroom is humming with diligent work, thriving students, and poignant discussions. One of these moments came by reading historical fiction and taking gallery walks of photographs from the time period. Combining printed word with visuals sparked a real-world context for the literature. (technology played zero role in this lesson)
True multimedia academic impacts come from the buzz word circling in every education discussion: engagement.