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Course Final Reflections August 8, 2014

I cannot believe my Multimedia in Technology Applications class is ending today.  This summer has flown by because of the intensity of the course.  As for what I have learned about designing instruction from a multimedia perspective, two major themes keep emerging.  First, as with design of any kind, less is more.  We are still talking about information being presented to send a message.  Designers strive for the most efficient and effective way to create the message so it will be understood.  However, users often have different needs so everything from learning preferences and disabilities to age and language abilities must be considered.  Designers’ final products must convey the message as simply as possible so as not to create confusion yet account for every possible population all while optimizing learning conditions and eliminating redundancy.

Second, the various forms of media all have their advantages and disadvantages, so the implications of using them separately or in any combination must be taken into consideration.  But more likely than not, the needs of the situation or context of the lesson will determine which forms to use and which will only create more confusion.  Thus far in my journey through graduate school, I have been a science teacher.  Hands-on experience is the best way to learn the science.  Sure, textual information explains the concepts, and visual aids support the text, but audio aids are rarely necessary.  I will be moving back into an ESL position next year which does not rely on laboratory investigations.  Focusing on language will become my primary form of instruction, so text will become more important, and audio aids will take on a larger role.  Visual aids will be just as important although they will be more difficult to relate to language concepts and vocabulary.  More abstract vocabulary like freedom and liberty will require carefully selected or created visuals.  As for designing instruction from a constructivist perspective, I felt as though my subject matter would have translated well to a lesson in which the student simply explores the materials and discovers how to make a circuit.  However, creating a multimedia lesson from this perspective could be tricky, so the digital material would need to be more open-ended and experimental, similar to what is happening with sandbox-style games.

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Thoughts on Multimedia vs. Single Media July 27, 2014

Filed under: 5110 — S. Michele Holmes @ 10:35 pm
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We are working on our final products this week in my Multimedia in Technology Applications course, a web-based multimedia version of our instructional sets.  So far in the course we have been asked to create instructional sets using only one form of media – text, graphics, audio, and video – or combining two of them.  But this project asks us to not simply combine the various forms in a side-by-side manner but rather challenges us to select which aspect of our message should utilize which media form.  After all, not one of the single media instruction sets was thorough enough; for example, the text-only instructions provided no visual assistance and the graphics-only version was confusing with no text-based instructions whatsoever.  When I combined these two media forms, I did not consider how text and graphics can enhance each other, so my final product for that module actually appeared more like two separate sets of instructions complementing each other and not really supporting each other.  Theoretically, the viewer could have chosen to follow either the text or the graphics without the other, and then what would be the point of using both media.  The audio instructions were just as limiting as the text-only.  I myself am a visual learner, so audio-only instructions would frustrate me as I am sure it would my young students.  I felt the video-only instructions provided the most meaning because the viewer can hear the verbal instructions and see a demonstration, yet it still felt as though something was missing.

When asked to reflect upon my journey so far, I cannot help but come back to how time consuming the design process can be, even for just the simplest ideas.  Again, I ask myself how can teachers make the time to create quality lessons using technology?  I believe this might be the point of the multimedia lesson; the teacher DOES NOT have to combine ALL this redundant information.  Besides, shouldn’t the students being doing more of the doing and the teacher more of the observing?  If students are given every aspect of the lesson in every form, their only job is to be the bystander or receiver.  How much will they really learn?  So, a little text here, a great graphic there, sprinkle with some video . . . and voila!  The teacher can now provide her students with a meaningful, engaging lesson.  It actually confirms how I create my lessons already, even though I rarely create original content.  I use presentation software called MimioStudio Notebook which allows me to collect diagrams, photographs, videos, links to websites, and text.  Sure, I can still create original content and often do, but why take the time to reinvent something that already works great.  This course, however,  has forced me to consider how to make the content I collect more interactive.  It seems that I get to do most of the fun stuff in class – I control the computer, I get to click the buttons, I get to make the videos play, etc.  Working with InDesign and Premiere Pro have shown me how to create original interactive content and make it more accessible on websites.  What I would like to learn more about is how to streamline the design process, perhaps by creating templates, but I am sure this comes with time and practice.  I would not have to learn a new design application each time I create a new lesson.

 

Video Pros and Cons July 20, 2014

This week in my Multimedia in Technology Applications class, we are exploring designing instruction with video.  Because video is not something I typically work with, I have been reflecting on the experience from two perspectives:  as a teacher and as an instructional technologist. Each point of view offers differing pros and cons considering how each would interact with the form of media.

Teacher:  Creating a video is time-consuming; it could take a full-day to create a five-minute lesson.  Few teachers can afford to spend that much preparation time for just five minutes of class time.  Sure, anything a teacher makes could be used repeatedly, but standards change every few years, so some videos may no longer be applicable requiring the teacher to create something new.  Do not assume that I avoid video in my lessons.  In actuality, I rely on them heavily.  The Internet is a vast goldmine of information in video form, and between my school resources such as United Streaming, free resources such as YouTube, and teacher-created content such as what is found on Teachers Pay Teachers, I really have had no reason to create my own video content.  However, now that I feel more comfortable with the form of media, I am entertaining other ways video could be used in the classroom other than direct teacher instruction.  That means, how would my students use it?  I’ve been a science teacher for the past three years, and much of what my students do is observation of before and after or collections of examples.  In laboratory investigations, we draw before and after pictures, then write down an explanation for what happened.  Why not achieve the same thing with video?  The students could take a five-second before shot, then an after shot of the same length, then a 30 second explanation.  They have actually saved themselves valuable class time while achieving the same objective.  Because I am moving into an ESL position next year, I have been considering uses for video with this high-need population.  Rarely do students notice their own progress over time, so what about filming short question-and-answer sessions or oral-reading exercises at specified time intervals, such as once a six weeks.  With each filming, show them what they have done before so they can view their own progress.  My point, teachers have other options other than just showing one or making one to show.  But beware when having students create their own videos; not all video editing software is the same.  I would not ask a 5th grader to use Adobe’s Premiere Pro, while an experienced high school or college student may need more functionality than what Window’s Movie Maker offers.

Instructional Technologist:  Because I see myself in an instructional technologist position in the near future, I wanted to consider why a tech-savvy teacher such as myself never creates video and how I could encourage such a teacher to embrace the media form.  Teachers often complain that the videos they find are close to what they need but either have too much unnecessary information or the video is produced for an audience unlike the teacher’s classroom composition.  Of course, teachers could create their own videos, but as already discussed, time is an issue.  But what if teachers had an easy way to collect relevant short clips together.  The vast availability of video editing software could allow the teacher to create a “mashup” of only the clips they need, add important information to support special needs or adjust for the audience, and otherwise customize unoriginal content for state standards.  I would also advise any teachers to understand copyright implications.  Creating a “mashup” of clips to show students is one thing, but uploading that video to Teachers Pay Teachers and selling it creates the need for permission and citation.  Even creating an original video portraying purchased paper-based resources will require credit to the publisher.  I would also encourage teachers to get the cameras into the hands of the students.  In addition to the ideas above, teachers could take student-created clips and edit them together into one video, or have the students edit just their section to be added to a larger work.  Or how about each student taking their own collection and creating a video portfolio at the end of the year.

 

How Many Modes Can You Handle? July 13, 2014

Filed under: 5110 — S. Michele Holmes @ 6:26 pm
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Well I just have to say that I am extremely pleased with my product this week in my Multimedia in Technology Applications class.  The object was to combine text, graphics, and audio in one instruction set.  My goal was to only present a little information at a time resulting in the “big picture” at the end – quite the opposite of how I would approach anything I am learning, but it’s not really about me.  Yet I am still utilizing the dual-coding theory by accessing both the visual and the verbal so my students will likely retain the information at a higher level.  The auditory aspect is still an issue for me.  Could it replace text?  I guess I am still hung up with the needs of the the population I work with.  I feel older students and fast readers will not have the patience to listen to the audio file while following along with the text, yet some of my younger 5th graders and ESL students would be lost without it.  However, I would not want them to be looking at the graphics at the same time they listen to the audio.  To me, the whole point of supplying the audio would be to support the text until such time the students can read independently.  I would want them to follow along with the text to access the verbal in two different ways, but this does not appear consistent with dual coding theory.  So it seems that accessing two modalities at a time is ideal and more than that would be too cognitively demanding and redundant.  I would prefer to make the audio an option, both full readings and selecting words.  I am seeing this more and more in the core-content software I have used such as iStation and StemScopes.  As for how this impacts my teaching, I can actually see my vision of individualized, student-centered education coming true.  It’s all a matter of finding what modalities and methods work best for each child and utilizing them effectively.

 

Putting It All Together July 10, 2014

Filed under: 5110 — S. Michele Holmes @ 5:39 pm

Being a “big picture” person is difficult in a “just a piece at a time” kind of course.  I am finally starting to see the whole rather than just trying to fit the parts together to make a whole.  I am really excited about the next evolution of my Multimedia in Technology Applications course, especially the interactivity that is possible in the program we are using to create the instructions.  Throughout my teacher preparation program as well as my training in childcare, I have been led to believe that the more learning modalities the students access at the time of learning, the better.  So it just makes sense to utilize text, graphics, and audio for all lessons if they can all be used.  But the research coming out about multitasking and efforts to minimize it in dangerous situations, such as texting while driving, contradict my views.  I am now beginning to question if just throwing everything together is the right idea . . . will it be too overwhelming?  Are my students “big picture” people like myself, or will they do better with the separate pieces, fitting them together like a puzzle until the final result becomes clear?  But then again, now that I think about it, I would not expect my students to complete a reading packet while watching a video and conducting a hands-on lab.  Those would be separate activities within the unit.  So I have to think about it one stimulus at a time.  When we work on the unit reading packet, some students need absolute quiet to comprehend what they are reading.  Some students cannot read independently and rely on me and other students to read the passages aloud for them to understand.  But now we are talking about differentiation and not instructional stimuli.  Regardless, those who can read independently are completely distracted by the read-aloud.  They want to move on at their own pace but cannot because the audio is still keeping them on pace with whomever is reading.  So this is something I must consider when working through my design – how do I minimize the distractions while keeping the message clear as well as incorporate text, graphics, and audio?

 

Audio is Simply Not Enough June 29, 2014

Filed under: 5110 — S. Michele Holmes @ 2:54 pm
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I must admit, I found designing the audio-only circuit building instructions for my Multimedia in Technology Applications class quite easy.  Yes, it helped to have to written instructions already in place, and my well-honed telephone operator voice from years of hotel front desk jobs did not hurt at all.  Similar to my feelings about combining text and graphics, I felt the focus this week was more about working with equipment and programs to create the audio instructions and less about perfecting my accent and pronunciation.  Considering that a great deal of my education relied on listening to lectures and the long history of inventions ever striving to record the human voice, I have come to embrace audio as a necessary element to learning . . . but not all by itself.  I found it somewhat ironic that even though the focus this week was on audio, we still had to provide a written script.  Yes, creating the audio files taught us the technological aspect of it, and the files will be used again later in the semester, but nonetheless an interesting observation.  I have also been reflecting upon the years of lecture-based education I received.  Oral language was the first means of instruction; for thousands of years, hearing about a topic was the only way to learn it.  But even sitting in all those lectures, I jotted down the important points in text form, carefully replicated any diagrams or organizers drawn on the boards, or otherwise increased my chances of remembering what I heard by creating a visual representation.  But then again, my primary learning style is visual . . . so even when the lesson is not visual, I will make it that way.  Would I expect the same from my 5th graders?  Sadly, no.  At least not without me guiding them.  I do like the idea of having an audio file that anyone who accesses my lesson can replay over and over again as many times as they need.  I would not do this in one of my lectures.  I cannot just repeat the same paragraph over and over again until everybody gets it.  But a student accessing the lesson online can listen to the audio as many times as they need to.  But considering the ESL students I have worked with, I would still want them to see the text.

 

How Do You Pronounce This Word? June 26, 2014

I am quite skeptical of this week’s focus in my Multimedia in Technology Applications class.  We are focusing on reworking our instruction sets into audio-only instructions.  I just do not feel that audio without any text or visual scaffolding will be effective.  Too many issues and misunderstandings could come up; for example, as with accents and dialects.  Although I have lived in Texas for more than 15 years, the Deep South influence can still be heard in my speech.  And a recent trip to New York City proved I can pick up a New Jersey accent within a few days, much to the surprise of my students when I returned.  I’m talking here . . . forget about it!  I have a few videos I show my students with Australian and Eastern Indian narrators; they complain about not being able to understand the narrators even though English is being spoken.  The cognitive demand is just too high . . . the reason I bombed Calculus in college was because I didn’t have enough experience listening to a Pakistani speak English to understand what he was explaining.  Because I am switching back to an ESL position at my campus, I have been reflecting personally on all the second language acquisition concepts I will need to cover this next school year, and it seems there is just too much room for error in the English language for students to be presented with only audio instructions.  Just consider basic homophones and homographs; homonyms could be included but to a lesser extent since understanding the meaning relies more on context rather than seeing or hearing the word.  Regardless, these are just one example of how confusing English can be to even native speakers resulting in years of study even though college.  I mean seriously, my husband and I have been arguing over the correct pronunciation of the word bury for years . . . and we are both correct!  And let’s not even get into figurative language . . . that’s another blog post entirely!  Sure, my students get used to my voice and speech after a while, but what about the push to break down the classroom walls and share knowledge around the world.  I want students in India to access my website and learn about constructing circuits, but will they struggle with understanding my Southern draw?  I need them to see the text and the graphics too!  However, it works in reverse too.  I see the benefit of providing audio along with text as a way to support my future ESL students.  They NEED to hear how new and unfamiliar words are pronounced.  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard my son mispronounce words he has read in books because he had never heard the words before.  Until someone corrects him, he will continue to pronounce the word incorrectly and may not even recognize the correct pronunciation if it were only presented audibly.

 

 
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