tech-ucation reformation

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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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Combining Text and Graphics is Essential to Learning June 22, 2014

Filed under: 5110 — S. Michele Holmes @ 1:17 pm
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The focus this week in my Multimedia in Technology Applications class has been on combining both images and text for our instruction sets.  I am feeling so much more comfortable with the combination than without.  Having so much experience with younger students and the ESL population, I embrace the use of pictures and diagrams to support ideas and develop vocabulary, so I did not feel as though I was stepping too outside the crayon box.  I am also feeling as if I spent less time on creating a lesson which I may not use even use next year because I just accepted a change of assignment and more like I was focusing on how to use the program, which is one of the main objectives of the course.  What I did notice was how much more efficient the combination can be.  I could have deleted a great deal of the text from my original text-based instructions when paired with the graphics because the graphics represent the concept well, but I did not for the sake of the lesson design.  The vocabulary and explanatory nature of the text is an important part of the learning the concept.  Sure, I will assess the students on their ability to actually construct the circuits, but their state assessments will not do that.  The state assessments will provide them with a text-based prompt and perhaps a diagram.  I repeatedly tell my students that the science test is also a reading test; they must actually read the questions because just relying on any graphics or diagrams will not be enough.  The questions could lead to an unexpected answer, such as with my favorite style of questioning, “which of the following is NOT an example of . . .” which will only be understood by reading the text.  However, if the text is too long, some students will not even read it, or worse, not understand a thing the text said after they have read it.  I suppose the same could happen with graphic-only instructions.  Pictures can be confusing without any explanation whatsoever.  So in summary, learners benefit from seeing both text and graphics.

 

Designing Instruction From a Multimedia Perspective June 20, 2014

Filed under: 5110 — S. Michele Holmes @ 5:06 am
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Now that we have completed the text-only version and the graphics-only version of our instruction sets for my Multimedia in Technology Applications class, it is time to combine the two forms of media.  This combination is perhaps the modality I use the most with my students.  The opportunity to view text and pictures is always available from the posters on my classroom walls to my lesson slides.  I feel I have somewhat of an advantage with this module because of both the age of the students and the content area I teach.  Fifth grade students still need concrete examples for optimal learning, and science lives and breathes through diagrams and models.  So this is really how I intend to tackle the project – basically create my instruction set as I would my lesson slides. I must admit I struggled with how to execute the text-only and graphics-only instructions, so I am glad to be incorporating text with the graphics this time.  They complement each other so well that people are fairly oblivious to the fact that they usually appear together.  Consider advertising in magazines and on billboards.  While much of the advertising keeps the graphics and text to a minimum, rarely are they without each other.  And even when text is meant to appear without visuals, such as in novels, people still benefit from any visual support including the book jacket, a movie based on the book, maps appearing inside the cover, etc.  I seriously cannot read any Harry Potter novel without seeing the actors playing those characters in the movie versions.  Sometimes we fill in our own mental images when none exist.  I prefer non-fiction over fiction which just lends itself to being organized by headings and subheadings; I can visualize the graphic organizers forming as I preview the text.  On the other hand, my husband is an avid fiction reader, and he has explained to me that when he reads, he actually visualizes the events in his mind in movie form as they unfold.  My students are not there yet; they still need support, especially my English language learners.  But there is no denying the importance of enhancing text with graphics and graphics with text.  My biggest concern with this project is how visual my instruction set really is – even though I struggled with creating the graphics-only version, it really doesn’t need much text.  Had I chosen another topic, the roles could be reversed.  This would be the question for any set of instructions.  How does a designer find the balance between text and graphics?

 

 
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