hear, and I forget
I see, and I remember
I do, and I understand.
article demonstrates how technology and multimedia can shape classroom
knowledge and instruction by integrating all aspects of the language
arts in a student-centered environment. In our classroom, learners
become information producers and take responsibility for their learning.
Learning is active, and groups work cooperatively to evaluate and
make relevant meaning through communication. Using iMovie, students
created a multimedia newsmagazine that was regularly broadcast to
their school. Student multimedia presentations are showcased throughout
meaning, and understanding do not exist outside of meaningful, intentional
David Jonassen (2003) Learning to Solve Problems with Technology
In this article, we provide
an overview of an ongoing partnership between a university professor
and a middle school teacher, and give evidence of the impact of teacher
research on how we teach and how our students learn. We demonstrate
how technology and multimedia can shape classroom knowledge and instruction.
We describe how we use technology to teach language arts and how our
students, in turn, use technology to communicate their learning to their
teachers and their peers.
Technology is the tool that
helps us integrate, in a seamless way, all aspects of the language arts:
reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing and presenting. In our
classroom, we use a student-centered approach that views learning as
a social process, and learners as active participants in their learning
and therefore responsible for their own learning paths. They construct
individual knowledge in an environment that features collaboration as
well as feedback from peers and teachers.
of the Relevant Literature
We examine several bodies
of literature to theoretically situate this project: constructivist
learning theory, visual literacy, and the new role of teachers and students
as information producers, not just information consumers.
is a process that occurs among a community of learners that uses authentic
tasks, experiences and assessments, and emphasizes problem solving and
hands-on or real-life experiences (Jonassen, 2003). In such an environment,
learners actively create their own knowledge, piecing together their prior
knowledge with their new understandings to make sense of the world around
them. Such engagement
can lead to "deeper cognitive processing" (Tobias, 1994, p.37) that in
turn leads to new, often creative ways of thinking and problem solving.
Spiro and Jehng (1987) urge
educators to think of learning in the context of the exploration of
a child's backyard. When a child is allowed to explore a new environment
full of objects and concepts new to the child, s/he will at first be
lost and fearful of mishaps. If s/he is allowed the time and encouragement
to explore the domain of her/his backyard at will, s/he gains confidence
and eventually masters her/his complex environment. If the child's parents
restrict their child to well-structured paths, however, s/he will gain
only a limited understanding of the complexity of the backyard. Another
similar notion is that of a microworld (Papert, 1980) that allows learners
to interact with a stimulating environment and then reflect about what
and how they learned.
constructivist learning is applied in a digital environment, learners,
teachers' texts, media, and content are interconnected in a community
of inquiry where learning is relevant, concrete, and challenging (Goldman-Segall,
1998). In environments where students and teachers are co-learners,
the learning is more personal, connected, and immediate (Papert, 1996).
Such learners actually become part of the world they study (Hammersley
& Atkinson, 1983).
Driscoll (2002) describes
learning as having four key characteristics. First, learning occurs
in context, including new ways that technology tools can facilitate
(such as digital media). Second, learning is active and often includes
brainstorming, concept mapping, and decision-making that help learners
deal with complex ideas. Third, learning is social, so collaboration
- often facilitated by technology - brings learners to a deeper understanding
than individual students are likely to achieve alone. The old adage
"a whole is greater than the sum of its parts" encapsulates the social
nature of learning. Finally, learning is reflective. Students reflect
on their successes and mistakes, their learning processes and products,
as well as on the collaborative nature of learning. These principles
(and several others listed below) served as the cornerstones of our
When reviewing the literature
on visual literacy and multimedia, Topper (n.d.) discusses models of
symbolic representation. In a world where "traditional educational materials
are prominently textual" (Topper, n.d.) Topper believes that language
is often ambiguous, but visual expressions of ideas help people reach
a common understanding. Through using technology tools available to
represent ideas visually, students begin "to construct their own representations
of the phenomena they are studying" (Topper, n.d.). Further, visual
representations are useful to students with nontraditional learning
styles. Individual students learn best when information is provided
in their preferred learning style (Riding & Grimley, 1999).
Students build visual literacy
by using numerous visualization tools such as iMovie, PowerPoint,
Kidspiration or Inspiration. These tools help students clarify
and organize their thinking, reinforce understanding, integrate new
knowledge, and identify misconceptions. Such concept map or multimedia
presentations help students build their critical thinking skills (IARE,
Gold (2002) notes that when
teachers and students focus on communication skills, multimedia can
be instrumental in achieving language arts goals. In this study we used
digital video, rather than the written word, as our medium for communication.
Such media are characterized by Lemke (2001) as "real world tools to
accomplish 21st century work. These tools are supported by the conceptual
and contextual framework that facilitates communication and collaboration"
Another advantage of the
use of multimedia is the flexibility of learning it provides. Students
have more choices regarding mode of presentation than in a more traditional
learning environment. Coupled with choice of content, students feel
greater control over their learning efforts. (Riding & Grimley,
1999). In addition, these researchers believe that "this choice is likely
to increase with each new generation of material" (Riding & Grimley,
1999, p. 55).
Since the use of digital
media as a technology tool to enhance learning is fairly new to K-12
schools, there are a limited number of studies or thought pieces on
this topic. Hoffenberg and Handler (2001) do shed light on this emerging
new tool, however. They indicate that "students find video motivational,
and more important, they demonstrate higher-level thinking skills when
producing digital video clips" (p. 11). They cite the experience of
a California teacher who believes that digital video gives his students
a voice; further, his students are no longer working for grades, but
because they enjoy digital video production. They conclude that "meaningful
tools in the hands of students create lifelong learners, preparing our
students for the challenges they will face in a digital world" (Hoffenberg
and Handler (2001), p. 15).
In this digital world, today's
students are not just information consumers; they are information producers
(Gold, 2002; Christie, 2003). Using iMovie, PowerPoint,
or Web editing tools, teachers and students become authors who share
their creative efforts with local and global communities. Once students
assume ownership of their work, their learning knows no bounds (Christie,
2003). With broader audiences, students put more care and energy into
their work. They no longer are "doing an assignment" for their teacher,
they are producing works that will be viewed by audiences near and far.
One student summarized this change in attitude and learning when she
said "I no longer work for a grade, I work because lots of other students
and teachers will see my work. I want it to be the best I can do" (Christie,
This visual literacy project
is based on constructivist principles and uses technology tools available
to K-16 educational settings to help teachers and students become information
producers in the digital world in which we live.