Bangemann et al (1994) believe "the first countries to enter the information society will reap the greatest rewards. They will set the agenda for all who must follow. By contrast, countries which temporise or favour half hearted solutions, could, in less than a decade face disastrous declines in investment and a squeeze on jobs".
Just as the courageous use of the then available technology allowed such a small country as Portugal to dominate world exploration in the fifteenth century, so countries are seeking to develop innovative and adventurous uses for the emerging technologies, and so achieve world dominance. In response, many western countries have established processes for defining policies and determining an agenda for action. For example, the USA has its National Information Infrastructure initiative and Japan is seeking to connect educational institutions, community resources, workplaces and homes by 2015. Within Australia, the Creative Nation Statement by Prime Minister Paul Keating focuses on the priority that the government has to link all levels of the education system into the information superhighway and stimulate opportunities to explore the field of multimedia.
Recently Creative Nation pledged $84 million for the fledgling local multimedia industry, and announced the establishment of the Australian Multimedia Enterprise along with six cooperative multimedia centres. Significantly, $7.6 million was set aside for the production of 10 CD-ROM titles for all primary and secondary schools.
It is envisaged that the Australian Education Network will link all schools, TAFEs and universities and other education and training providers across the nation as well as providing a publishing platform and market for our education and information technology products.
The OECD (1988) express it succinctly, "technological change is, in its development and application, fundamentally a social process, not an event, and should be viewed not in static, but in dynamic terms".
McDonald (1984) provides an helpful insight into the relationship of technology and society. He rightly reminds us that technology is not an independent force or set of objects, but rather the practical knowledge and devices that are part of a community's capabilities, and that it influences directly how a community goes about doing the things it wants to do. He claims we do not know yet the full effect of well established technologies, let alone the possible effects of future information technology and that it is not the technology, but the way it is used, that determines the effect. He claims technology is "the main source of social change and a major determinant of the culture of a community" (p 87).
In exploring the role of technology in society, let us imagine we can travel back in time to earlier stages in world history.
Has anything really changed?
Godwin could often be found reading to the villagers. He read public notices and also the exciting and possibly blasphemous things he found in books. These were distributed by pedlars, the product of the invention of printing from movable type. Mindful and most appreciative of the incredible chance he had been given, Godwin used whatever spare time he had (when not reading to the villagers or writing documents or letters for merchants) teaching his own and other village children their letters. This he did by means of using sticks to draw letters in the wet sand or clay on the river banks, or by using the smooth stones to form into letter shapes, (something that creative teachers of small children do to this very day). Sticks and stones by themselves have no more educational value than Thok's banana leaf However, think of the enormous changes the printed work made to Godwin's life and in turn, to all the villagers that heard him read.
Eistenstein (1979) provides a detailed analysis of the printing press as an agent of change, and I am indebted to her two excellent volumes on this subject. The printing press is an agent of change in the massive communications shift from script to print and a "convenient labelling device, a shorthand way of referring to a large cluster of specific changes - entailing the use of movable type, oil based ink" (Eistenstein, 1979, p xv).
It also ushered in a massive communications shift from one based primarily on oral literacy to one based on a mixture of oral and written literacy.
In addition, interestingly, many of the changes ascribed to the "converging technologies" of our era are similarly ascribed to the invention of the printing press. For example, the printing press altered methods of data collection, and storage and retrieval systems, communication networks and information flows. There was interaction between old messages and the new medium, between cultural context and technological innovation, craftsmen and scholars. For Eistenstein, it is of special historical significance because "it produced fundamental alterations to prevailing patterns of continuity and change" and enabled "an enhanced capacity to store and retrieve, preserve and transmit, ... to create and destroy, to innovate and outmode" (Eistenstein, 1979, pp 703-4).
And now, looking into the future...
Her job is to educate managers in enterprises around the country. In her "class" are students living and working on stations in the outback, on coastal freighters and in major cities.
Sascha employs the latest technology to create a "virtual classroom". From her office she uses a simple computer to link with the students. Each day Sascha opens the door to her "classroom" and sees an image of each student on the computer screen. Clicking on one of these, the image activates and Sascha sees and hears a video image of the student speaking about the progress made with study since Friday's "chat".
Using satellite and fibre optic links, the students retrieve lecture notes, articles and video clips from Sascha's "virtual library" that is updated regularly.
Students visit the "virtual cafeteria" for an idle chat, pin "notes" on the notice board, and stop by the "classroom" to present their papers for group comment. Tomorrow Sascha plans to use the computer video conference facility to introduce a guest lecturer living in India who will work with the class for the next two weeks.
At the end of the course, a group of students plans to link electronically and present their findings to a "class" in the northern hemisphere.
Today we can do with multimedia, including voice, what the development of the printing press enabled us to do with the printed word. To borrow from Eistenstein (1979), we have "an enhanced capacity to store and retrieve, preserve and transmit,... to create and destroy, to innovate and outmode" (pp 703-4).
Although commentators have differed in emphasis, all have agreed that in the 90s there is a convergence of telecommunications and computing. Building on earlier inventions such as the electric telegraph in the 1840s, the telephone in the 1870s, television in the 1920s, we now have digital information being transmitted along optic fibres (invented in the 1970s), using laser technology (invented in the 1960s) and being manipulated by a computer (invented in the 1940s). Digital compression and high capacity storage will provide the ability to serve tens of thousands of persons simultaneously.
Full interactive information and service access is becoming increasingly possible as the broadband highways are being constructed in parallel with the various incremental innovations to software and hardware. An electronic services model involves providers, networks, interface services and users, and can be shown schematically.
Often in discussions on this topic, similarities to the inventions of the printing press are drawn. There is no doubt that with the development of movable type and the associated technological, economic, social and political development, the impact upon learning, both formal and informal was immense. Many examples can be cited, including the development, over time, of age graded textbooks, the enhanced ability to learn vicariously (a precursor of "virtual reality"?), whilst the relationships between teachers and learners were altered. Students were no longer dependent upon teachers as the sole source of knowledge, but had access to an increasing amount of knowledge in printed material. Also, self education was a feature of this revolution. New pedagogies emerged, and 'learning by reading', was a markedly different approach than 'learning to read'. Here, a close analogy in our time can be drawn between 'learning using a computer' and 'foaming to use a computer'.
However, we need to remind ourselves that it was not until the early nineteenth century that the independent use of books occurred in universities and it is only in the last 40 - 50 years that we have seen an influx of books into primary and secondary schools. So whilst some are calling for every student to have a computer, there are still many under-resourced and inadequately stocked libraries.
Green and Gilbert (1995, p 10) claim "education always seems attracted to the light by the promise and potential - of technology. From film in the '20s, to television in the late '50s, computers in the '80s and now information technology in the '90s, there have always been great expectations that new technologies would soon enhance learning and instruction."
Remember the Bell and Howell projector (originally developed in 1907); school broadcasts; epidiascopes; the introduction of the overhead projector (probably still the most widely used technology in schooling!); the development of instructional TV; the introduction of the slide rule and the calculator. All of these developments impacted in some way on the learning environment.
For many of us too, I guess, we believe that the blackboard (or its modem day equivalent), has always been part of an educational environment. Not so, according to Hamilton (1990 p 74) who claims that although wall mounted writing surfaces were invented by the middle of the seventeenth century their full scale introduction occurred along with other developments in schooling in the middle of the nineteenth century, in response to pedagogical changes.
However, the development of networks and specialist software has the potential to support a new range of learning activities and strategies. According to Anderson (1994, p 10) computer conferencing will allow teachers and learners to capitalise on the freedom of time and space, and "unlike other telecommunications such as television, video or audio conferencing, Internet Supported Computer Conferencing or E-Mail, cannot easily import models of teaching and learning into the classroom. Teachers and learners must devise new techniques for creating and sharing knowledge."
For those of us working in education the literature is inundated with papers on the relative merits and effectiveness of the various technologies available to us. These developments are occurring in an environment where there has been a significant shift in emphasis in the learning process and it is important to distinguish between the delivery of content of education and successful models of education. We need to consider whether the new information technology tools and applications are to be used mainly as a teaching aid or whether they will begin to redefine the learning environment, including organisational and learning relationships.
Different technologies provide different educational services; some are excellent for delivery of content, some for interactivity, and some for both. Others, are ideal for searching for information and scanning data bases.
But learning is a complete and poorly understood process" (Hamilton, 1990, p 59) and we need to remind ourselves, no matter how diverse the opportunities, no matter how sophisticated the technology, no matter how desirable and essential the learning outcomes might be, that it is the individual who always decides when, how, what, why and whether or not she or he learns.
With the rapid change in "knowledge" the emphasis must be on the learning process.
Constructivism builds on traditional approaches to teaching and learning, but also highlights the benefits of incorporating distance learning experiences into all learning environments. In a distance learning situation learners have to engage with a variety of media as they search for knowledge; this media can range from the traditional model of print based materials and written feedback from lecturers, through audio and video resources, computer based learning packages and CD-ROMs, and into aspects of working collaboratively with lectures and other learners through audio and video conferencing, E-Mail, bulletin boards and the World Wide Web. So the theory of constructivism supports using these approaches in all learning contexts.
For education to be successful, learners have to take responsibility for their teaming, not just in understanding the basic concepts, but through obtaining additional resources and support and in restructuring their thinking to relate learning to their personal experiences, to express new understanding and knowledge in various ways, and to intentionally engage with the learning opportunities. In essence, constructivism supports a learning environment that provides opportunities for learners to construct the their own meaning with the help of others. The challenges for multimedia delivery involve identifying ways to create such an environment.
Further, in examining how to construct effective learning environments, we also need to address learning theories which highlight the diversity of ways in which learners take in knowledge. By providing learners with the appropriate environment, they can not only acquire knowledge in a way that suits their preferred learning approach, but each of the seven identified ways in which we receive knowledge and experience, can also be engaged during the learning
In summary, the constructivism theory of teaming challenges us to keep three key facets of delivery in mind.
The first implication is that we must include both "how to use" technology and the actual use of it, into our curriculum and our delivery methodologies. Communications technologies can no longer be utilised only for distance education; all students regardless of the time/place of their studying, need to be working with technology.
Secondly, we must examine the features of technology to see in which ways they can be used to stimulate the seven receptors or ways of receiving education. For example, we should ask the questions:
And isn't the idea of a huge cyber classroom a step towards the lifelong learning we strive to promote? And isn't information that can be accessed anytime, anywhere - a kind of limitless just in time training environment something to get excited about? (Filipczak, 1994)
How accurate is that statement for our nation, our educational institutions, for us as individuals? What impact will the concept of the learning society have on curriculum across all education sectors?
Hamilton tells us that "a curriculum draws upon the past but is shaped according to the future. Above all, it embodies a vision of the future, of the world that is to come" (1990, pp 37-38) and so it is through curriculum that educators must look at ways to build the learning society and to harness the powerful forces of interactive multimedia.
Traditional approaches to teaching have relied heavily on the apprentice model of learning, or as Hamilton (1990, p.17) describes it, "the process of showing how" ' As systems for off the job learning, such as schools, became a part of the educational framework, and as technologies such as books provided permanent records of information, new forms of teaching, described by Hamilton (1990, p 19) as "the telling-how process. " were implemented. In the telling-how teaching environment (one that we're all familiar with), the learner's experiences of life are based on the formation of mental images, and teaching and learning became less of a hands on activity and more a sharing of minds.
For those involved with multimedia, the opportunities today are there to integrate both the showing how and telling how teaching approaches. This integration occurs through exploiting the capabilities that interactive multimedia has for bringing the sights and sounds of the world (and the world of work) onto the desktop. Multimedia can also put the learner into the "virtual environment" to gain the on the job experience so essential to developing workplace competencies, and so integral to the traditional apprentice model of learning.
One case study describes the on the job opportunities provided by multimedia in the following way "...something for the student to do ... in a film course, the student may be presented with an unlit scene and be asked to move the key, fill and other available lights around (graphically via the mouse) so as to create the best lighting effect. The student gets immediate feedback" (Isenberg). This shows how we can access the capacities of multimedia to recreate workplace learning situations.
For educators, (and multimedia designers), the important issue is not to be blinded by the dazzling array of new tools that interactive multimedia provides. We must keep in mind the education outcomes embodied in the curriculum. These outcomes must be the focus as we employ new tools to capture successful learning outcomes, and we must constantly question the technological decisions that are made, and the pedagogical approaches that support those decisions.
Interactive multimedia is championed as the means for giving back control of learning to the student, but we must ask ourselves how far the technology also limits the scope of the learning? "Few programs have sufficient flexibility to allow the student to travel beyond what the designers thought appropriate" (Winders p 2).
Whilst multimedia is excellent at delivering the information and knowledge that underpins the skills and competencies required in the workplace, how far can multimedia delivery move beyond the content and industry specific aspects of competency, to focus on developing those generic competencies that Mayer identified as essential for all employees in the workplace?
Across the education sectors, staff and students are wrestling together with the application of technology for the effective delivery of both formal and non formal education. We are slowly understanding the realities behind the rhetoric, both ours and that of others, and we press on knowing we are moving into uncharted territory, and with much to discover.
While we accept Roszak's (1988, p105) caution that "any method, any device, any pedagogical philosophy that depreciates the subject taught should be viewed with suspicion and with caution" we also believe it is equally true that all education is necessarily mediated and that "all education and all educators are necessarily inside the media, not outside looking in just as goldfish are said to see everything but the water they live in, we are all users of media even though we may find this hard to acknowledge" (Evans and Nation, 1993, p34).
While accepting that all of our pedagogical approaches are necessarily "mediated", to assist us in considering the educational applications of the "newer" technologies we have considered their effectiveness across the dimensions of 'time' and 'place. Using the grid that follows, we have sought to explore the most appropriate technology for delivery of vocational education and training in each quadrant.
For same place, same time
For same place, different time:
For different place, same time:
For different place, different time:
Thus, the four quadrants provide the context for delivering a range of learning opportunities using the "new" technologies now present in our society as well as maximising some "older" technologies.
The 'newer' technologies will impact on content, curriculum and pedagogy. The education debate will flourish in the Information Age. As we tentatively move into the future, the challenge will be to match our rhetoric to reality, or will it be our reality to our rhetoric?
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|Author: Brian K Stanford, Chief Executive|
Department for Employment, Training and Further Education, South Australia
Please cite as: Stanford, B. K. (1996). Interactive multimedia in education. In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Proceedings of the Third International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 28-37. Perth, Western Australia, 21-25 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1996/ry/stanford.html