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Multimedia in teacher education

Donald J Cunningham and Anthony R Brown
University of New England, Armidale NSW
Teacher education in Australia is notoriously conservative, relying heavily on lecture and group tutorial. In this paper we will describe Strategic Teaching Frameworks (STF), a multimedia resource we are developing in collaboration with Indiana University, to aid pre-service and in-service teachers in adopting new approaches to teaching. It can be thought of as a 'library ' of classrooms that portray expert teachers implementing various approaches. Also included is a database of information that helps students to develop a mental model of the instructional approach being demonstrated and to develop the capability for implementing the strategy in their own classrooms.


Teacher education in Australia is notoriously conservative, relying heavily on lecture and group tutorial. In this paper we will describe Strategic Teaching Frameworks (STF), a multimedia resource we are developing in collaboration with Indiana University to aid pre-service and in-service teachers in adopting new approaches to teaching. It can be thought of as a 'library' of classrooms that portray expert teachers implementing various approaches. Also included is a database of information that helps students to develop a mental model of the instructional approach being demonstrated and to develop the capability for implementing the strategy in their own classrooms.

The metaphor underlying STF is one of apprenticing the teacher in an expert teacher's classroom. In essence, the apprentice finds a teacher whose approach, content domain, and grade level is a reasonable match with their own current or planned teaching circumstance and then 'sits in' on the class, watching as the instruction unfolds. The apprentice teacher can query the accompanying database to locate further information about the approach being illustrated in the system or solicit alternative points of view and expert commentary at any time during or after watching the video. Teachers using STF encounter new and demonstrably effective teaching strategies in the context of an actual classroom setting. Further, reflections by the expert teacher and other experts help to focus attention on relevant aspects of the teaching approach. As the apprentice teacher using STF tries the strategies reflected in the video, he or she can return to STF to compare performances or collaborate with other apprentice teachers using the same or different videos.

Strategic teaching frameworks

Strategic Teaching Frameworks was developed in the US by Indiana University and the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (see Fishman & Duffy, 1992). A typical Strategic Teaching Framework module is a videodisc based multimedia computer presentation incorporating video, sound and a textual database. A video presentation of a teaching situation is displayed which is under the direct control of the learner. Additional video displays in which the mentor teacher critiques his or her own performance or in which experts comment on the performance of the mentor are also available. In addition, databases of information about such things as the educational theory behind the teaching situation are available for browsing and linking with other parts of the database. Other facilities include an annotation section in which students can make notes for their own private use or which they wish to share with others.

STF relies heavily on video to provide a realistic and information rich representation of classrooms in progress. In time there will be a library of classrooms in all major subject areas and grade levels, including university lectures and tutorials. The apprentice teacher may select from a variety of resources to gain an understanding of the particular interplay of strategies in the classroom, the techniques and problems involved, the planning required, and the alternatives available. Hypertext links can be made between different locations in the database, and a comment facility allows apprentice teachers to add their own thoughts to the existing database and make them available to other users of the system.

In its original inception in the US, STF was a computer system and software that controlled a videodisc player. We are in early days of a project funded by a grant from the Committee for the Advancement of University Teaching, to adapt this concept to the Australian context and to CD-ROM and QuickTime technology. Our presentation to the conference will summarise our progress to date.


STF as developed at Indiana was videodisc based and this allowed access to one hour of video. However, due to the expense of producing a videodisc and the lack of videodisc players in Australia, the STF being developed by the Centre for Research into the Educational Application of Multimedia (CREAM) will be CD-ROM based. This will entail redesigning the interface.

The STF will be HyperCard based. The video of the teaching activity will be divided into small segments which illustrate some particular aspect of the lesson, and a separate card will be provided for each of these. The proposed interface is shown in figure 1.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Proposed interface design

As one of the concepts of the STF is that it can be used by individuals in their own time, it must be as simple to operate as possible as external help may not be available. Controls will be divided into two groups, Navigational and STF. Navigational tools will allow movement to the next and previous cards and to the main menu. In addition, a field will be provided to give information about the position of this card in the stack. The STF controls will allow the display of the video, commentaries, and access to the database and notes section. To keep the screen as simple as possible, the video will be displayed and Played when the video button is clicked and then hidden when any other option is selected. A textual overview of the segment can be accessed and this will include any relevant stills from the movie and graphics of any printed materials used. Users will be able to hear the teacher and two 'experts' comment on the segment. These commentaries will be QuickTime movies so that the user has more control than if the sound was played using a script. As each commentary is heard, a graphic of the speaker will be displayed; each graphic will be removed after use. The relevant part of the database holding details of research and possibly alternative teaching techniques can also be accessed from the card as can the note taking section.

One of the key issues that had to be decided when planning the stack was the quality of video to be used. If professional quality video was obtained, a short video of the lesson could be made which could be viewed by the user before using the STF. However, as high quality video was not necessary for the production of QuickTime movies, and no editing would be required, it was decided that the added expense could not be justified and that we should work with either Super VHS or VHS. A consequence of this is that, if the user is to be able to view all the video of the lesson as a single sequence, either a single large QuickTime movie will have to be produced (which could present storage problems) or all the individual segments could be viewed sequentially. In the latter case, there could be a paw as each movie is loaded. Another alternative would be to make an overview QuickTime movie that could be viewed at the beginning of the stack.

As CD-ROM is a read only medium, the note taking facility was initially seen as presenting a problem, but this will be overcome by copying the master and the note stacks on to the hard disc. This will have the added advantage of increasing the operating speed.

Theoretical bases

In our view, STF is a multimedia application compatible with constructivist views of the teaching/learning process. While the system itself can exemplify teaching methods that are derived from a variety of theoretical perspectives (eg, behaviourism, information processing, humanism, etc), we want to be clear about the underlying assumptions upon which our use of the STF concept is based.

Cunningham, Knight and Watson (in press) list seven principles of constructivism and we would like to briefly comment how STF fits with those principles.

1. All knowledge is constructed hence instruction should provide experience with the construction process.

Traditional views of the teaching learning process regard knowledge as a commodity received by the learner from the external world. Constructivists, on the other hand, regard knowledge as a ongoing process (ie, knowing). STF allows students to experience this knowledge construction process by viewing the expert teacher's performance, hearing how they and other exports construe the teaching process, and navigating the variety of theoretical perspectives which can be used to understand the teaching/learning process.

2. Many worlds can be constructed, hence there will be multiple perspectives.

The notion that we make sense of the world by interpretations that reflect our beliefs, expectations and past experiences leads directly to the issue that no one else sees the world exactly as we do. Instead of there is a fixed reference point (ie, an external world) to which we can anchor our knowledge in order to affirm its validity, we have to accept the fact that our experience will be a mixture of stability and change, of regularity and conflict.

The use of STF clearly illustrates that there is no "best" way to teach, no single correct action in all situations. The system has been consciously designed to illustrate multiple perspectives and to allow for the inclusion of the apprentice teachers' perspectives in to the database.

3. Knowledge is effective action, hence learning should occur in its relevant context.

This principle resonates nicely with the notion of situated cognition that is so passionately endorsed in the educational literature today (eg, Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989). So much of what passes for education those days is relevant only to a single context - the school. Study after study shows a lack of transfer of knowledge acquired in the classroom to the real world (eg, Bransford et al, 1990).

STF is something of a compromise with respect to this principle. While we recognise the importance of visiting and practising skills in actual classroom, video provides a convenient substitute. Real classrooms can be shown in a form that allows for repetition and reflection. In a sense, examples of good teaching can be isolated and studied from a variety of perspectives, free from the time constraints of live observation. Video is a powerful medium for simulating experience and STF has been designed to capitalise upon this.

4. Human learning is embedded within social contexts hence instruction should emphasise the social dimension.

Dialogue is a major medium for providing experience in the knowledge construction process. While the individual learner is the only one who can construct his or her unique understanding of the world, this understanding emerges in a social context. It is only when we share knowledge, that its constructedness becomes apparent. Cooperative learning situations encourage positive dialogue by making cooperative skills explicit so that students practise observing, providing appropriate feedback and reflection during conversations. Collaborative learning fosters discussions that allow different points of view, a clash of minds, exchange of ideas, which all contribute to the development of creative thinking and deeper levels of understanding.

STF explicitly encourages collaboration, both by the design of the interface which includes multiple perspectives and by the provision that students can make annotations for comment by other students.

5. Knowing is not sign dependent hence instruction should make available a variety of representational codes.

Varieties of sign systems can enhance still further our understanding of the constructedness of knowledge, the value of considering multiple perspectives, and so on for each of the other principles listed here. Within the computer context, for example, many modes of representation can be captured (eg, graphics, photographs, animation, video, sound, etc) and each of these can be assessed in terms of what they can reveal and what they might obscure. No doubt we become aware of and reflect upon those factors in large part through language but language is only one part of the meaning making process. STF is a striking example itself of the power of multiple representations.

6. World views can be explored and changed with tools.

The notion of tool is a powerful one for all students to explore. The things we ask students to learn, for example, such basics as reading and writing, should be thought of as tools to accomplish goals rather than as tasks to be mastered. The motivation to learn, therefore, becomes integrated within the tool use and need not be externally imposed. Reading becomes a tool that enables you to find out more about things that interest you, not a task that must be mastered because the teacher says so. In other words learning to use a tool becomes instrumental in the context of a task, not a task itself. How much longer will we continue to teach tool use like keyboard skills, computer programming, visual arts, etc, as tasks in themselves rather than as tools which allow the accomplishment of deeply felt and self chosen goals?

STF is a powerful tool to help apprentice teachers construct their own understanding of the teaching/learning process. It is not itself the source of answers or conclusions about the best way to teach. Until we divest ourselves of this myth that computers teach, we will never change the face of education. Multimedia systems such as STF are tools that facilitate the knowledge construction process, not teachers.

7. Knowing how we know is the ultimate human accomplishment.

This is perhaps the most important principle of all and has naturally arisen in discussion of previous goals. Providing experience in the knowledge construction process is an important goal, but the outcome we hope will eventually occur is awareness of the constructedness of much of our knowledge and active control over that construction process: To know how we know. In other places (eg, Cunningham, 1992) this has been referred to as the development of reflexivity. There is no higher educational goal.

Through the use of STF, we hope to create a reflexive teacher, one who understands the variety of perspectives that can be brought to bear on teaching and gains a sense of when each perspective might be most useful and appropriate. This is a ambitious goal, but we will be satisfied with no less.


Bransford, L., Sherwood, R., Hasselbring, T., Kinzer, C. & Williams, S. (1990). Anchored instruction: Why we need it and how technology can help. In D. Nix & R. Spiro (Eds.), Cognition, education and multimedia: Explorations in high technology. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Brown, J. S., Collins, A. & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18, 32-42.

Cunningham, D. J. (1992). Beyond educational psychology: Steps toward an educational semiotic. Educational Psychology Review, 4, 165-194.

Cunningham, D. L., Knight, B. & Watson, K. (in press). Instructional prescriptions can be hazardous to your pedagogy. Journal of the Society for Accelerative Learning and Teaching.

Fishman, B. L., & Duffy, T. M. (1992). Classroom restructuring: What do teachers really need? Educational Technology Research and Development, 40(3), 95-111.

Authors: Donald J Cunningham, Professor
Anthony R Brown, Lecturer
Centre for Research into the Educational Application of Multimedia, University of New England. Armidale NSW 2351. Tel: 067 73 4363 Fax: 067 72 9702 Email: dcunning@metz.une.edu.au, abrown1@metz.une.edu.au

Please cite as: Cunningham, D. J. and Brown, A. R. (1994). Multimedia in teacher education. In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Proceedings of the Second International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 110-113. Perth, Western Australia, 23-28 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1994/bc/cunningham.html

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