With the rise of interactive multimedia and the growing traffic on the information superhighway, educators are faced with increasing options and challenges for the delivery of learning materials. The key to success in these areas is the appropriate use of instructional design models suitable for these dynamic information rich environments and to apply current educational theory and practice. This paper discusses the work of the Interactive Multimedia Learning Laboratory team of designers and evaluators, and demonstrate new models for information provision. It will also demonstrate the tools available to students who must select and manipulate large volumes of information from a variety of different representations, text, graphic, sound and video. Examples will include changing the authoring requirements, improving higher order thinking skills, increasing interactivity, research and selection by learners from the growing resources available to everyone.
In this paper, I will review the changing views of learning that have been driving the design of new learning experiences in interactive educational software. These views have their basis in the shift from behaviourism as the basis of software design to cognitive and constructivist approaches. The resulting learning environments allow for greater self regulation in learning and for learning to be situated in a real world context thus allowing practice on authentic tasks. The paper then shifts to the key technologies which enable learners to integrate the multiple data sources and ways in which knowledge is represented. The major technologies discussed in this regard are interactive multimedia and networked learning. The final section examines the role of good learning software within the context of these integrating technologies, and emphasises the skills required by learners using interactive technologies.
From the focus on Behaviourism we have the following values
As the task became less imposed and the student became a key player in the learning environment we saw the growth of Cognitivism and Humanistic Learning principles. In time these emphases led to a belief that learners constructed their own meanings of the world as part of learning, thus we have values for developing higher order thinking skills and positive disposition toward learning such as:
It should be noted that many of the values are consonant with elements of both experiential education, as advocated by (Dewey, 1972) and the progressive educators of the 1920s and 30s, and humanistic learning theory, as championed by (Rogers, 1963) and (Maslow, 1968). This list of values has been presented in a number of papers, see for example (Driscoll, 1994) and (Lebow, 1995). Lebow's list includes:
The move to incorporate constructivist approaches into contemporary educational software and to reflect the changing emphases in learning theory has resulted in the creation of learning environments which mirror real world contexts in more than just photorealistic graphic style. These learning environments allow students to think and perform acts which are similar to real world actions and performance required to resolve similar problems and issues.
The starting point is the belief that quality learning involves a number of aspects such as: Active engagement, imaginative inquiry, and the finding of a suitable level and style. These outcomes are more likely to occur when instructional strategies that necessitate student activity, problem solving and cooperative learning are employed. Other major movements in educational theory such as Constructivism have also supported the use of interactive strategies which require high degrees of learner involvement to achieve the outcome. In a constructivist environment the learner actively constructs knowledge, individually and socially. Simulations, especially if there are multiple possible outcomes, provide not only challenge, but also opportunities for collaborative learning and socially constructed responses to problems.
If learning is viewed from a phenomenographic perspective (Lave, 1991), then the major concern is that the processes we employ to experience and understand the world are inseparable from the data and interpretation. Thus the student experience in working through a rich information environment provides a range of models for knowing and how the evidence is generated and used.
And again, if we view learning from an experiential perspective (Kolb, 1984), we again see issues such as:
The software design strategy of rich information landscapes with complex problem structures (where many approaches to problem solving are encouraged) will circumvent the use of formula based solutions where information simply gathered and repeated in a standard report format will not lead to a solution. In the provision of such complex environments there is no requirement for extensive memorisation as the cognitive tool approach provides support for even the most disorganised user. (Mayes, 1992) Devices such as employing linked representations such as picture and text description, or movie and associated data mean that links are generated between important concepts even though they might be accessed in a variety of sequences.
For the development of interactive technologies which enable the learner the freedom to experiment, we worked with iterative design models such as the following, which seeks to emphasise the importance in interactive approaches and to suggest that the designer should seek confirmation with the world on their choices and decisions about the way it works.
What has been taught inside our schools has always been a reflection of what's happening outside of them. With the sheer volume of information available in the world and the increasing sophistication and alternative ways of accessing that information (computers, networks, online services, interactive CD-ROMs, and so on), learners are presented with alternative learning strategies which are radically different from the library and knowledgable teacher.
Online information sources, once accessed, require the learner to understand, manipulate, verify and re-present that information to others. These skills may prove more challenging especially for less able students. Thus in this context, the ability to work confidently with information has become nothing less than a matter of survival for today's learners.
An iterative design model for interactive multimedia development (Hedberg, 1993)
What kind of skills foster that ability?
In this context, we have sought to combine the ideas of situated learning and learning from rich information environments to form the basis for their effective design. In addition, there are a number of metacognitive supports within these landscapes which in turn contribute to the design of authentic learning experiences and also support learners with different skill levels. The goal was to design a rich learning environment which challenges and supports effective learning. (Bransford & Vye, 1989) describe success in getting students to produce their own computer videodisc presentations using segments from commercially available videodiscs. They give an example of a group of students working on the topic of light who used segments from Star Wars to illustrate some important concepts about light. They conclude that:
Although this fact could be read in a science textbook, the use of a very short video segment, tied with text, appears to make the learning of this type of information more meaningful and interesting for students who produced the video and for the other students who watch the productions. (p 132)
These interactive multimedia CD-ROM based packages are entitled Investigating Lake Iluka and Exploring the Nardoo. They have been designed to facilitate access by learners to a complex an information landscape by:
Exploring the Nardoo is based on the issues associated with inland Australian rivers and how they are effected by farming, industrial activity and settlement. The metaphor for the knowledge structure is a navigable river environment with four distinct river locations, each of which contain biological, chemical and physical data. The river environments also contain text, video, audio and graphic representations of information presented in metaphoric forms such as newspapers, video news reports and books. The dimension of time has also been incorporated into the package; four separate time zones, which represent approximately fifteen year time intervals, have been added to the four basic locations as "layers" through which the same section of the river can be viewed. Thus changing use and shape of the river can be explored from a variety of different viewpoints.
Both Investigating Lake Iluka and Exploring the Nardoo present to the user an environment for authentic practice. There is a common process in both packages of supporting students in articulation of their knowledge in the domains created. Exploring the Nardoo offers the greater potential in this regard in that the users access a range of media to support their solutions to problems. Guides model the investigation process, expressing concern about specific environmental issues and providing guidance to possible solutions. Thus the user is attempting to solve authentic problems based in a realistic representation of a domain, with "experts" supporting and modelling the problem solving process.
A second aspect of immersion is the conceptual congruence between user actions and their understanding of the concepts embodied in the learning context. Much educational software does not link the response of the user to progress toward the goal. (Malone, 1981) in his early work on games, made the critical observation about the importance of the link between the constructed response and the achievement of the goal. The learner's choice directly ensured a response from the environment which moved toward the goal. Within the interactive multimedia environment the action of the learner should lead to a conceptual understanding directly about the context in which they are working.
A third aspect, motivational immersion, is well understood by the game players. A user can become immersed within a challenging and involving learning environment, and often the degree of realism (or fidelity of representation) of the context does not appear to be correlated. Rarely have educational games and simulations taken on the motivating aspects of the arcade game. If the investment in interactive multimedia is going to work for more the a one off experience, then there has to be a learning environment which intrinsically motivates the participant to work within the context.
The concept of immersion, both physical and psychological, has been considered in the design of Exploring the Nardoo. The physical environment that the user is immersed in is a river system which is represented with rich visual images. The visual representation of the river is taken from real images of a typical environment and combined with superimposed graphic elements to represent the changes to the natural habitat. Psychologically the user is presented with a challenging learning environment right from the start The challenge is set by Water Research Centre staff through a general plea to help the staff to investigate problems generally and then more specifically through a particular case based scenario. The guides challenge the user to take up a problem and help them find a solution and also support the user by offering levels of help and hints for the problem solving process. The help system supports the learner in using the learning environment which intrinsically motivates the participant to work within the context, understand the objects, their attributes and how they can relate to each other.
The effect of a consistent metaphor is to allow the student to delve into many sections of the package without the need for extensive tuition in how is works. The metaphor also enables fantastic events to occur within some reasonable vehicle. Consider, transportation between elements in one landscape, the adventure game metaphor allows the student to wander in three dimensions, but using the PDA they can jump into new places to explore. Students are not prepared to waste time on transitions if they are not adding to the meaning or interpretation of the world they are studying.
Investigating Lake Iluka encourages active participation by presenting an hierarchical set of problems for the user to investigate, but this participated is very much based on the assumption that the novel nature of the package, simple and intuitive navigation system and extensive use of varied information forms will encourage students. By comparison active participation in Exploring the Nardoo, has been supported through the user "guides" that directly address and challenge the user from the initial entry to the package. This challenge to actively participate in problem solving and investigation is based around a group of researchers, who advise users on problems to investigate and provide graded hints on how to investigate specific case based problems.
In addition, Exploring the Nardoo allows the student to create a report or presentation based upon the information found and the problem solved. This process is further supported by the provision of genre templates so that they focus on the generation of ideas and interpretations rather than repetition of collected information.
Both Investigating Lake Iluka and Exploring the Nardoo, present to the user an environment for authentic practice. There is a common process in both packages of supporting students in articulation of their knowledge in the domains created. Guides model the investigation process, expressing concern about specific environmental issues and providing guidance to possible solutions. Thus the user is attempting to solve authentic problems based in a realistic representation of a domain, with "experts" supporting and modelling the problem solving process.
Information landscapes are one of the basic building elements for educational interactive multimedia packages. They provide a rich source of learning resources for the user, and the learning outcomes depend upon several factors which need to be carefully woven into the landscape: interface design, navigation options, learning support for the user and the instructional strategies which provide the "glue" for the underlying knowledge structures. Situated cognition and constructivist approaches to learning can be well supported by such information landscapes that "transport" the user to practice in authentic environments which closely resemble real world contexts.
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|Authors: John Hedberg and Barry Harper|
Interactive Multimedia Development Laboratory
Faculty of Education
University of Wollongong
Wollongong NSW 2522, Australia
Please cite as: Hedberg, J. and Harper, B. (1996). Interactive educational technologies: Effective design and application in the classroom. In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Proceedings of the Third International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 160-168. Perth, Western Australia, 21-25 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1996/ek/hedberg2.html