In a sense, teaching has always been a multimedia enterprise; instructors have typically spoken aloud to, drawn pictures, and attempted demonstrations for the benefit of their students
Ludwig, Daniel, Froman & Mathie (2004: 3)
Korea has a unique advantage very many developed countries in that it has built an extensive and robust infrastructure to deliver multimedia content to classrooms as well as a generally held perception amongst instructors, students and parents, that multimedia is both beneficial and necessary in the classroom.
The use of multimedia in the language classroom exposes students to authentic language. For example YouTube, Vimeo and various other video sharing services all have a plethora of real life (authentic) texts for students to listen to. Moreover they provide a space (perhaps with the appropriate guidance from an instructor) where students can post work they have produced themselves. At the very least these authentic videos provide excellent jumping off points for learners to respond and develop Macro Skills
However it is apparent to this author, from experience in Korean public schools and by way of anecdote, that multimedia is more often than not used to present language to students in the most passive of ways and is seldom utilized by teachers as a tool for students to use to produce language.
What is Multimedia?
This paper defines multimedia as anything that delivers content to students via "non-traditional" media. i.e. not the traditional teacher / chalkboard combination. In addition it is worth noting that more and more, multimedia is delivered through computers, mobile devices and The Internet. Anything produced digitally that contains 2 or more of the following:
Video, still images, audio, text, links, animation, drawing....
Why use Multimedia?
Why would any instructor want to use multimedia materials in the classroom? To a certain extent ESL and EFL instructors have done so “because they could.” (Ludwig et al, 2004) As each improvement in technology became available (in many cases with the support of textbook publishers), instructors who saw themselves as “hip, cool, and hi-tech” quickly incorporated the new tools, correctly perceiving that slick multimedia presentations have a certain amount of entertainment value for students.
However, this rationale misses the point; in fact, the use of multimedia materials has substantial grounding in cognitive theory and research—although, as is often the case, the research evidence followed the widespread use of these materials rather than preceded it. (ibid.)
Numerous studies (see Bagui, 1998; Fletcher, 2003; Kozma, 2001; Mayer, 2001) show that the use of multimedia in the classroom improves both comprehension of content during lessons as well as retention of information at later times for testing. There is general agreement that multimedia presentations are most effective when the different types of media support one another rather than when superfluous sounds or images are presented for entertainment value— which may induce disorientation and cognitive overload that could interfere with learning rather than enhance learning (Mayer, Heiser, & Lonn, 2001)
In addition multimedia has a positive effect on student motivation. Multimedia aids the teacher in gaining the attention and continuing engagement of learners in the task (or language) at hand. Shuell and Farber (2001) found that in a study of over 700 university aged students for instance, the vast majority showed favorable attitudes towards the use of technology in the classroom. (As a side note, it seems that males are more open to Multimedia instruction, over female students who rated its use lower than their male counterparts)
Ludwig et al (2004) summarize the potential pedagogical value and rationale for using classroom media in these three points:
To raise interest level -- students appreciate (and often expect) a variety of media
- To enhance understanding -- rich media materials boost student comprehension of complex topics, especially dynamic processes that unfold over time
- To increase memorability -- rich media materials lead to better encoding and easier retrieval
Examples of Multimedia Use.
Writing is a natural match for the Web. (Craig, 2012a) No longer do users need to understand the vagaries of HTML and coding in order to publish online. In fact it is just as easy as using a word processor. (Not to mention that there are several online word processing tools provided by Google, Microsoft and Korea's own Naver).
However elementary, and even middle and high school students may not have the language resources to write extensive treatises using word processing software. Even adopting a process writing approach and scaffolding language appropriately can still be met with angst and demotivation when students are faced with a blank page and a blinking cursor.
Thus, Twitter provides an elegant solution that relieves a lot of the cognitive burden that students take on when having to write. (Not to mention the teacher who has to mark students' written work). Twitter (and in Korea Me2Day) are so-called "Micro-blogging" formats where the writer is restricted to just 140 characters. Craig (2012b) provides the following model for introducing Twitter to students:
Prior to using Twitter, and activity called “Twitter Paper” was used to introduce students to the use of Twitter. A handout with columns for user name and message was provided to the class with instructions that they were to write a collaborative story with each person contributing only one sentence. The were further instructed to write as fast as they could and then pass the paper to someone else in the room. The activity was wonderfully successful and provided an introduction to Twitter without the use of a computer.
Once students become familiar with the format they will need to register / login to the service. Of course students need not be tied to a desktop or ore book PC. Twitter has a smartphone client, thus making it (and students' writing opportunities) portable and able to be used 24 hours a day.
...assignments were given during the fall 2010 semester, which complimented what was being taught during class time. These were referred to as “Daily Tweets”. Learners were responsible for posting one message each day on Monday through Friday as well as at least one reply to another user’s message.
Beyond these examples teachers can vary the kind of tweet based writing assignments distributed to students based on student need and proficiency level. Research based projects can be assigned with students using Twitter to report back their results, or more complex grammar structures could be introduced in class with students producing the forms via Twitter for the teacher to check comprehension.
In addition to their own writing students can use Twitter to increase exposure to authentic language by way of "following" other users of the service. A number of celebrities, musicians, and world leaders all have Twitter accounts and post regularly. Thus students can build up quite an eclectic collection of users they follow and "tweet" to, all the time being exposed to authentic language. Moreover Twitter is a medium for teachers too! Feedback between students on Twitter can be added to with comments from the teacher, correcting, moderating and praising students for their efforts.
Ultimately students's tweets can be aggregated and printed out forming part of a portfolio and showing their progress starting right from their initial tweet.
There are however some barriers to entry with Twitter. Craig (2012b) describes them thus:
The use of Twitter requires the use of new lexis that, though limited, can be very confusing to new users, particularly language learners. These include, but are not limited to tweet, follow, follower, favorite, list, @ (reply or mention), DM (direct message), RT (re-tweet), # (hash/pound). In addition to these terms that describe the main functions and concepts of Twitter, there are a growing number of ancillary technologies that extend Twitter functionality: Twitter clients, URL shorteners, archiving services, and photo and video sharing services to name a few. This new lexis requires attention to vocabulary and concept instruction for users that must be done before users are able to fully participate in Twitter.
In addition to new lexis, Twitter requires consideration for and reconsideration of what privacy is. Twitter postings are generally available to the public. While users can choose to make their accounts private and available only to those who they give permission, this is not the default. Protected account are unlikely to acquire a substantial network, thus they limit users’ full participation in Twitter. Both teachers and students must weigh the virtues of “privacy” and adjust expectations accordingly
Classroom blogging is also an effective tool for getting Students to write. It can be as simple as the teacher posting content for the students to reply to by way of commenting. the teacher may post a reading text, a listening text, or a video and elicit students' written responses.
Moreover blogs can be used as a means to publish students' production. Here roles are reversed and the teacher is able to utilize comments to offer feedback, suggest revision and, as always, to offer praise to the student. Additionally blogs allow the students and teacher to interact outside of the traditional classroom environment while inviting others (parents, administrators, colleagues) into the "virtual classroom" that is created.
There are a number of blogging platforms, in Korea the "café" format provided by portals Daum and Naver are popular and are simple to use, and indeed are in students' first language, while Blogger (Google) and Wordpress offer alternatives that can be highly customized allowing an almost infinite variety of styles and formats that can be used to meet the needs of different learners and classes.
Receptive Skills (Listening and Reading)
The ubiquity of video on the Internet has already been alluded to above and can be harnessed for development of receptive skills.
One particularly fun and worthwhile activity is the so-called video Jigsaw:
Divide the class into two groups. Have one group leave the classroom.
T: "You will hear the audio of a video twice, but without the images, listen carefully".
T plays the audio only for the first group twice. The second time they listen Ss. Should take notes.
The first group of students leaves the class and works together to construct an idea of what they heard.
The second group of students enters the classroom.
T: "You will see a video twice, but you will not be able to hear the audio. Watch carefully".
The second time the students watch they should take notes.
Allow this group another 2-3 minutes to construct what they saw before inviting the first group back into the class.
In new pairs (one from each of the previous groups) students put together the information they have in order to construct a coherent picture of the text.
Afterwards T plays video with sound and elicits what Ss accurately constructed and anything they missed.
In terms of reading, again the web is awash with options. Beyond access to newspapers and blogs in English services like Google Books (http://books.google.com) provide full digital copies of literally millions of texts. Breaking News English (http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com) is also an interesting option providing not only readable text, but also mp3 recordings of texts and corresponding tasks for students to complete. he advantage of Breaking News English is that it's content is current events and it is regularly updated meaning students not only have access to authentic texts but also topical or relevant texts on subjects they might already possess some background knowledge on.
The web is still in its infancy (difficult to believe I know!) when it comes to live verbal communication. Obviously video sites like YouTube provide exposure to authentic language use, but finding ways for students to respond to these can be a protracted (though worthwhile) task, for example by making a video in reply. Unfortunately class time is often already dedicated to fulfilling the requirements of the National Curriculum and devoting time to students first shooting and then editing video can be time consuming (though again, a task that will engage students and prove incredibly motivating given the time).
Two options then exist. the first is to use video and have students emulate the language and indeed, the pronunciation they hear.
English Central is an excellent tool students can use to improve pronunciation. The free version of the site allows students to view video content and speak along, recording their utterances which are then compared to Google's speech engine and graded for how close pronunciation, intonation, word stress and sentence stress are to that of the speaker in the video. Premium accounts on English Central allow for teacher administration, assigning videos, assigning targets and tracking student progress.
The second option is to use one of many free teleconferencing tools available. Skype and Google Hangouts both provide free computer to computer video chat requiring little more know-how than the ability to plug in a microphone and a webcam (if the computer doesn't already have those built in). Google Hangouts
Possibilities for spoken interaction over one of these media abound. Students could converse with each other on terminals at other ends of the room. However horizons could be broader - Skype and Hangouts could allow students to speak to students in other classrooms, other schools, or infant in other countries (time zones and arrangements between teachers not withstanding).
Using Multimedia: Instructional Strategies.
1. Plan, plan, plan!
The plan is perhaps the most important part of using multimedia in the classroom. The media used in the lesson should serve to emphasize language points or skills, especially those that are best understood visually, or where the use of the medium provides authentic language use opportunities to students. However, Teachers should remember, multimedia programs and materials are tools to direct attention and emphasize key points that are best understood visually rather than all-purpose guides for every point of every lecture.
(Ludwig et al, 2004: 4)
Ludwig et al (ibid.) explain one other, teacher side advantage of the use of and planning with multimedia in mind:
Instructors who begin integrating multimedia into their classes often report that the media use forced them to improve the organization of their class sessions—which may be an added benefit to students.
In addition only use multimedia when it adds value to instruction (Craig, 2012a). The following questions might be useful for teachers to ask when planning to use multimedia:
- Does the use of multimedia motivate?
- Does it expose students to authentic language?
- Does it promote interaction between students?
- Are there any privacy or safety issues? (especially in terms of Internet use)
- Is it convenient to use multimedia?
2. Build some flexibility into your lesson plan.
And most of all have a Plan B! Teachers should be able to use the multimedia tool(s) they have chosen to use in the lesson. If something is new, it is a good idea to practice using it. Practice on colleagues and seek feedback. In addition be prepared for when multimedia breaks down. Internet connections, USB thumb drives, CDs, DVDs and just about every other aspect of multimedia and the technology and electronics they rely on can, and do, break down, fail to function as expected, and sometimes fail to function at all. Nevertheless the lesson must go on! Be prepared to deliver the lesson without the use of multimedia resources, have paper based backups where appropriate.
Conversely have a plan to extend students' production when they ask questions or want to go more in depth into a topic. At the very least prepare things like links that can be given to students so that they can pursue further reading, or interactions, on their own.
3. Use Multimedia in Creative Ways.
Although multimedia materials may have some value when merely added to a PowerPoint lecture outline, many instructors are exploring ways to incorporate these materials in collaborative learning activities involving case-based scenarios or problem-based exercises (Ludwig & Perdue, 2005; Rogers, 2002; Savery & Duffy, 1996). Teachers should not be afraid to experiment bearing in mind the caveats of point two above.
4. A Note on PowerPoint (and Other "Slideware") PowerPoint might be both the oldest and the most commonly used multimedia tool in the classroom, whether for language learning, or any other academic or educational field. It is a useful and very powerful tool, that is used (and abused) by teachers in classrooms all over the world. Fight Against the “Mind-Numbing” Properties of Slideware. Strong criticisms have been leveled against slideware in general and PowerPoint in particular. For example, Tufte argues that PowerPoint induces a “cognitive style” that encourages passivity and makes a complex issue seem more simple and clear-cut than it is. Tufts criticizes PowerPoint thus:
- PowerPoint presentations seem designed to guide and reassure a presenter, rather than to enlighten the audience;
- PowerPoint lends itself to poor typography and chart layout, especially by presenters who use poorly-designed templates and PowerPoint's default settings;
- PowerPoint's outline format leads presenters to arrange material in an unnecessarily deep hierarchy, itself subverted by the need to restart the hierarchy on each slide;
- PowerPoint's “click-for-next-slide” mentality enforces a linear progression through the presenters hierarchy of ideas (whereas with handouts, readers could browse and explore items at their leisure)
If done well, multimedia content can generate productive and stimulating presentations that lead to greater retention, application to new situations, and performance on assessments. If not done well, they can be a distraction from learning and ultimately unproductive.
As the need for visual support varies as a function of content and objectives, the decision to use multimedia should be made on a lesson-by-lesson basis. At each step in the process, teachers should ask themselves if the use of this technology is appropriate for their teaching style, the content, their students, and the desired language and learning aims and outcomes of the lesson. If a teacher decides the use of multimedia may have a positive effect on their teaching, their lesson, and student achievement, it is important that you it is used consciously, effectively, and strategically. (Ludwig et al, 2004: 7)
As we have watched each wave of improvements in the tools used to deliver multimedia content, as well as the evolving trends in educational pedagogy, it appears that the most important lesson is the necessity of keeping the focus on the instructional goal, not on the technology itself.
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*Originally presented at the 4th Gyeonggi International Teachers Conference 2012