Constructionist multimedia is a term used to describe a particular educational strategy. It is based on educational philosophies and the belief that the real world is a multimedia experience, and the belief that students are better able to represent their knowledge, express themselves and understand the world around them, through an interactive multimedia environment.
The central ideas to this strategy, that children learn best by doing, and that children need to be active builders of their own knowledge rather than passive receivers of it, come from the work of Bruner and the cognitive psychologists. The strategy has evolved during six years of work in a range of educational settings, many of them with second language learners, and in cross cultural settings.
The learning model underlying this strategy is characterised by constructionism as a base philosophy. This involves students expressing their knowledge representations through actually creating something. In so doing they expand their knowledge as referred to by Seymour Papert (Papert 1991)
"We understand constructionism as including , but going beyond, what Piaget would call "constructivism". The word with the "v" expresses the theory that knowledge is built by the learner, not supplied by the teacher. The word with the "n" expresses the further ideas that this happens especially felicitously when the learner is engaged in the construction of something external or at least shareable", Leading to the conclusion that better learning will not come from finding better ways for the teacher to instruct but from giving the learner better opportunities to construct.
This educational strategy also draws on the work of cognitive psychologists, who Schuell (Scheull 1993 )argues , have had a significant influence on learning theory in the past decade. The following points have been central to the development of this educational strategy;
• learning is an active, constructive, goal-oriented process that is dependent upon the mental activities of the learner
• the existence of metacognitive or higher level learning processes such as regulation of learning activities and strategies for enhancing learning
• the explicit recognition that learning is influenced by prior knowledge
• knowledge is represented by complex structures and the concern is how the learner extracts meaning
• concern for analysing learning tasks and performance in terms of the cognitive processes that are involved
• cognitive psychologists argue for the importance of multiple representations in the understanding of a concept
Often students are involved in the reorganisation of information that has been gathered from a range of sources. This stimulates learning as Bruner (1962) noted "learning was facilitated by rearranging information and adding new information to it. He argued that often just reorganising existing information can lead to new learning". Students also benefit from a greater feeling of ownership of the knowledge and engagement with it.
A multimedia concept map involving hypertext links and hypermedia links adds a totally new dimension and in my experience makes concept maps more real and meaningful for students. Theoretically,
...multi sensory media activate a wider range of perceptual and conceptual processes which in turn enhance teaching and learning
Multimedia is better able to represent knowledge maps and concept maps than pieces of paper and text can.
" clearly, these new modes of expression and understanding will not be absorbed immediately into conventional use, although they offer modes of representation that are possibly more similar to the workings of the human mind than are the spatial arrays afforded by pages and pages of paper.
These ideas were central elements of our thinking and led us to creative approaches to learning issues. Many of the activities had an extra dimension added to them because of what was done as follow up. In many cases this was possible because of the way the resources collected, both physical and technology based, could be transported back to the school.
The role of scaffolding is cental to the type of use of computer software in this project. Scaffolding is all about assisting learners by managing the cognitive load of the learning activity and providing guidance.
The scaffolding analogy comes from the construction industry, where temporary frameworks or scaffolds are used as supports to enable building erection, alteration, or repair. Initially coined by Jerome Bruner, scaffolding referes to the strategies and cognitive supports that guide, model and cue the complex of thinking related processes involved in thinking and problem-solving.
Remember scaffolding is not there for its looks. In relation to computer software you don’t focus on quality of output but what it provides in the context of the learning outcomes. The ability of students to manipulate and build information as they learn were critical to this process and was facilitated by the ability to add pictures from digital cameras, voice overs, text and video clips
Educational follow up in the school after field trips was a major strength of the project and is an area where I have seen many similar projects break down. This determines the level of learning outcomes achieved with students. It is a blend of discussion, structured activities and group work and adding information into the computers as text, spoken language, pictures etc.
It is important to realise that the computer systems do not replace classroom displays and activities but rather enhance them. Once the classroom display is removed to make way for more the materials added to the computer remain availableto refresh memories and to facilitate revisiting information to extend or revise it on the basis of further learning.