I have had a very strong interest in the use of technology as a learning resource since I had an apple IIe in a primary school classroom in 1982.  I have worked with technology in educational settings and seen how it can really make a difference if used in certain ways. This was the start of my interest in what we came to  call constructivist multimedia, an approach where multimedia software is used to help kids learn by allowing them to make stuff with the software tools and build knowledge representations in multimedia. 

These notes are some thoughts and examples on the practicalities of the process.

Constructive Multimedia is an educational approach based on constructivist learning ideas.

  • constructionism is a base philosophy, students expressing their knowledge representations through actually creating something. Seymour Papert (Papert 1991)
  • learning is an active, constructive, goal-oriented process that is dependent upon the mental activities of the learner
  • the explicit recognition that learning is influenced by , and built upon prior knowledge
  • knowledge is represented by complex structures and the concern is how the learner extracts/makes meaning
  • cognitive psychologists argue for the importance of multiple representations in the understanding of a concept, Cognitive load
  • multi sensory media activate a wider range of perceptual and conceptual processes which in turn enhance teaching and learning ( Barret 1992)
  • an important corner stone of the educational strategy is the way multimedia computers and software are able to extend classroom learning activities, so enabling students to work on concepts and materials for many weeks after an initial activity, such as an excursion.

Key elements of the approach include:

Scaffolding

Concept Mapping

Flexibility

Integrated Curriclum

Group Work

  Scaffolding

The concept of scaffolding is vital to Constructive Multimedia. 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 refers to the strategies and cognitive supports that guide, model and cue the complex of thinking related processes involved in thinking and problem-solving. Scaffolding is not there for its looks.

In relation to computer software, the focus is not on quality of output, but on what the software and associated processes mean in the context of the learning outcomes. Database functions of modern software can be used to provide an essentail element of scaffolding for students.

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Concept Mapping

A multimedia concept map involving hypertext links and hypermedia links adds a totally new dimension to concept maps and in my experience makes them more real and meaningful for students. Multimedia is better able to represent knowledge maps and concept maps than can pieces of paper and text . " 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.

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Flexibility

Flexibility in content and approach is essential.

A Constructive Multimedia approach to the integration of computers into the learning environment is able to be varied to suit both the content material being covered and the learning focus of the classroom. It also works across year levels from early childhood to senior secondary.

Integrated Curriclum

This is the cruch question in many schools, particularly secondary schools wher artificial 'subject boundaries' interfere with learning. Integration is referred to at the technology level by the use of computers across the curriculum. Integration is defined as "the process of applying the power and ability of the computer to learning in every subject area. At the subject level generally, integration refers to the need to approach learning in a more wholistic way to improve learning and to look at integrating the curriculum requirements from multiple ïsubjectÍ areas into one ïwork unitÍ or module. students who learn meaningfully will acquire, retain, and use knowledge to construct better organised maps than those who learn by rote. This supports the use of wholistic classroom strategies. ´Integration of material from various "Curriculum" areas makes learning more meaningful for students as they have more diverse knowledge webs about a particular piece of information which helps to connect that information, as knowledge, into their "world view".

In environmental education looking at issues from a wholistis or integrated perspective is essential. Many of the problems we face in relation to ecological sustainability are due to short term narrowly focussed planning and thinking.

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Group Work

Most human endeavour in the adult world depends on individuals working in groups and teams. These teams function because the individuals are prepared for team work and know how to co-operate and collaborate on a range of tasks. Skills include patience, respect for different methods, capability for compromise to achieve solutions which may be found along different routes, and not one set route. Constructive Multimedia is fundamentally a group based process. There are many benefits to be gained from the students working in groups. Many of the processes involved are facilitated by group work and many of the skills are extended in a group situation.

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