The Teachers.Net Gazette is a collaborative project
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Contributors this month: Dr. Marvin Marshall; Cheryl Sigmon; Barbara & Sue Gruber; Marjan Glavac; Dr. Rob Reilly; Barb S. HS/MI; Ron Victoria; Brian Hill; Leah Davies; Hal Portner; Tim Newlin; Barb Gilman; James Wayne; P.R. Guruprasad; Todd Nelson; Addies Gaines; Pat Hensley; Alan Haskvitz; Joy Jones; and YENDOR.
Assessment and selection of multimedia products have become increasingly difficult but Internet based lessons can transform any boring classroom into an interesting, interactive and innovative one, if they are based on sound pedagogic principles
by Panamalai R. Guruprasad
Regular contributor to the Gazette
March 1, 2008
Once upon a time, knowledge was transferred from one generation to another by word of mouth. Then came the palm leaves, sand trays and the chalkboard. In the past century, our classrooms witnessed the introduction of electric and electronic gadgetry including the PC. The change continues, in both the media and the mode of delivery of knowledge. Today, in the information age, the most important catalyst of change seems to be the Internet!
Within the K-12 scenario, increasing number of urban schools in the developing world use audio-visual multimedia material published by traditional textbook publishers as their effective curriculum. With a growing number of K-12 multimedia manufacturers in the market, assessment and selection of multimedia products have become increasingly more difficult than it used to be, even a decade ago. The problem is more pronounced in school systems in which teachers are not exposed to educational technology and its application. My work in such systems prompted me to devise some simple strategy to sort the problem out. As the first step, I developed a Product Assessment Form, as illustrated below:
Product Assessment Form
Although it is not a scientifically developed one, the format served the purpose quite well and my colleagues, most of whom were new in integrating multimedia in their teaching, found it easy to use and follow-up. We used a 0-4 rating scale, which meant that the quality range was from 0 to 20, if all the 5 characteristics are considered. However, my colleagues were given specific induction workshops to analyze the characteristics. [In fact, these workshops gave me immensely rich insights into the issues involved].
Though multimedia products are gaining ground in K-12 school systems, a majority of products available in developing countries do not satisfy cognitive requirements of children to the fullest extent. It is probably because much of the K-12 e-publishing industry in these countries is still new and doesn’t look into educational research evidences before getting into material production and development. This problem prompts school managements to think, “With so many computer staff on our rolls, instead of buying multimedia packages, why not we ourselves develop them on our own?” I have seen school managements trying to go in for material production for two reasons: (i) They can use specific material that is tailor made to suit their (schools’) needs or/and (ii) They can market the product.
But, is multimedia material production and development that easy? Let me share my experience. I have been using multimedia in teaching and educational administration for the past 20 years. A few years back, in one of the schools where I worked, I had to lead a multimedia team of subject teachers, “Flash” animators and action scriptwriters. The problem was that every one in the team was involved in some classroom teaching. This reduced the time available for them to concentrate in product development. This is a problem, which many schools in India share. Is there a solution?
Yes. The solution comes in the form of “World Wide Web.” There are numerous websites developed by schools and universities all over the world, particularly, the US and Canada. Most of these websites allow free access to the consumer to download and use the materials for non-commercial and academic purpose. It is a very good trend that is welcome by all stakeholders in the K-12 system.
But, there are two main problems in selecting web-based material for teaching. The first one is that all websites are not authentic. [Once I came across a beautifully animated version of Rutherford’s “Alpha particle scattering” experiment, usually included in Secondary Physics curriculum. The sequence was highly captivating; but the alpha particles were “negatively” charged].
The second problem is that web-based lesson materials developed in one country cannot sometimes be used in another country due to language or accent barrier. [For instance, an animation with an African voice over may not be understood in Asia and vice versa. The teacher has to preview the material and possibly dub his or her own voice when the material is used in the classroom. Preview can be done offline, without the system being connected to the Net]. Hence, it is of paramount importance that teachers exercise great care in selecting the right material and tailor make them to suit their children.
Once a start is made in internet-assisted teaching/learning, it can captivate children, as I have seen during the past decade from my own experience of using web-based materials in classroom teaching and staff development.
Although web-based contents are feasible, they can be cost effective only in communities where broadband connections are available. This is because of the time factor involved in searching, previewing, analyzing, downloading and categorizing the contents. These are the four areas in which teachers should be specifically trained.
Research studies have proved that Internet assisted teaching is very effective. Internet based lessons can transform any boring classroom into an interesting, interactive and innovative one, if they are based on sound pedagogic principles! I remember having seen an inscription that read “Technologies change, but principles remain.”
This article is a redrafted version of one that was published in TechLearning.com's Educators' ezine. December 2008. ~PRG
Panamalai R Guruprasad works as Technical Advisor at the Inspectorate of Education attached to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. His key professional responsibilities include developing and monitoring K-Grade 6 School Self Assessment Programs at the Central level.
He has served as teacher, principal and Education Officer in school systems in India, South Asia and Africa. He has also worked in Macmillan India Limited (an associate company of Macmillan UK), and Chandamama India Limited (the oldest kids magazine in India).
His published works include 41 articles in teacher journals and an ebook entitled “Curiosity, Concepts and the Creative Classroom”.
He holds B.Sc in Physics, B.Ed and MA in Childcare and Education degrees and is currently working toward MS in Education Management (by distance learning).
He can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.