Teaching with Technology: Multimedia and Interactivity in Social Science Education

Article excerpt

Does this sound like a fairy tale? It's all true-and sound basis for an engaging study of European history, geography, architecture, and culture. The current generation of students is growing up with computer games. In the MTV and Nintendo era, today's learner wants visual effects, moving pictures, and other entertainment along with educational content. These students expect to be able to control, manipulate, explore, and interactively engage in the acquisition of knowledge. And, if the techniques increase learning and we are able to provide them, why hold back?

Do multimedia and interactive presentations in the typical social studies classroom sound like long-term objectives for the future? This article shows how multimedia and interactivity can be incorporated in the teaching process today by using PowerPoint and VR Worx. We will also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using each approach.

Both projects described here relied on an inexpensive digital Sony Mavica camera that records still images as well as video clips up to 15 seconds in length. Images are saved to a floppy disk, which guarantees easy transfer to a computer. The camera has several resolution modes, including Web-ready pictures. There is also a high-resolution mode that opens possibilities for better-quality printouts and hard-copy presentations. The floppy disk holds some 30 Web-ready images in JPG format or one can store 5-, 10-, and 15-second 320-by-- 200-pixel video clips in MPG format.

PowerPoint Presentation

Still images and video clips taken during a 1-day trip to Granada, Spain, supplied the visual material for a PowerPoint presentation. At the end of the day of filming, images from 10 to 15 floppy disks were stored on an inexpensive laptop with a floppy disk drive. When the Internet was accessible, the images were e-mailed and/or uploaded on the remote server back home.

The images were batch-processed in Adobe Photoshop. However, any imageprocessing software can be used to crop, sharpen, and auto-level the images. Video clips were not edited. Both JPG images and MPG video clips were inserted into PowerPoint, a presentation software program that is part of the Microsoft Office suite. PowerPoint has a variety of useful features, including transitions (Custom Animation), voiceover-slide recording (Record Narration), and timing of the transitions between the slides (Slide Transitions).

All of the features used in this project are easy to learn. An instructor can incorporate online (Internet and online database) information because PowerPoint allows hyperlinks, as in a Web page. Library resources, both electronic and traditional, help the audience acquire further knowledge about the presented material. Compiling new terms in a glossary on each slide and connecting them to external resources helps to further expand student learning opportunities.

PowerPoint includes mouse-over and other rudimentary interactive features. The presentation can be set up to run automatically and/or in a loop, giving the instructor a unique assessment opportunity to concentrate on the reaction of the audience, take a breather, and to prepare for questions after the show.

Virtual Reality

A visit to the medieval town in the first district of Vienna, Austria, provided visual material for a virtual reality presentation with teaching/learning potential. The VR Worx software requires better tools to create a quality presentation. For instance, the Sony Mavica has a poor lens, which diminishes the quality of the VR scenes. A tripod is essential, since the VR Worx software requires the pictures to be taken in a precise angle division. An avid photographer should consider carrying a tripod overseas. Renting one on the spot is another option.

The photographer records each scene in a group of still images saved in separate folders. The greater the number of pictures in a group, the better the quality of the final scene. …