Breaking the Cycle: Multimedia Motivates High I.Q. Underachievers

Article excerpt

Every high school has them. They are bright--some are brilliant--yet they sit in the back of the class, quiet and alone, eyes and body often averted. They are disconnected, disinterested and disheartened. Eventually they drop out of school, remembered, if at all, as students with potential who lacked motivation.

The 23 students assigned to Mr. Braverman's fifth-period, eleventh-grade English class fit this profile: They all possessed IQs of 120 or more, but were either failing or minimally passing their high school courses. Grouping them for English instruction was the first step in a plan designed to break the cycle of failure. Offering them a demanding academic program delivered in a challenging and novel way was the second step. With the installation of a recently completed IBM networked lab, use of computers became the central link in redesigning the program. By year's end this class logged over 45 hours of computer lab time and students were proficient with various computer applications, including word processing, skills-development software and multimedia technology. Computers were the catalyst that refocused curriculum, redesigned instructional methodology and restructured the traditional classroom.

The Core Project

An activity designed to encourage students to demonstrate their understanding of The Scarlet Letter, by Nathanial Hawthorne, became the core project of the year. The project involved students in the use of multimedia technology. Multimedia applications represent a drastic departure from most software currently available in schools. Not limited to single-skill, pre-programmed and sequenced instruction, these multimedia applications are limited only by the user's imagination and creativity. Through such technologies as CD-ROM, videodisc players, VCRs and audio digitizers, both teachers and students enter a world of teaching and learning that is enhanced and extended by the tremendous capabilities of computers.

Students were clearly bored

by this formula--and any

variation of it.

In this particular project, each student became an expert on one chapter of the novel. Using LinkWay, a multimedia tool from IBM, students were asked to convey the dominant symbol or symbols that appeared in the chapter. Symbols could be interpreted using graphics, audio and text. Students were encouraged to weave multiple symbols together in ways that would highlight their special features and connections. These activities required students to make use of their inferencing and interpretive skills. Many students made use of buttons, one of the premier features of multimedia authoring. Buttons allow a user to group, web and connect information in intricate, non-linear ways. When each student was finished, all pages were linked together chronologically and by character. The final outcome was an electronic demonstration of their grasp of the novel.

The skills learned during the course of this project were applied throughout the remainder of the year as students completed work for this course and others. Students had access to a lab consisting of 28 networked IBM PS/2 Model 30 computers. Speech attachments and graphic digitizers were also available. In addition to regularly scheduled English classes held in the lab, students had access to the lab during and after school. Aides and teachers supervised the lab at all times.

The center used for this project was the only networked lab in a 10th-12th grade high school with an enrollment of just under 2,000 students. Installation of this lab was a key feature of the district's plan for the use of technology in the instructional program. Until the installation of the networked center, use of computers was limited to students taking selected math and business courses. This networked lab, along with others planned for the school, was designed to be interdisciplinary in nature and broaden access to computers. …