Problem-Based Learning as a Multimedia Design Framework in Teacher Education [*]

Article excerpt

Interactive multimedia (IMM) and problem-based learning (PBL) are both significant trends in contemporary educational practice but they have not been widely applied together in teacher education. An IMM package based on PBL principles is being developed to assist teachers in learning to integrate technology into their teaching. It incorporates examples of the work and reflections of experienced teachers in a framework designed to engage users with authentic problems of professional practice. Preliminary evaluation of a prototype suggests that the strengths of 1MM and PBL can be combined to produce a good effect.

In response to the advent of personal computers in schools, the energies of teacher educators have generated successive waves of activity. They have sought to assist teacher education students towards computer literacy, to encourage the integration of computer software across the curriculum, and to model the use of computers in their own teaching. Most of the early efforts in these areas could reasonably assume that students had limited experience with computers, but this is no longer the case.

Students that are now entering teacher education programs from secondary school are likely to have exposure to computers from their earliest years and to possess at least basic knowledge and skills. Many of them expect that technology will play a significant role in their educational experience (Albion, 1996). The next wave formed by the combined energies of teacher educators must be directed towards using these technologies to improve the quality of processes and outcomes in teacher education.

One component of this wave of creative effort must focus on incorporating quality teaching processes into a variety of media that is not dependent on face-to-face teaching. Rather, such efforts should be designed to support the increasing interest in flexible, open, and distance learning options being offered by higher education institutions. These options are especially relevant to the needs of those who, by reason of distance or work commitments, cannot readily attend classes and who seek access to opportunities for professional development or to new careers. Moreover, the same flexible options are relevant to the needs of students in traditional, face-to-face courses who seek a richer range of learning experiences amidst demands placed on their time by family and other commitments. In the face of these developments, today's students are developing attitudes and skills relevant for a lifetime of learning.

One educational approach that has gathered momentum because of its relevance to these trends is Problem-Based Learning (PBL). PBL has been engineering, law, and business. Its characteristic focus on the presentation of authentic problems as the starting point for learning has resulted in a measurable increase in the motivation of students and in their ability to integrate knowledge from foundation disciplines in pursuit of a solution to practical professional problems.

This article describes the design and preliminary evaluation of an interactive multimedia package based upon PBL principles, and intended to develop the capacity of beginning teachers to solve problems inherent in integrating technology into their teaching. The package is an outgrowth of successive developments within a teacher education course that has incorporated a problem based learning approach to solving a variety of problems contained within realistic teaching scenarios.

Learning to Teach With Technology

Although computers are now widely available in schools, their educational impact has been limited. Only a small proportion of teachers actively integrate information technology in their teaching (Plomp & Peigrum, 1993), and it has been estimated that as few as 3% could be regarded as exemplary in their use of computers for teaching (Becker, 1994). According to U.S. and Australian studies of experienced computer-using teachers (Hadley & Sheingold, 1993; Sherwood, 1993), the principal barriers to computer use include limited access to computer hardware and software, perceived inadequacies in training, lack of support, and lack of time for preparation. …