Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

Teaching Writing Strategies through Multimedia Authorship (1)

Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

Teaching Writing Strategies through Multimedia Authorship (1)

Article excerpt

This study investigates the possibility that multimedia authorship may help students become more proficient writers. Four classes of 8th-grade students in an urban setting participated in the study, which took place over seven successive class periods. Students were given a 7-paragraph article on teen smoking to use in developing a nonlinear presentation with HyperStudio[TM]. Organizational skills necessary for successful writing were emphasized throughout the unit. The students wrote an essay on an assigned topic in a counterbalanced manner both before and after they completed the multimedia project. There was a significant increase in students' scores on the organizational quality of the essays from the pretest to the posttest, especially for students who received low scores on the preessay. Data on the multimedia projects created by the students are also presented, and the relationship between multimedia composition and traditional writing is discussed.

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Multimedia is playing an increasingly important role in education, and one educational use of multimedia is for students to create their own multimedia documents. The similarity between this process (i.e., multimedia composition) and writing is quite apparent, for both multimedia authorship and writing involve many of the same basic cognitive processes--for example, planning, transforming, evaluating, and revising (Hayes, 1996; Hayes & Flower, 1980; Lehrer, 1993). In addition, computers and word processing have made it relatively easy to include media other than text (e.g., images, graphs, animation, and audio) in "written" documents, and such possibilities may be changing the way people communicate with one another. This possibility, along with the similarity between multimedia authorship and writing, provides the theoretical context for the present study.

The purpose of the study is to investigate the possibility that multimedia authorship may help students become more proficient writers. Students who learn to create multiple representations of their ideas by developing multimedia projects may be able to apply those same strategic thinking skills to other forms of communication, especially writing. Thus, the main concern of the study is whether teaching students about multimedia design and having them develop their own multimedia project will enable them to better organize their ideas in traditional text writing.

The representation of knowledge is fundamental to the writing process. One reason students struggle with writing is that they are unable, for one reason or another, to tap into their own knowledge resources in a manner capable of being understood by others. They are unaware that others may not understand the information presented in their writing in the same way that they themselves understand it--that is, they do not realize that knowledge can be represented and organized in different ways, and that different people often represent the same information differently. They also do not understand that writing is about communicating ideas and not about the written end product. Students must learn to organize the ideas and information they wish to communicate to their readers. Therefore, how students go about representing knowledge and how that knowledge is organized are important concepts when dealing with the teaching of writing.

Being able to represent knowledge in a variety of ways, including visual-spatial, "are essential for understanding the message of the text" (Hayes, 1996, p. 5). Although proficient writers are able to describe visual images and sounds with text, such linguistic representations carry different types and amounts of information than actual images and sounds, which are represented in different ways than text (Bower, 1972; Larkin & Simon, 1987; Paivio, 1971). Information coded in multiple ways (e.g., text and visual) tend to be learned better than information coded in only a single medium (Jacobson & Spiro, 1995; Paivio, 1971). …

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