Magazine article Technology & Learning

Multimedia in Students' Hands: Creating One's Own Understanding

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Multimedia in Students' Hands: Creating One's Own Understanding

Article excerpt

If learning is the process of constructing one's own knowledge, then multimedia is the better "brick and mortar" for students.

If you wanted to find the Titanic, how would you go about it? What kind of submarine would you need? What kind of camera equipment? Which foods would sustain you without taking up too much room? What qualities would you look for in the teammates sharing your cramped surroundings? What training would you need to prepare yourself for the difficult journey?

Teacher Normand Leveillee decided that answering these questions would be a good way of meeting the challenge of his latest teaching task--that of developing higher-order thinking skills and problem-solving abilities in talented and gifted (TAG) seventh- and eighth-graders. Leveillee currently teaches TAG students two days a week at Exeter/West Greenwich High School in Greenwich, Rhode Island.

Leveillee's decision to study the Titanic with his students allowed him to draw on local resources: The nearby University of Rhode Island has a renowned oceanographic institute, and stories about it have made undersea research a part of local culture. What's more, Robert Ballard, a graduate of the University of Rhode Island, works at another nearby research institute--Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Ballard actually located the wreck of the Titanic in 1985, made a return visit in 1986, and has written a popular book about his adventures.

Bringing the Curriculum Alive

Leveillee introduced the Titanic to his students by bringing together resources via many media. To gather historical perspective on how people have viewed the oceans, submarines, and underwater life, Leveillee showed the movie Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. To become familiar with the time and events surrounding the Titanic's sinking, students watched the classic film A Night To Remember. And a National Geographic television special titled Secrets of the Titanic provided the class with a vivid portrayal of Ballard's search expeditions. Leveillee also engaged students in The Search For the Titanic (Capstone, Miami, FL), a computer simulation that lets kids undertake a simulated search for the wreck.

As a culminating activity, Leveillee was able to arrange a rare interview with Ballard himself, an interview that his TAG students both conducted and videotaped.

Once they had returned from Woods Hole, the students used all the resources at their disposal to prepare multimedia reports on what they had learned. To create their reports, they used a number of software tools, including IBM's LinkWay and Storyboard Live!, two programs that can combine text, graphics, animation, digitized still photographs, and motion video into one document on the computer screen. Through their reports, students explored such topics as the historical significance of the Titanic, its tragic fate, the search for the wreckage, and the technology used to find it.

Students Teach Other Students

At the point where students were preparing their final reports, Leveillee hit upon the idea of expanding the project to the entire eighth grade. He explained his efforts to the other teachers and asked if they would like to join in a schoolwide effort. They responded enthusiastically.

The TAG students had taken up to a month to "find" the Titanic during their simulated search. To reduce search time and to make the project more vivid for the other eighth-graders, Leveillee's TAG students decided to create a full-fledged multimedia presentation. The resulting "Titanic Project" blended together snippets of the interview with Ballard, digitized still photos taken with Canon's XapShot camera, and segments of the computer simulation. All this was presented to the eighth-graders.

At the same time, the teachers built curricular activities around topics relevant to the project. …

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