Practical Issues in Using Multimedia in Schools

Who’s Got the Time?

Integrating multimedia resources into your teaching practices is not without its challenges. Most teachers would agree that a lack of time is one of the biggest obstacles, but things like lake of professional development, and poor planning are also significant.

Hardware and Software

Creating multimedia requires hardware such as capable computers, digital still and video cameras, scanners, hard drives, and CD/DVD burners. Then there is the software that is required to process, put together, and publish the media project. There are also network considerations such as site blocking, and download and upload speeds. For example, if you want your students to use YouTube, then you better make sure your school network isn’t blocking the site and that data speeds are sufficient to view videos as well as uploading them.

Professional Development

Professional development often focuses on tools and not pedagogy and assessment. The tools only provide affordances that will influence how you teach, and how your students learn. The tools must be integrated in a pedagogically sound manner, and professional development should focus on that. Many teachers are also not ready to deal with assessing multimedia projects, maybe because they have little experience in creating multimedia themselves.

Money and Planning

Schools budgets are typically tight and a good case must be put forth in order to justify the money spent on supporting a program that integrates multimedia, especially student created multimedia. This issue is compounded when money is spent on hardware and software without proper planning for how it will be used for learning. Don’t forget that there are IT costs associated with supporting a multimedia program, including the costs of IT support, repairs and replacement of equipment, and network associated costs. Sometimes it is a lot easier and less expensive to use Web 2.0 tools, but there are issues associated with that as well.

What Can Students Bring to the Table?

We also can’t forget about the equipment that students pack along with them to class. Many students will have a cell phone that is capable of taking photos, and recording audio and video. Some will even have their own laptops. Schools typically have policies that govern the use of cell phones and personal computers, but does your school or district policy allow for the use of these devices in learning? If not, maybe you can be an influence in changing that policy to make it happen if you can demonstrate sound educational uses of technologies such as cell phones, media players, and laptops.

Inclusive Design

Another issue related to using multimedia in learning is one of accessibility. We all know that some students will have trouble learning if there are not options suited for meeting their challenges. Creating learning opportunities that work for everyone is called Inclusive Design. Inclusive design is not the easiest thing to do, especially if there is a focus on multimedia, but if you think about it, it is likely pretty easy to slowly start introducing options that work for those who need it. Inclusive design does not always deal with considerations for those whom might be called “handicapped”, but also for circumstances or environments that introduce learning challenges. For example, you wouldn’t want to design learning resources that a reliant on audio for a student who needs to access those resources while working in a noisy environment where they must be wearing hearing protection.

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