Imagine tools so expansive in their capabilities that your students are literally finding ways to teach themselves, both in and out of the classroom. Tools so flexible they can expand definitions, promote dialogues, foster exchanges, and build new contexts. Dare we dream these tools will also promote analytical thinking through a type of dialectical learning that occurs when viewers become producers?
Technology does seem to be the tool of all tools as far as learning is concerned. However, it may be a stretch to say that technology by itself is a stand-alone, miracle tool that will solve all the world’s problems. Instead, it’s what we do with technology and how we use it in our lives and in our interactivity that really makes it a useful and expansive collection of tools. Perhaps that is why I revere it and the type of modalities it promotes in teaching and learning.
The modality principle is a research-based understanding that information is in fact better remembered when accompanied by visual imagery. In a study based on Paivio’s proposal of dual-coding and memory, Richard Mayer and his team were able to illustrate the modality principle as a significant increase in memory transfer through multimedia use in learning. Of course, multimedia learning means more than simply including images, audio, animation, and text into a presentation in our attempts to relay information into passive but receptive learners, as in the case of the split attention effect when learners’ only engagement is to decide which information is the least redundant. It’s when learners are challenged to make sense of what they are viewing that higher order processes of synthesis and analysis come into play in the form of creation and construction of both meaning and content.
One of my favorite ways to promote new media modality in the classroom is to informally brainstorm with my students about the purpose of a particular technology tool, such as youtube. I ask my students, “what does youtube do?” “How does it operate?” “How is it different than television?” Initially, they are taken aback, but after a few prodding questions they begin to form conclusions and answer, “communication,” “documentary,” “entertainment,” “exposure,” “individuality,” etc. Once we all have a collective understanding about what youtube does and how it’s used we can begin to enter into explorations and conversations about the various types of content produced and applied online and how we can work through our own processes to create particular types of purposeful content to be shared.
Other projects that promote multimedia modalities are visualization projects and research-based redesign projects. What’s great about these types of projects is they can be adapted k-12, depending on the level of reference to research. Furthermore, the redesign work doesn’t have to be done on the computer, but certainly can if computer usage skills are part of the project goals. An example of this would be to have your students research packaging design along with color theory and the idea of target markets. Then have your students redesign a package of one of their favorite products.
-written by Lisa Ulik, WAEA Advocacy Representative, for the winter Art-etimes