Multimedia applications in education reflect the changes in the didactic technology. Today people have achieved the numerization of sound and image. They can remotely communicate, via networks. As a result of the deprecation of information, life-long learning is needed. The technological field is one of the most dynamic. It requests from us a constant effort towards adaptation. Nonetheless it provides us the necessary tools for a life-long learning process.
”Computer based training” has nowadays become a major part of the multimedia system. For a better understanding of this phenomenon one needs to identify the strong points of multimedia in education . Multimedia technolgies go beyond audio-visual methods, being computer assisted technologies. Information is already structured and allows a quick access to it and the connections between different pieces of information are physically or latently implemented by using programmes.
The hypermedia anchors are so simple that they can be used by any of us. We assist to a continual and dynamic organisation of information, paralleling the changing reality. This is more efficient than a static printed textbook. The hypermedia system offers a bigger freedom of navigation. In reading a book you can follow the logical sequence of chapters or that of keywords. The reader must commute to another structure. The user can choose the route by himself, according to his own principles and needs, or it can ask the system to provide him with the best way to train. We can thus speak of an individualisation of learning, so difficult to achieve in traditional education, when faced with eterogenous level groups.
Another characteristic of multimedia learning systems is that they provide the perception of a process in its dynamics, its phases being presented in their logical occurence. An enormous advantage of multimedia learning systems is the existence of learning, checking and assessment mechanisms, already implemented by using widgets. When we speak about multimedia products they make up the so called CBT (Computer Based Training). In this category we have:
1. learing through data correlation by drag and drop mechanisms.
2. quiz generators
3. index autosearch mechanisms
4. detailed contents
The high degree of interactivity is achieved by making objects selectable or not, modifiable or not, offering the possibility to initiate or cancel some actions within the system.
Multimedia products have an appropriate abstractisation level, appropriate to real time presentations, as tele-conferences are, for instance. Thus, muldimedia systems have syncronization functions. They offer support for distance learning, avoinding transportation of persons. They provide larger audiences or larger participation on common research projects.
Multimedia systems can be constructed as intelligent instruction systems which provide knowledge in a specific field making use of techniques for representing and using knowledge. They can generate explanation and access to the rules of the field.
Multimedia platforms allow the implementation of complex simulation models, being close to the concept of virtual enteprise characterized by organizational flexibility, information sharing, remote orders etc. These models allow the use of a software for the management of a company. They contribute to the identification of new cooperation models.
Today, the World Wide Web is a source of content. For the English teacher this is an extraordinary resource that former teachers did not have. We simply could not complain there are no printed exercise books or that we don’t know what happens in Britain at the moment of speaking, for example. All this information is there for any teacher to select, shape and use in their class. Moreover, as we speak of our civilization as an entertaining one, teachers can use specialized websites to watch and download pieces of music, pieces of films, and all the multimedia’s novelties, that they can later use in class.
Websites are a source of authentic material. One needn’t have an internet connection in order to use them with their students, as web pages can be copied and presented as such, using a PC, or they can be printed and handed out to the students.
Actually, we can use websites in class in three different ways:
1. as printed pages – here we obviously don’t need any PC’s around;
2. as one computer with Internet access and a data projector;
3. or when each student or a group of students work on a PC station in a computer laboratory, connected or not to the internet.
When choosing a website to work in class the teacher should take into consideration the following aspects (Dudeney: 2007, p. 34):
- Accuracy – One should be careful who wrote the particular page. We should see if the creator of the page is an expert in the subject matter or not. Also, if the page content is reliable and factually correct.
- Currency – Another care a teacher should have when choosing a page is to check if the content is up-to-date. He can do this by seeing when the last materials were posted or when the page was last updated.
- Content – The site information should be interesting and stimulating. The information should be presented in an accessible form.
- Functionality – The teacher should check if there are any broken links in the site or if the site uses a lot of large files that make the navigation slow and awkward.
In our work as teachers, we very often use websites, the way we used to do it with books. On the Internet we can find accessible content for each group level that we teach, worksheets, tasks and tests that we can adjust or use without alteration with our classes.
The web is also a place where to publish content. For this reason, websites could be a good option to finalize a project work with our classes.
Websites of today incorporate a lot of multimedia elements (songs, videos, images) and also interactive media (games, modifiable stories, on-line tests).
For me, websites are an astounding source of school material and content and I am using them also as more modern assessment tools. Sometimes, at the end of a unit, or after revising some grammatical structures I rely on interactive tests available on specialized websites like these:
I hope you will ponder on the ideas presented in this article and hopefully use websites in your blended learning approach to teaching English.