Multimedia in Science & Mathematics Education
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What is Multimedia?
Multimedia generally refers to a computer-based interactive process of communication. The use of multimedia in education provides not only variety but also dynamism and easy establishment of rapport through collaboration. But most importantly, multimedia use is non-linear, that is, allows for the use of different multimedia tools and other forms of communication such as sounds, texts, animation, graphics, pictures and video. This is the integrative aspect of multimedia.
This facilitates the incorporation of selected topics and visual illustrations in different formats like charts and animations using multimedia tools.
The Best Multimedia and Technology Use in Classrooms
A lot of students still find difficulty in learning math and science. The decline in the numbers of college graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines in the US, for instance, is partly attributed to the weak performance of the US children in international assessment of science and math (Thiel et al, 2008). While personal aptitude can be part of the problem, it is also due to insufficient or poor teaching-learning environment. One solution to this is the use of interactive and effective multimedia software.
As education evolves, a number of researches have been carried out, linking the human cognitive process with the use of multimedia in order to improve performance in these subjects. It is considered very important that individual learning traits be taken into consideration if every student is to be helped acquire knowledge. Unfortunately, due to big classrooms, high number of students, limited teacher time, this is usually difficult. To solve this problem, it has been argued that interactive multimedia can facilitate individualized instructions to students, and can help those who find it hard to learn by conventional means. This has effectively been used to teach other subjects, including mathematics.
The performance of learning is influenced by the interaction between one’s cognitive style and the instructional materials used, including the content type and mode of presentation. Adopting methods which suit the students’ specific learning styles helps the students acquire a positive attitude toward the taught subject, thereby improving performance (Burke and Dunn, 2003; Ford and Chen, 2001).
The success of a teacher is measured by his/her ability to ‘engage’ the students in the learning process in a way that excites and encourages them to be curious for learning.
When students take active part in constructing new ideas from their experiences, interpretations and interactions with teachers and peers they easily acquire expert understanding of concepts of mathematics and science.
Although it is hard to pinpoint a particular multimedia and technology as the best for teaching Mathematics and Science, as these tools do complement each other, the key characteristic(s) of the tools used must be their ability to facilitate interactive learning.
This involves project based learning (providing in-depth insight into mathematics and science and facilitates critical thinking); solving real-world problems (facilitates investigative processing of information for finding solutions to problems through discrepant events/experiments and case studies in math).
In Mathematics, some of this interactive multimedia includes application packages such as search engines (internet), word processing packages, presentation software, spreadsheets, drill-and-practice software. Other programs such as simulation programs, Java applets, et cetera.
In science, theses include the use of technology tools such as models of scientific processes such as protein folding, simulations and virtual labs, video conferencing, e mail and other collaborative tools. Some of these integrative multimedia and technology include;
Today, students daily use Podcast tools: smart phones, ipods, etc. Integrating these tools in teaching math and science will facilitate using digital devices for mobile and/or student learning.
b) Online tools.
These tools provide great advantages to math and science teachers as they help the students acquire and further their knowledge through Web 2.0 tools. They facilitate learning by and interaction between students through language skills, inquiring, investigating, hypothesizing, theorizing and efforts to explain findings.
c) Modeling and Simulations tools. These facilitate viewing real-world processes and stimulate further understanding. These include;
i. MathMol (for molecular modeling).
ii. YASARA (a windows program for simulation and modeling, molecular graphics).
d) Interactive whiteboards are portable, easy to install, and can work on literally any flat surface. This facilitates easy updating and utilization of existing equipment at low costs.
The key to helping and guiding students through proper acquisition of technology knowledge is the classroom teacher. “It is the teacher who establishes the right classroom setting and prepares the opportunities that facilitate the students’ utilization of technology in learning, as well as communicating” (UNESCO, 2008). It is therefore of key importance that the classroom teachers are well prepared and equipped with the skills through which to provide the right opportunities for their students.
In 2008, the United Nations Educational, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) published ICT Competency Standards for Teachers. In this publication, UNESCO sought to provide a working curriculum framework. This framework set out to;
a) Address “the underlying Policy Framework,” (UNESCO, 2008)
b) Examine educational reform components.
c) Develop “a matrix of skill modules for teachers which correspond to various approaches of policy and components of education reform,” (UNESCO, 2008).
d) Describe in detail the specific skills that teachers would be needed to acquire within each skill module.
The Curriculum Framework
This framework is divided into three main levels of education reform, which are based on the development of human capacity: technology literacy, deepening of knowledge and the creation of knowledge. Each of these levels is discussed under the six major components of a sound educational system: “policy, pedagogy, curriculum, organization, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and teacher training” (UNESCO, 2008).
a) Technology Literacy.
Teachers must have “basic digital literacy skills and be able to select and appropriately use educational tutorials, drill-and-practice, web content and games in computer labs or with only limited classroom resources in order to complement the objectives of standard curriculum, approaches to assessment, unit plans and deducting methods of teaching,” (UNESCO, 2008).
The teachers must also be aware of the policy objectives and goals of technology literacy. They should in-turn be able to identify the corresponding components of education reform policies/ programs.
b) Knowledge Deepening.
Here, teachers are expected to “be able to manage information, to structure problem-solving tasks, and integrate software tools and subject-specific tasks by using student-centered methods of teaching and projects in which students collaborate in order to facilitate their in-depth understanding of principle concepts and applications to solving real-world problems.” (UNESCO, 2008).
c) Knowledge Creation.
The purpose of this policy is to increase productivity by providing technology knowledge to students, and ultimately a workforce that is perpetually engaged in creation and innovation of knowledge from which they all can benefit.
Teachers should take the first strides by creating/designing new ICT-based resources for learning; to facilitate knowledge creation and skills for critical thinking by designing appropriate and relevant classroom activities that facilitate the achievement of these goals.
Examples of Best Practices
Best practices refer to the multimedia actions undertaken by individuals in mathematics, science or technological fields that enhance good moral values to the individuals practicing them. In this case, we examine two major examples of best practices that are special to both mathematics and science fields. These include the technology and multiple intelligences employed in logical or mathematics.
Technology and Multiple Intelligence used in Logical or Mathematics
The number smart individuals learn using numbers, reasoning and problem solving. Through the implementation of multimedia in multiple Intelligence, the students and other people are able to establish and operate visuals and develop mental images from many perspectives. The technology involved at this point is the use of computers and videos (Burke and Dunn, 2003; Ford and Chen, 2001). Therefore, the students are able to measure, weight, calculate and organize data in mathematical problems. The multiple intelligence through the influence of multimedia, in this, the computer, gives the students the opportunity to develop or operate data they find in the internet. This also applies when these students are provided with the video camera to record their scientific experiment (David, -2011). This is an example of the best practice in mathematics field that promotes good values to the students because it makes the students to enjoy what they are doing especially in data collection, carrying out experiments and solving problems. Through the use of computers as a multimedia practice, the students are create, databases, spreadsheets, charts, and more other data organization and project calculations that are a contribution to a group. The following diagram illustrates a student using computers to solve mathematical problem.
Through this practice, the students take pleasure in problem solving, predicting, measuring, experimenting, predicting, classifying and collection of data in research projects. I like this value because it helps the students perform excellently in their academics. Therefore, the teachers are advised to employ this system to the students and encourage them to employ other intelligences in the data sharing like creating an analogy or debating an issue. Some of the technology tools employed includes the following (Burke and Dunn, 2003; Ford and Chen, 2001). The calculation tool (spreadsheet), multimedia authoring that shows results and animates (hyperstudio), scientific equipments, graphing calculators and software, video tape for experiments, demonstrations and data gathering among other tools.
Employing Multimedia in Personal Development Plan
When planning for the personal development strategy, I bare in mind Winston Churchill’s quote, “He who fails to plan, is planning to fail.” According to several researches, writing down your personal goals has several advantages in measuring effect and raising the likelihood to succeed. There are three main reasons I had to develop my personal plan with the help of multimedia.
- Clarity – this is where I am able to recognize what am doing and try to accomplish it thus giving me a clear picture of what I’m working on.
- Define the why – most of the time, I will come across certain situation and tasks along the way that I will not enjoy to do. The only thing that will motivate me to do it is when I define why I am doing it and I will be able to get focused. Through the multimedia and the internet, I am able to acquire inspirational development quotes that will keep me moving.
- My compass – because I am a very ambitious and driven person, I just have to plan what I am trying to achieve in order to remain focused on my target or direction. This will keep me headed towards reaching my goals.
After understanding, the three main factors that make me plan, I now move ahead to plan what I have to achieve during my course (David, 2011). These include;
- Establishing competency
- Managing emotions
- Attaining autonomy and interdependence
- Establishing mature interpersonal relationships
- Developing integrity
- Developing purpose
I am sure with the help of multimedia like the video tapes, documentaries, and special inspirational quotes I will make it.
In order to lay down the long-term goals or dreams, I must be sure with what I want to be in life. This is what will guide me to establish the long-term goals. Just as we know, success needs well calculated goal (Dave, 1999). For example, if I plan to be an engineer in future, I must lay down the short-term goals of working hard and passing in the necessary subjects that will enable me to pursue engineering. This means that goal calculation is not dreaming, it is all about passion and hard work. Through employing computers and iphones or ipads, I am able to be updated on all the details entailed in engineering course and through inspirational quotes by some engineers on the internet, I am able to remain focused and be able to achieve what I want in life (Burke and Dunn, 2003; Ford and Chen, 2001). This also includes, having role models or mentors in life that we admire that we may strive to reach where they are. The best way I have to go about it is by writing down what I want, and write down how I plan to get there. This will help me meet my purpose in life. Therefore, in order to achieve my future plans, I have to pay attention to the following steps.
- My purpose in life- what exactly I want in life
- My dreams – these are the long term goals that inspire me to accomplish my short term goals
- My believes and values – what I stand for is final and possibly what I wish my actions showed me to remain focused to
- My ideal self – having a clear description of the person I want to be; how I live, how I relate, associate with friends, how I act and react to situations and maybe how I respond to criticism. This is what will keep me moving towards my dream (David, 2011)
- Mistakes and lessons- how I tackle my mistakes and how I will avoid their reoccurrence. The lessons I learn through my mistakes and other people’s mistakes. All these I write down because there are a lot that people learn from their experiences and from other people’s.
- Success and milestones- the way I identify and try to mend my mistakes is the same way I celebrate my successes.
This is where multiple intelligence and technology is highly required. Mathematical concepts are very hard and failing them means failing to meet my dream (Chong, Sharaf & Jacob, 2005). Therefore, I have to employ the multimedia system in classroom concepts in order to reach my long-term goals. Sciences also play a major role because science and technology are consistent and their innovations are alike. All of them attempt s to modify the world and make our lives easier. Since the engineering field involves machines and very complicated technological equipments, I must employ the use of multimedia like viewing engineering movies, machines in the internet and machines available in companies in order to keep myself updated with the course (Burke and Dunn, 2003; Ford and Chen, 2001). For example, see the following diagram showing technological machines in a company and how complicated they are!
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