Communicating Education Concepts Through Multimedia

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There have been many studies documenting the pros and cons of computers, in particular multimedia machines, in the classroom. By combining text, graphics, sound and video, applications have the potential to convey certain concepts in a more understandable manner than text in a book. Multimedia applications also have the additional capability of being interactive, which can further enhance the learning process. In the course of researching the topic of multimedia in education, one area in particular was focused on. The authors chose to design an educational application called Science Quest for junior high science students. The purpose of this application is to convey information about the properties of light, in particular, the concepts of refraction, reflection and color. Development of such a system involves the use of multimedia equipment such as CD-ROM drives, microphones, scanners, video devices, and authoring systems such as ToolBook. The availability of so many methods of presenting information can be quite overwhelming. It is important that careful consideration be given to how the mediums of text, graphics, and sound will be used. The outcome should be applications that: do not reward error, promote interactivity with the user, do not insult the user, do not rely heavily on text, do not make use of graphics unless they add to the educational value of the program, contain significant content, and are free from error. One of the key factors necessary when designing a multimedia application is imagination. It is important to be able to visualize what objects should be used to convey a concept, and how these objects should interact. The latter is especially important in an object-oriented environment. The possible use of animation is another reason that imagination is an essential tool of the developer. Animation can play a very important role in conveying science concepts by simulating an experiment. Through the use of animated graphics, the visual explanation can eliminate detailed background information in many instances. There are some disadvantages to using multimedia in the classroom. Some of the major drawbacks include the cost of multimedia equipment (depending on the number of stations necessary), the lack of well-designed applications relating to the school curriculum, and the lack of training for teachers in effectively integrating computers into the classroom. With time, as more emphasis is placed on the design of applications for use in education, it is hoped that these things that are preventing the use of this powerful tool in the classroom will be overcome.