Fifty years ago, classroom multimedia was limited to filmstrips, audio recordings and, if you felt particularly daring, the occasional interpretive dance. Today, technology has broadened the range of multimedia experiences available to educators, giving them a large toolbox with which to bring course material to life for their students. Classroom multimedia can encompass sound, video, pictures and interactive technology.
One of the most common types of multimedia still remains the traditional form, using only a single content type--such as a video recording or DVD, a filmstrip, a slide show, or a piece of music. In many cases, these are still the most appropriate types of multimedia to help your students learn--a documentary film, for example, is a good way to bring information together in an engaging way that has been curated by experts.
Course materials can now be linked together with several types of multimedia, in a fashion that allows you to pick and choose what kinds are the most valuable to you. For example, if you were trying to teach your students about the law of gravity you could put together a computer slide show presentation that blends an image of the mathematic formulas, an animation showing how gravity keeps planets rotating around the sun, a film clip of a scientist talking about Isaac Newton and a YouTube video of someone performing a demonstration that illustrates how objects of different weights fall at the same time.
The widespread availability of digital cameras and HD video recorders--many of which are now even built into cell phones--makes do-it-yourself multimedia a more accessible option than ever. As an educator, you can create your own videos: if an experiment would be too time-consuming, or dangerous, to perform in the classroom you can record it for later playback; this allows you to edit it for length and to provide commentary as your students watch the recording. You can also encourage your students to work with multimedia in their projects. For example, a long-running class project on plant growth could be translated into a stop-motion photographic animation.
Internet-enabled classrooms can give educators even more power to engage their students with the world around them. Video chatting and Internet presentation software like those used by distance-learning institutions can let your students have a "virtual guest lecture" from an expert in the field who lives far away. Combining interactivity with a "hands-on" mentality, online environments such as Second Life can also be a tool for teachers to link remote classrooms, bringing students together from around the world.
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