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Multilit- Term Paper                                                              Amy Mooney

Fall ‘07

Multimedia Problem-Based Learning: Improving Standard Scores and

Bringing Kids Up to Speed

The combination to unlock student potential is a combination of Problem-Based, Traditional, and Multimedia Instruction. In the early American education system, much of the curriculum was based on skills and knowledge that would aid students in their life, after their schooling, or in the “real world”. As time passed, some of that curriculum was changed to fact-based information.  Presently, there is a trend, in education curriculum development, toward problem-based, “real world” instruction.  Problem-Based Learning is instruction based on solving problems with “real world” situations. As stated in the findings of Tarhan & Acar (2007), students are more motivated, self-confident, willing to solve other problems using the skills they learned, shared knowledge, and were more active in small groups. There is also a need to include multimedia resources in education.  As defined by Hofstetter, “multimedia is the use of a computer to present and combine text, graphics, audio, and video with links and tools that let the user navigate, interact, create, and communicate”(2).  The education system seems to be far behind the business world in the everyday use of technological tools and systems.  These tools, used in instruction, can also build motivation, and help students learn skills they will need for the future. 

There is a great deal of research in these curriculum areas and some studies combine the different approaches.  One study done by Li & Lui in 2007, found that sixth graders who were given instruction with increased multimedia and problem-based

instruction showed more increase in standardized test scores than students in traditional classrooms. And in 1998, William, Hemstreet, Lui, and Smith did a meta analysis involving studies of middle school students with Problem-Based Learning.  In these studies, differences between the students who had PBL and the control groups (who did not have PBL) were extreme.  PBL is a tested method to improve our students’ learning.

            According to the studies of Mayer and Anderson (1991, 1992) and Mayer and Sims (1994), “Dual-code Theory, provides theoretical support of the verbal (such as text) and non-verbal (such as animation) codes in lesson presentations.”  Based on this theory, in 1991, Yea-Ru Chuag studied 175 seventh graders (90 males and 85 females) in rural Taiwan, to see the effects of various combinations of animation, text, voice, and free choice on the posttest results and student preferences.  The categories studied were “animation + text, animation + voice, animation + text + voice, and free choice”. This study found that “74.4% of students preferred to have instruction that combined animation, text, and voice”.  Male students in the study scored better on the posttest, when instruction was given in this category.  For females in the study, the improvements measured were evenly distributed between the types of instruction.  All the student groups, in the study, showed improvement with multimedia instruction.

            The Modern Language Journal published a study, by Chun and Plass in 1996, that supported the use of multimedia applications for second language classrooms.  These students, learning German, retained much more of the materials taught, after being exposed to a computer application.  The study found “significantly higher rate than expected on production tests and recognition tests.”  The author theorized that the second language students exposed to multimedia applications gain more understanding than those exposed to a traditional classroom setting.

Multimedia opportunities in the classroom increases prior knowledge, scaffolding the learning of new material, gives students wide exposure to different resources and cultures, and increases student motivation for learning.  Students learn in a variety of ways and come from different past experiences.  Investigative skills in a multimedia classroom can expose children to people and information from all over the world. It is also very important to teach students how to find the most reliable information for their research now and for a better understanding of how to discriminate between credible and incredible sources, as adults.

Teachers who use multimedia applications can give students assignments and extra help in more targeted ways, compared to a text book.  In my classroom, students who lack the grade level expectations in reading and writing are using a reading program called Read 180.  It is from the Scholastic Co. and it includes multimedia applications that support students and give them a starting point to build reading comprehension and other important skills.  For example, prior to reading a new article or story, students are shown “an anchor video”.  This is a 1-3 minute video about the topic that they will read about.  Another example of this program’s use of technology is the instructional software, used independently for 20 min. each day, by each student.  First, students are tested and the computer program adapts to the student’s reading comprehension, decoding, and spelling level.  Then, students are given a video and audio presentation to watch, on a topic. After the video, students are given a story on their own reading level, comprehension, spelling words, and vocabulary words on the topic of the video.  After students practice reading and answering questions, the student is given tests in each section and makes a fluency recording of the reading.  This program is my students’ favorite part of the day.  The brightly colored, individualized programming is very motivational for older struggling students and it helps students preserve their self-esteem while they get much needed reading instruction.  Since beginning the Read 180 Program in our school, all students in the program have had significant improvements on standardized tests.  Many of these students have increased their test scores by 1 or more grade levels in just a few months.  One ninth grade student came to our school one year ago, reading at a 2.3 grade level, now he is reading on a 5.4 grade level.  It is amazing to see the “promise” of these programs!

In 2005, Pearson, Ferdig, Blomeyer, and Moran wrote “The Effects of Technology on Reading Performance in Middle School Grades: A Meta-Analysis with Recommendation for Policy”.  The authors’ purpose was to see if the results of 38 studies (published 1988-2005) showed marked improvement and to advise the curriculum writers and decision makers in using better interventions for this age group.  The problem was that many middle school students were not meeting the No Child Left Behind criteria.  The hypothesis was that the students who receive technology based interventions, in reading (strategy use, comprehension, meta-cognition, reading engagement, and motivation) will improve more on standard tests than those who have traditional instruction.  The findings of this meta-analysis showed an improvement overall, with the use of technological interventions for reading comprehension.  The other parts of the hypothesis were inconclusive and warrant further study.

            A meta analysis, by Gijbels, Dochy, Van den Bossche, and Piet in 2005, found that, “Problem-Based Learning had the most positive effects when the focal constructs being accessed were at the level of understanding principals that link concepts.” This shows the importance of the continuity and building true understanding within the education of our youth. What a better way to achieve this understanding, than to build it through the use of multimedia tools and problem solving.  Wouldn’t you love to take a virtual field trip to China or dissect a frog without harming the animal or dealing with the mess?  This is the education of the future.  It is very colorful and interesting.  The possibilities are endless! 

            The success of any instructional technique used in the classroom depends on the skill of the teacher and methods of implementation.  As Tim Peterson explained in 2004, students must be taught to use investigative skills and practice using peer groups to solve problems. If our job, as teachers is to prepare students for the workplace, community, and civic responsibilities, than we need to provide opportunities for investigation, critical

thinking, researching, using technology, and working cooperatively.  In Problem-Based Learning, groups of students work side by side to investigate a problem and provide solutions. Students develop leadership skills and see that everyone has strengths.  Using a variety of multimedia tools helps students become familiar with different technological tools, the internet, using the computer for researching information, and using software programs that are commonly used in businesses. These are skills that many employers look for in the people they hire. Pre-service teachers are being trained in implementing technology and Problem-Based Learning, to achieve the most desirable results. This is a huge step in the right direction! 

 In conclusion, I feel the best way to educate students is to use a combination of traditional and problem-based learning, using a variety of multimedia tools (images, audio and video clips, hypertext, hypermedia, computer programs, web pages, online libraries, internet journals, blogs, etc.)  Research shows that students are learning and understanding more, about the key concepts we teach, because of these improved teaching techniques. These techniques are changing education for the best. Colleges and universities around the world are putting these techniques into their teacher education programs to insure teachers can use these techniques properly.  These teachers need the support of administrators who see technology implementation as a priority.  Educational technology specialists will be needed in the future to help maintain the multimedia tools and computers used by students and their teachers. When these elements come together, there really will not be any “child behind”.














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