by Dr. Sylvia Charp Editor-in-Chief The use of multimedia in education is burgeoning and creating changes in the way teachers teach and students learn. Multimedia is widely acclaimed as a new and improved force in education and as a powerful tool in enhancing the deliverance of education. At both educational and non-educational conferences, easy-to-use multimedia authoring tools and exciting software packages are being displayed, more so than new models of hardware. Extensive use of color, three- dimensional graphics, sophisticated animation and sound are among the latest features of data analysis and visualization software. Being Embraced Boards of education are increasingly allocating funds for multimedia software. For example, the Lee County Public School System, to encourage the use of multimedia in its schools, plans to buy 4,000 personal computers and has set aside $35 million for educational technology, especially for the purchase of multimedia material. In North Carolina, the Department of Public Instruction is requesting $356 million over ten years to provide schools with upgraded technology, including CD-ROM drives and other multimedia hardware. Texas is well known as the first state to adopt multimedia software as a textbook substitute. In addition, a number of universities are investigating the benefits gained from using multimedia. Grants from the NSF, other funding agencies and industry donations have launched multimedia development programs. Distributed Multimedia Visualization is seen as the future for networks. Issues of course design, user interface and software development are under consideration by MIT, Digital Equipment, GTE, etc. A group at the MIT Center for Educational Computing Initiatives has concluded among others. Multimedia is not a peripheral technology; it is a field. Production and organization of applications in this field will grow exponentially. Markets for this field will focus on new objectives in relation to technical breakthroughs and innovation.
A consortium of technology manufacturers and publishers are funding the establishment of Media Centers in universities. They recently announced the first Media Center at Stanford University. They intend to fund others. Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are available by calling (408) 541-5020. It's Only Natural Why all this emphasis on multimedia? The PC World Special Section, October 1993, states the following : "10 Reasons to use Multimedia in Education: 1.It's fast -- learning speed accelerates. 2.It's cheap -- the program never asks for a raise; the more you use it, the less it costs per use. 3.It's consistent -- no mood swings, yawns or lapses. 4.It's private -- ask what you want; no one will laugh, no one will scold. 5.It's safe -- experience nuclear meltdowns without fallout; experience drunk driving accidents or electrocution without blackouts or death. 6.It's personal -- it never tires of praising and motivating through positive feedback, anytime, day or night. 7.It lays a strong foundation -- on which to build mastery. 8.It makes remembering more longer, easier -- so many parts of the brain are stimulated. 9.It provides more information faster -- on things no school could afford to teach like space-shuttle repair, brain surgery, black hole sailing, etc. 10.It's fun -- like a game; yes, like Nintendo, which, with a joystick and a screen, has already captured the brains and fingers of an entire generation." Still, People Make It Work It seems to be generally agreed upon that multimedia, when used appropriately, can enhance presentations and supplement traditional instruction. However, as asked in the PC World Special Section, "Can Multimedia Save our Kids," utilization of multimedia is not an answer to our problems in education. Though advantages as the result of its implementation are documented, it still takes an enlightened administrator with a dedicated faculty to set goals and provide sufficient resources to support these goals. No Need to be Overwhelmed A word of caution: Do not be overwhelmed by the ever-changing technology and the often seemingly prohibitive start-up costs. Find out what you need. It certainly appears to be the direction in which we are heading.
This article originally appeared in the 02/01/1994 issue of THE Journal.