The Enrichments of Rich Media


A high school student testifies to the benefits of bringing technology into the classroom.

I CAN’T REMEMBER a time when I didn’t use technology in my daily life. As a senior at East Windsor High School in Connecticut, I’ve seen the availability and integration of technology applications in our district grow to include the recent addition of rich-media technologies. Let me take a moment to define what I mean by rich media. Rich media refers to any content that emphasizes dynamic visual or aural media; typically, video, audio, or animation. The most common rich-media types include: rollover images, JavaScript/DHTML, Flash files, Real Media/Windows Media/QuickTime movies, and WAV/AVI/MPG audio.

During my years in school, and in my three summers fixing and updating our district’s technology applications, I’ve noticed certain things about teachers and their use of technology in the classroom: “New-age” teachers (as I call them) who have been using technology throughout most of their lives, tend to bring their personal experiences with them into their teaching, and are comfortable using technology to help them give a lesson accurately and efficiently. As for the “oldschool” teachers, they are not as adept in the world of technology and prefer the traditional methods of instructing with chalkboards and long lectures.

In school, rich media is often utilized through the use of CDs, which students receive along with their required textbooks. The CDs include visual depictions and audio lectures of the given lesson in order to help students better understand what they are discussing in the classroom. The CDs are used both at home and in our school’s computer lab.

It’s been my experience that rich media is put to greater use in science classes than in any other subject. Science (biology, chemistry, astronomy, etc.) is visual in nature; students would rather see the planets than listen to a teacher talk about them. Rich media allows a teacher todisplay visual examples of any topic the class may be discussing—whether it’shuman anatomy or the chemicalbreakdown of a molecule. In otherclasses, the opportunities just aren’tthe same. In English, for example,it’s not as effective to use rich mediawhen discussing Shakespeare.

Overall, I feel that instructors could do a better job of incorporating rich media into the classroom. Teachers can sometimes get too comfortable and simply repeat what has worked for them in the past with little or no regard for any new technological tools. However, I also feel that the door swings both ways in this situation, and that students have to be responsible, too, and show that they can use technology appropriately and without any problems.

Rich media is a fixture on my home computer, as I’m always on the Web viewing funny videos of tricks and pranks performed by various people for entertainment. Another way I utilize rich media is by downloading and viewing movie trailers and music videos. Whenever I hear about a new movie, I immediately go online and check for the trailer to see if it’s going to be a movie I want to see.

Although, admittedly, these are not the most educationally sound uses of rich media, they are great sources of entertainment during my free time. Although rich media is used in school, I have gained most of my knowledge and skill with computers and technology on my own, simply by using them all the time. By using any given media program whenever I can, I develop a better understanding of it because I must solve any problems I encounter on my own—therefore, further increasing my technological skills. If I were to call up tech support every time I had a problem with something, I would never learn anything on my own, as well as never grow to enjoy working with technology as much as I do.

If I decide to become a teacher, technology will be at the heart of my teaching methods, and one of the technologies I’m sure I’ll use is a SMART Board (from SMART Technologies; to help me impart information to my students. This interactive tool is a great connection between teaching and technology: What looks like a simple whiteboard is actually a screen with which a teacher—using a laptop and projector connected to the board—can retrieve and interact with any information via the click of a mouse. As a result, the student grows much more engaged in the lesson. Importantly, the device is very easy to use—even for a teacher!

Today, in fact, the everyday student knows much more about computers, technology, and various media devices than the ordinary teacher. But the classroom can be disrupted when a teacher is trying to teach a lesson with technology and d'esn’t know how to properly operate it without a student’s assistance. Students lose focus on the lesson and redirect their attention to the teacher’s issue with the computer or other device.

Even with our limited technology budget, the means to have every student gain the technological know-how he needs to succeed in higher education is in place—but the drive on the student’s part isn’t always there. A teacher can be adept at the use of rich media and put a student in front of a computer or a SMART Board every day, but if the student d'esn’t want to learn it, nothing will be accomplished. However, the motivated student will have his education enriched by a teacher who opens up the classroom to all the things that the newest technology can offer.

My Favorite Online Rich-Media Resources

  • Exploratorium: Digital Library
    The various collections in this online library include digital media and digitized museum materials related to interactive exhibits and scientific phenomena.
  • Digital Edge Learning Interchange
    An online library featuring National Board Certified Teachers in exhibits of exemplary teaching. Each exhibit includes an introduction, lesson plan, video clips, student work samples, assessment tools, resources, research, and teacher reflection.
  • NCAM Rich-Media Accessibility
    Contains links to available players, authoring tools, and other tools that are useful for making rich media accessible.

Know a tech-savvy student who would like to contribute to our Kids on Technology focus? Contact [email protected].

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2005 issue of THE Journal.