HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal

Integration of Interactive Multimedia Courses and Their Impact on the Teacher’s Role and Status

by Tzvi Taub Issue: Technology and Jewish Education
TOPICS : Technology

In the last thirty years major technological advances have formed the way we work and live. Three are:

  • Data processing and management.
  • Printing: the desktop publishing revolution.
  • Communications and information: e-mail and the web.

By and large, schools are incorporating these technologies and implementing programs to prepare students to work with them. The fourth development which is more specifically tied to the way we study and educate is:

Interactive Multimedia

Interactive multimedia courses came on the heels of the desktop publishing revolution. This powerful learning tool combines print, sound, visuals, animation, movies, interactivity and non linear navigation, together with encyclopedic references and virtual environment for designing and testing. Commonly, these courses are bundled with Learning Management Systems that provide feedback, adjust the course to the learner, and evaluate user performance. These systems can also automatically update the user’s course credit standing.

Ironically, interactive multimedia courses specifically directed at education have become a standard in the workplace but schools are slow to adopt them. Sometimes, limited hardware and small budgets for software are an issue; often the following concerns play a role in deferring their incorporation.

  1. Some educators and administrators are more comfortable with books and movies which present information linearly. Allowing the students to choose and navigate along their selected path is a new type of learning that educators are not used to. It also compromises having the class on the same page in order to meet curriculum demands.
  2. Some teachers feel that their creativity in planning lessons will be curtailed. Also, the teacher’s authority is reduced because they are not the sole information provider and evaluator.
  3. Teachers often see these courses as a threat to themselves and their status.

This article addresses these concerns and demonstrates the benefits that interactive courses bring to students, and to the classroom atmosphere. While some adjustments to the teacher’s role are expected, overall teachers’ importance will increase.

Multimedia and interactivity created by collaborative teams of authors, computer programmers, content specialists, graphic designers, animators, movie and music specialists, allows the student to control the learning process. They choose the approach to learning, their pace, time allocation and depth.

The incredible success of programs like Civilization and SimCity are clear examples of the appeal associated with this type of learning. Students are clearly motivated. The confluences of sound, vision, print, animation, and manipulation of virtual environment to test scenarios, allow them to build and test a bridge, design and test paper airplanes, and match trope sounds to their shapes, names, and places. These are bound to enhance learning. Through playing games and solving problems, students learn to recognize abstract patterns and rules. The visualization and design of structures, machines and systems becomes self-evident. History, literature, and culture are enjoyably and effectively learned.

These programs, with their rich resources and variety of learning approaches, put the student in a playground of learning and knowledge. No standardized minds here, no blustering lectures, no authority issues, just tools for independent development, self-study and personal growth.

Should teachers attempt to compete with such an offering? No, the role of the teacher is shifting. It is morphing into a less stressful, more important position than mere knowledge disseminator / examiner. The new teacher is a facilitator of learning, a credible master of the subject who is able to clarify, demonstrate, answer questions, and point to extra resources. More so, fully aware of the learning styles of their students, the teacher matches a variety of rich media courses to different students, and leads a group study for students who favor social learning.

This mode of individualized, engaged learning shifts the focus onto the student. The teacher assumes the greater role of mentor and counselor who inspires and empowers students for life-long learning. A role model of learning and continuous development himself, the teacher in this scenario is like a Rabbi/teacher who implements a combination of “set curriculum” with elements from Montessori’s approach.

It is fair to assume that the increased duties related to implementation of this new technology, including knowledge and evaluation of many electronic courses, together with providing support and supervision to several styles of learning at once, will further elevate the teacher status.

Not all subjects are naturally suited for computer courses. Social studies and psychology seem rather suitable for social learning. Literature and subjects related to philosophy benefit little from interactivity. These subjects benefit from the organizational and information tools offered by the first three fields enhanced by technological advancement but not necessarily from interactive multimedia.

Subjects that seem so far to benefit most from interactive multimedia often have an element of a practical skill, and are typically associated with the senses, motion and tactile interactions. They are:

  • Visual thinking and design, such as technical drawings, and areas of visual math.
  • Ear training for languages, music and sounds.
  • Software and computers, naturally.
  • Simulations, from driving to navigating a plane. When combined with virtual environments for design and testing they can be used for castle and catapult strength testing, building eco systems, etc.
  • Multifaceted subjects such as culture and civilizations.

Creative preparation for subjects that will be taught by computers need not cease. We are still in the early stages of the digital revolution, so there is room for many subjects to be developed into interactive multimedia. If you have the interest to initiate an interactive course, shape your material and course plan (as far as you can) then contact a publishing house to submit a proposal for publication.

In the 1990s, studies measuring the effectiveness of interactive learning were inconclusive. Struggling to measure motivation or investigative learning they often called for further studies. When many of these studies were examined during 2000-2002, further problems in sampling size and methodology were identified. It also became clear that many tested courses were far from what was considered by then interactive multimedia. Since 2004 most studies generally indicate an advantage for interactive multimedia courses when compared with traditional teaching. In some studies, it was the case that only a specific group such as students who rely on visual learning or students that did not understand the material in traditional setting, found the interactive electronic course superior. Other studies indicate a broader benefit for interactive multimedia, including the student’s evaluation that gained insight and skills in the subject taught, will aid them tackling other subjects.

The two mediums of teaching that are still at the core of our schools’ instruction are oral transmission, and textbooks. Interactive multimedia represents a radical change to the medium of teaching. No less revolutionary is the shift in focus to the student and their style of learning as they navigate the world of knowledge and skills.

Previous changes in the teaching field met resistance. Rabbis (teachers) resisted writing down the oral tradition of Torah, fearing their loss of control over the nuance of personal interpretation, and likely a diminished need for Rabbis (teachers). When printed books, especially curriculum books entered the classroom, some teachers felt threatened. They resented the loss of creativity and the imposed format. We now know that neither writing nor printing nor set curriculum displaced teachers. Instead they were a blessing, as they increased scholarship, knowledge, and skills thus leading to further demand for qualified teachers. So will interactive multimedia courses.

Tzvi Taub is the director of Koltor Publishing and the author of the interactive Trope - Training course Chant the Bible. Tzvi can be reached at: tt@koltor.com.

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