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Electronic education.

Are you ready for interactive multimedia? Computers bring brave new worlds to association education.

Imagine an association education program in which the instructor brings the presentation to life with video and still pictures controlled by a personal computer and projected on a large monitor. Or writes important notes on an electronic blackboard that prints out hard copies for participants to take with them. Or guides certification candidates through interactive simulation exercises using personal computers with text and video displayed on each monitor.

These scenarios are all happening now with new technology developed for training and education. Educational technology is a fast-developing industry that associations can tap into to improve their education programs and expand the learning options they offer members. As computer, telecommunication, and audiovisual technologies become more mechanically compatible and sophisticated, the price of using the equipment will fall, and opportunities to showcase their teaching and learning capabilities will expand. Let's take a look at some existing technology and applications.

Appeal to the learner

Since people have a variety of learning styles, a major challenge for educators is to find the best way to present new information.

* The aural learner relies on hearing information from the instructor and from supporting audio materials.

* The visual learner benefits from both text and pictures to reinforce concepts. Both can be supplied by computer-generated graphics and text or video.

* The tactile learner likes hands-on experiences or the opportunity to manipulate information, something computer labs with computer-assisted instruction (CAI) software can offer.

All students benefit from receiving information in multiple formats; having a particular learning style indicates the dominant preference for receiving information, not the only one. The more different senses appealed to in a teaching situation, the more likely the learner is to retain information.

Another goal of association continuing education programs is to enable members to assimilate information that helps them change and become more effective in their profession. New technology in itself represents change and opportunity: When you use information-age tools, you present concepts in an effective, intriguing format, and set an example of embracing new possibilities.

Fit the tool to the audience

At the National Association of School Boards, Alexandria, Virginia, we learned about cutting-edge presentation technology through organizing and managing an annual conference for public school educators to learn more about technology-based teaching and learning systems. We used technology to present information to attendees and provided equipment for school district presenters to share their high-tech programs with each other.

Part of the learning process for us was figuring out when to use the high-tech stuff. Sometimes it's better to use a more primitive technique like slides. At the 1991 conference, for example, a vice president from Apple Computer, Cupertino, California, keynoted a general session for 1,200 attendees and supported his speech with still pictures and video from a laser disc created on and operated by a Macintosh computer program. With this size audience, you actually get clearer image projection (better resolution) from slides. But since the speaker had copied his computer-produced images to the laser disc, we arranged for a special projector to make the best of it.

In our school-district-led breakout sessions, on the other hand, we had smaller groups. We showcased classroom applications in math, science, and social studies instruction that included IBM- and Macintosh-generated programs running audio, video, and still images.

Get the bugs out

Many presentation technologies are amalgamations of what used to be separate commercial and professional worlds--the computing industry and the audiovisual business. This can complicate staging technology-based presentations because many audiovisual companies that provide video and projection equipment do not supply computer equipment. Fortunately, they're usually familiar with the cabling that hooks the two together.

If you're bringing in on-line information--text or graphics delivered over a telephone line--you need to contract with a third rental agent for the phone line. And computer-based presentations may require additional power that involves still another service provider, an electrician. Don't let that discourage you. Suppliers are becoming familiar with technology-based presentations and building staffs capable of overseeing the operations, particularly in large metropolitan areas.

Also keep in mind that different presentation tools are appropriate for different purposes. Individual skill-development training that is highly specialized and occupation specific works best in small groups with one-on-one interaction and hands-on exercises. That's ideal for computer-assisted instruction using tutorial software. A motivational training program to build morale and transmit organizational values, on the other hand, establishes a bond among the members of the larger audience. That's perfect for well-produced audio and video on large-screen projection.

You have a basic idea now of new possibilities for individual instruction, small-group presentations, and general-session productions. Next, let's look at two broad categories of technology:

* Computer-based presentations--creating elements such as text and slides on a personal computer and displaying them to the audience with a monitor, liquid crystal display, or projector.

* Multimedia presentations--using the tremendous storage and accessibility of compact disc, read-only memory (CD-ROM) and videodiscs to create interactive presentations of text, graphics, sound, still pictures, animation, and video.

Present from your computer

Associations can use personal computer-based presentations in any situation where slides or overhead transparencies would be appropriate. You can produce high-quality, sophisticated presentations in-house and make last-minute changes and updates to the information being presented. For example, at the National School Boards Association we created a computer-based presentation on the budgeting process to use in an orientation session for new board members. The images were projected directly from the computer to a large monitor for the sessions held at NSBA headquarters; the presentation was transferred to videotape for use in regional meetings.

In 1991, at ASAE's 9th Management Conference in Chicago, we used computer-generated slides to project an outline of our presentation on new technology options for educational programs.

Virginia's Fairfax County Public Schools, a district that participates in NSBA's technology program, uses computer-generated slides during school-board-budget work sessions. When changes are proposed by the board, the new figures are entered into the computer. The program immediately generates graphics and text to display the effect the change will have on the overall budget, combining the power of computer processing with advances in presentation media. The board can have immediate feedback on proposals, consider consequences, and accept or reject the proposal based on information clearly formatted and presented.

Select the display device

Computer-based presentations are usually created on an IBM-type PC or Apple Macintosh. You can create full-color images of graphics and text with easy-to-use software products such as Harvard Graphics or Aldus Persuasion and project them for group viewing. Think of the convenience of carrying an entire multi-image presentation to a conference or seminar on a 3 1/2-inch floppy disk instead of multiple carousels of slide trays and a sheaf of papers.

What's on that floppy if we're talking about "computer-generated slides"? We usually think of a slide as a frame of 35-millimeter film. In the computer context, a slide in essence is a single image--such as a color chart and related text--designed on the computer. You may display that image directly from the computer to the monitor or project it through another piece of equipment onto a large screen. You can also transfer the image directly onto videotape, acetate, or film, for more traditional projection.

The IBM and Macintosh have different requirements for cable connection to your chosen display device--monitor, liquid crystal display (LCD), or video projector. In both formats, several display options are available for computer-based graphic presentations.

Large-screen monitors. Computer display monitors provide a clear image and come in widths from 19 to 35 inches. Choose your monitor based on the size of the audience and type of presentation. When displaying a text program, bigger is better. If your software-based presentation features only pictures and graphs with no text support, you can get away with a smaller screen.

You don't have to be a computer expert to get what you need from a supplier, but you will hear a few new terms. To ensure compatibility of computer and display monitor, know the type of computer, operating system, and graphics card installed in the computer. (Cards are special-function hardware elements that can be added to the basic unit.)

Most graphics adaptor cards fall into one of the following categories:

* CGA--color graphics adaptor;

* EGA--enhanced graphics adaptor;

* VGA--video graphics array; or

* Macintosh II.

The difference in each is the resolution and number of colors available. Your equipment provider can determine the type of monitor and adaptor card to use with your program.

Liquid crystal display panels. An LCD panel is about two inches thick and fits on top of a compatible overhead projector. When the panel is connected to the computer, it translates your stored information (your slide) into a picture that the overhead projector reflects up onto a screen. LCD panels can project in either color or monochrome, but the resolution will not be as distinct as on a monitor display. You'll probably need to darken the room, as you would with traditional acetate transparencies used on an overhead. The LCD is recommended for smaller audiences, but because it is overhead projection, it's not necessarily so limited.

You'll need the same information described above to determine the correct models of LCD panel and overhead projector to use with your computer.

Video projection. For larger group presentations, the next step is projecting directly from the computer to a large screen through a video projector. Remember that generally the larger the screen, the less distinct and bright the picture: Monitors, LCDs, and video projectors take the same material and present it on increasingly larger screens. Ask the same questions as with monitors and LCDs to determine the proper equipment for your computer.

Combine training media

Multimedia training is instruction that employs several media--for example, audio, video, graphics, and text--controlled by a computer program. So, an elementary-aged student using the IBM multimedia program Mammals can select a particular mammal for investigation, read the information available on the screen, hear the sounds the mammal makes in its native habitat, see a still picture of the animal and its offspring, and watch a moving picture of the mammal in a typical activity--all on the computer terminal screen.

Two technologies used for multimedia are CD-ROM and videodisc. Another to look for in the future is CDI.

CD-ROM. CD-ROM stands for compact disc, read only memory. Like its cousin, the compact disc audio you play in your car, the CD-ROM is a small, silvery platter filled with digitized information read optically. With the appropriate card in your computer, you can insert a CD-ROM in a drive much as you put in a floppy disk. The CD-ROM's advantage is that one disc holds more information than 400 3 1/2-inch floppy disks.

And, rather than just stereo sound, the CD-ROM holds vast amounts of audio, text, and video. The disc's format allows random access, meaning that a computer program can call up any picture or sound in any order. Unlike a tape, CD-ROM storage isn't linear, so you can "play" elements in practically infinite permutations.

Currently, however, most available CD-ROM products--such as the Groliers and Compton encyclopedias--contain just text and are only in libraries. Products are in the development stage and will be available soon as presentation options for schools and associations. When more information is digitized and the technology becomes more sophisticated and less expensive, the creative options for this multimedia format in educational settings will multiply.

Videodisc. Sometimes called a laser disc, a videodisc is another silvery platter, the size of a long-playing record. A videodisc contains recorded moving images and sound. You need a videodisc player to play it, and it's multimedia when you add a computer that accesses elements in some programmed order and adds appropriate text and graphics.

The videodisc player is usually operated by a computer program such as Apple's Hypercard or one of several DOS-based programs for IBMs. An instructor can program the subject areas on the videodisc that are main points and secondary ideas, suggest selections for exploring the disc contents, and pose a set of questions related to each area. Since the videodisc has random access capability, an instructor can customize video presentations by deciding which images or clips to show at appropriate times throughout a presentation.

CDI. Compact disc, interactive will take us a step beyond either CD-ROM or videodisc because the CDI player combines the functions of a videodisc player and a computer in one unit. It's being marketed now for consumer use.

Look at who's using multimedia

Development costs for interactive videodisc programs are high because both the images on the disc and the computer program that allows the individual selection of images in a variety of ways--called branching--must be designed. However, a videodisc of still and moving images without the computer interface can be developed for roughly the same cost as straight video production. Pressing the original videodisc costs from $600 to $2,000, depending on what quality you need.

Two choices. Interactive videodisc-based training programs controlled by a personal computer have been developed by medical and technical trade associations for skills training in surgical and diagnostic procedures and electrical and mechanical repairs. Universities also have developed such programs for foreign-language instruction.

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), Alexandria, Virginia, is one association that has developed videodisc-based training products. One product, Teaching Episodes: Resources for the Analysis of Instruction, contains video vignettes of effective classroom instructors demonstrating various teaching techniques. The video segments can be played in whole or in part in any order the instructor wishes. Videodiscs also have two audio tracks, so an instructor using the ASCD videodisc can either play the dialogue used by the demonstration teacher or the second track, which contains a commentary or explanation of the technique being demonstrated. This medium allows the trainer to flexibly respond to the needs of a particular group.

The Texas Association of School Boards, Austin, in response to a statewide need for improved physical science curricular materials for high school students, developed an interactive videodisc program to teach 9th- and 10th-grade students physical science. The program runs on the IBM Infowindow system, with a personal computer interfaced to the videodisc player and controlled by the student using the touch screen on the computer. (With a touch screen, you may touch your finger to graphic elements displayed on the screen to indicate your choice rather than click on them with a mouse or use the keyboard.)

Small groups of students work through problems and situations posed on the program and explore a series of options that leads them through the basic scientific concepts required. Development costs for this project, which were extensive, came from a variety of sources, including a partnership created with a group of Texas school districts and foundation underwriting. The association is now marketing the program outside the state and developing a second program on chemistry.

Use high-tech at general sessions

Technology adds a great deal to effective message delivery at a conference general session. Regardless of group size, the opening session can set the conference theme, articulate overall conference goals, and motivate attendees to get the most from their meeting. The cost need not be exorbitant, and high-tech leaves a lasting impression.

A variety of computer-driven multi-image slide-presentation modules exist that can be adapted for many situations. Other enhancements to general sessions include image magnification of speakers and live performances using video cameras to project to one or multiple large screens, sophisticated audio systems to create "surround sound," and special lighting effects.

New technologies offer a host of options for today's association education planner. As available information increases and changes at an unprecedented pace, associations will be forced to respond quickly to meet the training and information needs of their members. New technologies offer approaches to information transfer that should be considered by association educators and implemented when appropriate. The challenge is to keep abreast not only of program content but of the most up-to-date tools to deliver that content.


The following organizations may provide information on technology, education, and multimedia presentation.

* The American Society for Training and Development provides information on training, development, and human services. 1640 King St., P.O. Box 1443, Alexandria, VA 22313-2043; (703) 683-8100; fax (703) 683-8103.

* The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development has a resource center for curriculum and technology information. 1250 N. Pitt St., Alexandria, VA 22314; (703) 549-9110; fax (703) 549-3891.

* The Institute for the Transfer of Technology to Education at the National School Boards Association sponsors conferences, publishes, and conducts special projects. 1680 Duke St., Alexandria, VA 22314-9900; (703) 838-6722; fax (703) 683-7590.

* The International Communications Industries Association Education Committee sponsors conferences on technology in education. 3150 Spring St., Fairfax, VA 22031-2399; (703) 273-7200; fax (703) 278-8082.

* The Software Publishers Association Education Center offers some free services to nonmembers. 1730 M St., N.W., Suite 700, Washington, DC 20036; (202) 452-1600; fax (202) 223-8756.

* The Society for Applied Learning Technologies produces technology and education conferences and publications. 50 Culpeper St., Warrenton, VA 22186; (703) 347-0055; fax (703) 349-3169.

At these sites you can observe and try out new technologies.

* The Learning Center for Interactive Technology at the National Library of Medicine primarily serves health professionals, demonstrating interactive technologies such as videodisc, CD-ROM, and CDI; consulting on design of course ware; and holding workshops on developing course ware. The center is part of the U.S. Public Health Service at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, and is open to visitors. The center recommends making an appointment at (301) 496-0508; TDD (301) 496-0807; fax (301) 480-3035; E-mail: Bitnet, Internet--tlc

* The National Demonstration Lab at the Library of Congress exhibits the latest hardware and software, including touch screens, voice activation, virtual reality, and multimedia. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays; demonstrations are at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. You may make an appointment to work with a specific application. 101 Independence Ave., S.E., Washington, DC 20540; (202) 707-4157; fax (202) 707-2829.

* Tech 2000 is a hands-on gallery of interactive multimedia applications in education, business, and entertainment. Dean Adkins will arrange tutorials. Admission is $5 for adults; call to check hours. Located in Techworld Plaza, 800 K St., N.W., Suite 60, Washington, DC 20001; (202) 842-0500.

Cheryl S. Williams is director of the National School Boards Association's technology leadership network, Alexandria, Virginia. Jim Naugle is an account executive with AVW Audio Visual, Inc., Dallas.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes directory; using computers in association education
Author:Naugle, Jim
Publication:Association Management
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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