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Multimedia curriculum development: a K-12 campus prepares for the future.

Multimedia Curriculum Development: A K-12 Campus Prepares for the Future

Obviously, new technologies hold great promise as facilitators of personal growth and formal education.[1] This article describes the evolution of computer-based tools on the campus of a K-12 private school of 525 students in San Diego county.

You will read a story of how a group of parents took the school from the edge of non-existence to becoming one of the premiere sites in the area for multimedia curriculum development with Macintosh computers and interactive videodiscs. The process was a grassroots movement and shows just what schools can accomplish with local community support. Hard work and the generous gifts of parents and charitable foundations made it all happen.

A Brief History

After years of financial struggle, the Santa Fe Christian School (SFCS) was closed down in 1985. A group of parents soon reopened the school, however, and they decided to try some unique strategies to ensure its continuation. One tactic was to develop a high-profile approach to educational technology.

There were some Apple IIs on campus, but they were not integrated into the curriculum. One day in 1986 a board member donated three Macs, put them on a table in the lunch room and stepped back to see what would happen. Immediately, students discovered these machines and were soon engaged in a variety of games, graphics and desktop publishing projects. This led to a new school newspaper, a yearbook, a brochure for the school and automated statistics for its sports teams.

Both the school's staff and the students preferred the Mac's [then] distinctive "user-friendly" graphic interface over other systems. The Mac was chosen for administration and training tasks. By 1988 office personnel were using it to do a host of administrative functions. And last year SFCS offered a payroll-deduction plan for purchasing a computer; many teachers and support staff subscribed. The recent introduction of low-cost Macs has meant that more teachers are purchasing them for word processing, lesson preparation and test construction.

The Labs: Big Mac and Little Mac

The second phase of technological development at SFCS involved renovating one of the school buildings into a computer lab. Soon there were 24 Macintoshes networked to each other and to a laser printer in what became known as the Big Mac Lab. The instructor's computer system was connected to an LCD projection panel on an elevated overhead projector for group presentations. Programs also often include use of CD-ROM-based material from The Voyager Co. via a CD-ROM drive tied to the instructor's system.

SFCS's lab complex is a boon to an active-learner approach.

Beginning in the third grade, HyperCard and MacPaint are taught to all students by instructors Sue Pollard and Matt Evans. Word processing, desktop publishing and animation are added as students advance.

The journalism program is stationed in a smaller room adjacent to the Big Mac lab. Ten computers are in this Little Mac Lab and are dedicated to a student-produced newsletter, class meetings and faculty projects.

SFCS's lab complex is a boon to an active-learner approach as well as a real showcase for the school in terms of student and faculty recruitment, plus general public relations.

Administrative Applications

SFCS is a rustic campus on 17.5 acres with a beautiful ocean view and many unconnected buildings. A network of cable connects 30 remote sites with the laser printer. Office staff and faculty benefit immensly from this network in terms of word processing and printing tasks--only an occasional ditto-mastered message goes home to parents. Documents are consistently formatted and always sharp. Using a package called Flash, notes and data are ported from desk to desk. Although telephones are usually available, an interactive written dialogue can be carried on between persons at a variety of nodes using this software.

In 1989 Mac School was introduced to the staff and faculty for the first time. This is a comprehensive administrative package, especially useful for the registrar. Every teacher has received both group and individual inservice training on Mac School to record grades and do general course planning. It has already eliminated a lot of the tedium of teaching, ensured better feedback to students and promoted better planning of each semester's work.

Evaluating Curriculum

Of course all administration, planning and fund raising goes toward one thing--transmitting a curriculum to students. Computers have not been more successful in helping to turn back the tide of mediocrity in our schools, we believe, because too little attention has been paid to the content of the course-ware. Regardless of "wicked" speed, vast memory or stunning graphics, the benefit of a computer-based delivery system is limited by the substance of its message.

In light of this, the school, in conjunction with the Santa Fe Educational Foundation (SFEF), has begun a long-term project of curriculum evaluation. Every teacher is building an academic portfolio for each class that include the following categories:

* general aim of the course;

* substantive content of the discipline;

* educational objectives for the student;

* daily agenda of classroom work;

* favorite teaching/learning activities;

* media resources for instruction;

* means of evaluation of student performance;

* record of class handouts; and

* Christian perspective on the subject matter.

Academic portfolios have many advantages. While most classes tend to operate in isolation from one another, the curriculum developer can study these portfolios as a basis for designing an integrated and comprehensive program. They provide valuable transition material and continuity in case of teacher turnover. Staff and textbook evaluation is facilitated for parents and school supervisors. And finally, these records provide a wealth of material for future course-ware development.

Sound Development Practices

Another important reason for the yet unrealized potential of computer-based tools in education concerns instructional design. In any pedagogy there must be a balanced mix of drill, tutorial, simulation, games and archival browsing. Instruction includes both authority and exploration. There must be a mastery of the basics and a drive to apply those tried-and-true principles to new situations. Telecommunications, computers, audio, video and print are proven media in the teaching/learning process--the trick is to design a curriculum using them that avoids the extremes of boredom and chaos.

Instruction includes both authority and exploration.

Knowing the importance of these fundamentals, we set out to write a "white paper" on "MultiMedia Curriculum Development in the 90s." Along with historical background about contemporary educational practices and results, we articulated areas of focus for our future work:

* Academic Content (Substance)

* Instructional Design (Style)

* Educational Evaluation (Assessment)

* Communication Technologies (Tools)

Preparing for a series of curriculum projects, we made a preliminary study of the California state frameworks, standard textbooks in the field and Christian treatments for each discipline. The question of technology became a "window of opportunity" for us to examine the conventional content and design of available materials as well as the critiques of dissenters who would add or subtract from the common faire. What principles and perspective should be included in the archieve of knowledge in each field of study?

Educational evaluation is key to any effective curriculum. The computer offers new ways to provide more responsive feedback to students.[3] With colleague Ross Cooper, who is a computer consultant for test publishing firms, SFCS is looking for ways to combine the helpfulness of normative testing such as Stanford Achievement Tests, with the strengths of criterion-referenced assessment. Thus, in the course of an individualized mastery-learning approach, our curriculum remains accountable to national norms and comparisons.

Staying current with state-of-the-art educational technology is a full-time job. Maintaining personal contracts in the industry, consulting with leading companies, teaching at university departments of educational technology, attending trade shows and reviewing trade journals are among the variety of ways our team of associates remains aware of new developments in hardware and software. For example, the team recently visited MIT's Media Lab on the occasion of its fifth anniversary to see how they are "inventing the future."[2]

Multimedia Lab

In January of 1990 the MultiMedia Curriculum Development Lab (MMCDL), sponsored by the SFEF, was established on our campus. It has become a gathering place for sample texts, videodiscs and trade information. Our equipment includes a Macintosh II tied into the campus network, Pioneer videodisc players, a Toshiba large-screen monitor, an Apple CDSC CD-ROM drive, Mass Microsystems' 45MB removable-disk cartridge system and a video-capture board.

Video products and software packages are reviewed or developed in the Little Mac Lab regularly by staff, faculty or parents. Creating new stacks for HyperCard is a popular activity. For example, an animated lesson on the anatomy of the ear was produced by Bonnie Ferris, a third grader's parent, and tried out in the classroom immediately. It was a great success both academically and motivationally--the kids could hardly stay in their seats!

It does take a significant amount of money to use and develop these sorts of multimedia materials. While there is clear and obvious benefit, a school is unlikely to have much excess capital, especially if it has high-quality teachers who are paid sufficiently. Therefore, a good deal of grantmanship has been required. In the beginning, local foundations (Santa Fe Educational Foundation; Charles and Ruth Billingsley Foundation) supplied the funds that helped get the curriculum development underway and the "white paper" written. In April of 1990, the school received a significant grant from a major foundation in southern California to support multimedia curriculum development in middle-school science.

The Science Project

For our science project, we are constructing two products. The first is a multimedia enhancement to an existing middle-school science program, which involves utilizing a computer-based videodisc system to improve large-group presentations and writing a well-organized agenda for life and earth science. The second project is creation of a sample videodisc that shows others the capabilities of videodisc/computer technology. A variety of media (text, graphics, slides, audio and video) and instructional formats (drill, tutorial, simulation, game and archival browsing) are demonstrated.

Setting Analyzed: The setting for the project is the seventh and eight grade classes at SFCS with approximately 25 students in each class. This will be the beta-test site. Attitude questionnaires and achievement pre-tests were administered in each class in order to assess the affective and cognitive characteristics of the learners. Instruction takes place in the middle-school science room, comprising six large lab tables and a set of traditional school desks. The teacher has a white board and an overhead projector.

Management Organized: The producer for the project is John Couch. Overall instructional design is done by the director of the MMCDL, Dr. Andrew Peterson. Matt Evans develops the software interfaces for Debbie Culley, the teacher and content specialist, who despite very little experience with a computer before this project has now proven to be a slick multi-media operator.

Additionally, parents of students in the school have helped substantially with the project. Jonathan and Bonnie Ferris, owners of Interactive Presentation Technology, which does Mac-based animation for business clients, are providing computer-graphic art and animation for the demonstration videodisc. Video footage will be completed by another parent, Dan Leoffler, owner of WRI Education Inc., which has produced award-winning educational videotapes and instructional packages used nationwide. Michael Carroll, multimedia producer-educator at Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater and Science Center and a freelance artist, is working with us on exciting visuals for the demo disc. In short, there seems to be many professional media people interested in contributing to our project.

Objectives Specified: As we go through the academic year, learning objectives are being written for each unit and each lesson. With all the media options and an emphasis on discovery, objectives help the designer to keep in mind the scope and sequence of the domain of knowledge. At the same time, expectations of students are not limited to behavioral objectives. We have followed O.K. Moore and the Clarifying Environments Program, which lists principles to which the classroom should adhere rather than specific actions that students would take in a test situation.[3] Moore's principles of perspective, productivity, personalization and autotelicity provide an environment in which a student can engage in creative problem-solving while still learning the basics.

Media Selected: Eventually we plan to produce interactive multimedia courseware in the digital format. However our strategy is to start with generic videodiscs available from Optical Data Corp. and Videodiscovery. Currently the MMCDL is a beta-test site for the BioSci II HyperCard stack. And in the course of using the videodiscs, teachers are culling ample ancillary materials and lab activities.

To run the multimedia components, we outfit our science classroom with a high-tech presentation system. A Pioneer videodisc player controlled by a Mac IIci displays images on a Mitsubishi large-screen TV. LCD products from Proxima/Computer Accessories Corp., a local firm, are also integrated. And demonstrations using a camera connected to the large-screen TV are planned for the second semester.

Prototype Constructed: The multimedia-enhancement project was implemented the first day of school. A custom-made HyperCard interface for the teacher is used daily in the earth- and life-science classes. Attitudinal and achievement tests were administered to students. Careful documentation is retained for each unit and lesson.

With the classroom component currently well underway, the design of the demonstration videodisc has begun in earnest. SuperCard is the software being used for designing the computer interface. Material will be selected to accomplish objectives and conform to general instructional principles of the MMCDL. The sidebar--The Atomic Theatre: A Work in Progress--is a sample of the content of our multimedia science project.

After all the material is recorded onto one-inch videotape, it will be taken to a videodisc-recording center where a check disc will be pressed. After formative evaluation, a master disc may be pressed; this is significantly more expensive but also provides the basis for having multiple copies made at a relatively low cost.

Project Evaluated: Formative evaluation will continue as the videodisc package are used in the earth- and life-sciences classes. The teacher and the designer will select the best material for illustrations and evaluate student reaction and progress. In addition to attitude and achievement post-tests, student opinion will be measured via magnitude-scaling methods.

When the demonstration videodisc is produced in March of 1991, it will be used for classroom presentations and by individual students. Eventually we want to use erasable/rewritable optical-disc technology for individual exploration via an electronic notebook. This would enable a student, for instance, to cut and paste material into his or her notebook while the teacher makes the group presentation.

Next Steps

Most of the work on the Science Project will be completed in April, 1991. In association with the Santa Fe Educational Foundation, the MMCDL will then apply for grants to do multimedia curriculum development for U.S. history in grades 5, 8 and 11, and a Phase II science project including high-school biology. Following the pattern in the bio-tech industry, we hope to create tools and courseware that lead to commercial spin-offs. The royalties then come back to the foundation so that more basic research can be done.

It is the purpose of SFEF to sponsor and promote research and development in educational technology and new curricula. With the educational implications of the quantum leaps in communication systems becoming more apparent, SFEF wants to facilitate a network of users and developers who share our vision of ethical, intellectual and technological excellence.


References: [1]Ambron, S. and Hooper, K., Learning With Interactive Multimedia: Developing and Using Multimedia Tools in Education, Redmond, WA: Microsoft Press (1990). [2]Brand, S., The Media Lab: Inventing The Future at MIT. New York, NY: Viking (1987). [3]Moore, O.K., "About Talking Typewriters, Folk Models and Discontinuities: A Progress Report on 20 Years of Research, Development and Application," Educational Technology, (1980), pp. 15-27.

John D. Couch is a member of the board of directors at Santa Fe Christian Schools and president of the Santa Fe Educational Foundation. He was vice president of software development and director of new products at Apple Computer, Inc. form 1978 to 1984. He has also taught undergraduate courses at University of California, Berkely and graduate courses at San Jose State University. Andrew J. Peterson, director of the MultiMedia Curriculum Development Lab, is on the board of the Santa Fe Educational Foundation. He taught in the teacher training program at Grove City College from 1983 to 1988 and in the department of educational technology at San Diego State University in 1989. Peterson earned his doctorate in educational communications & technology at University of Pittsburg, Pa.
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Title Annotation:includes related article on a multimedia project; multimedia technology utilized at the Santa Fe Christain School, San Diego, CA
Author:Couch, John D.; Peterson, Andrew J.
Publication:T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)
Date:Feb 1, 1991
Previous Article:The Teacher Explorer Center: providing techniques and training in multimedia instruction.
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