As current educational research lauds the advantages of authentic, project- based instruction and assessment, it becomes apparent that educators and students alike can use the capabilities of technology to make these new goals current a practical reality. Technology presents some amazing opportunities to compile varied, quality informational products and present those products effectively to groups of people in meaningful ways.
Multimedia productions are so named because they are designed by integrating different media of information, such as text, graphics, video, audio, and animation elements. As opposed to a traditional lesson or presentation, in which the user sits passively and receives the information in only the one way it is presented, multime- dia can cater to a whole range of learning and teaching styles. At one end of the spec- trum, multimedia can enhance somewhat traditional presentations in which the control for the sequence of the presentation of information lies primarily with the presenter. On the opposite end of the range, multimedia can form hypermedia environments, whereby the user has the freedom to make decisions as to how or in which direction to explore. A hypermedia structure creates an environment without the linear restrictions associated with many paper-based learning materials. Hyper- media environments let the user access information in any order he or she wishes. This access simulates the natural, nonlinear ways in which humans learn and allows for individual construction of knowledge. The flexibility and interactivity that can be achieved by synthesizing information with multimedia elements can create a sensory experience that matches individual thinking patterns of both presenters and learners. The process of creating multimedia products ideally reflects the philosophy that teachers and students are at times both the experts and the learners in the classroom. Both groups can use technology to prepare and present cohesive lessons or to demonstrate what has been learned in a unit of study. As with any use of technology, mul- timedia projects should be seen as a natural part of the teaching, learning, and evaluating processes that occur regularly in classrooms rather than as some separate, added-on requirement. This chapter will outline a practical process both teach- ers and students can follow when using technology to author informative products and present them to others.