Planning and Research Preparation

Defining the Purpose

Creating a multimedia production can provide not only for real acquisition and use of technology skills but also for the practice of visioning, planning, and making pur- poseful choices. Just as with any lesson, you and your students can make the most of the preparation process and the unique attributes of the technology if you un- derstand the distinctive purpose of each project from the beginning. For what audi- ence will it be prepared? To what extent will technology play a role in the creation and presentation of the production? Putting together a quick lesson for your class on the differences between warm- and cold-blooded animals in your area of the coun- try will require different preparation than a research project undertaken to convince the school board to purchase new, safer playground equipment. The following is a sample of types of multimedia projects teachers and students can design:

Lessons. Whether taught by teachers or peer students, new concepts can be pre- sented to others with the variety of media required to ensure all learners have the chance to learn in ways that make sense to them. Lessons can be prepared for whole groups to view at once, for small groups, or even for individual tutorial purposes.

Research projects or book reports. Resources can be collected and reports written as usual, but they can then be compiled with relevant media about the topic or au- thor. These projects can be used as the sole form of holistic evaluation or as a com- prehensive review for another, more traditional assessment.

Stories or games. A simple story written by a student can be transformed into an interactive project by infusing media elements and giving the user some decision- making ability. This gives an alternative to simply word processing a story and drawing pictures to accompany it.

Parent or community informational works. Both text and media elements can cooperate nicely to inform others of rules, current events, and policy. This type of project could be realized as continuously running slide shows as participants enter a room or even stand-alone, kiosk-type, self-guided tours.

Electronic portfolios. Just as artists collect samples of what they have produced, students can bring together choice bits of written work, scanned images, pho- tos, and videos of events and explain the importance of each in their own voices by recording a voice-over narration. Students can choose work they most want to include and may even be required to defend their choices in front of a group of teachers, parents, and peers. Electronic portfolios reflect the cur- rent educational philosophy that places value on what students can actively do rather than relying only on static scores they receive on a test to tell the story of what they have learned. Teachers might also maintain portfolios, doc- umenting instructional and professional growth and providing some proof of accountability.


Background Research

Multimedia projects, like traditional projects, require strong, accurate content. Students and teachers should never make the mistake of thinking that audio clips and pretty pictures can make up for flimsy descriptions or missing facts. If you are teaching a lesson to students, make sure you have solid objectives and examples. Students should follow whatever research techniques and writing processes they normally do, making use of both text-based and electronic resources. Notes and other text can be word processed during this stage or simply handwritten. It is help- ful for later procedures if this text is proofread and ready to be made into a final draft form.


The importance of visually planning for the organization of a project was stressed in Chapter 8 with regard to the design of websites, but it is as equally vital to the successful creation of other electronic projects. You and your students should list the titles of the final drafts of the written forms of projects and transfer them to storyboard form, such as onto 5″ ✕ 7″ index cards, which can be easily arranged and rearranged in order to arrive at a visual, logical flow of information. Story- boards can be created with varying amounts of detail, from sketches only to full graphic plans. This detail will be determined, again, by your purpose, time con- straints, and the developmental levels of the audience.

Screen Design

Considering some basic design features at this stage in the planning will help en- sure clear presentations. Model examples and nonexamples of these recommenda- tions to even very young students so they can make personal judgments about what guidelines would result in the clearest presentations. Always temper each of these general recommendations with an understanding of the audience for the presenta- tion or instruction. If an instructional presentation would benefit from an unortho- dox use of text or color, make the best call for the purpose. Whatever design choices you make, remember that consistency is key. Random design features will make for a busy, distracting presentation. (See Figure 14.1 for additional design tips.)

FIGURE 14.1       Multimedia design issues.

1.   Limit the amount of text on each screen. Different audiences of students can handle varying amounts of text, but leave some space around the text or use graphics to break up large text pieces.

2.   Choose a font that will be legible to learners. Some fonts prove easier to read when viewed on a computer screen or when projected up on the wall. A sans serif font, one without any decorative letter features, in a size of between 18 to 24 points is the easiest to read from a distance.

3.   Use phrases or just keywords rather than complete    statements.

4.   Words written in all capital letters are difficult to read. Underlined text should be reserved for hypertext links only.

5.   Use colors appropriate for the topic and audience. Be sure text color contrasts with the background color, such as light text on a dark background or dark text on a  light background.

6.   Use graphics or other media elements for a real purpose rather than for mere decoration