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Collection: Multimedia

Purple arrow (1137 bytes)Multimedia Composing

REFERENCES: Daiute, C. (1992). Multimedia Composing: Extending the Resources of Kindergarten to Writers Across the Grades. Language Arts, 69, 250-260.

Daiute, C., & Morse, F. (1994). Access to Knowledge and Expression: Multimedia Writing Tools for Students of Diverse Needs and Strengths. Journal of Special Education Technology, 12:3, 221-56.

Daiute, C., Johnson, A. The Personal Media Studio: A multimedia Program for Writing, Graphics, and Sound. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Description of Research:

CONTEXT: After the primary grades, children's work in school has relied primarily on their abilities to work with text, an emphasis which presents learning problems for the student who does not read or write well. Yet many children who cannot read or write well by the time they are in fourth grade are good at learning from visual and aural sources, particularly in contexts meaningful to them. Recent developments in technology make it possible to integrate images, sounds, and text in multimedia computer environments, thereby providing a multimedia approach that can be effective with these students. Being able to "read" and "write" with several media in an integrated work space can help children who have difficulties in learning to write "ground" their literacy and learning in familiar and meaningful contexts, much as they did in kindergarten. The authors stress the need to make students' strengths as much as their weaknesses the basis of instruction by using personal media as "springboards for literacy development and pathways into content curricula."

DESCRIPTION: Techniques include bringing children's worlds into the classroom; using images, sounds and conversation to support reading and writing; and employing a multimedia approach, as illustrated by a Multimedia Composing Project. This project involved several third/fourth grade teachers working with six 10-year-old children with writing problems. The students, already involved in an integrated study of the Mayan civilization, were to create a book about the interests of young people in their city in 1991 which would be helpful for people in the future who would be studying our culture. Using tape recorders and cameras, the students developed a database of sounds and images, creating a multimedia library on the computer and designed personal multimedia compositions. The researchers did detailed analyses of the multimedia composing processes and compositions to gain insights into the students' use of images and sounds in supporting their writing.

Case studies of three children with different types of writing difficulties showed that each child adapted the multimedia context flexibly to his or her own strengths and needs. For example, one African American student with language processing and motivational problems, was experiencing serious writing difficulties. Remediation efforts helped in the resource room but did not transfer to his classroom work. Multimedia composing based on personally meaningful and culturally relevant experiences, however, provided the means and motivation to develop his writing skills. Using multimedia visual media to create a culturally-relevant context for his writing, he was able to elaborate beyond the concrete details.

Another African American 10-year-old student in the third grade child was developing problems coping with school and expressing herself. She had been unable to write anything "original" all year, and despite beging a very verbal child, had resorted to copying from other texts. Drawing from her love of art, she was able to use visuals as "springboards" to writing numerous multimedia compositions.

A third child, impulsive and unable to focus on a task, rarely used his real skills or completed his writing assignments. A bilingual boy of Hispanic origins, he had a specific learning disability and was performing at average ability rather than at his high-average potential. Behavioral and affective problems included impulsivity, distractibility, outbursts of anger and low self-esteem. Problems also emerged with writing and fine motor skills, all of which converged to inhibit him from using his strengths and from completing academic assignments. This child used multimedia tools vigorously, making numerous shifts among visual, aural and textual media in working on several compositions at a time. He benefited from being able to channel his energy and succeeded in producing short, but complex and integrated compositions.


The authors found that multimedia activities were helpful in identifying children's strengths in contexts that are personal and not typically available for writing in upper grades. Allowing children to use a variety of resources appears to help identify different ways to create sources or contexts for writing, research and self-expression. By focusing on the strengths that emerge rather than on the student's weaknesses, the researchers could explore the student's potential. With this approach the children's writing improved in production, fluency, complexity and control over written voice.

The authors recommend that further research in multimedia composing should also look at relationships among visual media, peer culture and literacy. The authors conclude that children's skills with various media and symbol systems should be a basis for their writing. They plan to explore the use of multimedia composing for students with serious writing difficulties in the upper grades, stressing the approach of focusing on children's penchants rather than weaknesses - "even when these penchants are also disabilities."

Colette Daiute is an associate professor of Education at Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, MA.

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

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