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purple arrow (1137 bytes) Multimedia Environments for Developing Literacy in At-Risk Students

REFERENCE: Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt University (1994). Multimedia environments for developing literacy in at-risk students. In B. Means (ed.), Education Reform: The Reality Behind the Promise. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

CONTEXT: MOST environments--Multimedia environments that Organize and Support learning through Teaching--make it possible for students at risk of school failure to increase their motivation, confidence and generative learning by using multimedia to teach others. MOST environments place students in a position to create interesting and important multimedia products that teach their peers, parents and others about important life topics. MOST environments also enable students to use a variety of visual-artistic, musical, oral and written skills. In addition, MOST environments are scaffolds that support the learning activities necessary to create authentic products. This support occurs through such activities as selecting , comprehending, learning from and communicating the essence of relevant text-based resources and turning the resources into exciting multimedia products.

MOST environments are designed to overcome the limitations of much of today's traditional instruction, which tends to (1) underestimate what students with learning difficulties are capable of doing; (2) postpone more challenging and interesting work for too long; and (3) deprive students of meaningful or motivating contexts for learning or using the skills they are taught. Some of the objectives MOST environments aim to achieve are: build on students' strengths rather than focus solely on deficits; focus on authentic, meaningful problems; make connections with students' out-of-school experience and culture; model powerful thinking strategies; encourage multiple approaches to tasks; and make dialog a central medium for teaching and learning.

Description: MOST environments are Macintosh-based, and have three interdependent components: (1) the Peabody Literacy Program, a comprehensive, interactive program which incorporates video and text and which consists of comprehension instruction and fluency instruction; (2) the Multimedia Producer, a program that allows students to create their own multimedia productions, using text, digital sound, digital video and analog video from any source; and (3) two-way videoconferencing, which brings MOST teachers and students into contact with content area specialists, designers, other schools and the community at large through a new system that makes it possible to send and receive data, visual images and voice messages as easily as placing a phone call.

MOST environments are designed to address six critical student needs that must be met if students' literacy development is to be accelerated. These needs are: (1) intrinsically motivating activities; (2) emphasis on higher-order learning; (3) technology-based scaffolds for learning; (4) cognitive scaffolds for learning; (5) professional development and support for teaching at-risk students; and (6) effective connections to home and the community.

An example of technology-based scaffolds for learning involves using video-based curricula. When curriculum content is put into a video-based context, it becomes particularly powerful for students who are poor readers. Students can use the video macro-contexts to facilitate knowledge acquisition, vocabulary development and the acquisition of strategies for comprehension and learning. The events depicted in video-based macrocontexts motivate students to explore issues in more depth by consulting texts and other materials. As students' knowledge about an area becomes greater, their reading is further enhanced by this increased knowledge base. An important advantage of computer-based scaffolding is that students who are developmentally behind their peers can make important contributions to classroom discussions with the help of the technology.

To learn more about MOST environments, which are still in development, please see the text referenced above.

Cognition and Technology Group, Learning Technology Center, Box 45, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37203. 615-322-8070

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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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