The Concept of Multimedia

I found the three articles we read to be quite interesting. Understanding the History of instructional media allows the learner to better understand first, what constitutes multimedia and second, how it came about because of a need. Reiser and Gagne (1983) described instructional media as the “physical means via which instruction is presented to learners.” With a definition that broad, it becomes apparent that I may not always have a broad vision of instructional media and may be limiting myself, even though I am considered an expert practitioner (and some day researcher as well) in my field.

If you were to ask me what multimedia is, I would likely include videos, phones and books even though most wouldn’t initially add books into the mix because it lacks a digital nature some have predetermined it as necessary to classify it as such. World War II had a huge impact on the advancement of instructional technology as it was a time of need and people had to be creative with their time and resources in order make the biggest impact with minimal means. Instructional training moved to the forefront because of the ability to minimize instructors and maximize deliverable content. In fact, I personally believe that the impact of instructional design during the war was the first step in the movement towards the digital age we are immersed in today.

I found it interesting to see the progression of research after the war and up through the change of the century. To know that they were already dissecting studies of media’s effectiveness and braking it down as far as implying that just this simple form of research doesn’t really explain enough. Knowing it is an effective teaching method is just the beginning, researchers wanted to know why. Some of their questions are starting to be answered in the research I am now reviewing. This includes the study by Ogren et al. (2017) that says in some situations multimedia can actually distract from learning and have more of a negative impact. By having students study vector calculus with words and accompanying graphics while tracking their eyes and their actions, researchers made an interesting discovery. They wanted to see if cognitive theories of the past were always true. The cognitive theories they were studying recommend to “enrich scientific texts with pictures to support students in building rich and coherent mental model of the subject matter.” What they found did not support that theory in this situation. They made it clear that other situations may benefit, but when studying high level math like vector calculus, it was actually more of a distraction. The researchers theorize that the issue may have something to do with the “limited capacity” of the working memory. (Ogren et al., 2017). The study was able to show situations when a graph or image might be helpful and when it might be harmful. When students know the purpose of the chart, it is more likely to be beneficial than not.

I found the study to be incredibly enlightening. As researchers, it is our job to take the study and ask further questions to develop even more knowledge and understanding. This caused me to think about the studies about presentations and how images used within presentations have a longer lasting effect on the audience in listening and understanding. However, certain types of visual presentations can sometimes be overwhelming to me. My example of this would be Prezi, one of the most popular presentation tools on the market. I cant watch all Prezi’s. They make me nauseous. I wonder where the line is drawn in situations like these and how we as researcher’s and presenters of information can better define the practice of imagery presentation.

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