Engaging students with group design projects using multimedia tools is an increasingly popular approach that seems to serve a number of functions;
- teaching familiarity with and competence in technologies that are deemed relevant
- encourages deep, engaged research into topic area being studied
- building cognitive thinking skills through real-world problems solving
- collaboration and other social skills arising from teamwork
self-esteem and related personal outcomes from developing what is seen as a worthwhile product
There is little research on the topic, one piece (of limited academic value) we were provided in class was ‘Enhancing Learners’ Cognitive Skills Through Multimedia Design’. This paper did cite a study (titled ‘Multimedia Science Projects: Seven Case Studies’) way back in 1997 that looked at the outcome of multimedia projects (remember multimedia back in ’97? we are talking HyperCard here!) right through grades 3 to 11.
What interested me was that while they found support for “the popular claim that multimedia-project design increases student responsibility for their own learning”, when looking at their data by age ‘the sense of responsibility was absent at the elementary level’ (elementary being roughly the same as primary, possibly up to about Year 5). They infer that design-based multimedia projects will not be suitable for children before high school (unfortunately this was an aside, as age was not a factor they had been intending to examine).
There are many factors that may have led to this, from the approach taken by teachers to the software used. It does raise the question though, are students at that age capable of taking on the responsibility of self-directed learning and owning complex processes of production. I would like to think so, but it does raise questions about the types of environments and scaffolding that will be necessary to create classrooms where they can and will do so.