Multimedia Design Projects in Primary School

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.

2 thoughts on “Multimedia Design Projects in Primary School

  1. Ben Rolfe

    It seems to me that three of the four functions you mention are related to group design projects (such as the old standard bridge building exercises), and only the first has anything much to do with specifically multimedia projects?
    I wouldn’t give too much credence to the absence of student responsibility at the elementary level. Anyone who’s ever played a game with an 8 or 10-year old can tell you they’re perfectly capable of taking on responsibility for a group activity (teaching others, guiding play, making up new rules, including negotiating new rules with other players) if they feel comfortable enough in the environment (there may have been problems with lack of IT confidence, but I reckon those problems wouldn’t exist today). I think there’s far more doubt over whether the two teachers, who were probably new to (and unsure of) multimedia themselves, would have really encouraged their kids to take ownership?
    On a side note, I work with a woman who used to be involved with science camps where they got kids to learn binary programming by running following lines on big tarps (acting according to their own programming when they reached nodes), and build Rube Goldberg machines (I want to be a kid again just to go to that science camp!) She certainly didn’t mention anything about kids having difficulty with complex and collaborative tasks (quite the opposite when it came to the Rube Goldbergs, in fact). I’ll ask her about it specifically next time I see her.

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  2. Brett Rolfe

    Awesome – I have visions of a huge, human Turing machine running back and forth over some form of re-writable data source, possibly food based.
    Those times are passed for you I’m afraid… unless you think we should RUN a science camp? 😉

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