Making sweet multimedia

12th May 2000 at 01:00
Sometimes you find a book that's so good you want to tell everyone about it and Vivi Lachs's Making Multimedia in the Classroom is such a book. It's a successful attempt to encourage the creation of multimedia, not because it's a fun thing to do, but because the process of creation will give more insight into information and communications technology (ICT), learning and creativity than virtually anything else you can do in the classroom.

Lachs is a practitioner and the book is shot through with the insights she has developed and the ideas she has gathered from the people she has worked with. She also places the ideas in a wider context, because the introduction lays down the philosophical background to the work. This should be extracted and copied to every teacher as it restates in clear terms some basic thinking about learning. Lachs explains educational theory and focuses on constructionism, stating that the learning process is only effective when meaning is constructed by learners themselves.

A lot of claptrap is spoken on educational platforms about "the information society" by people who seem to think that possession of a computer and a fast Internet connection will transform children into the economic saviours of the UK. "Students authoring multimedia become software designers," asserts Lachs. She has even written a chapter entitled "Infants makng multimedia", full of examples from teachers and children demonstrating what they achieved.

There is rigour in this book. Lachs knows and preaches that real discipline is needed to produce multimedia. The sterility that has been imposed on so many schools is nowhere to be seen in the examples from the real classrooms that have provided the inspiration for the book.

The reader has to remember that the work on the accompanying CD-Rom has been done not by pupils from middle-class areas, or well equipped colleges, but by children in some of the most deprived areas of London.

Media books are frequently written in jargon for a coterie. This is written for teachers in plain prose. Anyone who has just started their New Opportunities Fund training and wonders what to do with their knowledge would gain so much here.

This is a book about standards, capacity building, empowerment, impacting and all the other overused words that tumble from the theorists. What's more, it shows that teachers can achieve many of those things without turning children into the educational equivalents of battery hens.

Quite simply, this a joyous book because it humanises ICT, asserts its importance at the centre of learning and exalts creativity.

Making Multimedia in the Classroom by Vivi LachsPublished by RoutledgeFalmerPrice: pound;19.99 Tel: 08700 768853

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