New media moguls

18th September 1998 at 01:00
In July, Vivi Lachs described how to collect multimedia materials this summer. Here she shows how they can be used to keep memories fresh

As you unpack your suitcase and put your clothing, presents and souvenirs into piles, stop for a minute to collect your thoughts. Soon, the new school year will be so hectic it will cloud your holiday memories. But in your souvenir pile, you have the largest pine cone you've ever seen, a tourist brochure about a glacier you explored, a piece of sea-swept glass, postcards you forgot to send and trinkets bought in the market. Among the rubbish, there are airline tickets, a piece of hotel notepaper, baggage labels and a pile of sand.

Don't throw your rubbish away, or put the souvenirs in a drawer never to be seen again. Make your holiday work for you and create a multimedia "virtual" holiday, or turn it into multimedia "virtual" curriculum work.

In a geography class, pupils can insert landscape holiday snaps on to the computer from a photo CD-Rom, with a voice-over description added for good measure.

They can set up the system so that when you click on a particular landscape feature, the computer zooms in to show more detail. For example, click on a coastal area and a written explanation of high-energy environments could appear on a background of scanned-in sand and shells.

In a science class, pupils can scan in pictures of a particular habitat from a holiday brochure. The picture may not contain the animals they might want, but they can easily cut and paste those they do want from other holiday photo-graphs. These can perhaps be animated, so that they run or fly when you click on them, with a link to another screen of information about the animal and the sounds it makes.

So what do the pupils get from using information and communications technology in, say, a science or geography project in this way? Presenting what can be an extensive range of materials as a mixture of pictures, text and voice-overs helps to develop a fairly in-depth subject knowledge.

At the same time, pupils will be developing some higher-level skills. Making interactive multimedia involves combining media in a complex manner while considering who is the target audience, and how the final presentation will actually be used.

"That's all very well," I hear you say, "but I've got 31 pupils, one computer, restrictions on my curriculum time, and you want me to learn a whole new computer program!" The first time you work on a new project, it may well take longer than subsequent times, but it can be a part of the curriculum, within subject and ICT time, and can be managed with one computer.

Like any whole-class project, it needs planning. There will need to be discussion, explanation and thought. It is ideal for group work since a subject can be split into different aspects, which small groups can research and work on. In a Year 9 science piece on the periodic table, for instance, a pair of pupils can have a different element to work on.

The real key to producing multimedia work is that much of it does not have to happen on the computer. A scanner is one of the most important pieces of equipment a school can have. It can be an inexpensive addition enabling the scanning of artwork or models into the computer. Pupils' work in paint, crayon, pencil and material could end up as a digitised portfolio - even three-dimensional items can be scanned.

The whole class can work out the the project's interactive structure, research the ideas and draw images both on and off the computer, so just having one computer does not need to be a disadvantage. Groups can input their material on to the computer at different times throughout the week or term.

Showing work half completed to the target audience can help pupils think critically about the material and respond to suggestions, thus improving the quality and clarity of the final product.

And the technical bits can mostly be learned on the job. Pupils become experts very quickly.

Okay, you may not have re-created exactly what happened to you on holiday, but you will have brought back a freshness to curriculum work. When you see your photographs on your computer screen, the memory of your summer will linger on.

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