Time to unleash those burning ambitions

10th March 2000 at 00:00
How do you create your own CD-Rom? Jack Kenny looks at the possibilities for make-your-own multimedia

Making a CD is a useful way of motivating pupils. Launched in Rouen a few weeks ago was a CD-Rom that will go into 6,000 schools, mostly in France. The disk, which looks at life in primary schools in England and France, was produced by primary school children and their teachers in Brighton and Rouen. The work, part of a European Millennium project, involved children in Normandy and East Sussex exploring the use of multimedia to explore the commonality and differences of life in French and English schools today.

Annie McCabe, an adviser in professional development in the local advisory service, worked with Year Six pupils in three Brighton schools. The children took over the work with the CD. Annie remarked upon the differences in the way the children worked in Brighton and the way they worked in Rouen.

The English children were responsible for the structure and worked happily with scanners, sound and digital cameras. Most of the page design and editorial control remained in the hands of the pupils. The ease with which the children were able to create and manipulate the material was surprising. In France they had technicians who did most of the multimedia authoring.

Although the multimedia project was planned jointly, the work was created separately in Rouen and Brighton schools. The pupils produced information about their school, the curriculum, hobbies, after-school activities and their home environment. Text, photographs, drawings and taped sound were all put to use. The resulting CD shows some fascinating cultural differences.

When the project was proposed, MatchWare, seller of the multimedia software package Mediator 5, offered to support the multimedia part of the project. Teachers were trained in the software's use and then, working together, planned the structure and range of information that would be used for the project.

They used their knowledge of the package to work with their classes in school. The main lesson on both sides of the channel was the importance of collaborative working. The production of a multimedia CD-Rom can motivate and give focus to work.

With CD burners it is very easy to create a CD-Rom but it is not as easy to create a good CD-Rom. Not many professional media companies have shown an interest in working with education. Sheila Rodgers of 3T Productions from Stockport, however, is emerging as a force in learning multimedia. 3T has been around now for 13 years and has been working with education for a great deal of that. It produced a remarkable simulation for BP Education on running a chemical plant that puts the user in the hot seat, and still looks outstanding. Recently 3T has won commissions from the Teacher Training Agency and the result of that has gone into every school in the country. 3T is also behin the Explore Parliament website www.explore.parliament.uk that has just gone live. "Act of Parliament" has ingenuity as well as depth and will help pupils learn about the legislative process as they follow a fictional parliamentary bill through all its stages.

Sheila Rodgers points out that the technical considerations are the easy ones. More difficult is to design a process that will lead you forward. It is easy to dash in, throw in a great many resources and then hope for the best.

It is also important to know your authoring program. All programs have their limitations and it is important to know what they are before starting. Mediator 5 was chosen for the Brighton-Rouen project because of its ease of use. Many professionals design their own programs but the important thing is to work with one that you feel comfortable with.

3T has a clear strategy when looking at a new idea (see box). Get all that right and you'll end up with something that you can be pretty pleased with.

3T Productions Tel: 0161 476 5553 www.3t.co.uk MatchWare Tel: 0181 940 9700 www.matchware.net


This is how you will measure the success of the CD. What are the learning objectives? How will the materials support the curriculum?


What is the goal? Is it increasing understanding, increasing sympathy with certain attitudes?

Audience profile

Lack precision here and your disk could well fail. It is not enough to have a generalised audience in mind. Knowing who you are hoping to influence will determine how you will structure the disk and the visual conventions that you will adopt.


How do you intend the disk to be used? Is it for a single user, or a group? Will it be used once or will it have enough depth to draw people back?


You have to work with a multi-skilled team as it is unlikely that one individual will have all the skills to create a CD: design, graphics, planning, navigation, sound, storyboarding.

The first thing that you will need will be a project manager who will co-ordinate all the various activities. The art director will define the overall look of the production and the consistency so that pages follow a similar design. The navigation designer ensures that users will be able to find their way around. The storyboarder will determine the flow of the story or the information. The writer ensures that all the text is presented in a form that will suit the intended audience. The video artist makes sure that the moving images are in harmony with the main message of the disk. The sound artist ensures that the audio is clear and that any music is balanced against any speech. The CD programmer has to bring together all the components of design, navigation, writing, sound, video and graphics into a coherent and workable presentation and in the form that it will appear on the disk.

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