-- the Labyrinth December 1993 --
Buried Cities, Lost Tribes, Human Origins
Richard Effland, MCC
-- Multimedia Learning Environments
Ken Costello, MCC
Mesa Community College Anthropology instruction has changed
in the past year to include a diversity of teaching
techniques that emphasize the use of multimedia learning
environments. In 1990, the use of a commercial Hypermedia
program, Mystery Fossil, served as an introductory stepping
stone into our own development. A series of Macintosh
hypermedia and NeXT applications were developed, augmented
by access to an entire package of applications from the
University of California at Santa Barbara. The accessibility
of these programs, along with our own intensive
development effort, provide us with the opportunity to
explore how multimedia may be used within course-wide
designs. This provides, therefore, a powerful vantage to
explore how both teaching and learning can be effected by
technology. We have found a dramatic change in the
student's ability and interest to learn as computer
applications have been combined with other multimedia
resources such as videos and laser discs to create a
learning environment. It is important to realize that the
effectiveness of this multi-sensory approach rests in a
total reorientation of teaching style or pedagogy.
Foundation for Effective Learning
We believe that the highly visual and interactive
characteristics of multimedia help to facilitate learning.
Information can be presented in a variety of formats - text,
picture, video, simulation. Additionally, we have found
that the use of multimedia stimulates critical thinking and
problem solving. Students tend to recognize that to solve a
challenging problem they must first learn and understand
information before they can apply this information to solve
the problems. This process improves learning by making
information meaningful and applicable. Two benefits arise
with critical thinking exercises:
- students gain critical thinking skills helpful in
solving other problems, and
- the subject matter is personalized, thus facilitating
Students seem to move through several stages in this
learning process. First, students gain a knowledge
foundation necessary for critical thinking and problem
solving. Stage two involves the use and application of this
new information through problem solving. Problem solving
activities are designed to stimulate the formulation of new
questions whose answers form the foundation for new insights
and new knowledge. This learning process may be applied to
new questions that are posed within the course design and
can lead students to reflect and use what they have learned.
This creates a sense that learning is important and has
As we continue to work with students, we learn new elements
that must be included within our course designs. For
example, students are asking questions such as, "What does
it mean to be human?" In response to the interest in this
question, we have expanded our computer-assisted instruction
by creating scientifically-based images of reconstructed
fossil hominid faces that can be melted onto images of
fossil crania with the use of slide bar controlled by
students. The effects of this have been highly significant
and have stimulated students even further with regards to
issues of human origins and development. The depth of
student thinking from assignments exceeded those from
previous classes. This underscores the fact that a course
does not have to be static, but rather can evolve through
student learning and interest.
Implications for Learning
Significant changes in the teacher-student relationship
resulted from this reorientation to the teaching and
learning process. Our expectations of students have also
changed dramatically. Classes that once were standard
"lecture-text-test" formats were transformed into critical
thinking and skill development learning experiences. The
instructor and students formed a partnership in this new
format. The instructor was the guide or "intellectual body-
guard" responsible for leading students to a variety of
information. Students were given the responsibility to
learn from these sources. Much of this learning takes place
outside the classroom in the MCC Library Information Commons
where students can access computers, videotapes, and other
library resources. Learning takes place on an individual or
collaborative basis depending on individual learning modes.
The classroom becomes the platform for critical thinking,
class discussions, and collaborative working sessions.
Class time is devoted to stimulating ideas and synthesizing
information through active participation by the students.
Communication skills, writing skills, and general research
or thinking skills are developed by students. Journal
writing and project reports are used as the primary ways to
evaluate student learning during a semester. Students work
with real information (e.g. fossil data from Koobi Fora or
archaeological site data from the Valley of Mexico) and must
complete reports that help them learn not only about the
content of the course, but also how to critically evaluate
information and solve a problem. They are also taught ways
to present technical information in their reports.
This is but one example of the dynamics created when the
learning environment is designed to engage the student
actively in the learning process. We continue to redesign
our courses to meet the continually changing learning needs
and interests of our students.
- I believe that one of the two most
beneficial factors has been your emphasis on structuring the
material so that we actually have to learn and understand
the information ( as opposed to many classes that require
only an ability to memorize.)
- With all the visual aids, lectures,
readings, and computer work, it is doubtful that I could
forget the information even if I wanted to.
diagrams, working and discussing as you're learning in a
group it was very helpful in retaining information.
- I enjoyed the computer programs and the way
they were set up. Pictures are very helpful to me and all
the data was right there.
- Having worked in a group during most of the
semester, we learned how to share ideas and explain them to
where they made sense.
- I often found classmates in the
Information Commons working on the computers. It was great
to be able to ask each other questions.
- Working together
on assignments helped you to get to know the others in class
and I think that helps you open up more in class too - it
becomes a more comfortable environment.
- Sometimes I
noticed I studied faster on my own, but I didn't get the
opinions from my group which helped too.
- This week's learning has focused almost
entirely on the Koobi Fora reconstruction exercise. It has
been stressful, yet interesting and I find myself wishing I
was out there digging.
- On a personal level, I saw this
exercise become a challenge and I couldn't let go until it
was solved. I know that included tracking down the Michael
Day book, but I consider that within the rules as it was
done to learn more. After all, books are there to be used
like any other tool. Even though I felt pressure from other
classes, I put them aside as this was much more interesting
than learning terms for multiple choice tests. The amazing
thing was I still managed to commit the multiple choice
material to short term memory in much less time.
- This class really tested my critical
thinking skills. I had to really study, think and analyze
the information in this class. My journal proves that.
- Education stems from within and I attacked the subject
matter and made the class what it was, for me.
- I talked more in this class than any other I can
remember. I didn't feel nervous about interjecting ideas
or asking questions. Guess you could say I felt safe.
no longer have a fear of taking science courses.
believe that computers should be used in all classes. It
allowed access to a large amount of information very
- I enjoyed using the computer - visual aid is
helpful and I am more aware of how to use the Macintosh
Maricopa Center for Learning & Instruction (MCLI)
The Internet Connection at MCLI is Alan Levine
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