Teaching and Learning Forum 2000 [ Proceedings Contents ]

Developing a multimedia degree: Course development from an industry perspective

Jennie Bickmore-Brand
Teaching and Learning Centre
and

Marjolein Towler
School of Media, Communication and Culture
Murdoch University
Teaching and Learning Forum 2000 Home Page

Murdoch University Handbook 2000 entry

The Bachelor of Multimedia (B.MM) degree program covers three distinct but related areas of study. The program covers Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Media Studies (both analysis and production) and Multimedia Design and Production. The program has been designed according to Multimedia industry needs for graduates with technical as well as creative abilities and a clear understanding of both content development and industry practices. Accordingly the degree allows students to gain a technical knowledge of computers and computing, along with an understanding of the media and the capacity for media production (in either the radio or screen domains). Students then combine these IT/Computer Science and Media analysis/production strands in the core multimedia units, which focus on appropriate creative, technical, and communication strategies and practices. Graduates of the B.MM are particularly suited for careers in all aspects of the Multimedia industries (content, art direction, project management, development) and (with suitable combinations of electives) for careers in the media and/or information technology fields.

Marjolein Towler: Introduction

I am a multimedia producer and when I was first approached to consider applying for the position of Lecturer in Multimedia, I was very hesitant. After all, it is one thing to know how to do a job and do it well (at least my client seemed to think so) and quite another to teach that job to other people. You are confronted with the need to be reflective on activities that you undertake routinely and to consider reasons why you do 'things' this way and not that way. I was also very apprehensive about being able to communicate this effectively without stifling the creative input from the learner.

It struck me, that if you could consider the outcome as the departure point from which to develop material, you could work your way back to what you needed to include and how you needed to include it. From my own experience I know what is required from a multimedia professional. I therefore know what I would expect from a graduate of a multimedia degree program. However, I am no educationalist and did not have any extensive experience in the development of course material for a tertiary course level.

Although the program structure was largely in place when I started on July 1, 1998, the 5 core units at the center of the degree program were non-existent except for their titles. The first unit, Principles of Multimedia, needed to run that second semester, so I had less than 3 weeks to develop the material. I was told: "they need to learn HTML", and that was all I knew. So almost inevitably, I took my own learning process as the basis from which to work. How do I learn and what do I find useful in a learning process, which I then combined with the base skills that would lead to the outcome "know HTML"[1]. In my mind students would learn if they could see the need to learn, if they had fun doing it and if they had something to show in the end. This is how it started....

Fortunately, I was able to attend the Tertiary Teaching Course (TTC) offered as Staff Development by Murdoch University's Teaching and Learning Center by Dr Jennie Bickmore-Brand. Although I was grateful for the opportunity it did fill me greatly with apprehension. By this time I had been running the first unit for one semester 'by myself' as it were, and had designed and was running my second unit, Visual Communication Design. I was afraid that I would be found out as a fake and be told that all the things I had put in place were of no value and 'the wrong thing to do'. I was also not at all convinced that I wanted to be a 'teacher' rather than a multimedia professional. I have since learned that you can be both. The Tertiary Teaching Course has given me the tools to have a much more structured, focussed and considered approach, taking into account different learning styles and the seven principles of learning developed by Dr Jennie Bickmore-Brand.

Principles of learning

After Bickmore-Brand (1990)
Contextcreating a meaningful and relevant context for the transmission of knowledge, skills and values
Interestrealising the starting point for learning must be from the knowledge, skills and or values base of the learner
Modellingproviding opportunities to see the knowledge, skills and or values in operation by a 'significant' person
Scaffoldingchallenging learners to go beyond their current thinking, continually increasing their capacities
Metacognitionmaking explicit the learning processes which are occurring in the learning environment
Responsibilitydeveloping in learners the capacity to accept increasingly more responsibility for their learning
Communitycreating a supportive learning environment where learners feel free to take risks and be part of a shared context



  1. Context: creating a meaningful and relevant context for the transmission of knowledge, skills and values
The premise behind this principle is that most learning occurs naturally embedded within a context that is obvious/explicit to the learner. It is much easier to learn and practice the subskills when you have an idea of the big picture or can see the relevance of where the learning fits. Advocates of this Principle recommend the need to create holistic contexts for skills development (see, for example, Bickmore-Brand, 1989; Cambourne, 1988; Goodman, 1983; Holdaway, 1986, Smith, 1988). Cambourne (1988) developed a comprehensive set of conditions for learning, based on natural language acquisition. He notes that we accomplish incredibly complex rules of language from the cultural context into which we are born and raised. These rules, although embedded within the culture, come to us through an immersion which is "always whole, usually meaningful and in a context which makes sense or from which sense can be construed" (p. 34).

Teachers can apply this principle by:

When working with abstract concepts which don't have an obvious 'real world' relationship, show learners how the part you are working on fits into the larger picture, or where you're heading conceptually.





  1. Interest: realising the starting point for learning must be from the knowledge, skills and or values base of the learner.
The premise behind this Principle is that in order for learning to take place the learner has to connect the new information to what they already know (Cobb & Steffe, 1983; Steffe & Cobb, 1988). The difficulty for us as teachers is the idiosyncratic way each learner hooks the new information into their schema (Bickmore-Brand, 1989; Bruner, 1983; Goodman, 1983; Kelly, 1955; Piaget & Inhelder, 1969; Vygotsky, 1962). If you've ever played 'Pictionary' you'll be well aware of how individual people's thinking can be! In many cases we are discussing concepts embedded within quite distinctive terminology which needs to become part of the learner's repertoire. It is helpful if we can get to know the knowledge, skills, values and in many cases the cultural base of the learner so we can design our teaching to connect most closely to where they are coming from. A teacher using the students own language initially and building the new vocabulary onto that base will enable that learner to take on board the new ideas as part of their personal knowledge. Consequently the learning environment needs to be tolerant to a range of learning styles, allowing students to use a variety of mediums and generate their own 'rules' for working things out.

Teachers can apply this principle by:





  1. Modelling: providing opportunities to see the knowledge, skills and or values in operation by a 'significant' person
A large body of research (Barsalou, 1992; Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1993; Cazden, 1993; Gardner, 1991; Gee, 1992; Heath, 1983; Lave & Wenger, 1991; Perkins, 1992; Rogoff, 1994; Street, 1984) suggests that mastery of a knowledge/ skill or concept requires an immersion in a community of learners engaged in authentic versions of such practice. The term "situated practice" has been attached to this notion (see, for example, Barsalou, 1992; Eiser, 1994; Gee, 1992; Harre & Gillett, 1994; Margolis, 1993; Nolan, 1994).

The modelling principle refers to the influence people whom we admire can have over us when we try to take on board their knowledge, skills values and or culture (Combs,1962; Jourard, 1964, and Purkey, 1970). Observing young people's efforts to imitate their peers, sporting or media personalities clearly reinforces what a powerful learning tool this can be. Peers can be used as mentors or the teachers themselves can authentically model the concepts they are teaching. A teacher can model for the learners their own thinking strategies (see Metacognition principle) eg. solving a problem they have a need to solve, either orally or on the blackboard or overhead projector etc. The students see their teacher grappling with ideas rather than presenting everything in a highly structure logical way. Learners are often left with the impression that they should be able to master the efficient short-cuts demonstrated by teachers from the outset rather than appreciate the reality of a struggle through the meaning making process. Similarly getting students to model how they went about a problem and comparing different methods can free up a learner to adopt the model which suits their own style best.

Teachers can apply this principle by:





  1. Scaffolding: challenging learners to go beyond their current thinking, continually increasing their capacities
The premise behind the scaffolding Principle is to provide enough support to stretch the learner to the next stage of development. Ninio and Bruner (1978) have been particularly influential in their advocacy of scaffolding. They describe details of a dyad involving a mother with a young infant, in which the two are seen jointly constructing meaning, inspite of the major differences in language abilities of the two. In other words, the mother's scaffolding is at a level the child can manage and in the context of a presumably mutually satisfying interaction. As Holzman (1972) described interactions of this type: "The child finds out by the response of the adults what he is assumed to mean by what he is saying" (p. 321). Wells (1981) terms this a "negotiation of conversational meaning" (Wells, 1981, in Lehr, 1985, p. 667), observing the same interactions patterns in classrooms. As the learner grows in confidence, they take on more responsibility and roles reverse for a while and the previous scaffolding self destructs ready to have the new scaffolding put in place.

Interactionists (see, for example,Bauersfeld, 1988; 1992; 1995; Voigt, 1985; 1994; 1995) discuss the various assumptions, patterns and routines occuring during classroom discourse. Certain kinds of classroom interactions, such as "funelling" focusing, reciting, and "concrete-to-abstract" practices can have a profound effect on the quality and extent of the learning occurring in the classroom (Bauersfeld, 1995; Brousseau, Davis & Werner, 1986; Bruner, 1996; Krummheuer, 1995; Voigt, 1985; 1995). If these classroom interactions are sensitive to the learner's conceptual understandings and build on these, they have the potential to act as a scaffold for the learner.

There is no expectation that the learners will become independent learners independently. Scaffolding is essentially a hand-holding strategy, tailored to the needs of the individual and is provided at any stage when joint assistance might be beneficial for the learner's development. It will vary in difficulty and length of time.

What is being suggested in the light of the preceding principles, is that the learner's own communication be valued and the teacher, (it may be a peer 'mentor') modeling reflective language, encouraging when the learner is grappling, reshaping their expressions to clarify at times and extending in a more complex ways at others.

Teachers can apply this principle by:





  1. Metacognition: making explicit the learning processes which are occurring in the learning environment
Metacognition has been variously defined as thinking out-loud (Ericsson & Simon, 1980), being aware of one's knowledge concerning one's processing (Flavell, 1976), and self-regulatory procedures including "on line" decision-making (Palincsar & Brown, 1984). In other words it is not simply what you know, it is how you use it, when you use it and ultimately whether you choose to use it. Thus although there is no single definition of metacognition, the term is generally used when attempting to express what is going on "inside a person's head".

This teaching/learning Principle highlights the importance of encouraging students to articulate their thinking processes. It is through such articulation that students should be able to judge the soundness of their thinking. Vygotsky (1962) used the term "verbal thought" to describe how learners conduct an inner dialogue with themselves. Students, hearing the speech patterns of the teacher or peers can internalise these and make them part of their own inner speech (Vygotsky, 1978). Mead (1962) also emphasised the notion that thinking originates and develops through experience with verbalisation, and that we tend to conduct an inner dialogue with ourselves.

Asking students to think aloud can also assist the adult/expert to gain insights into possible strategies that may have prompted the "miscues" (Goodman, 1983) students make. Research suggests that students already know the extent of their misunderstanding before they seek the help of their teacher (Newman & Schwager, 1992; Rohrkemper & Bershon, 1984). There is some evidence to suggest that learners who have been identified as helpless by their teachers, actually have the needed ability and skills, but consistently display negative self-involved inner speech (D'Amico, 1986).

The issue of self-correction is an important one. It is based on the premise that learners will recognise their own errors. However, in order for this level of awareness to be developed the learner needs to have been exposed to feedback on two levels(on the one hand, internal monitoring and on the other, outside evaluation (Newman, 1988). The first form of feedback has to lead into the development of an internal mechanism, by which students can validate their meanings as well as the development of their processes of learning. In other words, they not only comprehend but have become critical thinkers. McCormack and Pancini (1990) describe "being metacognitive" as meaning that

we become aware of and responsible for the way we approach new ideas and new skills. Being metacognitive means that we do not have to be just passive victims of our past habits or experiences-we can take control of the way we go about learning. (p. 19)
Teachers can apply this principle by:



  1. Responsibility: developing in learners the capacity to accept increasingly more responsibility for their learning
This teaching/learning Principle deals with the issue of who is responsible for the learning which is occurring in the classroom. Constructivists, educators and commentators on constructivism are agreed that inevitably learners must construct their own meanings, and that this also happens in traditional education settings in which teachers attempt to transmit knowledge (see, for example, Kelly, 1955; Piaget, 1973; von Glasersfeld, 1990b). Cobb (1990a) is critical of controlled mathematical teaching which purports to make "discovery" of a concept easier for the child. He argues that "what is taught is rarely what is learned" (p. 7). Although Davis (1989) accepts that students need to be more committed to their learning, he reinforces the premis that mathematical concepts are socially constructed, (an idea which is further developed in the "community" section), and voices a concern about leaving children to do the learning entirely on their own. This tension has also been explored by Ellerton and Clements (1991) who ask the question about students, "Do they have the background to choose wisely, and how and when should the teacher guide?" (p. 57).

In order for this principle to be effective it will depend on the integration of the other principles. The idea behind giving learners responsibility for their learning is not that they are left stranded to survive or alternately to run amok in our classrooms, but that they will gradually be in a position to accept increasingly more responsibility for the curriculum.

Teachers can apply this principle by:





  1. Community: creating a supportive learning environment where learners feel free to take risks and be part of a shared context.
The classroom environment implied in the other principles seems to require a fairly special climate. One where the students find the content intrinsically motivational because they with ' significant people' are using, sharing and admiring what is being taught in a context which is meaningful to them and valued. When a shared context is created, Smith (1988) described it in what he termed a sense of belonging to a club or a community of learners. Other writers have discussed the benefits of being immersed in a community of learners (Barsalou, 1992, Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1993, Gee, 1992, Heath, 1983). Part of the assumption behind this Principle is that we will be understood by those with whom we communicate. As Holdaway, (1979) commented:
Sharing even clumsily in the skillful activity of "significant others" establishes membership in the group and fixes valuing of the skill. The resultant sense of cultural identity supports a growing assurance of personal identity as one who belongs with, and needs to master, the skill. (p. 59)
Learners feel supported in this classroom to take risks and to learn from their mistakes without any loss of dignity. Learners in this community feel empowered to negotiate the tasks. Their learning styles are valued and different levels of mastery are not only tolerated but create a scenario where the whole class can become a resource for one another, depending on which skills and abilities are needed at the time.

Burnes and Page (1985) believe that a teacher who creates and encourages a shared context in the classroom is going to be in a better position to select appropriate materials and instructional procedures. According to Burnes and Page, a shared context helps to reduce the distance between what learners bring with them to the classroom and the content of what is being taught. The classroom climate that the teacher sets up for student's learning will not only reflect what the teacher knows (e.g., about their content area), but what he/she believes about how students learn (Lubinski, Thornton, Heyl & Klass, 1994).

Teachers can apply this principle by:



Marjolein Towler - 20/08/99


Conclusion

With the move to establish closer relations between industry and universities the issues raised in this paper will become increasingly those for mainstream academics. Having a clear sense of industry standards whilst at the same time a strong understanding of pedagogy will improve the accommodation process as industry objectives get folded into theory and the university discourse of courses and programs. Ensuring a feedback loop from all the stakeholders will see a continual adaptation and refining of the content and processes. Thus the establishment of industry practices in universities need not become a fossil of the university program suite but part of a dynamic teaching and learning cycle.

Endnotes

  1. ... and quite a few other things as you would expect. In fact the unit concentrated primarily on the notion that multimedia is first and foremost a means of communicating and then developed the skills in the students to produce such a means of communication by making a website. (See H118 Unit Outline in Appendices).

  2. I do take difficult circumstances into account, but this is very much on a case-by-case basis. I do not contend with routinely given extensions to deadlines. The default option is no extensions.

  3. See MMlab Agreement in Appendices.

  4. I take into consideration the software programs that are generally regarded as Industry Standards (Adobe Photoshop, Macromedia Director).

References

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Bauersfeld, H. (1995). Language games in the mathematics classroom: Their function and their effects. In P. Cobb & H. Bauersfeld (Eds.), The emergence of mathematical meaning: Interaction in classroom cultures. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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Brousseau, G., Davis, R. B., & Werner, T. (1986). Observing students at work. In B. Christiansen, A. G. Howson & M. Otte (Eds.), Perspectives on mathematics education. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.

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Cambourne, B. (1988). The whole story: Natural learning and the acquisition of literacy in the classroom. Auckland, NZ: Ashton Scholastic p34

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Appendices

  1. List of Core Multimedia Units. http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.au/multimedia/mmpages/coreunit.htm
    including (2000)
    H118 Principles of Multimedia
    J217 Visual Communication Design
    J218 2D Animation and Authoring
    H338 3D and Digital Sound/Video
    H339 Multimedia Project

  2. Unit outlines from:
    H118 http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.au/multimedia/mmpages/h118.htm
    J217 http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.au/multimedia/mmpages/j217.htm
    J218 http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.au/multimedia/mmpages/j218.htm
Please cite as: Bickmore-Brand, J. and Towler, M. (2000). Developing a multimedia degree: Course development from an industry perspective. In A. Herrmann and M.M. Kulski (Eds), Flexible Futures in Tertiary Teaching. Proceedings of the 9th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 2-4 February 2000. Perth: Curtin University of Technology. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2000/bickmore-brand.html


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