Overview Decide Design Deliver Evaluate

A. Media Development
B. Classroom Management and Configuration
C. Facilitating a Multimedia Activity


B. Classroom Management and Configuration

The configuration and management of a multimedia activity will vary, based upon the number of available computers (and other hardware), the grouping strategy, and other factors. In this section, we will examine some of the possibilities for setting up activities in the following configurations:

  • Classrooms with laptops (individual or small group activities)
  • Computer labs with desktop computers (individual or small group activities)
  • One-computer classrooms (learning stations or rotating groups)
  • Classrooms with several computers (rotating group activities)


Classrooms with Laptops or iPods

With the advent of laptop computers and wireless network connections, it is now feasible to use several laptops or iPods in a classroom, take them on field trips, and send them home with students. Used appropriately, they can engage students in project-based learning and multimedia activities, as the students participate in data collection, brainstorming, or production projects.

The Laptop Learning Challenge by the National Science Teachers Association listed several advantages for using laptop computers in educational settings, including:

  • Portable within the school, outside the classroom
  • Portable for field trips and investigations
  • Provide immediate data processing and graphic feedback
  • Immediate feedback and analysis allows next-step decision making in the field
  • Allow file-sharing
  • Facilitate group work and collaboration
  • Generate reports and presentations
  • Flexible and inventive uses
  • Access to expert resources on the Internet or through email

Depending on how many laptops you have and the goals of the lesson, they can be used individually by students, in cooperative groups, or in large group activities. The opportunities to use laptop computers as an integral part of educational activities are endless. Unfortunately, the potential for off-task behavior (such as surfing the net) also exists. Teachers need to adopt classroom management techniques designed to avoid problems and ensure appropriate use of the computers. Consider the following options that have been successfully implemented in wireless classroom:

  • Do not tolerate the mis-use of laptops.
  • Designate "Think Time" or "Lids Down" time when students must direct their attention to the teacher or facilitator
  • Plan ahead for re-charging batteries.
  • Install identical software programs.
  • Set up shortcuts to software programs.
  • Ask students to save files in a specific directory.

For more ideas on laptops in the classroom, review the following links:

Computer Labs

There are both advantages and disadvantages to having computers in a separate lab environment. There may be technical assistance in a lab for trouble-shooting the computers, installing the software, and helping the students. In addition a lab (as opposed to one computer in each classroom) allows more students simultaneous access.

However, the time in a computer lab is generally quite limited. If this is the configuration at your school, you may have to be more structured in your approach to multimedia activities. In other words, if you only have access to the lab for 40 minutes each week, it may be difficult to engage the students in long term projects. However, that does not mean that you cannot benefit from multimedia in your curriculum -- just plan ahead (have the students create storyboards and concept maps in the classroom), make sure they are aware of the goals and procedures before going to the lab, and structure short-term projects that can be continued in the classroom (without computers).

One Computer Classrooms

Although it can be challenging to conduct multimedia activities if you have only one computer in the classroom, there are strategies that can maximize student access. In addition to using the computer as a presentation tool (for the teacher and students), it can function as a learning/research center or as a development station for small groups.

Class Presentation Tool. If a projection unit or TV converter is available, the computer can be used as a presentation tool for you or the students. This allows you to demonstrate, provide and use technology-enhanced teaching techniques. In addition, students can showcase their projects and present them to the class.

Research/Learning Center. One option is to use the computer as a component in a learning/research center, where students can access multimedia encyclopedias, the Internet, and application software (such as spreadsheets, concept mapping tools, and word processors). Working individually or in small groups, during class time or "free" time, students could use the computer for research, data collection, publishing, and media production, and many other activities.
Development Station. If you are conducting a multimedia activity in which several small groups must have access to a computer (and you only have one computer), you'll need to create a rotational schedule and make sure the students without a computer are engaged in another facet of the activity. For example, one group may be conducting research through "traditional" means, another group may be brainstorming or writing their storyboards, and other groups may be using a digital camera, scanner, or camcorder.

For more ideas on using a computer in a one-computer classroom, review the following links:

Classrooms with several computers 

If your classroom has several computers, you can use them as presentation tools, learning centers, development stations, or a combination of configurations. Unlike a computer lab, a classroom with several computers will have computers available whenever the students need them, enabling "teachable moments" throughout the day. In addition, students will be able to leave projects that are "in progress" on classroom computers, knowing that other classes will not be using the computers. Computers in the classroom provide more flexibility than going to a computer lab, but less flexibility than having laptops available for students.

Many researchers agree that a minimum of three computers in the classroom is needed to ensure that every students gets some time at the computer during a single classroom period -- obviously, the more computers, the better -- especially if the class is large. The number of computers and students in your classroom will determine how large the groups must be or how many rotations of groups it will take for every group (or every student) to have time on the computer. While students are waiting for their group's turn at a computer, they can work on related, non-computer tasks. For example, some groups may be collecting data, while others are inputting the data into spreadsheets.

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This course was developed in partnership between the Pinellas School
and the Florida Center for Instructional Technology at USF.
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