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Multimedia Learning suggested by Susan Brown

As part of the Ragged Library, Susan Brown – School of Education, University of Manchester suggested Mayer, R. (2009) Multimedia Learning: Second Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press…

According to many digital pundits we are moving into a multimedia age. The age dominated by written text (either printed or on screen) is ceding to an age where increasing bandwidth and, connectedly, software innovations are spawning sophisticated graphical and multimedia interfaces. Games, immersive virtual Worlds, three dimensional video graphics are all forging pathways back to multimedia worlds.

Multimedia learning

There are, no doubt, numerous teachers who would argue that we never left those worlds. Teachers, they say, have always used visuals, graphs, photographs etc and aural tracks to help develop their students’ thinking. A stroll round Manchester Museum the other day reminded me of the sophisticated three D models that lecturers have used in the past to convey to students aspects of the world not readily accessible to the human eye, models you can touch, take apart, look inside.  Multimedia has been a part of many a learner’s experience.

This said, the digital age is offering significant opportunities for teachers and learners alike to create powerful learning content with multimedia. The relative ease with which both teachers and learners can now create and edit sound files, videos and animation and the significant possibilities for creating interactive multimedia learning content is likely to ensure increasing exposure to multimedia learning. The opportunities are there but this does not mean they are always effectively exploited by educators. Standards of multimedia learning content are very variable. Sometimes you see very sophisticated ‘wow factor’ technical content but with little evidence of understanding of the ways that people learn.  Or you see multimedia content which though it has the seeds of thoughtful pedagogy makes rudimentary errors in usability.

This is where Richard Mayer’s book Multimedia Learning (2009: Second edition) comes in. It offers a rich but pithy guide to crafting multimedia materials that can facilitate learning. Starting with a useful summary of different ways of construing the nature of multimedia, it goes on to explore the potential of multimedia for learning and also the potential pitfalls. We have, Mayer points out, limited capacity for dealing with a lot of multimedia information in one go.  Our facility to process different combinations of written text, aural text and pictures, are not as significant as we might think. Mayer lays out principles for dealing with those limitations for the reader and for making the most of the potential of multimedia for learning. These are rules of thumb rather than edicts for effective learning. They can guide not only teachers in multimedia learning design, but also anyone using multimedia to engage others.

Multimedia learning is one of those books you keep on your shelf and dip into. It needs to be read in conjunction with many other texts on multimedia but it is a very good starting point for doing so.

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