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Evaluating Multimedia Programs Running head: EVALUATING MULTIMEDIA PROGRAMS

Evaluating Multimedia Programs Benjamin Stewart TEC 545 Sherrie Gurule September 17, 2006

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Evaluating Multimedia Programs Abstract Evaluating multimedia programs was examined as it pertains to a collegiate languagelearning lab. This lab supports language students who are preservice teachers and students who need to improve their second language proficiency for academic requirements or for personal self-improvement. An interview was conducted with the director of technology that explained that the success of a language lab depends on two forms of support: financial and technical (hardware, software, and pedagogy). Even though the language lab currently is filling a vital need in the area of second language acquisition, findings show that this particular language lab could benefit from having additional support in both areas.

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Evaluating Multimedia Programs Evaluating multimedia programs, such as sound and full-motion video in computer applications (Dictionary.com, 2006), within a language lab can help determine how strengths and weaknesses influence the success or failure of providing an additional resource to language acquisition. Multimedia educators and language learners alike benefit from having a level of technological knowledge so that the educational atmosphere can be enhanced. Specifically, hypermedia formats that can be utilized within the language lab framework include encyclopedia reference, specific subject mater reference, analysis of a domain, case study, construction set, edutainment, museum, and archive (Alessi & Trollip, 2001, p. 142). The combination of resources and support is needed for that technology works seamlessly throughout the instruction, evaluation, and curriculum stages of the educational design. Alessi & Trollip mention various principals that support the constructivist view as it pertains to technology. In language learning the most important are emphasis on active learning, the use of authentic material, and supports learner reflection (Alessi & Trollip, 2001, p. 32). Method This study was conducted through an interview process with the director of technology of a language-learning lab at a local university. He has been working as director of the language lab for three years and also offers technical support for the Asociaci贸n Mexicana de Maestros de Ingl茅s, Mextesol A.C. (MEXTESOL) annual meetings. He manages eight tutors and five technicians that offer support to language learners and teachers both within and beyond the language lab. Moreover, he controls


Evaluating Multimedia Programs statistical information through the use of technology that monitors how the language lab is being used (i.e., user times, area times, etc.). The language lab supports Mexican learners (i.e., high school to adult students) that are studying English, French, Italian, and German as a second language, either on a curriculum-based or continuing education basis. The lab contains the following areas: reading, conversational club, audiovisual, and computer. Language learners maintain personal folders that contain reflection documents pertaining to their own personal learning goals along with worksheets that show their progress. The lab is a resource for language learners that are expected to choose their own paths to better their secondlanguage skills. Tutor and technical support are available to them as needed. What follows are the results of an interview that I conducted based on a series of predetermined questions (see Appendix A) in an effort to gain a better understanding as to what criteria is involved when determining the role of technology in an educational environment. Results The criteria used for choosing educational software depend on cost, educational value, and user friendliness. Expenditures for language lab software depend on the availability of funds so cost is always a major factor when considering the acquisition of software. The educational software must offer a variety of academic level practice so that it can be useful to a broad learner base. The software must be appealing and easy to use for the learner; otherwise they will be less inclined to use it. Audiovisual equipment must have broad appeal. Movies should include a wide range of genres and should include stories that expose a variety of cultural settings.

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Audiotapes too should include stories that address movie actors, sport figures, and politicians in a variety of countries so students are learning about culture while they practice a second language. The technology director (TD) uses this method when deciding what material to add to the language lab. Again, cost is an additional factor in the decision-making process as well. The language lab offers an excellent means of studying a second language outside the classroom. The Internet has numerous websites that offer help to language learners that are learning English, for example. Some Appendix B for helpful English-as-aSecond-Language (ESL) websites. The language lab does not currently offer support to teachers in addressing specifically how to implement technology within the classroom. This is an area that the TD plans to confront in the future in an effort to improve its language lab support to educators. Technical support is offered to language learners through guided tours and on an as-needed basis. Support is generally limited to only hardware because there is no prescreening of software knowledge when hiring technicians or tutors for the lab. The TD would like to offer formal software training to technicians and tutors in the future so additional support can be offered to both educators and language learners. The greatest obstacle that the TD faces when acquiring additional technology is the availability of funds. The university appropriates its funds as part of its annual budget and in order for funds to be properly appropriated, there has to be need. Therefore, the TD must plan the allocation of these funds sometimes more than a year in advance. The problem is that technology changes so rapidly (along with costs), that it is difficult to


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know exactly what technology will be available and at what cost 12 to 18 months before material or equipment is procured. In additional to the educational software, the language lab used databases and spreadsheets as part of a customized computer system that helps them monitor how the lab is being used. Each language learner uses his or her swipe card to keep track of when they “clock in” and “clock out”. There are also refection and feedback forms that students fill out that detect what areas are used most often and how to improve the language lab as a whole. This information is entered into a database and tracked each semester. The technology director uses this information when demand supports the need for additional resources. The technology director also mentions that next semester that all the worksheets that are currently in paper form, will be available should a centralized computer system that students can access directly. All the worksheets can be submitted through this same system and can also be accessed by the teacher. This move from paper to electronic form will save time and money for both the student and teacher. The main problem the LL has with technology is computer viruses. With so many users at one machine (all with Internet access), the probability of viruses is a serious threat. Even though antivirus software is installed on all the computers, it still does not offer full protection. Also, spam and adware programs can reek havoc on a computer is not properly controlled. Discussion This interview supports my original notion that the current language lab is a vital asset to the language acquisition process but it depends on many people to assure its success. It depends on administrators to assure that sufficient funds are available in a


Evaluating Multimedia Programs timely fashion so material can be acquired. It depends on educators’ knowledge of how to implement technology both inside and outside the classroom. Finally, it depends on the level of support from within the language lab so that language learners get the help they need to achieve their goals. The overall strengths of the lab are its current use of computers, audiovisual equipment, and its stress of cognitive-based learning. The weaknesses include the need to gain more interactive language learning software, more movies that depict a wider range of cultural diversity, and more support to educators in how to implement technology inside and outside the classroom. If the educators lack this knowledge, the greatest lab in the world will only have limited success since it will not be used to its fullest extent.

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Evaluating Multimedia Programs References Alessi, S., Trolip, S. (2001). Multimedia for Learning: Methods and Development (3rd Edition). Boston, Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon. Dictionary.com. (2006). Retrieved on September 17, 2006 from http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=multimedia

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Appendix A 1. What criteria do you following in choosing educational software for language learning purposes? 2. What criteria do you following in choosing audio-visual technology for language learning purposes (i.e., movies, audiotapes, etc.)? 3. How is educational software best used in the classroom? 4. How is audiovisual technology best used in the classroom? 5. How is educational software best used outside the classroom? 6. How is audiovisual technology best used outside the classroom? 7. Is technical support offered to educators? If so, how? 8. Is technical support offered to language learners? If so, how? 9. What are some obstacles you face in obtaining the technology you need to improve the language lab. 10. What other forms of technology do you use that contributes to the educational environment? 11. What other forms of technology do you plan to use in the future that will improve the educational environment? 12. How is technology used in general within the language lab that contributes to its success or failure? 13. What are some external limitations that hinder the use of technology as it pertains to the educational environment? 14. As a technology director, what do you do to keep up with the latest in technology to help you make informed decisions as it pertains to the language lab?


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15. As an educator, what can I do to keep up with the latest in technology as it pertains to the language classroom?


Evaluating Multimedia Programs Appendix B http://www.englishpage.com/index.html http://www.eslcafe.com/ http://a4esl.org/ http://www.eslflow.com/ http://www.eslpartyland.com/ http://www.eslsite.com/index.html http://esl.about.com/ http://www.englishclub.com/ http://www.englishforum.com/00/directory.html http://jade-2.persianblog.com/ http://members.aol.com/eslkathy/esl.htm http://www.englishraven.com/Main.html http://english-zone.com/index.php http://www.everythingesl.net/ http://www.smic.be/smic5022/ http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/ http://www.esl-lab.com/ http://www.teflgames.com/games.html

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Evaluating mutimedia programs