Digital content in an educational context

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In this contributed piece, Tony Graham of MELTEC narrates his experiences of digital content as part of a pilot project with Kingston University.

Many of the discussions and developments in the world of “e-learning” appear to revolve around learning environments or content which is compliant with the standards, which are, often changing. Very little is said about the implications and challenges facing the implementation of teaching/learning programmes within a digital environment.

MELTEC in association with Kingston University and St Mary’s College, Strawberry Hill embarked on a pilot project to explore the design and application of multimedia and e-learning in an educational context.
Through this project we hoped to raise awareness of the use of multimedia, facilitate the evaluation of existing materials and enable participants to plan, develop and apply multimedia resources in their own teaching.

The programme consisted of fourteen 2 hour sessions. Approximately half of these were used to deliver an introduction to the basic elements utilised in a multimedia environment namely: the integration and manipulation of digital image, sound and video within a multimedia authoring environment. The remaining time was spent developing a small component of a programme of study that would ultimately be delivered through a digital medium.

Teachers, very rapidly, became conversant with the language and technology associated with “e-learning”, via series of evaluation activities. Once they had appreciated what could be achieved through the use of such technology, they quickly formulated a vast array of possible ideas for the use of the technology within the context of their specialist subjects within the National Curriculum.

As a team facilitating this development we faced many hurdles related to the wide variety of hardware and software in schools today. In many cases software versions and software conflicts created difficulties, in particular the incompatibility with peripheral ‘plug-ins’
Management and security of networks, in many cases, limited the use of the technology. The group showed an excellent perspective on how digital content had the potential to have a significant impact on the quality of teaching and learning. However, lack of resources related to image capture and manipulation meant that realising this potential was almost impossible.

What has become clear is that digital content has a significant role to play within education and training. Development of digital content that targets aspects of the curriculum that are currently difficult to deliver is extremely important. The technology offers a significant amount of flexibility to incorporate appropriate and relevant materials that would otherwise be almost impossible to include in a teaching scheme.

This project has highlighted that digital content will be one of the important elements of a teachers “tool kit” for use in an effective learning environment.
We have also identified that, to make this a reality, teachers require time to develop an understanding of the potential digital media offers, in addition to training in the effective use of the medium.

It is highly unlikely that digital content will replace teachers but it will certainly contribute to improved delivery in terms of quality and consistency.

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