a Multimedia Authoring environmenT
(an INCO -COPERNICUS European Community Program)
S.Triantafillou, Pliroforiki Technognosia
J. Pixton, Longman Logotron, United Kingdonm
K. Kallenbach, A.W. Bruna Informatica, Netherlands
I. Kallas, Comenius University, Slovakia
M. Turcsányine, Eötvös University, Hungary
P. Pintelas, University of Patras,Greece
I. Nikolova, University of Sofia, Bulgaria
The introduction of new technologies of information in schools is expected to radically change the prevailing teaching procedures. These technologies offer adequate support for a paradigm shift from Instructionism to Constructionism where computers are used in the curriculum in radically new ways. School environments urge for stimulating and learning educational software, that meets the adventurous expectations and the cognitive demands of the young students. Teachers, on the other hand, require that computer technology equips them with simple and functional learning tools in order to organise learning environments. Developers want to create environments which are efficient and easily manipulated by students and teachers, and parents seek qualitative educational software in order to limit the impact of computer games.
Several projects on enhancing the quality of computer-supported education have been put to work world-wide, on a national or private scale. The most notable is probably the Instructional Software Design Project (ISDP) in order to study the young students learning process, as it takes place when they develop complete software packages, or use such packages developed by other children.
There are several reasons for having children design and implement courseware that will be used by other children. Design is a complete, holistic process; it promotes analytical thought, motivates learning and helps the formation of associations between emotional and cognitive elements. These efforts attempt to beat the exponential "learning curve" by enabling designers (which are learners at the same time) to almost immediately see a concrete return on their energy effort investments.
Similar efforts are under development in other countries . Most of the tools used for this purpose are Logo based (such as LogoWriter, Lego-Logo, WinLogo, PC Logo, StarLogo, Comenius Logo etc.), while others are complete programming environments (such as KidSim, Microworlds, Boxer, Digital Playground etc.).
To the consortium view, however, these efforts have two major drawbacks:
In order to overcome these drawbacks, it was decided by the consortium to develop MATCh. A Logo based kernel was chosen because Logo has a very deep tradition in education. It is the first and, in a way, still the only computer environment and programming tool designed for children. However, the hardware and software possibilities have grown considerably since Logo was born. And Logo, in most of its realisations, did not catch up with this growth. Children meet with computers everywhere nowadays, at home, at school or outside the school. Very often their first experience is a professional computer game. Then, it should not be surprising that they do not like an educational environment without high quality colour, graphics, sounds and all other multimedia support.
The particular implementation of Logo that will be adapted to the project needs (the Comenius Logo) is a strong modern Logo for Windows with the capability to fully support multimedia features. Although pure Logo educational philosophy is maintained, all historical restrictions were removed - there is no practical restriction on the number of turtles, graphics modes etc. The openness of this Logo environment is stressed: not only procedures and values of variables can be handled by children, but also images and animation (i.e. children can easily create their own images (pictures) and use them as actual shapes of turtles).
Soon it was realised that with such strong Logo environment a vast area of new applications opens in front of children: now the mode of work is completely changing. The result of childrens work is not obtained after the turtle finishes its drawing on the screen, the result is the process itself. Children have dozens of turtles of different shapes on the screen, they define their behaviour, their interactions, they develop a microworld (an educational environment). That is why it is claimed that Comenius Logo is an educational environment for developing educational environments.
The project proposes two further improvements: support of interactive multimedia (images, sound, animation), and networking. All these features are indispensable in order to overcome the "page-turning architecture" of early educational software. Creating educationally effective multimedia programs means to invest on the pedagogic approach of "learning-by-doing". Good educational software is active, not passive, and ensures that users are doing, not simply watching. Consequently, children-oriented multimedia environments should be designed for compatibility with children's powerful learning mechanisms, which of course, are not formal, but rather visual.
The aim of the project is to design, develop and test a multimedia authoring environment for children. This long-term, applied R&D effort will set up conditions for intensive collaboration among research teams in CCE and EU and promote the state-of-the-art in a subject of mutual interest such as applying multimedia technologies in education.
More specifically, the project will deliver:
In this way, the project aims at achieving the following objectives:
During the first meeting of the consortium it was decided that MATCh should incorporate the following tools:
And the current view of developing Microworlds inside MATCh:
In addition, computer is basically a tool that enhances communication. Networking activities already occupy a significant portion of peoples schedule. Todays youngsters will have to survive in an environment where networking and information filtering will be everyday practice. Studies published in the US show a sharp increase in the figures of children involved in networking activities , while educational networking projects also exist in other countries .
To summarise, the main goal of our proposed project is to provide children, students and teachers with very strong - and still very natural - environment to develop and use computer multimedia educational environments (microworlds). This approach is based on our conviction and prior experience that childrens creativity, skills and personality can grow considerably if they freely choose the role of developers, not the role of users. Cross-curricular and inter-cultural computer activities are the most favourable topics for young developers. Their thinking goes across boundaries between cultures, between ages, between nations. They are able to communicate, to cooperate and to share their work with any other young people anywhere. We deeply believe that information technologies - used in education in such a motivating way - is an excellent contribution to European dimension of education. Developing a powerful tool for future young developers is an example of the promise of dissemination par excellence.