Teaching C R A P: multimedia learning, UDL and GDT in teacher education and in schools

Design BookHappy New Year – first post for 2016!

While I was in the US in late 2015 I taught two short doctoral courses: one in Multimedia Design for Learning and the other Multimedia Production for Learning in the School of Education at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia.

The first course was all about how multimedia can influence learning; there were opportunities to explore relevant aspects of research on Multimedia Learning (ML), Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Graphic Design Theory (GDT).

In the second course, students drew on the research principles to design, produce, and critique multimedia learning materials; students had to select and utilize appropriate multimedia tools including presentation, design, and publishing and production software. In total, the courses were 25 hours of f2f teaching plus lots of opportunities to engage online. What the grad students produced was superb – beautiful blogs, graphic timelines, posters, and animations – all integrating the principles learned in both courses. Worth just 1 credit point each what I liked about doctoral courses in the US (one of many things) is that these units are taken alongside preparing for writing a dissertation. And … that is the subject of a whole other conversation.

WilliamSince that time I have thought more about how ML, UDL and GDT could be included in all teacher education programs in Australia (and I acknowledge that a few already do – although not always linked to practice in schools for example) but also in primary and secondary school education. This should not be a topic or set of skills and understandings that only doctoral students in education get to do …

Now you might say … just one more thing to include in already crowded school agendas. However, if we are going to improve the quality of what students in schools, for example, are publishing when it comes to videos, images and presentations then it is not too hard with consideration of the C R A P principles (stands for Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity) in GDT to make what students produce 100000% +++ better. Such principles could be a list to check off just prior to presenting work or adding to a final product on a school blog, wiki or class slideshow. If we start including these simple ideas early on, then by the time students are in high school the quality of what they publish will be excellent.

The book to assist you to know more about C R A P is The Non Designers Design Book by Robin Williams (2015 – 4th edition) – recommend buying the e-book. In Chapter 1 Williams shares the Joshua tree epiphany: “once you know about you see it everywhere – you are conscious of it – you own it”.

UDLI appreciate some details of ML, UDL and GDT are included in the NSW Information and Technology Stage 6 syllabus for instance … but should it only be the domain of an elective – all students and dare I say adults would benefit from knowing something about GDT – reality being that at some stage we present our work and ideas at conferences, staff meetings, lectures and seminars.

In HPC research conducted in two secondary schools in Sydney in early 2015 a group of Year 7 students at one of the sites were doing a terrific project on redesigning a space for boys learning (upcoming peer-reviewed papers about this inquiry). Students worked really well together in small groups to complete the weeklong task and on the final day presented their designs to peers, teachers and parents. The ideas were good but what they had achieved was really let down by the quality of what they published – most used a PowerPoint slideshow in a software blogging tool.

deathOne teacher engaged in facilitating the project said afterwards in an interview: “The presentations were weakthere wasn’t as much critical thinking as I would have liked. XXXX was not the best tool to present with and the students did not really take on their roles as designers, architects, and creators – they were still students and peer assessment using XXXX (name of another digital tool) would have been better”.

There are too many … not so great PowerPoints out there. We have all seen them – we have all heard the death by Powerpoint refrain … it’s not the tool so much as how it’s used … she cried!

Slides crammed with text, small font, no alignment and tricky/unreadable colour choices.

Why do people still do that?

So maybe in 2016, we can all become familiar with C R A P and own what we share with our colleagues in public forums; whether that be a short video, presentation using an app or the design for a brochure or a business card. Let’s lead the way in education. Switch students onto C R A P. Have a look at the clear examples in Williams – show and discuss them with your students too.

As for ML and UDL – if you want to dive in much further – Richard Mayer’s research and theorising in Multimedia Learning and his videos are fab. He explains his 12 ML principles here. For UDL, start with Rose Meyer’s book Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice.  The time is right with so many conversations happening around design thinking and supporting every child’s learning. This blog post here from New Zealand educator Chrissie Butler on UDL is very useful.

JudiAnd, my colleagues at the College of William and Mary – both professors of educational technology who know far more about Markthis than I do – Mark Hofer and Judi Harris – see Mark’s blog here.

Let me know how you go with C R A P – I dare you …