Maps and Multimedia

 

Multimedia Definition

Multimedia needs to be put into context for the purpose of this paper. In its simplest form, multimedia involves the use of any combination of two or more of the following: text, image, sound and film/video. These could be delivered in a number of different formats i.e., slide projector, audio, computer, phone, video via fibre-optic phone lines, VCR etc., and may not necessarily be interactive.

From the author's viewpoint, which is within the area of computer based education, the definition of multimedia will be:

The integration and delivery of learning using a multidisciplinary approach via text, images and sound within a graphical user interface

Education and Interactivity

An important issue in any teaching/learning process is the consideration of pedagogical learning styles being applied. In one of their modes, image maps are in a sense, a type of concept map. Concept maps in one form or another have been used in education for a long while; their main function is to visually represent knowledge of an area or subject. Joseph Novak made a study of concept maps using the theories of Ausubel (1968) who described meaningful learning as "involving the assimilation of new concepts and propositions into existing cognitive structures" (Ausubel, 1968). "They include concepts, usually enclosed in circles or boxes of some type, and relationships between propositions, indicated by a connecting line between two concepts. The concepts, and sometimes the links, are labelled on a concept map". (Novak, 1993)

By interpreting the ideas described by Novak and the author's earlier discussions on image maps, it seems logical to suggest that concept maps and image maps have very similar functions. Therefore, for the purposes of the investigation into image maps and learning, concept maps and image maps will be discussed together.

Maps on the web are often used in the same way as road maps as a means of navigation. By expanding on this premise, it could be argued that maps are also used with an educational perspective. Concept maps are, arguably, tools used for organising and representing knowledge, facilitating the use of cognitive skills and spatial awareness. They are a type of diagram that lend themselves to visualisation; although they could include text, they give the learner the ability to think about the framework they are working with, in a similar notion as that of Chatelain, when he described an ordinary map centuries before the evolution of the World Wide Web; in his words "the map is a help provided to the imagination through the eyes" (Chatelain, 1705).

Interactivity in learning is "a necessary and fundamental mechanism for knowledge acquisition and the development of both cognitive and physical skills" (Barker, 1994). If this statement is applied to computer based learning, it could be interpreted that using a multimedia experience could have a positive impact on student learning. This supposition could be supported by the interpretation of other theorist views, such as Skinner (behaviourism) - the interaction of the individual and the sense of a dynamic field which determines experience and behaviour; and Kurt Lewin (Gestalt theory) - the organisation of perception, how things are grouped and linked together to form patterns, the use of diagrams to 'see the picture as a whole'. In this way the learners function as designers using technologies as tools for analysing the world, accessing information, interpreting and organising their personal knowledge (Jonassen,1996). As with all theories and writings, there are always opposing opinions; the instructional design model proposed by Gagné does not seemingly agree with Jonassen's emphasis on the construction of knowledge by the learner's own investigations, Gagné suggests that there should be an inherent sequence of instruction for learning to take place.

When considering instructional design in web pages, the main feature of using HTML is its ability to link text or graphics to another document or section, either on your own site or anywhere on the web. Hyperlinks are text and graphics that are used to display other Web pages. When you use your mouse to click on a hyperlink (usually words in blue that are underlined), the appropriate Web page will be displayed. Many pages are designed with hyperlinks that enable you to move within a Web page or move from one Web page to another. Hyperlinks can change colour after clicking on them to indicate that it is a followed link.

It could be argued that by using HTML to form image maps within the content of a web page the designer is promoting simple levels of interactivity, which enable multiple representations of reality, this indeed, was proposed by Jonassen (1994) in his framework for developing programmes of study based on constructivist theories. From a scientific perspective of teaching of Atmospheric Science on the web, Love (1995) describes these 'multiple representations of reality' as using animated satellite and radar imagery linked with appropriate text explanations and simulation questions; he suggests, advanced interactivity can be achieved using image maps. HTML is used to combine the differing types of material; the author would suggest the links used in this learning experience could be effected by using HTML to form an image map in a web page. Phillips (1996) discusses uses of interactive multimedia and benefits of the application of technology when the more conventional methods of teaching are not appropriate:

In each of these cases the author suggests the interactive learning could be enhanced by the utilisation of image mapping.

Novak supports the use of concept mapping in planning a programme of learning by suggesting they help to make the instruction 'conceptually transparent' to the student.

"Many students have difficulty in identifying and constructing powerful concept and propositional frameworks, leading them to see science learning as a blur of myriad facts or equations to be memorised. If concept maps are used in planning instruction and students are also required to construct maps as they are learning, previously unsuccessful students can become successful in making sense out of science and acquiring a feeling of control over the matter" (Bascones & Novak; cited by Novak, 1993)

Barker (1994) suggests 'ideas and experience obtained with one type of system can often be beneficially 'carried across' to the other'. He suggests using a 'basic principle of interactivity the principle being applied to either student-tutor interactions or student-program interactions'. This suggestion has arguably, been expanded upon, by the authors of a relatively new web search engine. http://www.kartoo.com (figure 4)

 

(figure 5)

The graphical interface uses concept mapping as the navigational tool, with various hierarchy levels. Unfortunately there seem to be problems with the site (figure 6) This could be interpreted in various ways: either the site has proved very popular - the interface perhaps having an effect on the popularity or the site is just unable to cope with normal demand. The evidence though is rather unsubstantial as there are no dates or other information.

 

(Figure 6)

One drawback is the time taken for the graphics to download, although the site includes options to use an HTML list version and various choices for background colours, links and views. (Figure 7 & 8) This is an important consideration, any media on the World Wide Web needs to be universally accessible. Indeed, as Nielsen (2000) suggests; 'design rules that may have been intended to help users with disabilities end up being of benefit to all users'.

 

(Figure 7)

 

 

(figure 8)

Many Internet surfers are unable to view, hear or make sense of pages due to visual, hearing or learning disabilities. Burgstahler (1998) suggests technology can play an important role in increasing independence, participation and productivity of people with disabilities. It would therefore be pertinent to take the design of the image or concept map into consideration. The above images (Figures 7 & 8) show that some planning and thought has been taken towards the design, especially with the HTML alternatives provided to ensure that the information is accessible to all.

Jakob Nielsen (2000) suggests "simplified navigation helps all users, but it's a required enabler for users at the opposite extreme of the scales. People who have difficulty visualising the structure of information can be helped if the site designers have produced such a visualisation for them in the form of a sitemap".

At this point it is worth noting from a technical aspect, the navigation arrows in this paper have been enhanced with the use of javascript mouse-over which assists the visual control of navigating through the web pages. To facilitate this visual effect an additional set of javascript code is present within the existing HTML coding for each page.

Javascript is a client-side scripting language that is integrated into HTML, it can be placed into the head or the body of the document. It can enhance the dynamic and interactive features of a web page such as information about links, mouse-over effects, and allow feedback to the user by creating responses to specific actions. An example of these actions could be multiple choice questions, quizzes and check forms (questionnaires). The use of this programming language would take the interactive multimedia features of a web page to a more advanced level.