PBL Home Page

Outline of These Materials

1. Future of ICT in Education

2. Learning Goals in a PBL Lesson

3. What is ICT-Assisted PBL?

4. Planning a PBL Lesson

5. Authoring a Hypermedia Document

6. Timeline and Milestones

7. Assessment

8. FAQ and Conclusions

References

Send Email to Website Author Dave Moursund

Part 5: Authoring a Hypermedia Document

Authoring hypermedia is a complex, challenging, and time consuming task, quite a bit different from authoring linear text documents.

In ICT-Assisted PBL it is common to have students develop a hypermedia document to represent and to present the work they have done on the project. This section discusses some of the steps needed to develop a good quality hypermedia document.

A common mistake that teachers make is to assume that their students will not need much instruction or help in developing a multimedia project. So, the teacher focuses on the content, and leaves the students to struggle with the multimedia.

An alternative mistake is to do just the opposite. The teacher has in mind that the students will learn some content, such as history, science, or health. But, as the project gets started, essential all of the instructional time and student effort goes into multimedia. The content receives little of no emphasis.

Your lesson may include specific instruction on each goal in the lesson. This part of the workshop mainly focuses on just one of the possible goals in an ICT-Assisted PBL lesson—students developing a hypermedia document as an aid to effective communication in presenting the work they have done. We will look at what might be involved in helping a student learning to develop and developing a hypermedia document. Note that the hypermedia document might be used in an oral presentation or might be a stand alone document that constitutes the product in a project.

Authoring Good Quality Multimedia is Difficult

The specific purpose of this component of the workshop is to help convince participants that developing a hypermedia document that communicates effectively is a very complex task. Think about how long it takes a student to learn to write effectively. (Most students are still relatively poor writers by the time they get to college.) Now, think about what is involved in learning to develop effective nonlinear interactive documents that include text, sound, graphics, color, and video. This is a very complex environment for communication, and includes "text" as just one part. If most students have not learned to communicate effectively in written text after 12 years of precollege instruction, you might expect that it will take your students quite awhile to learn to communicate effectively in a hypermedia environment!

Research in Cognitive Science indicates that teaching is often ineffective because students lack needed prerequisite knowledge. In addition, they have not "learned to learn" the specific discipline under consideration. The activity given below focuses on this topic.

Individual and small group activity. Think about Goals 1 and 2 in your ICT-Assisted PBL lesson. They focus on the content area and ICT as a component of the content area. What prerequisite knowledge and skills do the students need to be adequately prepared to begin work on achieving these two goals? How can you tell if your students have the prerequisite knowledge and skills? What might you do to provide remedial help for those who are not adequately prepared to take this next step in learning the content area? Share your thinking within a small group.

Authoring Hypermedia Documents

One of the goals in an ICT-Assisted PBL lesson might be for students to gain increased knowledge and skill in creating a hypermedia document that reflects the work they have done on the project. A good source of general information on designing effective documents is: My Design Primer [Online]. Accessed 4/5/03: http://www.mydesignprimer.com/index.html.

The students in your course may be skilled in developing hypermedia documents, and you may be skilled both in assisting students engaged in such an activity, and then in assessing their work. Typically, however, both your students and you are likely to be novices in such endeavors. Thus, you will be learning together.

Both you and your students will have read/used a number of hypermedia documents. This "reading" of hypermedia documents can serve as a beginning for understanding what aspects of a hypermedia document make it communicate effectively. What aspects tend to make a hypermedia document communicate poorly? You and your students will want to spend time browsing the Web to find examples of well designed and poorly designed Websites.

As a faculty member, you have a high level of expertise in your content area and in teaching your content area. Research suggests that there is considerable transfer of learning from such expertise to you (as a novice ICT-Assisted PBL teacher) learning a new teaching method.

And, for both you and your students, there is some transfer of learning between writing linear text, and writing (producing) a hypermedia document. On the other hand, if you are not a good writer, you have to overcome this difficulty in order to write well in a hypermedia environment.

The following material is adapted from the work of Dr. Irene Smith and Dr. Sharon Yoder at the University of Oregon. They are in the process of writing a book on the topic of learning to communicate effectively in hypermedia. The intent of this portion of the workshop is to suggest that it takes a great deal of knowledge, skill, and experience to be good at developing a hypermedia document.

1. Introduction

  1. Hypermedia defined: interactive, nonlinear, multimedia
  2. Show examples
  3. Discuss authoring versus reading
  4. Discuss reading as an aid to learning authoring
  5. Content and design share equal roles in effective communication in a hypermedia document

2. Starting on a Topic by Creating a List of Questions

A major concern is getting an appropriate balance between a teacher-selected and teacher-centered project, and a student-selected and student-centered project. As students develop in age, maturity, and self-sufficiency, they can and should be given more and more responsibility for directing significant components of their own education.

  1. For young students, brainstorm a topic to develop and then as a group form a set of questions about the topic
  2. For older students you can repeat the previous approach or use a list that combines what I know/what I'd like to know about the selected topic

3. Put List of Questions into Categories

  1. Identification of categories is used to organize the content of the document and to set the structure of the document
  2. Too many categories create extremely complex navigation. In addition, this creates difficulty in comprehending the document
  3. Too few categories allow the reader to miss the connection of the information in the strands. They often feel isolated in content.

4. Outline

  1. From the categories and questions, an outline of the content can be produced. The outline expands as the student researches the topic to learn more about it. As a student locates answers to the questions, the outline flexes to accept the new information. The outline may move from the original categories (adding delete, combining, splitting categories).
  2. The outline contains the basics of the document content.

5. Map

Working from the Question/List to the Outline to the Map, which:

  1. Reveals the document structure
  2. Reveals the navigation scheme
  3. Focuses on the categories rather than focusing on the content
  4. Is not a "mind-map" format. The Map does not contain all of the fine details that will be in the hypermedia document.
  5. Reveals the recognition of nonlinear presentations and the integration of multiple media within the document.

6. Storyboard

  1. A storyboard is a blueprint for the construction of the final document. It is a blueprint of the design decisions that cover text appearance, color choices, visual effects, shapes and placement of links, etc. It contains descriptions of the various pieces and types of media that will be used in various places in the document (text, photograph, cartoon character, video segment, audio segment, etc.). But it does not contain the actual content.
  2. Provide students with a template that represents the final document container. For more hypermedia-advanced students, provide guidelines and suggestions as they develop their own templates. The template should establish the 'grid' to be used on all pages/cards that belong to the document.
  3. For younger students, consider using a 5x6 or 8x10 card or half-page of paper. This portability lets them consider the 'map' or 'navigation' by laying out the pages or cards on the floor to see their connections.
  4. The amount of time spent on the storyboard is directly correlated to the quality of the final document. That is, storyboarding is a very important component in the process of developing a hypermedia document.
  5. A storyboard reveals errors that may have been included in the map/organization of the content and often forces the author back to revise the categories and placement of elements to be included.
  6. Think: Can someone else use my storyboard and produce a document that is close in content and appearance to the one that I envision?

7. Text Only Document

The final document will contain both text and non-text media. The basic idea here is to separate the writing and placement of text from the obtaining or creating graphics and other non-text media. Think about whether the text will contain the majority of the content, the other media will contain most of the content, or that the text and non-text will be approximately equal in carrying the content. Focus first on the dominant content- carrier. In this brief discussion, we are assuming it is the text. In the types of documents that beginners are apt to develop, the text carries the content. (Beginners tend to focus first on the graphics, which tends to be a serious mistake.)

  1. Use document template to place the text. Write to the size and shape of the container and adhere to the grid.
  2. Match the headings/subheadings to the navigation cues.
  3. As you place text, rethink supporting media and begin locating and gathering resources. Add more detailed comments on media in your storyboard. The tighter the description of media become the better quality of the final document.
  4. It is critical to edit by spell checking and copy editing.
  5. Prototype testing—check text and navigation with someone that doesn't know the document in any way. Peer critiquing works well at this step.

8. Add Graphics, Sounds, Movies, etc. to the Document

  1. Revise text as needed. Text and other media should be mutually supportive in conveying the content.
  2. Put the visual effects in place and test on several different computers if possible. (Be aware that a Web document will look quite a bit different on PCs and Macs, and that screen size and computer speed are also important issues.)
  3. Test and retest the navigation. Revise as necessary.

9. Peer Critique to Support Steps 3-8

  1. Professional "authors" know that feedback from editors and from a representative sample of the intended audience is very important. Such feedback needs to occur in a timely fashion, so that it can be used to improve the document.
  2. Displaying the document in an 'enlarged' state helps authors to see their own errors.
  3. Students can learn to critique their own work and their fellow students' work. This is a valuable part of learning to develop good documents. For peer critiques, teach students to start with "I like the following .... because...." to "I don't understand why you did ...." to "Did you consider doing ....." to "I have missed the connection between the graphic and text on page ..... " etc. Criticism should be constructive (accompanied by thoughtful suggestions), rather than destructive.

Whole group activity. Discuss the implications of the ideas in 1-9 given above.

Top of Page