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Making a Multimedia Kit

Joe Old

What's a multimedia kit?
The answer to this question depends almost totally on your own needs. In this brief unit, I will discuss the possibilities based on my own experience to give you some ideas about what you may want to do.

In short a multimedia kit is a set of teaching materials that you have designed using instructional technology and have ready at hand to deploy in the classroom. As I've suggested in other units in this module, the exact composition will depends on the infrastructure available at your school. Some institutions will have classrooms that are completely outfitted with Internet access, document cameras, white boards. LCD and overhead projectors, as well as VCR players.

You will have to organize your multimedia kit around the infrastructure available to you. At El Paso Community College, we have a wide variety of contexts ranging from fully equipped videoconferencing classrooms for distance education, to ordinary classrooms supported by multimedia carts assembled by our instructional media services personnel. I will limit the discussion in this unit to the materials that you would produce to take to you existing infrastructure.

The basic concept:
The more I teach, the more I find ways to design and use multimedia products such as those discussed in this module. I see a multimedia kit as that collection of materials developed for each course which is importable to your classroom.

The materials differ for each class. In my English class, most of my materials are in the form of overhead transparencies used over the years, although since I began dabbling in instructional technology, I have expanded my collection of materials used in my English class, principally by recording NPR news items that illustrate various concepts and and presidential speeches, the latter particularly useful in units dealing with argument and persuasion.

My mass communication classes are also frequent consumers of online materials because I use the media to supplement the textbook to teach about the media. Perhaps the most frequent materials are simple printouts from online news organizations which cover the media. It's a wonderful way to bring current events (talked about in Unit #5) into the classroom, and literally not a day passes that I don't print out some news story -- or varying versions of it -- for use to kick off class discussion. I also use TV video, build PowerPoint presentations (an online version of one I did is titled "The World As Spectacle,") and make recordings of NPR broadcasts.

Surprisingly, though, it is my world history class that seems to lend itself to the broadest use of multimedia materials I construct myself. Over the years, I have accumulated some 500 megabytes of materials for use in the classroom, and each semester sees more material added. The first thing, of course, is that I built a web page for the class, sometimes linking to material online and sometimes linking to web pages I have constructed. Here is the link to my World History Page. I use the page mostly for the "larger issues" such as ideas about history etc.

The web pages I have built (for more on web pages, see Unit #7) are part of the multimedia kit in the larger sense. If I can link directly to them in the classroom, I do. If not, I put the complete websites on disk to have them in the CD collection I take to class as needed.

Sample Elements (of Some) Multimedia Kits:

The materials I use for world history fall into three categories: maps, images, and graphics I have constructed myself.

Maps: Many textbooks and monographs have excellent maps designed to illustrate various concepts (political and economic relationships especially). Over the years, I have scanned into the computer dozens and dozens of maps from various textbooks. Every unit in my history class has its own subfolder in a file on my desktop. Each unit has a large collection of maps, often gleaned from as many as half a dozen sources (usually other textbooks and monographs). This year, I have combined existing maps into a "AD-Atlas," which now has about 150 different maps in 30 megabytes of space. While I will add to this file over the semester, the CD I make at the beginning of school will be in my multimedia kit every day that I attend class.

Images: Like maps, images ranging from art works to portraits fill all sorts of texts and monographs. And as with maps, I am constantly scanning them into my computer and filing them in the folder for the appropriate unit. While maps constitute 30 megabytes of disk storage space, the images I have collected to date are at least 450 megabytes. No lecture goes by that I don't project images during class to illustrate various points or show the class what the participants looked like -- at least in artistic depictions and photographs -- or what the artifacts of this or that period were. Having such images available not only livens up the presentation but also promotes discussion and provides additional ways of catching students' interest.

The image reproduced here is of an oil painting from my living room. The the image is a replica of a thousand-year-old Chinese painting, faithful in all details but the cans of Pepsi and bottles of Budweiser beer sitting in the middle of the table. The image is used in class to discuss everything from globalization (English, history, and mass comm classes) to cultural change (chiefly history class).

Other graphics: The smallest, but still important, group of graphics that I take to class are those I have constructed myself from statistics I have gathered or to illustrate concepts. This image, a graphic which is intended to illustrate the powers competing with the imperial throne in China. Two others dramatize the violence of the major wars in the 20th century:

In these two graphics, the sources are included in the graphics. When I scan images and maps from textbooks, I usually include the source in the filename so that if anyone asks, I can consult a bibliography of sources I maintain to be able to give people the complete reference. Here is the file name for a map of the Roman Empire under Constantine and Diocletian take from a textbook by William J. Duiker and Jackson J. Spiegelvogel:


The map was taken from their World History. Comprehensive Volume. 3d. edition.

As suggested in Unit #5, National Public Radio is a terrific source of materials for the classroom. To illustrate, I will mention two programs that led to discussions in my history class (there have been many more, though!). I will illustrate with two programs.

The first example is a 4-minute, 9-second news feature from the August 28, 2003, edition of Morning Edition about how pot hunters in the Southwest are using the Internet to assist them in raiding archaeological sites to get artifacts for sale on the black market. The story contains numerous lessons for a history class, ranging from protecting the archaeological heritage to computer technology in cultural change.

A second news feature, this one, a 7-minute, 49-second story from Morning Edition of August 11, 2003, dealt with the problem of the restoration of the 500-year-old statue of Michaelangelo's statue, David. Again it lends itself to a wide range of topics for class discussion. Both programs show the relevance of history and current events to today's classroom. They can be found at the following links:

The "kit":
For about $10 you can purchase a very nice little "wallet" in which you can carry CD in order to protect them. I have a special kit just for my World History class. The "wallet" containing this multimedia kit will hold 12 CDs, though you can find larger ones.

On any given day, I have a copy of my website, a disk containing dozens and dozens of maps that I have either collected online or scanned into the computer, as well as the CDs for the current unit and perhaps a past one or two. In my history class particularly, I never let a day pass in which I don't show some kind of visual material from my multimedia kit.

Needless to say, I always have copies of my CDs at home should I let the kit out of my sight!

This unit contains examples of items that I include in my multimedia kits. Needless to say, yours will vary with your needs and with your infrastructure. But there is little doubt that your current textbooks and the Internet are major sources of all kinds of materials that can be adapted into a multimedia kit.

Once the number of disks begins to proliferate, you may find yourself having to create a numbering system to keep up with them. A simple list in Word will allow you to search by key words assuming your list is detailed enough. Such resources can be used over and over again and added to and combined and recombined, thanks to modern multimedia technology.