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Russian History: XX century





Russian History: XIX entury





METHODS OF APPLYING THE MULTIMEDIA COURSE ON HISTORY

 

Tatyana Antonova, Alexey Kharitonov

 

Efficiency of learning through the image perception is known universally. The multimedia course of history is the new type of an educational publication which consists from 4 CD-ROMs and the brochure. The course has been developed as a result of the two-year efforts of a large team that comprised historians, cinema people, software specialists, artists, employees in the archives and libraries. The course contains 278 multimedia lectures (over 24 academic hours) and provides for the much easier learning of the voluminous material owing to the comprehensive effects of the video line and sound (voiced text, music, sonic effects etc). The multimedia lectures contains: over 6000 illustrations, over 2 hours of voiced cinema chronicles. Study of each paragraph ends with testing. As a result, the program forms the "class journal" with marks, given to the students, and reveals the insufficiently learned lectures which have to be heard again before another testing, should the student claim a higher mark. The course is supported by voluminous reference materials, such as over 700 personalia; the detailed chronology; glossary; over 30 maps; over 500 documents and over 70 unique sound recordings - sonic documents (speeches by political figures, most popular songs of various years, etc.). This edition would replace at the same time the textbook as such, the school note-pad, atlas, reading-book, reference book, as well as educational videotape. More than that, in many cases it would also replace a teacher and save his time for individual work with the students. The course is equally meant to be used at home for individual study, as well as in the school, college and institute (for study in a computerized classroom). It is also convenient for distance learning. The special network edition can work on 23 computers from only one CD-ROM drive. In this case a teacher can control students work directly from the main computer. The users can receive free update by Internet, and not only it-s program shell, but the content too.

 

Over eighteen months have passed since the publication of the multimedia course on the history of Russia in the 20th century. For this period the authors participated in many educational exhibitions, conferences, subject practical seminars which involved not just the demonstration of this software product but also the constructive discussion of problems relating to methods and practical work. Followers of resolute introduction of new procedures into the educational process have imparted their experience, though small so far, in applying the multimedia course at history lessons, have given valuable advises that made it possible to perfect the proposed methods. The analysis and generalization of the materials of these discussions and the exchange of experience in using the multimedia course have resulted in these considerations and information which the authors would like to bring to the readers- notice.

 

Recently three approaches to the application of computer programs in the educational process can be traced.

 

The followers of the first approach, being principal opponents of acquiring systematic knowledge with the aid of teaching computer programs (in other words opponents of creating electronic text-books), believe that computer techniques should only serve the means of getting fast access to necessary information. In their opinion, the best text-book is the encyclopedia which allows to have a great bulk of information at hand that could be sorted out, generalized and collected on the strength of signs needed by you only.

 

The second approach is based on acknowledging the possibility of acquiring systematic knowledge with the aid of ?hyper-text manuals which are created according to a procedure close to electronic ?encyclopedias. These manuals conceptually consist of the same text of a ?paper text-book but they comprise hyper-references. Some ?hyper-text manuals contain blocks of knowledge check-up - tests.

 

Reading bulky texts from the monitor screen is a form of computer work most harmful to eyesight. In programmer text-books which ?by definition are intended for rather long systematic work, more ergonomic forms of presenting school material have to be looked for, rather than just text. Of course, texts are necessary but, first of all, in reference blocks not intended for reading from cover to cover. Sympathizing with a viewpoint relative to the possibility of acquiring systematic knowledge with the aid of computer text-books, we principally reject the reading of long texts from a screen. They are books that should be read (it is noteworthy that even paper text-books are printed in large easy type). The benefit from a great number of modern teaching and developing programs is incomparable with harm they inflict to the eyesight of students. Computer games are not related to the number of occupations we consider useful, however we have to admit that multimedia games are much less harmful to eyesight than reading long texts from the screen. Players do not have to strain eyes for viewing fine details since games normally deal with rather large graphical images and sound information. An ideal teaching program from the ergonomic point of view is one that is close to multimedia games in terms of eye strain. It should contain the minimum of text especially harmful for sight and maximum of graphics and sound information. This is precisely the program we tried to create.

 

It is the third approach which is considered correct by the authors of this report (within the framework of precisely this approach the multimedia course of the history of Russia in the 20th century has been created) which, on the one hand, comprises most rational features of the first two and, on the other hand, differs from them significantly. The essence of our approach consists in the maximum use of the multimedia capabilities of modern computers. Multimedia lectures are in this case the central element of the course.

 

However, before telling about the essence of our methods we will try to clarify the problem of computer programs place in the teaching process.

 

Most often the authors of teaching programs aim their designs at the final stage of teaching - direct preparation to the examination. It is obvious that ?tutor programs promising to ?make up for an omission and to ?work wonders for 2 or 3 days have best chances in the market. However, the attempt of using even a good-quality program as the main teaching means 2 or 3 days before the examination is senseless and bad for health. While a student preparing for an examination with his book and notes can work 8 to 12 hours a day, it is absolutely inadmissible to spend the same time before the monitor screen. Sanitary laws fundamentally prohibit to use computer as a basic means at intensive work before examinations. As we see it, a teaching program should be a means for systematic work implemented in relatively small portions. Only this kind of work with a computer is admissible from the ergonomic point of view.

 

The multimedia screening of a classical lecture course aimed at gradual acquiring profound systematized knowledge is more correct in our opinion. We think that at the high school and in the period of initial years at higher educational institutions the ?strict system should dominate, and the emphasis on the ?free search and narrow specialization can only be made on a reliable foundation of compulsory minimum of knowledge.

 

Our program realizes traditional for Russian-s system of education ?strict methods of teaching. The given edition is based on a compulsory program of the course of Russian history approved in Russian Federation, it is not an auxiliary means but the main tool of study that contains full and systematic presentation of the entire compulsory material on the history course of Russia in the 20th century. And this is exactly the reason why this course was appropriated the stamp of a federal ?text-book.

 

The course should be calculated for regular work to be implemented in small portions. In this respect a clear and well-subdivided system for keeping record of assimilated school material and the evaluation of knowledge gained at each stage take on great significance. Even after a long interval in the work with the program a student should immediately recall where he was or what material should be recommended for revision. The block of statistics is regarded by us as a compulsory element of the teaching program. Unfortunately such a block often does not exist at all in courses created on the basis of universal multimedia shell.

 

Our multimedia course is created on the basis of specially developed program shell. It does not contain any unnecessary elements, therefore it is compact and undemanding to computer resources. At the same time it provides for all the functions required for realizing the developed methods (and if necessary new functions can be added).

 

Our approach to creating teaching programs was given by us the name of ?cinematographic one. The appearance of the multimedia course of the Russian history is a result of joining the cinematographic approach with the capabilities of up-dated multimedia procedures. The main peculiarity of this text-book advantageously distinguishing it from many other CD-ROM publications is, as we think, its ?totally multimedia nature. Approximately 95% of the basic learning material is presented not in the form of hyper-text but in the form of bright, abundantly illustrated and emotionally saturated (where necessary) multimedia lectures. The ?totally multimedia nature of the program has almost removed the necessity to strain eyes when reading texts from the screen, it has also predetermined its gigantic volume - four fully loaded CD-ROMs.

 

Of course our text-book contains not only audio-visual information but texts as well, most often these are short reference entries (personalia, term definitions, chronology, comments of various kinds, extracts from documents). Long texts are also found in the program (mainly these are large documents intended for independent analysis by university entrants and students) that can be printed out. To protect students- eyesight provision is made for printing out any lecture which might be useful for reading with the purpose of consolidating studied material. In general a student can view the text on the monitor screen as well, but this function is deliberately ?masked to avoid its abuse to the detriment of student-s eyes.

 

We are far from placing the work with computer programs in opposition to a normal ?paper text-book. The optimum is in the periodical change of these two forms of activity. In our course lecture listening is alternated with the reading of brief textual comments from the monitor screen. Longer comments are contained in a booklet enclosed to the discs where the program sends a student from time to time. Periodic (not very frequent) switches from computer work to reading a book provide the alternation of various degrees of eye strain that is not as harmful as continuous work with the monitor. The booklet contains about 5% of the school material, mainly there are theoretical stuff and subparagraphs which are difficult to illustrate due to the absence of the image line.

 

The main content of a computer text-book is represented by 278 abundantly illustrated presentation lectures whose total continuous sound amounts to more than 24 academic hours. At any moment a lecture can be stopped and the process can be transferred to studying additional material, then returned, the program can be switched to the video-line viewing in ?accelerated rate. The text-book contains 54 paragraphs. Thus each of the paragraphs can be studied without violating sanitary standards within one lesson in a computer class or at home. At the normal study of two paragraphs for one week a strong student will spend about two hours a week in all before a computer screen whereas a weaker one - about four hours. It is obvious that the duration of daily studies may last not longer than 20 to 30 minutes that eliminates the problem of observing the sanitary standards. A question may arise: ?What will happen when similar courses will be created on all school subjects? We have to reassure you: in the nearest ten years this problem is not foreseen. Creation of comprehensive multimedia courses takes plenty of time and very few designs like this are being implemented today. For example, our team will be able to issue courses similar to the one described above every two years (to do it faster is practically impossible). Even so, full computerization of the total school course of history (both Russian and world history) will take at least 12 years. Meanwhile it is obvious that computers themselves and sanitary standards on using them will become absolutely different.

 

Presentation of knowledge in a picturesque form rather than in texts is not just more ergonomic but can also be a powerful means of teaching and upbringing. Multimedia lectures provide for a immersion into an epoch being studied, for a deeper memorizing of material through image-employing perception and emotional influence. The interest to a subject in this case rises sharply. It is hardly probable that anyone of teachers is able to present to his students in the course of Russia-s history of the 20th century over 6000 illustrations strictly corresponding to the topics of lessons (including pictures, documentary photographs, diagrams), more than 30 animated maps, more than 2 hours of news-reels wired for sound. Coordination of a lecturer-s voice, music and noise accompaniment with a visual line is capable of imprinting the course being studied on a student-s memory much more vividly.

 

In the course of creating a program scenario the school text was complemented with numerous ?emotional inserts, altered in many respects for perception by ear and coordination with the video-line. Particularly often such alterations were introduced into paragraphs dedicated to most tragic and heroic episodes of history - wars, terror, etc. Sometimes a colorful fragment of a news-reel induced to change the lecture structure and complement it with a new subject that made the school material not only more complete but more ?vivid as well. This, as we believe, has made it possible, beside purely ?informative effect, to achieve emotional influence on a student. With the same purpose fragments from feature films were used. For example the lecture about the Romanov family execution was almost fully constructed on a fragment of Karen Shakhnazarov-s film ?The Regicide. The lecturer-s voice sounds against the background of a long ominous scene as the prisoners walk to the place of execution, as though the lecturer is commenting upon the event. This episode is assembled so that immediately after the last phrase of the lecturer, sounds a short monologue of Yurovsky, the executioner of the Romanov family and a scene of shooting is shown as reconstructed from Yurovsky-s memoirs. Is it worth saying that from the point of view of emotional influence there is some difference from the simple reading of the text?

 

In contrast to multimedia ?encyclopedia where video-fragments are optional, in our edition they (along with photographs, diagrams, maps etc.) are assembled with the lecturer-s voice, music and noise accompaniment and they are the organic parts of the lectures.

 

The work with a paragraph is not limited by listening to multimedia presentations only. In the course of studying lectures the program periodically suggests to get familiar with additional and reference material (personalia of political figures, term definitions, textual and sound documents, tables, comments, etc.). The availability of such material is indicated by ?running prompter lines. If a student is interested, he can stop the lecture and satisfy his curiosity.

 

In this case additional information is directly linked with a current fragment of a lecture and DOES NOT CONTAIN HYPER-REFERENCES. From the block of additional information it is only possible to come back - to a lecture fragment being studied. While studying additional information a student is free from temptation to distract himself from a lesson topic by starting travelling over a hyper-text. If we regard the text-book ?running lines as hyper-references (and this analogy is relevant), we may say that we have only one stipulated level of references. We have rejected quite deliberately the use of multilevel hyper-text structures (see above) since we consider them a PRINCIPALLY unfit means for electronic TEXT-BOOKS. The possibility of a free wandering over the hyper-text provokes the dispersion of attention, skipping from subject to subject, sliping lightly on the surface, instead of an in-depth study of the main school course. Thanks to the Internet the multilevel hyper-text structures are now very popular. They are very useful in entertaining and developing publications, reference books, encyclopedias. They are appropriate also in teaching programs for more adult and ?self-organized audience (senior students, post-graduate students and so on). However the main purpose of the multimedia SCHOOL TEXT-BOOK consists in achieving the maximum concentration of attention and thorough assimilation of a compulsory minimum of school material.

 

In our opinion a computer text-book should be most easy, there is no place for any over-indulgences that would distract a student from the main thing: REGULAR study. Excessive, heaped-up interface, all kinds of unnecessary buttons including hyper-references capable of diverting a pupil from a subject being studied are in our view contra-indicated to him. The aforesaid does not mean that we have deprived a student of a possibility to turn from a subject being studied to another one. The point is that a turn like this is realized within our course not just by clicking a reference but in a more complicated manner, for example, through the system of retrieval.

 

Our multimedia course contains a full-text retrieval system and extensive reference stock. Reference (?encyclopedic) capabilities are brought out to the program main window so that a user could get an access to them as soon as possible, even before the registration. This misleads sometimes: the multimedia course is taken for another electronic ?encyclopedia. However, even exceeding in volume many specialized multimedia ?encyclopedias, our reference block remains an auxiliary tool. In fact it is a set of previously prepared answers to questions that a student may be faced with in the course of listening to multimedia lectures. For example the personalia block contains portraits and biographies of all politicians and outstanding scientists and cultural figures (in all there are 700 of them); a dictionary: all the terms used in the lectures; an atlas: latest phases of more than 30 animated maps used in the course for illustrating military operations and changes in state frontiers. In addition there is a detailed chronology; more than 600 textual documents and over 70 sound documents (speeches of political figures, hymns, songs reflecting particular historic events and so on), bibliography. The full-text retrieval system allows to promptly find required information in the text-book regardless of the place of its location: whether it is in the main text of the lectures, in the documents or in the reference entries of particular type. In this course this information is intended for retrieving answers to more complicated questions and for selecting material for reports and abstracts by revealing necessary information through key words and word combinations. Assume that a pupil heard name Trotsky in the course of a lecture and wanted to know what else is said in the text-book about this historic figure. The pupil may suspend the lecture, call the retrieval system, enter a search image (in this case the best is to enter ?Trotsk*) and the program will offer him rather a long list of all references to Trotsky and ?trotskism (in all grammatical forms). The program will also enable the pupil to listen to all subparagraphs where these words occur, to look through all the documents, all the lines of the chronological table, all the personalia (certainly, including Trotsky himself).

 

Periodically the program by itself suspends the multimedia lecture so that the pupil could thoroughly study an important table, diagram or map. Some lectures also provide for ?internal test tasks; the lecture is suspended and the program puts a question relating to a subject just set forth. If the pupil was attentive enough he will easily give a correct answer and the suspended lecture will continue. In case of a wrong answer the poorly assimilated fragment sounds again giving the pupil another chance. ?Internal tests help to ?awaken an absent-minded pupil and to incite him to serious work.

 

Keeping a record of the course studies is extremely simple and clear. After listening to a lecture next in turn (subparagraph) a tick is put, and a student is given a possibility to write a summary plan. The summary plan may be checked by the parents or teacher as an additional control of material assimilation.

 

At the end of studying the paragraph the student passes testing (in all about 900 tests, crosswords and the like) and gets a mark, and the program itself indicates which material is assimilated badly (ticks will be removed from those lectures where the student failed). To repeat the testing (in order to try to improve the mark) the student should again listen to subparagraphs without ticks. Thus a natural and convenient feedback between the tests and the main course presentation, is realized, in other words a closed teaching algorithm: studying the school material check-up of assimilation of studied material revealing of poorly assimilated material and inducing to revising it.

 

By advice of teachers and practical methodologists a possibility of external studies has been added to the program for students getting on well. A student confident of his knowledge has a right now to enter testing without compulsory listening to the lecture course. But this can be done only once. If a mark is lower than desired, still he will have to listen to it.

 

Equally easy is a record of marks: as soon as all the paragraphs (lessons) of a section are studied, an average mark is put in the register. The students and the teacher (or parents) can immediately see the results of the work. Time record of the course work, of the order of studying paragraphs, of the number of attempts and the like are not conducted since we regard this excessive.

 

The computer text-book has three complexity levels which are calculated:

 

     

  1. for the 9th grade;

     

     

  2. for the 10th and 11th grades;

     

     

  3. for university entrants and students of non-historic faculties of higher school.

     


 

The division of the material into complexity levels is built into the system of questions (tests) and into the bulk of the material to be studied. In terms of text the volume compulsory for 9-grade students (1st level) is approximately twice as little than that for university entrants and higher school students (3-rd level). The second level intended for the students of 10th and 11th grades takes an intermediate position. That much difference in the volumes of school material is due to the fact that for the 1st level the program practically never offers the study of long documents (brief quotations are quite sufficient for a ninth grader). Moreover, a whole number of lectures for a given complexity level is optional. A number of rather complicated and detailed comments, additional illustrations that are necessary for higher school entrants and students for passing tests successfully, are also eliminated. At various complexity levels the sets of ?running lines - prompts, differ as well (see above).

 

This computer program does not complement the traditional text-book (in contrast to other aid programs) but is a substitute for it. And not only for the text-book proper, but also for the reader, atlas, vocabulary of historical terms, work note-book, school video-film, reference book and, if it necessary, for the teacher.

 

Teachers, regardless of their age and readiness for computerized work, should not be worried about new ?competitors. On the contrary, a teaching program is capable of becoming a very efficient AID as it automates most laborious and routine elements of the teacher-s work. As for hammering into pupils- heads the required minimum of knowledge according to the program and checking the results of this process, the teaching programs are in the short run expected to be hard to compete with. Not a human being, the computer will not be tired to repeat a lesson as many times as necessary until a pupil utters the long-awaited ?I-ve got it!. The teachers, while monitoring the work process with a teaching program for the whole class, will be able at the same time to focus themselves on individual and most creative work - answering ?tricky questions of active pupils and vice versa, ?pulling up, ?stirring most passive and backward ones. The ?automated teaching conveyor working simultaneously, will become another effective pedagogical means.

The program is developed with consideration for specific requirements of humanitarian persons usually taking the computer with some caution - it is extremely handy. Any person capable of learning to move a cursor about the screen, masters it in 5 minutes.

 

The computer text-book on the history of Russia can be used both at home and in class. When working with a usual (personal) program version each computer of the class should be equipped with a CD-ROM drive and each pupil should be given an individual manual set. In actual practice it has become a stumbling-block: Russian schools mostly are unable to purchase a text-book for each work station.

 

This point has induced many teachers to ?inventing a technique of using the text-book unstipulated by its authors. This technique reminds of once very popular ?cinema-lessons but instead of a projector one multimedia computer is installed in the history class with the projector connected to it.

 

The teacher demonstrates multimedia lectures suspending them periodically and adding his own comments and sometimes arguing with the authors of the text-book. The abundant video-line of the course has been successfully replacing worn-out traditional aids (maps, diagrams etc.). When working in groups under ?cinema-lesson conditions the teacher can present the material in an order different from that set forth in the text-book. Furthermore, the teacher may use only the illustrative line of the lecture fully replacing the announcer-s voice by his own comments (to do this he should just reduce the volume).

 

A fault of this technique consists in an almost complete loss of competitive aspect, in a difficulty of covering all the students with the all-round automated knowledge control system, in the imposed unified rhythm of work for the pupils with various levels of preparedness and dissimilar interests. In the course of multimedia lectures the program periodically offers to get familiar with some particular additional material (see above). Under conditions of ?cinema-lesson the computer is operated by the teacher, and it is he who decides which of the additional stuff should be shown to the class.

 

However the initially-established form of using this multimedia text-book in school implies the transfer of history lessons to the computer class. In this case each pupil works with the program independently (using ear-phones). The advantage of this technique is the possibility to work at a rate convenient for a pupil, studying only that additional stuff which he chooses himself (for example, he will not stop a lecture for the definition of a term already familiar to him). After the automated knowledge control the pupil, if he is dissatisfied with his mark, will only revise subparagraphs that he failed to assimilate (the ticks will be removed from them by the program). The teacher in this case monitors the work of the group and has a chance to take an individual care of those who need this care. An advantage of studies in the computer class is that a pupil has no hope that he will not be ?was already called out by last lesson. Check-up of the knowledge and marks putting are stipulated by each lesson.

 

Within recent years in Russia a reasonable number of schools have appeared where net multimedia classes are available. To ensure efficient use of the text-book in such classes a special net version was developed. It provides the work of up to 23 pupils from one CD-ROM. Working with the master computer having a CD-ROM the teacher before the beginning of classes should load to the pupils- computers a portion of material of a topic being studied; this solves the problem of net overload. During the studies he may monitor the work of the pupils directly from his computer. The teacher can see what lectures have already listened to by a certain pupil, what this pupil wrote in his summaries, what mark he got, in what lectures he failed.

 

The net version of the text-book allows to convert each lesson into a fascinating competition, a sort of ?race for knowledge. Winners not just complete their work before ?outsiders who are forced by the program to repeatedly listen to ?failed subparagraphs, but can be rewarded with ?prizes: historic anecdotes wired for sound and illustrated.

 

In practice the teachers normally use this course not for a total transfer of the historic studies to a computer class but for alternating various forms of the work. For example, at the Financial Academy under the Russian Federation Government the teachers of the historical faculty has first taken the ?computer experiment suspiciously and didn-t want to conduct studies personally. They just started to give ?home tasks to their students: to study independently some particular topic. A received mark was officially registered by the workers of the computer class. According to their judgments the load on the computer class increased fast for the spring 1999 term and it was gradually converted into a ?branch of the history department.

 

Apart from the net version an ?open, professional version of the text-book has been developed. It comprises all the possibilities of the net version but additionally enables the teacher to change the structure and content of the course, to enter new illustrations, personalia, tests, comments, complement the chronology with the events of his region-s history, and so on. If desired, multimedia lectures can be wired for sound and arranged in a different way, i.e. an original version of the text-book can be created. Of course the professional version is a much more complicated instrument and it should be considered separately.

 

The program is arranged so that improvements entered into it (both in terms of content and program and methods) can be connected to the course initial version with no need to replace compact discs. The edition is periodically complemented with innovations that can be loaded free of charge from the Web of site www.history.ru.

Contact phone : +7(095) 243-1989; E-mail:

 

A next in turn innovation to the program is supposed to include a number of principally new functions. Along with the full texts of the lectures (that are available even now) their concentrated versions will exist: illustrated strong-point summaries (with one level of hyper-references). Because of it-s brevity, a strong-point summaries are more useful for reading from the screen. Any strong-point summary is made for printing out for studing without computer, of course. The strong-point summaries are more convenient for fast activating of previously acquired knowledge, this to be done immediately prior to an examination. We should emphasize that multimedia lectures are intended first and foremost for systematic work during the school-year whereas the strong-point summaries - for the ?last assault, three to five days before the examination. Key illustrations interspersed into the strong-point summaries will make it possible to quickly memorize the content of the lectures without revising them; even the viewing of the last phase of an animated diagram will help a student to easily remember all the previous ones ( diagrams are usually gradually traced as a lecture goes on, much as a teacher does it on the blackboard).

 

The strong-point summaries will have the second function: they will serve as an album of key illustrations (its necessity is often emphasized by history teachers who badly need audio- and video aids for lessons): illustrated strong-point summaries are more convenient for fast retrieving individual illustrations, fragments of news-reels, and so on, from the text-book. Multimedia lectures, even after adding a possibility of their ?accelerated viewing, are less adapted for this.

 

In conclusion we would like to note that even before the edition our multimedia course had passed through a long procedure of expert reviewing and testing established for school text-books. In the end it was approved by the Federal Council of Experts, the State Duma Committee for Education of Russian Federation, the Moscow Bureau of UNESCO. It is recommended for edition by the RF Ministry for General and Professional Education. It is included into the federal list of text-books.

 

We may note with pride that from the results of filling in the questionnaire by the participants and visitors of the most representative International Exhibition Conference ?Information Technologies in Education - 98/99 (about 1000 people took part in filling in the questionnaire, mostly, teachers of schools, lyceums, colleges and higher educational institutions) the multimedia text-book ?History of Russia - 20th century was acknowledged the ?best teaching program on the humanities.

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