A case for developing multimedia literacy in Japan
By Simon Mason Masonsan.com 2010/10/05
This article will discuss how children in their teenage years and early twenties have utilized new technology to communicate with each other in different ways and how these new forms of communication could be an area that the English language teacher can build lessons around. Regardless of what students are communicating, the use of technology to communicate will have an effect on their communicative skills and how and where they would like to express themselves. This article will not discuss in detail what effect new technology has had on the content of communication rather that teachers should be aware of how language lessons could reflect these changes and use some of these technologies to create interesting ideas for classes.
It is true to say that mediated communication on a scale previously unseen is now part of all modern life in Japan, the UK, in the US and across Europe. This article aims to discuss and promote the use of multimedia and various media formats in the classroom, both for Junior and High School level and at undergraduate level at universities and technical schools. Empirical examples from University teaching experiences in the UK and High School teaching experiences in Japan will be discussed. In the case of Japanese High Schools, there will be a detailed example of multimedia use and film making. The English level of the high school students and undergraduate students is taken to be roughly beginner to pre-intermediate in both cases.
A Quick Definition of Multimedia
In this article the use of websites, digital cameras, video camera, smart boards, PCs and digital projectors will be referred to as multimedia items. This will be different from referring to media as video footage, TV footage, DVDs, website content and newspapers.
Dilemmas for both Native and Japanese English Teachers
There has been a recurring theme among teachers, educationalist, and academics that particularly
Japanese students are the hardest to motivate, engage with, and get to discuss and communicate in an EFL classroom. Certainly the text book based classes so popular in the past are fast becoming a dull and repetitive way to instruct students, even though repetition and practice are what students need to remember and build on. The choice by students whether to go along and participate with this old method of instruction seems to be waning, replaced instead by a need for excitement, life-relevance, and a certain ‘wow-factor’.
For many teachers, introducing new technology into the classroom has not been welcomed. As a teacher trainer in the UK, I was in charge of training long servicing EFL teachers in the use of ‘Smart Boards’ and mobile video projector units; neither of which were eagerly adopted by teachers who spent twice as long in preparation time, learning and remembering technical operation skills, and re-making materials for PowerPoint slides.
However, as J. D Fletcher points out in his article, ‘Evidence for learning from technology-assisted instruction’ (2003), retention rates of students exposed to class material during a lesson using multimedia were higher than those classes using ‘traditional’ lecture methods. In Japanese High Schools, empirical evidence of success using multimedia has produced some speaking results from often quieter, less linguistically able students (see section ‘A case for video production in high school language lessons’).
Multimedia should be considered as an additional tool to engage students in the classroom above and beyond the individual teachers who happens to be good ‘techno geeks’ and want to try a new gadget out. Indeed, it is the students’ life experience of using technology on their own time that should produce data on what learning environment would benefit them the most and the context that much language appreciation and...