What is it?
Multimedia learning is as simple as it sounds. All it means is that students use words and pictures (or multiple forms of media) to learn new content! Educators are most likely already using multimedia instruction in their lesson plans without even realizing it. For example, whenever you use a video, an application, or a diagram, you are giving your students a multimedia learning experience.
Research on multimedia learning has primarily been conducted by Richard E. Mayer and published in The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the first of 34 chapters in the second edition of his handbook. I especially liked the analogy that Mayer used to describe the importance of multimedia learning. First, Mayer explained how a bicycle tire pump works with just words. When asked a retention question, one could easily remember words from the definition they just heard, but they would most likely struggle to comprehend or apply the information they just learned. However, once pictures are added to the verbal explanation, one would find it much easier to comprehend exactly how a bicycle tire pump functions.
As well, Mayer perfectly explains why multimedia learning is effective since “presenting both [text and pictures] is like presenting the material twice – giving the learner twice as much exposure to the explanation” (2014). When I just read text, I find it difficult to fully understand a concept. Likewise, when I see a picture, if I don’t know the correct words to describe it I need a verbal explanation to help me understand. Presenting students with multiple ways to understand a topic just gives them more of a chance to succeed- and isn’t that all educators want?
Ways to Use Multimedia Learning in the Classroom
There are many ways to easily incorporate multimedia learning into your classroom. For example, one of my favourite methods is to use sketchnote! Sketchnoting is a form of note taking where students use words, sketches and other visuals to condense the information they are trying to retain. As explained on verbaltovisual.com, adding sketches to your notes “taps into parts of your brain that would lie dormant if you only use words to explore ideas” (Neill, 2017). I found sketchnoting very helpful when teaching a second language, such as French! Students could write out the vocabulary word in French, and then sketch a quick drawing of the word to understand its meaning in English.
For more information on sketch-noting, check out my blog post about it.
Mayer, R. E. (2014). The cambridge handbook of multimedia learning: 2nd edition. Santa Barbara, CA: Cambridge University Press.
Neill, D. (2017, August 21) What is sketchnoting? Verbal to Visual. https://www.verbaltovisual.com/what-is-sketchnoting/