Theory

Brown, Collins, and Duguid (1989) emphasized the critical nature of looking carefully at what is known about everyday cognition and of creating apprenticeships composed of authentic tasks (Collins, Brown, & Newman, 1989). These authentic activities were defined most simply as the “ordinary practices of the culture” (Collins et al., p. 34). This focus on everyday cognition and authentic tasks serves as a reminder that novices who enter into specific apprenticeships have a reasonable chance to develop expertise because they have the opportunity for continued and long-term thinking about very specific problems. For the most part, Brown et al. (1989) considered ways to approach mathematical, scientific, or historical thinking from a perspective of the old model of apprenticeship, harkening back to a much earlier age. Brown et al. (1989) have updated the notion of apprenticeship and shown ways this concept may be applied to modern learning theory.

Effective instructors of educational technologies involve students in learning as apprentices by having students work with each other or by setting up situations in which students begin to work on problems even before fully understanding them. A key aspect of an apprenticeship approach to multimedia use involves breaking the problem into parts so that students are challenged to master as much of a task as they are ready to handle. Activities that allow realistic situations to be represented are suitable for designing relevant materials. For instance, authoring programs allow realistic cases or simulations to be represented as multimedia. Understanding video, audio, and image editing software facilitates multimedia creation. Many advocates of cognitive apprenticeship or the situated perspective explain that problem-solving activities should not be neat and predefined, but complex, with the learner required to discover relevant procedures as in the real world. Thus, a situated multimedia program will not reflect a drill-and-practice environment, but will approximate more closely a resource set from which relevant information is sorted and derived by students.

A major challenge for the situated perspective, however, involves issues of feasibility. Teaching problem solving in the context of a video or narrative structure is easier than putting a class full of students at the feet of a mathematician or on a field trip to the planet Mars. A number of researchers have explored the use of video within a framework sympathetic to the situated cognition perspective. Most notably anchored instruction has shown consistently the learning benefits of sustained problem-solving environments using authentic tasks within a technological focus.

The major goal of anchored instruction has been to overcome the problem of inert knowledge first identified by Whitehead (1929) by creating environments that permit sustained exploration by students and teachers and enable the kinds of understanding of problems and opportunities that experts in various areas encounter (CTGV, 1990). This was achieved most prominently by the use of video-based “adventures” with a series of evolving design principles (CTGV, 1997).

However, these adventures were designed and formulated for the teachers and were presented to them as finished products. To be sure, adequate flexibility was built into the design of these anchored instruction environments so that each teacher’s use of them was fairly unique and yet achieved uniform results. But with an interest in the possibility of design and creativity along with authentic task formation and increasingly accessible video editing technology, we have begun to reinterpret the notion of apprenticeship and teacher education. What can happen if these powerful learning tools are put into the hands of preservice teachers to look at their own teaching and to create their own anchored learning environments?

The process of building a multimedia project required learners to transform information into pictures (still images and movies) and graphical representation (including graphs), to determine what is important and what is not, to segment information into smaller units, to link the information segments by semantic relationships (“A” is like “B” but different than “C”), and to decide how to represent ideas. Researchers have speculated that this highly motivating process is successful because authorship results in ownership of the ideas in the multimedia creation process. We have adopted the idea of multimedia designers and have used the concept of multimedia designers for teacher preparation. We accomplished this by placing preservice teachers in the context of being multimedia designers of their own curriculum they plan to teach.