I had the opportunity this week to speak with Dr. Rita Girondi, the owner of Training Masters, Inc. Her company produces the Klickers system demonstrated in the video above. When I was in school (too many years ago), multimedia meant cheesy filmstrips narrated with cassette tapes. Now, it's PowerPoint slides with remotes where students can vote on the correct answer to questions.
We had a great discussion and we touched on the fact that it's not enough to have pictures and words to get kids interested. Some people may lament at the shrinking attention spans of "kids today", but teaches have to deal with the reality of how kids absorb information. This dovetails into a book I recently read, Now You See It by Cathy N. Davidson. The book is a fascinating look at cognitive science and how we actually absorb and retain knowledge. Dr. Davidson explores how both schools and businesses are utilizing games and simulations for learning, collaboration, and problem solving. She goes from schools in New York City to established corporations like IBM and how they are using a variety of social media tools. She even discusses how her own university explored using iPods as a learning tool. I highly recommend the book for anyone involved in education or looking to find ways to foster more collaboration with their coworkers.
One of the things Dr. Girondi and talked about was the importance of knowing how to integrate a new tool, whether it's an iPad or gaming system into the learning environment. It's not enough it buy some new shiny thing because you think it will make your school "cutting edge", You should have a plan for how it can be used to reinforce the lessons and encourage kids to explore more learning opportunities.