The Theory and Practice of Developing Multimedia Programs for Ukrainian Language Instruction

Oleh S. Ilnytzkyj, University of Alberta

This paper presents some of the theoretical and practical issues encountered in the development of Ukrainian-language multimedia computer programs. This is not an attempt to summarize or evaluate the current literature on this topic, which is quite extensive, but to offer a case study of how computers are being integrated into a language program with no previous experience with them. Technical, methodological and pedagogical problems are explored with reference to several working prototypes that will be demonstrated to the audience. The specific examples will highlight the following types of computer programs: those that use digitized video in conjunction with text; programs for testing nominal declensions; and programs for teaching and testing vocabulary.

The development of multimedia content for students is a special type of pedagogical challenge for teachers because it is intimately tied to a host of technological issues. The new media must not only be academically sound, wisely integrated in the classroom but it must meet the stipulations of incompatible operating systems, intranets and the Web, while trying to avoid immanent obsolescence that breakneck computer innovations threaten. Instructional technologies also have unique aesthetics and pedagogical design requirements. How computer programs are being developed with such issues in mind for Ukrainian language instruction at our university is the major focus of this paper.

The multimedia programs that will be analyzed and demonstrated fall into two categories. The first group consists of variants of traditionally delivered curriculum materials adapted to the computer. These programs are designed and used primarily as more efficient versions of conventional testing and drilling techniques for purposes of freeing the teacher from the time-consuming task of grading while giving the student the benefits of immediate feedback and correction. The paper will discuss the technical problems associated with re-purposing older curriculum to the computer and show the benefits such redeployment brings.

The second category of programs are "multimedia" in the strict sense of the word. They are being developed to be more than simple analogues or copies of the "old" media in computer guise. The paper reports on the development of a program that incorporates digitized video and text to train students in aural comprehension. The key feature of the program is a thematic non-linear navigation system, which allows students instant access to any frame of the video by pressing a button. The program allows the student to isolate and repeatedly play a chosen sentence or segment of the video. The video itself is synchronized to display a text version of the audio track, an option that the user can enable or disable at will. The video and text are also linked to an assignment list that guides the student through several activities. The paper will review some of the pedagogical implications of this program as well as the technical obstacles encountered in its realization.