Computer Graphics for Educational Materials

Computer Graphics for Educational Materials



FOR AFRICAN STUDIES ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ From: IN%"VITA@GMUVAX.BitNet" "Volunteers in Technical Assistance" 18-NOV-1991 19:23:54.43 (17 Nov 91)


Everyone familiar with computer graphic is aware of the great degree of elaboration and precision that is now available in desk top publishing and graphic imaging. Every office in America and Europe has it desktop publishing department that make use of the Macs versatility in producing clear, crisp and valuable graphics. But outside of the industrial West with its availability to hardware, soft ware and monthly magazines to keep users up to date on the daily advances in the technology computer graphics is just in the beginning forms. In areas of the world where it is more important to have medicines to prevent childhood diseases and the iceboxes to keep them, scanners, laser printers in the office take on a lower priority. Computers are becoming more important and there is daily becoming a greater need for people to be able to use them. Computers in the world of third world development, once relegated to accounting, data systems and report writing are now beginning to find their way into the production of various forms of educational and publicity materials. The use of computer graphics to produce extension education materials is now beginning to prove itself. And because of the user friendly nature of the Mac and accompanying software is where the Mac is becoming more and more evident in remote parts of the world as a first choice with programs from ministerial level to small voluntary organizations with little to spend and limited person power to make use of the equipment.

Examples of Mac use can be found in The Peace Corps in Niger, Family planning programs in Tunisia and in the Agricultural and Primary health care in Swaziland and Mali to aid in producing culturally appropriate, professional and economical extension materials.

WHY USE COMPUTER GRAPHICS ? A difficulty commonly encountered in the preparation of printed educational materials is the preparation of the art work, especially when the material is intended for an ethnic or language group or groups other than the one creating the material. Over the years, attempts have been made to supply visual models which might make the job of drawing visuals easier for project workers with limited training. Another problem often encountered is the difficulty in finding experienced personnel to prepare the materials in a camera read form quickly and easily. It has also proven difficult to adapt materials which have been successful in on region or country to another ethnically or culturally different one because the models do not lend themselves to change: instead, project workers make use of not always themost approprate of materials or have to start from scratch.

With the increasing numbers of computers now being used in the field there has grown a demand for simpler and more direct system. Traditional graphics and desk top producing programs available to most projects tend to become a bit to complicated for the average user to make much use of the cabablities hence one more organizations are looking at and begining to use the Macintosh system. The Ministry of Agriculture in Swaziland is now equipped with a Mac system and there is a Macintosh User Club in Niger. Many administrators have a system at home. Where a Mac is installed it usually becomes the "most used" system with it's real user friendly that allows people with a minimum of computer skills to operate the system with a maxium of professional results. With the Macintosh and modest graphic software, visuals can be developed and collected into an "image bank" available for many different materials. You can make single or limited, specific materials to be uses by the workers or teachers. Or the project can produce the art work for materials to be used nationally. These computer generated images can also be easily changed or adapted by people with little artistic talent or experience. Camera-ready materials can be prepared in a fraction of the time and at a much-reduced cost.

Faced with many of the problems stated earlier, the Swaziland Project for Promotion of Improved Young Child Feeding succeeded in solving them and producing a variety of project support material by using a Macintosh computer and modest graphic software. The Project was started in 1986 with the key implementing agencies being the Ministries of Health and Agriculture. They received technical assistance from UNICEF, USAID and from the Manoff Group.

During the life of the project several forms of educational and instructional media were created and an image bank for future use, related to child feeding by electronically scanning photographs and line drawings (children of various ages, mothers breast-feeding, various utensils, various locations indoors and out. These are converted to line "drawings" on the computer and stores as a somewhat "visual cookbook." The user chooses among the images that convey his messages, adapts them as necessary and prints them out in a very short time. The images are realistic and contain detail that is usually only captured in photographs.

The project noted the following advantages: --The same images could be reduced large or small. for a variety of different sizes and formats --Any revisions needed after pre-testing were easily and quickly done on the computer screen. No need to make entirely new drawings or to re- photograph.

The image bank is available to several organizations. People were trained on the computer to simplify the design, graphic layout, and production of other images.

The steps a project follows to create visual materials: 1. The program decided on the form, context, and use of the visuals based on an understanding of the audience (their attitudes and practices) and the development of strategies aimed at changing behavior in line with the established goals. 2. Collect images. The easiest would be to copy images already existing, from other materials with their permission or we could photograph the scenes and props needed. Existing materials could also be adapted to make it culturally appropriate for their needs, interest and conditions. 3. These images were scanned on the computer--this operates something like a copy machine, except the images are converted into electronic codes which appear on the computer screen. On screen, afterwards, the images can be changed or adapted as needed. The printed images can be turned into line drawings or half tones to be used by the printer. 4. Arrange the images as wished and add any written text. The whole is printed out (it can be enlarged or reduced as necessary) and then sent to the printer for multiple copies. 5. The models would then be pre tested and adapted as needed. 6. The revised materials would then be printed on the laser printer which make a very detailed image and this would be sent to the printer as the camera ready. With the use of the laser printer half tones images could also be produced for the printer.

EQUIPMENT AND EXPLANATIONS: For a program to be able to use computer graphics in developing educational materials the following equipment and inputs were needed.

Computer hardware and programs, scanners to convert the photograph (or other image) to computer values. Printers, for normal word and draft of visuals. A laser printer for the production of camera ready materials. Toner, ribbons, paper, etc. Data and storage materials. There already exist a large body of graphics for medical and agricultural visuals on diskettes. With the use of the CD ROM the project will be able to have access to very large bodies of information and resources stored in a small area. For example, the Whole Earth Catalogue can be had on one CD ROM Disk. If needed, training for the eventual user.

COST: If one is just obtaining a computer do do other tasks, it would be wise to look into a Macintosh computer system. Files can be exchanged between MS-DOS and the Mac systems. Data, word processing and accounting programs are readily available.

Minimum equipment and software for start include: personal computer with 8 megabyte ROM, 60 megabyte of hard drive storage, keyboard, mouse and disk drive can be bought for around $4300. Dot matrix printer for drafts and data, $250-650, laser printers $2500-4000, scanner for copying illustrations and text scanning, $300-$2000. Filters, breakers cables $800-1000, various software $500, supplies (diskettes, toner, paper, etc.) $1000. Depending whether there is a need for technical assistance, cost for the capabilities of designing and producing low cost, cultural appropriate education, publicity and social marketing material can run at the low end around $10,000 to $30,000 depending on the needs of the program. There would also be the added cost of personnel to operate the set-up.

The potentials of this system are just being recognized. Aside from saving time and money, using the computer also allows the production of specialized AV's from the image bank. Handouts and flyers can be produced from images in the bank and copied in small numbers on the photo copy machine. High quality small editions of training materials can be produced easily and quickly for workshops and seminars. Designer materials can be made by the field workers themselves since the use of the program is basically point and choose --very simple to use. While developing the materials, the project also experimented with various other media forms that were generated from the computer images. Some of them were rubber stamp images, children's coloring pages, and crossword and activity pages for the schools.

As seen in the Weaning Project the use of computer graphics to produce project support materials has simplified a costly and complex task. Just as there have been benefits on the Swaziland Weaning project there can be enormous potential benefits to projects developing educational, instructional support materials. In early 92 I will be working with the development of extension education using the desktop publishing tools used in Swaziland. I would be interested contact and exchange with others using desktop publishing and computer graphics in developing educational materials. Please contact:

Benedict Tisa Communication Consultant 45 Haddon Avenue Westmont, NJ, USA 08108 Telephone: 609 854-6983 E-Mail: Compuserve 71650,23 Fax: 609 854-6983.

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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