Podcasting in Education

Podcasting in Education

Notes for presentation to Podcasting in Education conference.

Computers Just Teach How To Compute

Play potential of computer and audio hardware – mics editing suites and blogging / cms tools. Such tools can be used to facilitate interclassroom communication, at local or international level. Opportunity for students to fill a variety of roles. Individually learning their own pace and collaborating. Providing occasion to learn communication and group work sills of use to business and individuals in the knowledge economy.

Learning becomes active, rather than passive. 3 primary benefits of podcasting – Communications Technology learning, Communications skills and Groupwork, and active learning of curriculum – both in production and consumption of teacher made podcasts.

My own experience of the Science Research Associates Reading curriculum kits – greatly facilitating individually paced learning. Francis as ubicomms student; myself as a life long learner – mature student and independent learning.

Development of a host of routes to lifelong education. Supplementing existing approaches. Irish education system has in recent years become more holistic than the passive 3 R’s rote system in operation a couple of decades ago.
Podcasting and Child Centred Education

The change to child centred education in Britain occurred in the 1970’s – facilitating communication as positive, and viewing the teacher as a facilitator of learning rather than an imparter of unchallengeable wisdom. The need is for basic skills to be paired with an acknowledgement of individuals varying abilities and growth curve.

The Steiner school approach – ‘Waldorf Education’, breaking down the barriers between distinct fields of knowledge. Allows allegories and conceptual schemata developed in one area to be mapped onto another superficially unrelated body of knowledge. This is at the heart of piagets concepts of assimilation and accommodation, and of Finkle, Ward and Smiths Geneplore model of creativity – as a process of the remapping of associations in analogical transfer, leading to scientific innovation and intellectual cross pollination.

Podcasting can act to facilitate the inclusion of visually impaired students in production activities, and can enable production of coursework content which can be used by such students. This provision of audio course material – which is currently a resource issue in many schools – is just one tiny example of the side benefits of the active generative education approach facilitated by these technologists.

Interactive learning has a pedagogic value exactly opposite to the old ideas of technology as a mechanistic method of indoctrination of skills for a modern workplace. Podcasting has an expressive creative aspect, akin to art therapy, which can potentially develop confidence and social skill.

Agnes Nobel, in her book ‘Educating Through Art – The Steiner School Approach’ quotes T.S Eliot in stating ‘not the least significant effect of industrialization is that we become mechanised in our minds’. Ironically, just as manufacturing technology shows promise of becoming democratized in prototyoubg machines which may soon allow us to build the devices we use at a community level, ICT has developed to the point where it enables the rejection of mechanistic institution bound, modernist progressivism. The blogging and podcasting media revolutions have given voice to a multitude of perspectives, and such technologies have created interactive folksonomies of knowledge and handed the tools of information production to both educators and individuals. They provide the prospect of enhancing functional education and building on the creative and communicative talents of young people which our education system perhaps neglects.
Podcasting is expensive

Decreasing cost of equipment, increasing availability of broadband. At most basic level podcasting requires an audio tape-recorder, a computer with a soundcard, and an internet connection (it is possible, though obviously much more difficult in the absence of broadband).

Spending on technology in an educational context can be seen as wasteful, given the budgetary constraints on schools, and indeed computers can be misused, or seen as a panacea for a poor educational setting. However, if we look at technology in the broader sense, from the use of television, video and cheap printing by the phenomenally successful Open University in Britain, to the use of tape recorders and headphones in language laboratories; we can see the benefits, given thoughtful use.

Such technology is now so omnipresent that we tend to forget how radical and revolutionary it has been. The OU for example has allowed X number of students, many of them isolated from traditional education by disability or family responsibilities, to gain a third level education.

Similarly, progressive institutions like MIT (with their open course ware initiative), are already using the internet to publish audio and video recordings of course lectures, in order to provide access to courses to those who might never be able to attend the institution.

We need to avoid fearing the use of the internet in education. While websites like wikipedia may sometimes contain inaccurate or misleading information; by contrast, services like google scholar Science Direct, Lexis Nexis, and the online edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, to name a very few, enable subscribing institutions access to literally millions of peer reviewed research papers, and expert articles – allowing students access to information rapidly, and cheaply through a united and comprehensible experience of knowledge acquisition.

Podcasting teaches learning

So where does this leave podcasting? A variety of researchers have examined the motivational elements of education. The factors that increase or discourage student interest in the classroom, and their findings have enormous implications for the way we teach. Johnson and Johnson, in a series of compressive literature reviews, found that students learn best and are most highly motivated when classes are less individualist and more co-operative, in an environment where group skills are taught.

Cognitive conflict, a concept originated by Piaget, with roots in the Socratic teaching method, where learning occurs through the challenging of preconceptions with new knowledge is another highly effective educational technique.

More interesting content is better attended to, and better remembered than the dull stuff, but the interestingness should arise from the content itself, rather than its embellishment.

Increasing self efficacy, increases self regulated learning. Self regulated learners actively seek out knowledge and learning strategies.Self regulated learning is largely domain specific, and shapes goal selection and persistence. However given the high profile of media creation, and the multifaceted skills involved in podcast production (it, presentation, writing and promotion), as well as the immediate feedback – that the efficacy created through podcasting provides a wide variety of domains for the improvement of self regulated learning.

Podcasting can impart planning skills, volitional executive skills, and communication, I.T and group work skills. Lectures and presentations provided in podcast format take advantage of the increased rate of recall imbued by cross modal learning, and can be used to impart curriculum information – either in audio or video form – directly from the teacher, or through the production of summarized and researched material by students themselves. It’s best not to see a podcast as an isolated project, like a transition year history study, but as a plethora of motivational tools, learning tools, and teaching opportunities.

Producer / consumer

Entrepreneurship / fun

Creative commons / copyright – active debate shaping our access to information – critical thinking skills

Democratization of individual focus of learning


Further Reading

Interactive Children, Communicative Teaching. ICT & Classroom Teaching. Cook & Finlayson.

Child Centred Education and its critics. John Darling.

Educating through art. The Steiner School Approach, Agnes Nobel.

Eysenck, W., Keane, M. J. (2002). Cognitive Psychology A Students Handbook. UK: Psychology Press

Policy for open and distance learning. World review of distance education and open learning, volume 4. Ed, Perraton and Lentell. Peraton and moses ‘Technology’


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