Podcasts as learning tools?

Wednesday, July 20th, 2005

I’ve been listening to a lot more podcasts recently thanks to the new version of iTunes (if you haven’t got it, you should – give the BBC podcasts a go, like ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ and ‘In Our Time’; sure there are a lot of dreadful podcasts out there but there are some gems too).
I was thinking about recording lectures as podcasts, and wondering if my university would be interested in producing a set of professionally-recoprded lectures from different disciplines designed to introduce new ideas in interesting ways. I might bring it up, I’m sure there’ll be a few academics who would be interested, and we’ve got the equipment. Plus it might be a good marketing tool for the university.
But what’s really been making me think is the potential for using podcasts as a learning and assessment tool. I’ve been trying to get students interested in keeping blogs but, surprisingly, they seem to have difficulty with the concept. But I’m keen on the idea of asking small groups to research a topic and produce a podcast that I (and others) can subscribe to.
I’ve found that making assessment slightly different has led to better results in many cases. Just calling an essay an ‘article’ produces better writing and seems to make students more relaxed, for example. And last year I let students conduct experiments to test out theories, then write up the results – and again, the outcomes were often quite astounding.
This coming year, for my cultural studies course (which uses ‘The Simpsons’ as its core text but is far from dumbed down, before you ask!) I was thinking of asking groups to make short video documentaries analysing everyday cultural activities. Apart from the fact that it means fewer bloody essays to read, I thought it might be more interesting for them, but still achieve the same level of investigation and depth of learning.
But now I’m minded to ask for podcasts instead, largely because the technology is easier to use and acquire, but also because I am genuinely excited about the idea of sound becoming a ‘hot’ medium again. When I get to listen to BBC Radio 4 I always kick myself for not listening all the time, and I think there’s something more engaging about listening to real people’s voices undisgused by trick camera work and voice-overs.
I’m going to have to think about it, but I might introduce podcasts with my first year students in the first term as a ‘fun’ way of demonstrating their learning and, hopefully, a team-building exercise. I only want to use the first term’s assessment formatively anyway, and this seems ideal. Undoubtedly the idea of their podcasts (or a selection of them) being made available via iTunes might add something to the exercise as well.
If anyone reading this has experience of using podcasts with students, or wants to try it and is interested in swapping notes, get in touch!

3 comments on “Podcasts as learning tools?

  1. Jane says:

    Sounds like a great way to challenge the usual method of assessment. I think it depends very much on the course being taught, however, and how easy that material lends itself to spoken word (I was a < HREF="http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLD,GGLD:2005-02,GGLD:en&q=define%3A+compsci" REL="nofollow">CompSci<> and some of the courses we did wouldn’t lend themselves to it so well – although the popularity of podcasts like < HREF="http://www.lugradio.org/" REL="nofollow">lugRadio<> and < HREF="http://www.itconversations.com/index.html" REL="nofollow">IT Conversations<> might disprove that point).The new iTunes is great, and I < HREF="http://www.janeandrichard.co.uk/blog/archive/2005_07_01_index.xml#112029931528896096" REL="nofollow">recently blogged about it vs iPodder<> – I’m sticking with iTunes for the moment, and haven’t even started iPodder in weeks.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Thanks Jane – you’re right, some topics don’t lend themsleves to audio, but having said that I did my degree with the Open University and there were some good audio cassettes on maths. It’s about making it interesting, isn’t it? A general introduction to the principles of computer programming, or the history of it, could be done with a podcast and the slideshow capabilities are quite interesting.Some students may be uncomfortable using audio, but the group could spread roles with presenters and production staff. Assessment could be via one of the many methods for peer and self assessment. I’m keen to try this as a formative assessment technique in the early days to remove the trepidation from it.But I wouldn’t say no to a third year doing their dissertation in podcast format (you reading this, < HREF="http://shaunmorrison.blogspot.com/" REL="nofollow">Shaun<>?)

  3. Mikey says:

    Found a lot of useful info on your site about team building – thank you. Haven’t finished reading it yet but have bookmarked it so I don’t lose it. I’ve just started a < HREF="http://www.blogs-exposed.com/teambuilding" REL="nofollow">team building<> blog myself if you’d like to stop by

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