06 December 2013

...Podcasting for Learning (PfL)

Last night I headed to Hackney Community College, to attend the TechCity TeachMeet. The remit was 'share your A-Z Tech Toolkit that has worked for you in 2013, & what tech you plan to use in 2014.' I decided to renew my interest in using audio and podcasting by sharing my initial, tentative use of Soundcloud as a learning tool. I shall mention a number of ways in which podcasting can support learning, and at the end of this blog I'll share my 5 intended actions for the new year. 

Soundcloud is an online, web 2.0 audio repository, a 'social sound platform' which allows you to record, upload, share, play, like and comment on audio tracks. It's routinely used by musicians wishing to share their creations. The free account option provides you with 120 minutes of free storage. Premium accounts are available, with the option of gaining unlimited storage with only a weekly upload restriction. Since many of the tracks I record are under a minute long, the free option has been more than adequate for my needs.

I began using Soundcloud as a learning tool during a training session on podcasting (check out this series of iPodagogy videos, which consider podcasting in depth), that I produced for primary PGCE trainees. We explored the London Grid for Learning (LGfL) podcasting tools, and software including Podium, AudioBoo and Audacity. We had a great time... But as part of the session I asked the group to formulate their ideas about the benefits of using audio recordings in the primary classroom. Actually, I didn't give them a great deal of time to consider this, before asking them to speak their ideas straight into an mp3 recorder:

As you can see, Soundcloud provides an attractive, professional-looking interface, which includes an image of your choice, a track timer, and a 'share' button. When you upload using the Android or Apple apps, you can also select location and social media sharing options, which all serves to make this a really powerful, flexible tool. However, I remain enthusiastic about this particular site for two other reasons, both of which many teachers will hold dear: The tech is simple and it's reliable. 
But whatever tool, software, app or platform you utilise, what's the use of being able to record ideas and upload them quickly and conveniently? Where's the benefit to learners?
  1. For starters, to record a podcast learners need to posses a thorough understanding of the topic they intend to talk about.  
  2. Learners need to organize and summarize ideas into succinct sentences. 
  3. Podcasting has the potential to serve as a powerful assessment tool to help you establish what your learners really know and understand about a subject, and also...
  4. Learners will develop their own efficacy, in terms of necessary skills, and their self-efficacy, in the sense that they will come to understand the scope and limits of their own abilities. I suppose I'm broadly describing self-assessment.
  5. Depending on the way a podcasting task is structured, it's likely to require learners to draw on their collaboration and negotiation skills, assigning roles and taking turns to get the job done. 
  6. Whether working collaboratively or independently, a good-quality podcast needs to be well-planned before the recording takes place.
But, considering my role as a tutor on teacher education and training programmes, here's the main reason that I plan to use podcasting in 2014...

During school-based placements trainee teachers get highly variable experiences. This is particularly the case in terms of learning how to plan a lesson. School-based mentors have very different approaches to planning, and varying expectations of the plans they receive from their trainees. Some experienced teachers don't produce physical plans at all. Others consider a powerpoint file to be their 'plan'. Some mentors expect scripts from their trainees, while others expect bulleted lists of step and activities. 

Consequently, during training we aim to provide pre-service teachers with opportunities to practise (yes, with an 's') their planning, and get to grips with:
  • identifying specific learning intentions
  • considering how to differentiate for the needs of different learners, and
  • planning a coherent learning journey toward
  • challenging but achievable success criteria
I quickly realised that by requiring trainees to succinctly articulate aspects of their plans they were having to refine their thinking, remaining focused on intended learning outcomes, and in many cases simplify their approach to tasks and activities. So, for example, this is Liam simply sharing his idea for developing pupils' understanding of chronology:

Intentions for 2014:
 #1 - aim to provide opportunities across subjects/areas of learning for trainees to articulate ideas, and develop skill of formulating concise learning aims and objectives
#2 - utilise comments feature within soundcloud to provide focused feedback on trainees' uploaded content. Also, flag up to the company the way we are harnessing their tech...
#3 - explore possibility of replacing emailed formative feedback with audio feedback, so that the medum is not seen as 'an extra' (including by staff, in terms of workload implications)
#4 - gather objective feedback from learners to develop SWAT analysis of mode of engagement. Set findings against existing literature
#5 - Ensure work is disseminated. See you at a TeachMeet in 2014!

References & further reading

Kidd, W (2011) 'Utilizing a variety of Web2.0 tools to support the professional (‘distance’) learning of trainee teachers on Initial Teacher Education programmes in Post Compulsory Education and Training', in Working with diverse groups of learners in the digital age. HEA/ESCalate. Available online: http://escalate.ac.uk/digitalage (Accessed: 5 December 2013).

Ribchester, C., France, D., Wakefield, K., (2008) ‘It was just like a personal tutorial’: Using podcasts to provide assessment feedback’ (Dept. of Geography and Development Studies, University of Chester) Paper presented at the Higher Education Academy Conference, July 2008

Richardson, W. (2010) Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. (3rd ed.) Corwin Press.

Rosell-Aguilar, F. (2007) ‘Top of the Pods – In Search of a Podcasting ‘Podagogy’ for Language Learning’ in Computer Assisted Language Learning, 5(20) pp.471-492

Souter, N. and Muir, D. (2008) Podcasting, Pupils and Pre-service-teachers. Paper presented to the European Conference on Educational Research 2008, From Teaching to Learning?, 10-12 September 2008, Gothenburg, Sweden. http://strathprints.strath.ac.uk/7172/ (Accessed January, 2009).

TeachMeet: If you're not sure what a TeachMeet is, start here: What is TeachMeet?

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Regards, DJA