Working with the resources of a nationally recognized educational facility aided in implementing such a systemic informal educational program into classrooms. Obvious limitations were addressed and minimized to allow the program to reach is fullest potential; limitations included the willingness of participating schools and teachers, financial support to operate a technology savvy program, and time necessary to complete the program successfully. The Ocean Institute has a well established reputation in the local educational community; however convincing schools and teachers to participate in an experimental program was very difficult. This issue was addressed by contacting and working with the Orange County Stellar Technology High Schools; these schools are funded to participate or develop such experimental programs. The participation of these schools provided enough students, teachers, and feedback to move forward with a pilot program. In this era of restricted budgets, finances must also be address. Although these schools receive funds to cover many of the elements required by a program like this one, including computers and the software; there were many other elements that required financial support including the field trip costs such as buses and substitute teachers, professional development, iPods, and Ocean Institute staffing. To reconcile this problem, a small grant was rewarded to the Ocean Institute allowing the program to move forward; this grant provided the support to rent buses, pay substitute teachers, purchase a limited quantity of iPods, pay Ocean Institute staff, and provide professional develop for participating teachers. In recognizing constant need for financial support in such a program, a strong relationship must be developed between the grant funder and the Ocean Institute. The third critical limitation was designating the necessary time required for such a program. Time constraints occurred with professional development training, program feed back from all participants, and the classroom time necessary to complete the podcasts. Field trips have become limited in schools not only due to budget constraints but also the high demand on standardized testing; to ask teachers to spend approximately 32 hours of classroom time to participate in a pilot program was difficult. Fortunately, enough teachers stepped forward in eagerness to participate. Although limitations for this program had little hindrance on the overall design and outcome of the program, the data analysis and proven success is of the essence if this program is to continue beyond this pilot program.
For purposes of this project, the following words are defined:
- IPods: Portable media players produced by Apple that play specific digital media formats including mp3 and mp4.
- Mp3: One digital media format used by digitally created audio files. These files are recognized by iTunes and QuickTime player. They can be downloaded played on iPods.
- Mp4: One digital media format used by digitally created video files. These files are recognized by iTunes and QuickTime player. They can be downloaded played on iPods.
- Podcasts: Media files, most commonly found in mp3 or mp4 formats that are distributed over the Internet for playback on personal computers and portable media players. Podcasting refers to the distribution of media files by syndication feeds through which new files are automatically downloaded to subscribers, but media files downloaded manually from the Internet are also generally referred to as podcasts (Copley, 2007).
- Informal Learning: Generally refers to learning that occurs outside the traditional, formal school realm. These sites range from museums and science centers to casual areas that some might not even notice for their potential as educational venues (McComas, 2006).
- Ocean Institute Visitors: The Ocean Institute is a closed campus informal education center serving more than 90,000 students a year. On the weekends the Ocean Institute opens its doors to the general public much like an open house, providing exhibits, instructional programs, and marine animals to visitors.