The Advantage of the Podcast in Education

The greatest technology I have used is the podcast.  In today’s society, podcasts are the newest, greatest thing, and most importantly, free.  iPod was the word of the year in 2005 and most students have some device that plays mp3s or mp4s, whether it is a cell phone, computer, or mp3/mp4 player.  The lesson plan I created for podcasts includes developing student-produced podcasts as both a teaching tool as well as an assessment tool.

Creating podcasts gives students the opportunity to also develop skills using computers, software such as PowerPoint, Excel, movie editing, and other industry specific software, as well as a variety of hardware, along with Internet and RSS feeds.  This constructivist approach allows students the flexibility to use their own creativity as well as motivate the students to produce quality podcasts due to the fact that the podcasts are then showcased worldwide on iTunes.

This activity although designed to enhance the learning of science labs, can be adapted for any subject matter.  I have found that when students learn that they will have to teach what they learn, it motivates them to pay more attention to detail and can provide excitement in the classroom when students can create their own product.

By Higher Power Training: Providing Instructional Design and Training Services since 2000

Classifying the Learner

As an Instructional Design and Trainer, it is essential to have a complete understanding of how people learn and that students have different learning capacities.

The Intuitive Learner – encompasses all of us in early childhood as we are all intuitive learners from birth to the age 7, when education in schools transform children into traditional students.  However, it is not uncommon that intuitive learners can extend beyond the age of seven.  Intuitive learners are typically more motivated to learn due to the hands-on approach for learning.

The Traditional Student – are students from the ages 7 and up are traditional students.  A traditional student is one that that learners gains knowledge from teacher lectures, books, and data.  Traditional students are taught to remember and regurgitate information, but not are unable to apply the information into real life situations.  Traditional learning does not support effective learning for all students, due to the fact that not all students have the ability to conform to a traditional student.  There are also are disadvantages for traditional students such as a lack of motivational learning and critical thinking.

The Disciplinary Expert – are those people who are able to take the knowledge of a traditional learner and apply that information to real life situations.  Disciplinary experts are those that base their learning more on inquiry based learning rather than standards based learning.  To become a disciplinary expert, a learner needs to be able to achieve higher order thinking when learning and assessing information in either a traditional or intuitive way.  Critical thinking is an essential part of being a disciplinary expert.

By Higher Power Training: Providing Instructional Design and Training Services since 2000

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 4.3: Project Evaluation – Discussion)

Although the data analysis is limited at this point, the assumption is that the primitive data collected is a reflection of continued feedback.  Some of the key data identified is the enormous improvement of results from pre-test to post-test.  Although this data is positive and believed to be a true reflection of academic growth through the program; the addition of data collected by standardized testing can potentially confirm the success of students who participate in the program.  The student surveys confirmed the program’s success in providing motivation for students through hands-on activities and exotic animals.  An unforeseen result was the opportunity for students to see the ocean for the first time.  The podcasts produced also accomplished their objective as Ocean Institute visitors welcomed them and found them both educational and critical to the overall experience of the exhibits.  This feedback is a reflection that the students not only understood the information they learned but were capable of producing podcasts that could be appreciated by their peers and adults.  Although the teachers have not been formally surveyed, unofficially, many of the teachers have made comments about both the delivery method as well as instructional design.  The feedback concerning the delivery has been positive; by presenting the information via a website, teachers have encouraged their students to study the program at home as well as in the classroom.  Teachers have also been in favor of the instructional design; many teachers feel that the content allows the teachers to perform as a facilitator rather than an actual teacher, which has placed less pressure on them and has required less prep time.  Other teachers have commented that the program provides enough flexibility for pro-active teachers to modify components where they feel necessary to accommodate their class.  The biggest concern expressed by many of the teachers was how the program addressed state standards.  This concern was confronted throughout the instructional design process and has impacted the classes selected to participate in the program; is should be also noted that by modifying the field trip component, this program can fit any set of state standards desired.

When integrating technology into curriculum, especially when curriculum is presented by the aide of technology, it is important that the technology enhances the program rather than distracts from the lesson plans.  The OIPP website, consisted of online flash videos, graphic animations, downloadable PDF files, and online testing.  To formally evaluate the delivery, the C.R.A.P. method by Williams and Tollet was used to assess the OIPP website:

Contrast:  The blue colors used throughout the site represented the marine theme of the program; the darker blues were used to enhance the lighter blue text.  Fellow Master’s student, Scott Bania understood the concept and had this comment, “The site itself has a great “look and feel” and reflects the theme of oceanography.”  Against the dark background, the links were easily identified with the color red or white; the left navigation bar used red dotted lines to highlight the links while the top navigation bar used a white rollover font; red font was used for links buried in the content of the page.  Large red font was also used to aide in identifying the title of each page.  The header was also very distinguishable with the black background which complemented the blue background within the content area; the black background also allowed the colorful OIPP logo to standout in the header.

Repetition:  The clarity and similarity between pages was very consistent.  The location of navigation buttons remained consistent while content was always located in the center of each page.  The layout of the online curriculum was also similar to the PDF downloadable versions of the curriculum.  Flash tutorials also remained consistent and allowed students to navigate through the site ensuring they did not miss any vital information.

Alignment:  Navigation bars were placed on the left and top of the screen and were clearly identified by rollover images.  The pages that included a video tutorial were well balanced with content text located beneath the video; this avoided distractions for the students at they watched the tutorials.  All content was centered whenever possible; some pages such as the podcast sample page were a bit obscure in alignment due to the unbalanced content to be shared on the page.

Proximity:  The layout provided enough separation between navigation, text, and video tutorials to place an emphasis on all aspects without being overwhelming to the viewer.  Navigation buttons were clearly identifiable and easy to click.  Content, whether video or text, were centered and emphasized by being towards the top of the site.

Aspects not addressed within C.R.A.P. included graphic design, flash animations and other aesthetics that contributed to the site looking very professional.  The flash design used in the introduction helped to build anticipation and set the theme for the technology rich program.  The music selected also maintained a technology feel and was designed for the middle school and high school audience.  The graphic design throughout the site was limited so that it would not conflict with the educational components to the site.  The only true graphic design was represented within the logo design; the design was integration between iPods and the Ocean Institute Podcast Program.  Other aesthetics included rollover images and text as well as appropriately designed video tutorials.

Even more important than the professionalism of the site is the functionality of the site.  To evaluate this site, a formal web usability analysis as described by Jacob Neilson was performed.  The first element addressed was the flash intro; the advantage of using the flash was to present a professionally designed site, however flash intros can take a long time to load and flash players must be downloaded onto your computer.  Ultimately, the target audience for this site all had high powered computers with broadband Internet connection, thus eliminating common disadvantages related to flash intros.  To enter the site, a red label on the top of the screen was easily identifiable.  On the main site, all navigation buttons were easily located and enhanced with the rollover images.  The text of the navigation buttons were also clear and concise and provided specific directions for the viewer.  The content provided throughout the site also aided in navigation through the site as to ensure that all necessary content was provided to the students.  Fellow Master’s student, Jeannine Taylor had this to say about the navigation and layout of the site, “It was very easy to navigate through and it was very clear what was expected of the learner… The bells and whistles are definitely there, but they are not on every page, just where they are needed for introductory and instructional purposes.”  With the aide of C.R.A.P. and Jacob Neilson’s web usability, this site was designed successfully.

Growing with Technology

Technology has impacted almost every aspect of our lives including adult and higher education. Adult learners, like other students, all learn best in a variety of approaches and succeed best when their strengths are highlighted. It is the responsibility of the instructor to identify each student’s strengths and teach to those strengths; many times, technology can assist in this objective and provide both instructors and students with many benefits to enhance and reinforce the educational experience.

Technology in the Classroom

Technology has been used in training for years; it used to include VCRs, overhead projectors, and bulky desktop computers, but with the aid of technology advances, technology in the classroom has become endless. In the Era of Technology, students in a college classroom can be exposed to virtual reality training devices, PDAs and tablets, digital cameras, laptop computers, iPods, digital projectors, and smartboards. As adults we now have the opportunity to continue our professional development and training without ever stepping foot into a classroom by taking online courses. When considering the advantages and disadvantages of technology in supporting adult and higher education, three factors should be considered:

(1) Does the technology improve access to training?

(2) Does the technology improve the quality of education?

(3) Does the benefits of the technology justify the costs?

Effective Technology

The integration of technology has been an ongoing challenge for years but the rewards for technology integration are well worth the struggles. Three learning theories that impact adult learners are the behaviorist approach, constructivist approach, and cognitivist approach; all three approaches can be enhanced with technology and can successfully enhance the educational experience for all students no matter what their strengths and weaknesses. The digital age can enhance liberal education if we make appropriate use of digital opportunities. The key to technology effectiveness is proper integration of the technology so that it enhances or reinforces a lesson plan rather than creating difficulties for the students or teacher such as technical issues or distractions. In a world that is dominated by technology, it is important for students to be introduced to various technological options and experience how they can be beneficial in both their class as well as real-world application. One of the biggest benefits with technology such as the Internet is that students have unlimited access to information. Internet, as well as virtual reality, PowerPoint, iPods, PCs and tablets, can also offer interactivity. One of the most common benefits of technology is how various technologies can be combined, for example, a teacher can place all videos, PowerPoint lectures, and assignments on the Internet for students to use at home as they continue to study outside of the classroom or workplace. Technology can also aid in the development of problem-solving skills as well as encouraging inquiry-based thinking, thus gaining a deeper understanding of the information presented in class. The greatest benefit of technology is that technology will continue to improve and change, offering instructors even more ways to deliver the information to their students, thus allowing all students the best opportunity to succeed no matter what their best learning methods.

Ineffective Technology

Although technology offers a variety of benefits, there are disadvantages that need to be addressed before determining if and what technology can enhance adult learning. The most popular complaint with technology is the lack of professional development supplied to teachers and staff to help successfully integrate new technology into already pre-established curriculum and lesson plans. Technology can also provide distractions.

Technology in Training

When researching the different types of technologies available to enhance learning, a trainer must first determine their own knowledge of the technology and available professional development. Once the trainer is proficient with the technology, they must determine how integrate it successfully to achieve their ultimate goal. They must consider costs for technology, the time it will take to train the students in the technology, possible problems the trainer or students may encounter with the technology, and the ability for the students’ learning to be enhanced and not hindered by the integration of the technology. When identifying the needs for an adult course, a trainer must consider many factors that impact their students both in the class and outside of the class, such as the busy lives of the students; therefore, assignments and assessments can be a critical issue that should be addressed to help the adult students succeed. Another factor is that technology, especially for adults, can be overwhelming if it is a new experience for them. PDAs of tablets offer the best technology integration for adult courses for a number of reasons. The first is that many adults already have some experience with PDAs or at least some of their functions such as scheduling and calculating. The next is that the PDA will offer adult students a way to stay organized in the class and be able to track their professional, personal, and school workload. The third and probably the most important factor is that most adults have some experience with the software. Other benefits include taking all their class notes on the PDA, downloading lectures and videos, and accessing the internet. To be successful, technology needs to be integrated without the students even realizing it, so that the emphasis remains on the lesson and not on the technology.

Conclusion

Technology has become a fact of life in and out of the classroom. It is important to recognize that many types of technology can help students, if designed appropriately. It is the responsibility of trainers, executives, and instructional designers to understand that adults learn with a variety of approaches, and they must design the best opportunity for students to be successful in the trainings. Although there are disadvantages, effective technology can advance learning the same way technology has improved medicine, science, and our daily lives.Technology has impacted almost every aspect of our lives including adult and higher education. Adult learners, like other students, all learn best in a variety of approaches and succeed best when their strengths are highlighted. It is the responsibility of Higher Power Training to identify an organization’s strengths and teach to those strengths; many times, technology can assist in this objective and provide both trainers and students with many benefits to enhance the educational experience. Technology integration is a much debated topic in higher education. In this Era of Technology, people cannot avoid technology, whether its cell phones, plasma televisions, DVRs, etc. Although children are eager to learn and use these advanced technologies, adults are many times reluctant to venture out to the unknown and experience new technologies because it can be intimidating and overwhelming. Thus, it is crucial for teachers and trainers, who teach adults, to identify the appropriate technology integration to reinforce and encourage learning rather than to intimidate and distract adult learners.

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 3.2: Ethical Considerations)

A project of this scope has provided and will continue to provide students of all demographics the opportunity to take advantage of using the newest technology in learning.  In this era of technology, the desire to integrate technology into learning curriculum is at an all-time high.  Both private and government foundations are eager to financially support programs that provide students with the opportunity to use and learn with technology.  With the diversity of the students in Southern California, the program provided enough flexibility for students to express their creativity by choosing to create the podcast in Spanish if they desired.

The Ocean Institute Podcast Program was designed with a combination of learning theories, behaviorism, constructivist, and multiple intelligences, as the foundation.  The OIPP consisted of five elements to successfully make learning motivational and the produced podcasts useful: professional development for the teachers, the student field trip, the student research, and the podcast production process.  With the aid of the online content and resources, this program combined the flexibility and creativity within each class with the structure and guidance necessary to produce the expected results and achieve the program and student objectives.  A project of this scope has provided and will continue to provide students of all demographics the opportunity to take advantage of using the newest technology in learning.

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 3.1: Project Design – Learning Theory)

The Ocean Institute Podcast Program was designed with a combination of learning theories, behaviorism, constructivist, and multiple intelligences, as the foundation.  The concept of the program to have students produce their own podcasts is a valuable constructivist approach to learning.  The process behind producing the podcasts in groups was based on the theory of multiple intelligences; as students work together and utilize their strengths to produce a high quality podcast.  The reward students received by taking ownership of their project were an element of behaviorism.

The OIPP consisted of five elements to successfully make learning motivational and the produced podcasts useful: professional development for the teachers, the student field trip, the student research, and the podcast production process.  The professional development for the teachers is the most critical aspect to limit the performance gaps within the program as the day to day process of how the program was conducted by each individual teacher; it was essential that the teachers were prepared properly to facilitate the program.  Due to the time constraints and available resources, the professional develop training of the program will not be addressed in detail.  The field trip element of this program was one of two essential motivators for the students.  The field trip design was modeled after pre-existing programs provided by the Ocean Institute.  The modifications were based on the concept that the students must take what they learned on the field trip and apply that into a program monitored at school; this instructional design of incorporating classroom time and the field trip is a unique concept of informal education but perhaps essential in a time when schools must function under extremely strict budgets and activities like field trips are being eliminated by school districts.  The podcast production element was another motivational element, allowing students to take advantage of the latest technology fads in their learning process.   The fact is, school-aged children spend hours on websites like MySpace and YouTube, both producing videos with their cell phones and uploading videos to their iPods; it only makes sense to provide students with a structured process to develop meaningful podcasts that they can be proud of and take ownership of.  The fourth element was the research process conducted by students; this was the element that fits within the State Standards and is the priority when justifying the work in class.  The pedagogical element, the most important element of instructional design, provided the overall structure and process of the program.  With the aid of the online content and resources, this program combined the flexibility and creativity within each class with the structure and guidance necessary to produce the expected results and achieve the program and student objectives.

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 2.6: Review of the Literature)

One of the biggest keys for a successful online educational program is the web page usability; without a properly designed website, the greatest instructional designed programs will fail to reach its potential.  The Internet contains links to virtually hundreds of definitions for usability.  Jakob Nielsen, called “the guru of Web page usability” by The New York Times, defines usability as, “a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use.  The word “usability” also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process.”(Nielsen)  He goes to state that usability is defined by five quality components:

  • Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
  • Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
  • Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
  • Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
  • Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “usability testing is the process by which the human-computer interaction characteristics of a system are measured, and weaknesses are identified for correction. Such testing can range from rigorously structured to highly informal, from quite expensive to virtually free, and from time-consuming to quick. While the amount of improvement is related to the effort invested in usability testing, all of these approaches lead to better systems.”(Conrad & Levi)  Ultimately, if students have the ability to work through the website or software with greater ease, more likely students will reap the benefits of program.  As Martyn Sloman states, communication is the key to the successful integration of e-learning.  Sloman identifies five principles that should be addressed in an e-learning program:

  1. Recognize the limitations of the population being targeted.
  2. Relevance drives out resistance.
  3. Most learning requires an intermediary to advise and direct the learner.
  4. E-learning should be linked with instructor – led courses when possible.
  5. Support and automate.

As technology advances, methods for learning are transforming from E-learning to M-learning (mobile learning).  “Desktop solutions that require presence at a static screen are less tolerated by many young people.  Young people on the move expect not to be tied down with static equipment and e-learning that does not respond to this may be limited in future” (Cunningham, 2007).