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


M-Learning (Thesis Volume 5.2: Implications for Teaching/Training)

In an era when teachers try to justify field trips, developing a program that that requires both field trip preparation and post field trip assignments in the classroom provides students the opportunity to retain more information from the field trip, and can be found more beneficial.  The Ocean Institute Podcast Program provides a structured program addressing these concepts providing teachers with an alternative to developing their own lesson plans to capture the same academic success.

Multimedia is another motivational tool used in the classroom; podcasts have become a popular multimedia format over the past few years and used my various organizations including museums and schools.  Many museums offer professionally produced podcasts as a directional guide as visitors travel through the museum experiencing what the museum has to offer.  In schools, many teachers provide their lectures in the form of podcasts, while other teachers help students develop podcasts instead of speeches or book reports.

This project is unique in that all it will combine the critical elements provided by museum and school podcasts.  Many informal educational facilities such as the Ocean Institute pride themselves in what they have to offer students; however, the general visitor does not have the opportunity to experience the same programs students complete nor do they understand the impact these facilities have on local students.  This program will generate a platform for the general public to experience the same programs as students; while at the same time, showcases the work of the students on a world wide scale since the podcasts would be downloadable on iTunes as well as the Ocean Institute’s website.

By Higher Power Training

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 3.2: Project Design – Procedure)

A number of Ocean Institute programs are grant funded; many with the requirement of dissemination.  One platform of dissemination has been to highlight the programs on weekends for public visitors to talk to students and view their work.  This process has provided the Ocean Institute with positive feedback and appreciation from visitors, parents, teachers, and students.  The concept of OIPP was that podcasts can provide similar feedback, while elevating the education for both the students and visitors to another level.  From this original concept, grant proposals were written to fund such a program; the idea was to find a small grant to develop a pilot program.  Once the pilot was completed and if found to be potentially successful, attempts to receive larger grants would be desired.  Once the funds were in place the design process began.

  • Step 1:  Potential improvements for the weekend open house were identified.
  • Step 2:  An investigation of various technology platforms to present educational information was conducted.
  • Step 3:  The demographics of the target audience were identified.
  • Step 4:  Both student and program objectives were identified.
  • Step 5:  Assessments were identified to correlate with the objectives.
  • Step 6:  Partnerships with the Orange County Stellar Technology High Schools were developed.  A meeting with members of the high schools was held to brainstorm content, delivery, and other aspects of the program.
  • Step 7:  The field trip and program content was developed.
  • Step 8:  Through out the instructional design process, a series of tests performed to measure the usability and progress of the program.  The tests were performed at the middle and end of the instructional design process.  The tests were completed by Ocean Institute program developers, Ocean Institute instructors, Ocean Institute student volunteers, and teachers from participating schools.
  1. Exploratory Testing: The first test performed was the exploratory test. This test took place in the middle of the instructional design process and was completed by both Ocean Institute program developers and instructors.  The test instruments included an invitation to participate in the test, a test script explaining the purpose of the test, sample podcast, program assessment questionnaire, and group exit interview.  At the end of the testing, modifications were made by the recommendations of the staff.  The test exposed flaws in instructional design, directions, time allocation, and general problems that may arise.
  2.  Assessment Test: At the end of the instructional design, an assessment test was completed by a few of the participants that completed the exploratory tests along with Ocean Institute student volunteers.  The test instruments included an invitation to participate in the test, a test script explaining the purpose of the test, sample podcast, program assessment questionnaire, and group exit interview.  The results obtained from completing the program, along with the program assessment questionnaire, and exit interview provided direction for program modification prior to the validation testing.  Again, testing exposed flaws in design, equipment, directions, and general issues that may arise.  The podcasts developed from the assessment test provided excellent examples for students participating in the program in the future.  The test instruments included an invitation to participate in the test, a test script explaining the purpose of the test, program assessment questionnaire, and group exit interview.
  • Step 9:  Once the content was developed, the appropriate platforms for delivery were identified and developed; this included the program website, flash videos, PDF files, online tests, and other resource links.
  • Step 10:  An eight hour professional development seminar was designed; the process will not be addressed due to time constraints and thesis focus being on the actual Ocean Institute Podcast Program and not on the professional development course.
  • Step 11:  Professional development was held to review the program curriculum, introduce and navigate through the software, and podcast were produced by teachers.  A validation test would be conducted at the end of the seminar.
  1. Validation Test: The final test distributed was the validation test.  This test provided input by people not associated with the Ocean Institute.  Teachers participating in this program had an opportunity to take the validation test providing the final input before the program was finalized.  The teachers represented grades 6th through 12th in various school districts.  The validation test helped verify that the program met all needs required by teachers, and encouraged them along with other teachers to participate in the program.  The test instruments included an invitation to participate in the test, a test script explaining the purpose of the test, sample podcast, and program assessment questionnaire.
  • Step 12:  Suggestion, comments, and the results of the validation tests during the professional development were analyzed; changes were implemented where deemed necessary.
  • Step 11:  Program surveys were designed for participants for data analysis.

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 2.5: Review of the Literature)

Integrating technology and other multimedia into the classroom efficiently requires a number of tools to be in place.  Project TIES (Technology Integration Enhancing Science), a four-year Technology Literacy K-8 project, combines technology as a tool for teaching and learning with earth and environmental science education (Shane and Wojnowski, 2005).  This experimental program was implemented by two schools on the east coast with the goal to produce a successful, creative, and replicable model for inquiry and project based instruction that uses technology to integrate science and other curricula.  The keys to success were identified as professional development for teachers, easy accessibility to all technology needed by teachers and students, and patience when converting a traditional classroom curriculum into a technology-rich classroom curriculum.  The obstacles of such a program were quite common but minimal in this case: allocating teacher and classroom time for setting up equipment, finding a sufficient number of substitutes, and the occasionally steep learning curve when moving from a more traditional, text-based approach (Shane and Wojnowski, 2005).    Shane and Wojnowski (2005) have identified six significant components that are necessary for technology and multimedia to be an effective learning tool in the classroom:

  1. The idea of building new understandings through active engagement in a variety of experiences over time, and doing so with others in supportive learning environments, is critical for effective professional development.
  2. The combination of new knowledge and behaviors as a result of professional development, combined with the needed equipment, will help to provide profound and lasting changes.
  3. Technology can be a powerful entity in classroom instruction when adequate resources are seamlessly incorporated into instructional approaches and strategies.
  4. Local school district budgets have to be modified to accommodate updates and repairs of project hardware and software.
  5. For many teachers, the idea of student-centered inquiry and project-based instruction is novel.
  6. The change from a traditional to a technology-based pedagogical approach is very dramatic and will be met with resistance in some classrooms.

Whether teachers are looking to integrate pre-produced multimedia such as videos or podcasts into their curriculum, or looking to transform from a traditional classroom to a more technology-rich classroom, there will be many obstacles that will have to be defeated.  These obstacles include identifying the appropriate content (Lamb and Johnson, 2007), providing the appropriate professional development for teachers (Shane and Wojnowski, 2005), identifying limitations to technology access (Brown, 2007), and emphasizing inquiry-based learning (Chung, 2007) while promoting self-directed learning (Chang, 2007).  For multimedia to enhance learning in the classroom efficiently, each of these barriers much be addressed and eliminated before students will achieve the desired success.

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 2.4: Review of the Literature)

At the university level, the Beall Center for Art and Technology (n.d.), located at the University of California, Irvine campus is dedicated to research and exhibitions that explore new relationships between the arts, sciences, and engineering.  They are currently promoting an exhibit at the center entitled Atmospherics/Weather Works which “offers gallery visitors large scale interactive projections and sonifications of hurricanes, polar weather, and global warming.”  Visitors have the opportunity “to experience large geographical events on a human scale and gain a deeper connection to unpredictable, complex rhythms and melodies of nature.”  Not far away, the Experiential Technologies Center located on the UCLA campus generated a simulation of the famous pirate colony, Port Royal (2005).  The project entails a reconstruction of the buildings as determined by the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, and it is utilized at the Ocean Institute to enhance the hands-on nautical archaeology experience.

At the K-12 levels, the Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) is participating in a number of technology-based projects, including podcasts, animations, and Project Test Drive.  OCDE is currently encouraging the use of podcasts as a resource for bringing subject-matter experts (SMEs) into the classroom, along with school and classroom updates, test reviews, and professional development.  At Los Alamitos High School, students are exploring scientific principles and then creating a complete storyboard, followed by 3-D modeling and animation to demonstrate the subject matter (“Technology showcase project: ‘Science and math in 3-D,’” 2006, Fall).  Project TestDrive is an online science library with lesson plans and resources that will engage students “in learning through innovative science, technology, engineering and math resources” (“Project TestDrive: ‘National science digital library,’” 2006, Fall).   Similar to the educational video games, students will also develop critical thinking and problem solving skills.

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 2.1: Review of the Literature)


There are many elements that must be addressed before producing a technology-rich instructional program.  First you must follow your instructional design guidelines including identifying your target audience and needs.  There are many elements that must all be designed properly for the entire program to run efficiently, including your actual instruction, your presentation platform, your assessment tools, and resources.  This review of literature will address learning theories developed by Thorndike and Skinner; technology integration to improve curriculum by Dr. Gardner; general technology integration into the classroom, distance learning, multimedia instruction, gaming and motivation, and podcasting integration; all while focusing on the foundation of instructional design.

Literature Review

When designing any program, one of the elements you must take into account is the target audience; you must understand how they best learn.  Conditioning human behavior is a topic that has been researched for years.  Two psychologists that spent much of their lives researching and testing their theories were Edward Thorndike and B.F. Skinner.  Both psychologists developed their own theories on how to condition human behaviors; Thorndike’s theory is called the Law of Effect and Skinner’s theory is the Reinforcing Stimulus/Reinforcing Concepts.  Although both theories are different, they both share many similarities and can potentially be combined to help create an effective computer software program to effectively teach students in the classroom.

Thorndike’s Law of Effect states that a response followed by a pleasant consequence is more likely to be repeated, whereas a response followed by an unpleasant consequence is more likely to be diminished.  The Law of Effect is directly a function of the interactions between positive (pleasant) and negative (unpleasant) reinforcements and punishments.  A positive consequence is defined as the gaining of something, while a negative consequence is the removal of something.  A positive reinforcement can be defined as something that can be perceived as a pleasant consequence, thus increasing the likelihood that a behavior will occur again.  A negative punishment is defined as something that provides an unpleasant consequence thus decreases the likelihood that something will be repeated.  The greater the reinforcements or punishments, the greater the effects of the law.

Skinner’s Reinforcing Stimulus/Reinforcing Concepts defines a reinforcing stimulus or reinforcer as a special kind of a stimulus encountered by someone performs a behavior.  This special stimulus has the effect of increasing the behavior occurring just before the reinforcer.  Skinner’s concepts state that if a behavior is followed by a consequence, and the nature of the consequence modifies tendency to repeat the behavior in the future.  A behavior followed by a reinforcing stimulus may result in an increased probability of that behavior occurring in the future; while a behavior that lacks a reinforcing stimulus may result in a decreased probability of that behavior occurring in the future.

Both Thorndike’s and Skinner’s theories have many similarities and differences.  Both theories recognize that consequences due to behaviors have a direct impact on conditioning human behavior.  However, in Skinner’s theory, a behavior is likely to reoccur based on a reinforcer rather than whether the stimulus is positive or negative.  Thorndike’s theory on the other hand is based primarily on the reinforcements and punishments, both which in theory could be stimulating.  Both theories can cross paths in an attempt to positively reinforce someone for a good behavior.  The theories are less likely to co-exist in negative behaviors.  For example, if a child does something they are not supposed to, you are likely to yell no to them which is a negative punishment, however still very stimulating to a child.  The one instance when a the theories can cross paths for negative behavior is when the negative punishment described by Thorndike involves taking attention away from the person doing the behavior, thus limiting the stimulus described by Skinner.

In designing an online program, it is critical to take the consistencies within both of these theories to identify the most appropriate ways to positively reinforce students for success within the program, while limiting the stimulus for incorrect decisions within the program.

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 1.4: Purpose of OIPP)

The OIPP efficiently integrated technology into the schools by utilizing podcasts.  The student-developed podcasts gave students the opportunity to develop mentoring qualities by learning how to collect data, organize information and turn the information into an instructional presentation via podcasting.  By encouraging inquiry-based thinking and creativity as students develop these podcasts, a sense of ownership arose.  Knowing their work will be downloaded and used by their peers and others around the world helped develop leadership qualities within the students.

Professional development was a crucial component in the program.  Teachers learned what podcasting is, how it can benefit them and their students, and how to create podcasts on their own.

The Ocean Institute is currently collaborating with the Orange County Department of Education and the Orange County Stellar Technology High Schools to give 100 middle and high school students from Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Foothill Ranch, and Mission Viejo the opportunity to study the topic of watersheds at the Ocean Institute.  The students participated in the field trip; then returned to their classrooms to develop audio or video podcasts to demonstrate their conceptual understanding of watersheds.  By creating podcasts, students developed fluency in Photoshop, PowerPoint, Excel, and various music and movie editing software.  These students developed the skills to collect data, organize information, and communicate complex scientific information to educate visitors at the Ocean Institute.  These podcasts are showcased at the Ocean Institute and available for downloading to visitors in Ocean Institute public programs.