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

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Learning Theories and Technology

There are a number of learning theories applicable in the Instructional Design process.  Two common approaches include: behavioral and cognitive.

While behaviorist theories base their learning on the stimulus-response interaction, cognitivists base their learning on the process of discovery with the aid of an instructor.  Cognitivists place greater interest in knowledge, meaning, intentions, feelings, creativity, expectations, and problem-solving.  Behaviorists place greater emphasis on positive re-enforcement and negative punishment.  Although behaviorists and cognitivists are very different, both have some similarities.  Both believe learning theories should be objective and discuss the environmental impact training has upon the learner.  Cognitivists also believe in reinforcement, but on a different level. They reinforce the learner through a process of retrieving existing knowledge and presentation of new information.

Jerome Burner is the cognitivist that best reflects Higher Power Training‘s view of learning.  We are a firm believer in providing an environment that allows students to explore in a controlled environment allowing students to process, store, and retrieve information for use.  As a trainer it is essential to establish a foundation to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills within students.

Higher Power Training is responsible for designing innovative and interactive training programs that can be implemented into classrooms or online.  In the workplace, the cognitive approach works best because of the ever-changing growth of a company or organization.  With the use of the cognitive approach students have the opportunity to discover their own findings and share their results in a controlled but creative way.  Leadership qualities will be developed by providing a structured program that encourages inquiry-based learning and student creativity by branching through scenario based e-learning modules.

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.

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 4.1: Project Evaluation)

Being a unique program with few models to follow, the most difficult aspect of the program was to determine how to assess the success of the program.  This assessment was critical to attract participating schools, grant funding, and to measure the overall success of the development of the program.  The foundation of the evaluation was based on measuring the proposed objectives; the objectives were divided into two categories: program objectives and student objectives.  The program objectives included:

  1. Develop a working partnership between Ocean Institute, Orange County high schools, Apple, and Best Buy.
  2. Enhance classroom curriculum by bringing subject matter experts into the classroom via podcasts.
  3. Integrate technology into the established curriculum for students to develop podcasts based on lesson plans.
  4. Design an instructional and motivational platform for students to showcase their conceptual understanding of various subject matters.
  5. Provide professional development for teachers on the advantages of using podcasting and other technology in their classrooms.

The student objectives included:

  1. Research books and field guides to collect the necessary information.
  2. Organize the information they have collected in a way that can be developed into an educational lecture.
  3. Educate their peers on the skates and rays.
  4. Recognize the differences within aquaria.
  5. Use field guides to identify various species.
  6. Complete population counts and assess biodiversity.
  7. Identify keystone species and the importance of the species.
  8. Relate the pollution the biological integrity of the aquaria.
  9. Communicate their findings to their peers.
  10. Efficiently research on the internet to collect required data.
  11. Participate in an open discussion regarding problems and solutions to estuaries.
  12. Collect and organize digital video footage and images depicting their work.
  13. Edit all digital data.
  14. Create an mp4 file with digital data.
  15. Write an instructional script to teach a lesson plan.
  16. Record a voice file and integrate it into mp4 file to match with visual content.
  17. Use their creativity to design and produce an instructional podcast to be used by their peers at the Ocean Institute exhibits.

Measuring many of the student objectives were difficult due to the lack of quantitative results.  Measuring the student objects were completed by monitoring their milestone accomplishments and assessing their final podcast production; to create a unified measuring tool, an assessment guide was created for teachers to evaluate the students’ progress.  Another tool designed to assess the student objectives included a comparison analysis between student pre-tests and post-test results to measure a student’s academic growth.  To continue to improve the motivational and content components, students were also distributed student surveys to complete; the surveys that have been completed have been analyzed.  Once a greater number of surveys are returned, revisions to the program may be deemed necessary.  The final analysis will be to compare state standardized testing results of those students who participated in the program to those who did not; this is a critical assessment in terms of receiving future funding, however due to the time constraints, this analysis has not been completed.

To successfully evaluate the first two objectives, they will need to be redefined with quantitative elements; these original program objectives were broad as a result of an experimental program with no model to follow.  As the pilot program comes to an end, the results of the teacher surveys and visitor surveys will assist in providing a foundation to better redefine the objectives.  Objectives that will require redefining include grant funding needs; this can be better determined once an accurate assessment of cost per class has been completed.  Another objective that requires redefining is the desired number of participating schools both in short term and long term; there are a number of components that will influence this objective including the Ocean Institute’s ability to accommodate schools throughout the program, professional development needs, and budget needs for both schools and the Ocean Institute.  Finally, the professional development seminars contain their own set of objectives, but will not be addressed within this report to prevent tangents.

It should be noted that the each of the evaluations noted above will be an ongoing and continuing process to ensure the program is of the highest quality.  Continuing assessments are also critical due to the frequent updates and changes in technology which will need to be addressed when it becomes an identified issue; the hope is that the surveys will address such issues.

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 3.2: 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 2.3: Review of the Literature)

With proper instructional design and teacher training at its optimum, the use of simulations and video games would create a very productive learning environment.  Dr. Henry Jenkins, the Director of Comparative Media Studies at MIT, stated in a Web cast (Guerena & Wagner, October 25, 2005) feels that in the K-12 classroom gaming and simulation are great media that can delve deeply into subject matter and create choice and consequences all while simulating real world processes.  This follows along with Piskurich’s observation in his book, Rapid Instructional Design (2006): “They are good for teaching principles related to planning, generating ideas, testing alternatives, making decisions, using resources, and working under time pressure” (p. 204).

Finally, Clark Aldrich (2004) suggested three elements to make learning through gaming and simulation a function very possible in the classroom: the simulation, the gaming element, and the pedagogical element.  The simulations element involves the creation of an environment that models reality as faithfully as possible in the chosen medium, not in an abstract way.  The gaming element makes entertaining interactions possible, and it must create enjoyment for the user.  The pedagogical element, the most important with regards to instructional design (ID), provides all of the surrounding material that makes sure learning is taking place and progressing in a timely manner.  He went on to say that students need to know where to go and what is expected of them (learning objectives).  All this relates back to the ID model.  If the game or simulation is properly designed, and the teachers are trained in its use, then the students should be able to reach their learning objectives.

Simulation-style video games such as Making History, engage high school and college students in World War II history lessons by immersing students in the period and giving them an opportunity to think and make decisions like actual historical figures.  Unlike the typical video game that requires 200 – 300 hours to complete, Making History contains lesson plans that range 45 – 90 minutes.  As for any educational program, assessment is critical in determining the effectiveness of a learning tool; Making History uses a recording engine to keep track of decisions made and their outcomes.

Other exciting new software programs designed specifically for students in the classroom include Voices of Spoon River (VOSR), Cyber Nations, and Stagecoach Island.   According to its creators in the Creative Learning Environments Lab at Utah State University (2005), VOSR is a computer game developed to address several widely recognized goals for teaching poetry, including “motivation to learn, reading comprehension, the ability to relate and identify with characters, and understand the relationships between characters.”  Cyber Nations (2007) is a Web-based program that allows students to develop their own nation, choosing government types, national religion, ethnicity, currency, and tax rate.  Cyber Nations exercises management skill as it teaches about politics, religion, and currency.  Another financial learning software program is Stagecoach Island, which is designed to teach students how to save and invest money (Terdiman, 2005).  Simulators and educational video games are now extending beyond the students in the classroom.

Video games have the capability to educate teachers as much as the students.  James Paul Gee (n.d.) argues that video games can help instructors become better trainers.  He states that “computer and video games have a great deal to teach us about how to facilitate learning, even in domains outside games” (Gee, n.d.).  With so much emphasis on standardized tests, teachers are often forced to structure their programs in a way that limits the students’ ability to become creative thinkers.  According to Gee, video games like Rise of Nations “create horizontal learning experiences, allow learners to assess their previous knowledge and learning styles to make decisions for themselves (with help), and give information in several different modes” (Gee, n.d.). Using such games and simulations not only increases the variety of options available for teachers to use as learning tools for their students, but also allows teachers to expand and improve their own professional skills.

Dr. Gardner’s reforms can be enhanced by the use of technology in education.  When reevaluating assessment design, the integration of technology can assist in new and exciting ways to evaluate student progress; these technologies can include podcast production and PowerPoint presentations.  As Dr Gardner noted, an increased improvement in curriculum is critical and can be accomplished by integrating technology that provides alternative learning, reinforcement of information, deeper understanding of curriculum, and motivation for students.    Technology such as software, Internet, and interactive multimedia can provide alternative teaching techniques, access to information, help develop problem-solving skills in the classroom and encourage inquiry-based thinking.  Technology integration can also impact teacher practices in the classroom which was one of the other necessary reforms.  However, with all new applications, professional development focusing on technology integration will be detrimental.  The final role of technology and perhaps the most important role is the ability to showcase students work on a much larger platform, thus increasing student motivation and pride in their academic accomplishments.

Simulations, video games, and other educational technologies are now being produced for the highest professionals. Simulators are now being utilized by doctors as a training system.  Doctors can now watch procedures in 3-D and use them as preparation for exams and real-life operations.  According to Steve Leveson, professor of surgery at Hull and York Medical School, “Changes in patterns of disease and work practices have resulted in a significant reduction in the practical surgical exposure for trainee surgeons” (Training for ‘PlayStation Medics,’ 2006, Nov. 27).  Further, he feels that 3-D simulations allow surgeons to “fine-tune their skills in a safe virtual environment” (Training for ‘PlayStation Medics,’ 2006, Nov. 27).  In Wisconsin, the Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) will be the first technical college to install advanced medical education simulation systems.  According to Margaret Dickens, Ed.D., CVTC health and business campus administrator, “This will provide the students a more realistic opportunity to practice critical thinking, triage, teamwork, communication, documentation and patient safety through the multiple levels and through transfer of care” (Mitchell, 2007).  As the use of simulations and video games in education at all levels has gained acceptance around the world, efforts in the state of California have further advanced the use of simulations and video games, as well as other technologies, in the classroom and beyond.