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 4.2: Project Evaluation – Data Presentation)

The program was divided into three components: professional development, field trip and podcast production.  As stated earlier, the professional development component is a tangent of the main focus of this report and will not be addressed.  Although the evaluation process is in its early stages, the assessment tools have produced some beneficial results.  Thus far, 100 students from three different high schools and one middle school have participated in the Ocean Institute Program.  Most students have not completed their podcasts at this stage; however a handful of accelerated students have successfully completed their podcasts and submitted the post-test and survey.

The first evaluation was to establish students’ knowledge of the topics addressed on the field trip.  The pre-tests submitted reflected a general knowledge of the topics addressed on the field trip.  The average grade of the pre-test was a 72%.  5% of the students scored a 100% on the test; while 54% scored a 50% or less.    The post-test, although not completed by all students at this point, have shown significant improvement in academic knowledge.  The average increased 24%, while the lowest score was 69%.  Refer to table 1 to compare the results of the pre-tests and post-tests.

The evaluation process continued by analyzing the student surveys submitted; at this point in time, only 22% of the surveys have been completed.  From the surveys it was determined that 80% of the students had never been to the Ocean Institute; there were 2 students who had never seen the ocean.  The survey revealed a number of positive remarks:

  1. “I loved the hands-on activities and all the fish.”
  2. “It was nice to learn outside of the classroom.”
  3. “It was cool to take so many pictures and video of the field trip.”
  4. “It was the first time I have seen the ocean.”
  5. “I wish the field trip was longer.”
  6. “Making a podcast for school was meaningful.”
  7. “I make tons of videos, doing one for school was cool.”
  8. “I hope my podcast gets the most downloads.”
  9. “I learned a lot about podcasting and marine science.”
  10. “I downloaded all of my friends’ podcasts to my iPod.”

The evaluation process also included surveys completed by Ocean Institute visitors who used the podcast while visiting; 90% of the surveys were completed by Ocean Institute members.  The survey revealed that the average visitor listened to 7 podcasts; however, visitors ranged from 1 to 13 podcasts.  85% of the visitors felt the podcasts enhanced the exhibits and made the trip to the Ocean Institute more educational and memorable.  Some of the valuable comments received included:

  1. “I have always enjoyed how the Ocean Institute showcases students’ work; these podcasts were another example of the impact OI has on children.”
  2. “I have been to the Ocean Institute numerous times, however, I learned more on this visit than all the other visits combined.”
  3. “I have used podcasts at other museums, and although they are more professionally produced, I felt having students producing podcasts from their own experiences was very special.”
  4. “Some of the podcasts were outstanding; did not listen to the longer podcasts.
  5. “These students should be proud of what they have developed.”
  6. “I had never been to the Ocean Institute; the podcasts really helped me understand what happens at the facility.”

Although an initial evaluation has been completed by the student tests and surveys, and the Ocean Institute visitor surveys; there has been no formal feedback at this point in time from the teacher surveys.  From what has been observed, many of the uncertainties teachers had were addressed during professional development; there has also been constant support provided during the podcast production process for teachers who felt they needed it.

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 2.2: Review of the Literature)

I am a firm believer that although some students may fail under the constraints of formal education, those same students may continue to learn and succeed with the aid of alternative learning provided throughout our society.  Dr. Gardner states that “Human beings have tremendous capacities to learn and develop, as can easily be seen if one watches a child actively exploring his environment during the first years of life.” (Gardner, 2004, 249)  I am completely in agreement with Dr. Gardner but question the cause of limiting a person’s capacity for learning as they mature.  What in human nature, society, or education prevents children from continuing to learn at the same capacity as their first year of life?  In my opinion, the structure of education places the constraints of students’ ability to learn.  This opinion is backed by Dr. Gardner who points out that “educators should exploit the cognitive and affective powers of the five-year-old mind (an energetic, imaginative, and integrating kind of learner) and attempt to keep it alive in all of us.” (Gardner, 2004, 250)

Dr. Gardner proposes four reforms to assist in the improvement of the educational system.  The first deals with how students are assessed, the second is concerned with the quality of curriculum, the third addresses teacher practices in the classroom, and the final component is community support.  Although my opinions are somewhat mixed with Dr. Gardner’s critique of the educational system, my opinions are in complete agreement with Dr. Gardner’s educational reform.  Assessment is critical to any program, including the educational system.  Standardized testing is a poor evaluation due to the fact that it is only measuring the student’s ability to regurgitate information.  Building portfolios as mentioned by Dr. Gardner is a much truer evaluation of students’ ability because it would allow students to problem-solve, use creativity, and have a deeper understanding of the information presented in class.  As stated by Dr. Gardner, “unless the accompanying curriculum is of quality, the assessment has no use.”  (Gardner, 2004, 254)  Both the second and third reforms dealing with curriculum and teachers are related to one another.  Although Dr. Gardner does not go into great detail about improving the quality of the curriculum, he does note that professional development is critical for teachers to improve the quality of teacher practices in the classroom.  I am a firm believer that professional development is necessary for teachers to continue to improve in their professions as well as introduce new ideas, information, and technology that may help teachers improve the quality of learning in their classrooms.  The fourth and final reform addresses the need for community support.  Dr. Gardner calls for the local communities to be active in the schools.  I think this is very important when motivating students for the future as well as introducing real-world applications for information taught in the classroom.

With the need to improve education and trainings, many have turned to technology as an effective learning tool.  Simulations and video games are currently being utilized in school classrooms, businesses, military, museums, flight training, and NASA.  The potential benefits of video games and simulations include improved reading skills, logical thinking, observation skills, vocabulary development, problem solving, and strategy planning.  With such a diversified demand for simulations and educational video games, many software companies have recently risen to the challenges to offer programs to fit any need.

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 1.5: Delimitations/Definitions)

Delimitations

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.

Definitions

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.

Web Usability

Objectives

Company websites and all marketing platforms, for that matter, are extremely critical for a company’s success to reach out to potential clients.  These marketing tools are a representation of the company; consumers consider these advertisements a reflection of the quality of work or products offered by the company.  The objectives of the Report are to provide recommendations to:

  • Increase website traffic
  • Improve website visiting time
  • Create a polished website
  • Identify the most cost effective option to compete with local competition
  • Provide online conveniences for current clients
  • Generate a flow of new clients

Web Usability

The website usability test contains numerous components.  When designing or evaluating a website properly, one must take into account: website goals, target audience, market research, accessibility, end-user scenarios, site map layout, site concept and metaphor, design details, and graphic style and images.  This evaluation will contain information about the primary page, secondary pages, and tertiary pages where deemed necessary.

Web Site Usablilty Evaluation Outline

  1. Web Site Goals
  2. Approximately 20 Goals
  3. Order of Importance
  4. Emphasize top 5

Target Audience (User Profile)

  • AgeRange
  • Gender
  • Education Level
  • Economic Situation
  • Geographic Location
  • Primary Language
  • Ethnic Background
  • Other Unifying Characteristics
  • Market Research
  • Competitors
  • Related Themes
  • Accessibility
  • User Limitations
  • End-User Scenarios
  • Information Category Outline (site map – text)
  • Web Site Flow Chart (site map – visually designed)
  • Site Concept and Metaphor
  • Design Details
  • Colors (3-6)
  • Color Palette
  • Fonts
  • Color
  • Size
  • Style
  • Graphic Style and Graphics
  • Logos, Buttons, Illustrations, Videos, Flash, etc.