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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Technology Can Help Training

When comparing computer use in grade school to that in high school, grade school programs are much more behaviorist in their use and effect.  Whether the computers are used for English, math, science, or social studies, computer-based training is generally designed to supply immediate feed back.  Most training programs will give feed back at the end of each assignment or at the end of each question.  If students are successful, they are rewarded by being permitted to enter the next level; if the students are unsuccessful, they are required to repeat the level they are current trying to complete.

Computer-based training programs are designed purposely this way to offer students learning methods that instructors are not capable of providing in the classroom.  For example, it is not practical to expect a trainer to assess a quiz immediately after each student has completed their work, but with computer-based training programs students have the opportunity to receive immediate feed back, while supplying the training department with valuable information to help shape their training programs and instructional design process by assessing the students’ growth, using this Kirkpatrick Level 2 Evaluation.  These computer based and web based training programs are critical in student growth and development.

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

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 5.1: Summary and Conclusion)

The Ocean Institute seeked to develop a model for integrating technology effectively into the classroom.  Teachers desperately need assistance in how to integrate technology into the classroom, while students need to be continuously challenged and motivated in the classroom.  Podcasts speak the language of the students, and with structure and direction, this popular technology can be a huge asset to both students and teachers.  Technology fluency, mentoring skills and leadership qualities are traits that will help students succeed in high school, college, and the workplace.  These traits were developed with the podcast program.  The five-year vision would showcase a large digital library of archived podcasts created by students that can be used as a valuable resource for students in the future.

The Ocean Institute hosts 90,000 students and 40,000 public visitors per year with certain expected outcomes:

1)      Best Buy, Ocean Institute, and Orange County high schools will establish a successful and ongoing working partnership.

2)      1,200 middle and high school students will produce educational podcasts for the general public.

3)      90,000 students’ experience at the Ocean Institute will be enhanced with use of podcasts on field trips.

4)      40,000 public visitors will be educated by student-produced podcasts at the Ocean Institute.

5)      Teachers will be more comfortable with using new technology in their classrooms.

6)      Teachers and students will have access to Ocean Institute podcasts to enhance classroom curriculum.

Ultimately, some of the biggest roadblocks teachers face in today’s classroom includes budget constraints, motivating students, and integrating students.  The hope is that the Ocean Institute Podcast Program has been developed in a manner that would eliminate these roadblocks and provide both students and teachers with a program that they could build on.

By Higher Power Training

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.

Advantage of Hybrid Classes

Hybrid courses are courses that combine face-to-face classroom time with online learning activities that are designed to complement each other.

Hybrid courses contain three key points:

(1) Web-based learning activities are introduced to complement face-to-face work.

(2) “seat-time” is reduced, though not eliminated altogether.

(3) the Web-based and face-to-face components of the course are designed to interact pedagogically to take advantage of the best features of each. (Hybrid Courses)

Hybrid classes are designed for students that are looking to combine in-line classes with on-line activities.  They also provide students that have a full schedule with family, work, and other classes with the ability to take additional classes by eliminating travel time and on-campus time.  They also provide students that prefer an on-line environment with the opportunity to take advantage of some face-to-face interaction.  Where are hybrid classes offered?  How are they perceived by teachers and students?  Are they superior to traditional classes?

Hybrid classes are offered across the country at various universities including: the University of Central Florida, the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Arizona State University, Brigham Young University, and Bakersfield College.  Although these schools offer hybrid courses, the subject are very diverse, supporting an idea that most courses can be designed as a hybrid course.  The University of Central Florida offers more than one hundred hybrid courses to help assist with the overpopulation of the institution; some of those classes include: U.S. Space History, Assembling Digital Media, and Composition I.  The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee offers a number of different classes including: Advanced Nursing Practice Interventions, Cross-Culture Study of Religion, Survey American Literature, and Management Analysis.  The University of Arizona also offers a variety of classes such as Instructional Leadership.  Bakersfield College offers hybrid courses in multiple levels of mathematics.  Brigham Young University also offers hybrid courses, however their course structure differs from the other universities mentioned. At BYU, “Hybridization occurs when on-campus educators adopt distance education technologies and practices, and when distance education organizations adopt/adapt campus-based educational practices.”(Hybrid Learning)   With so many opportunities to experience a hybrid class, how are they perceived by the teachers and students?

Hybrid classes have many positive benefits for both teachers and students.  Hybrid classes offer teachers new teaching opportunities.  For instance, teachers can develop the lesson plans to utilize the strengths of both on-line and in-class teaching strategies to be more effective in achieving the class objectives and goals.  These courses thus provide solutions to problems that were difficult to fix with the limitations of traditional in-class or on-line classes.  Teachers also have the opportunity to connect to their students more in a hybrid class than they do in an on-line class, while students are more responsible for their participation and work than they typically are in an in-class course.  “The integration of out-of-class activities with in-class activities allows more effective use of traditional class time.”(UW-M)  Discussions that spread over both on-line class time and in-class time can be much more effective for two reasons.  The first is that students can spend more time reflecting on the discussion topic, research the topic, and collect their thoughts.  The other advantage is that students who are less likely to participate in an in-class discussion can still share their ideas via on-line.  “Faculty believe that their students learn more in the hybrid format than they do in traditional class sections.  They report that students write better papers, performed better on exams, produced higher quality projects, and were capable of more meaningful discussions on course material when reflecting online.”(Hybrid Courses)  Another benefit is the organizational process of a hybrid class.  Quizzes, grading, surveys can all be automated, while threaded discussions, course documents, announcements, and grades are easily accessible for students.  Although there are many positives offered in a hybrid class, new technologies and teaching approaches are likely to have their challenges as well.

There are a few challenges that hybrid courses present to teachers.  The first is the redesign of a course; course objectives and goals may change, teachers will have to redesign their lesson plans to effectively integrate in-class lessons with on-line activities, and most importantly, teachers must be comfortable with all technology necessary to provide an effective on-line component.  The biggest challenge a teacher will face once the class is established is managing the two different environments learning without overwhelming themselves or their students.  Students on the other hand will be forced to learn new technologies which can make a course more difficult to achieve the goals and objectives if students are spending more time troubleshooting technology rather than on the on-line activities.  After weighing the positives and negatives of hybrid classes, how do they compare to traditional in-class courses and on-line courses.

When hybrid courses are properly designed utilizing the benefits of both on-line and in-class components, the hybrid courses become superior to both on-line and in-class courses.  Students have a greater time flexibility and convenience by working on-line.  Students will have the opportunity to interact and participate with classmates and their teacher in the environment they are most comfortable with.  Students will have 24/7 access to course work and on-line resources while having face-to-face time to assist with any difficulties students are having on-line.  In-class time will also provide classmates and teachers the opportunity build stronger connections than an on-line class will.

Based on the information gathered, hybrid classes on an effective alternative to the traditional in-class or on-line courses.

Hybrid classes are highly recommended due to the number of benefits for teachers, students and universities.  Teachers “may find improved attendance in the reduced classroom portions of the course, while their face-to-face teaching techniques are expanded and discussion responses by students are generally more thoughtful when written than when given extemporaneously.”(Hybrid Learning)  Students benefit by “increased time flexibility – including reduced commuting and parking time & opportunities for employment.  Students also have access to pre-recorded lectures and course materials for review if needed.”(Hybrid Learning)  These lectures are typically better quality and easier to comprehend because they are done in shorter modules.  Universities also benefit by “increased enrollment without increasing classroom space. Schools can offer “paired” courses on one day (block scheduling) allowing commuters & part time students the opportunity to take 2 classes with only one on-campus visit.”(Hybrid Learning)   Hybrid classes take advantage of technology and successfully integrate it into education improving learning across the country.

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 References:

Arizona State University. Accessed April 15, 2007 from http://asuonline.asu.edu/FacultySupport/Hybrid.cfm.

Bakersfield College. Accessed April 15, 2007 from www.bakersfieldcollege.edu/distance_learning/hybrid.asp.

Brigham Young University. Accessed April 15, 2007 from http://home.byu.edu/webapp/home/index.jsp

 Hybrid Courses. Accessed April 15, 2007 from http://www4.uwm.edu/ltc/hybrid/.

 Hybrid Learning. Accessed April 15, 2007 from http://media.njit.edu/hybrid/defined.php.

University of Central Florida. Accessed April 15, 2007 from http://www.ucf.edu/.

University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Accessed April 15, 2007 from http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/LTC/hybridcourses.html

 

 

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 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.