All 3 entries tagged Blended Learning Environment
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December 28, 2006
Courses on Radio Production and Their Application to Podcasting
Here I am going through the process of working through issues of educational innovation and identifying some of the problems involved which are both technical and institutional. Here I have kept the focus on podcasting as the example educational technology to link in with the following educational areas:
- Firstly, practical work I intend to introduce in terms of making my own talks
- Secondly teaching these technologies to colleagues / students
- Issues of managing change
- Institutional resistances and problems
- How HE institutions which already practice radio production could contribute to developing educational podcasting
For educationalists podcasting is going to become increasingly important as one of the available tools of communications / media management for education. This issue has recently been highlighted by Robert O’Toole.
1. communcations managers are concerned with raising the level of communcations skills and the quality of media processes throughout the organisation;
2. these communications skills are also fundamental academic skills;
3. e-learning (following the new agenda for research based learning) is concerned with encouraging skills and quality processes using technology within the student’s research-learning process, communications form a significant element within these skills.
Podcasting & Radio
In many ways podcasting is an extension of radio. Radio is the oldest form of electronic mass media and as has been indicated elsewhere on this site it is very important in countries which have been less developed.
With the rapid emergence of broadband internet access and the increasingly lower financial hurdles to reproduction equipment a combination of streamed internet ‘radio’ and podcasting looks set to fill the role which was occupied by pirate radio stations in a legitimate way.
The great advantage of podcasting is that individual programmes can be delivered direct to blogs or else to a free subscription service such as i-Tunes. This allows the audience to access the content where and when they want it.
As in other areas of media fully professional programmes from mainstream broadcasters such as the BBC will be delivering podcasts which will sit alongside podcasts from small groups, individual enthusiasts, educationalists etc.
Education and Podcasting
Increasingly people will need to become more familiar with these technologies as the ability to produce podcasts with a reasonable level of technical competence is becoming part of everyday communications strategies.
Currently the shift to new media technologies and their application within education is being pushed from the top down. It is one thing to invent grandiose strategies for implementation and quite another to persuade practitioners of the need and use for these technologies when there are already many institutional pressures in place.
It has recently beeen identified that even within Media Studies at HE radio is very much a Cinderella subject.
Those keen on introducing podcasting which is an excellent way of communicating with students -how many are permanently glued to an MP3 – are currently operating in something of a vacuum in terms of how best to format and deliver the content. This is apart from any technological issues which may need to be dealt with and having institutional funds available to purchases this.
Tick-box culture leads to minimalism. The introduction of IT into learning is often considered as just another government mantra which is entirely disconnected for many teachers and lecturers. There is often considerable resistance in a passive sense to innovation which is regarded as change for changes sake and which can involve a lot of work with rewards which are unclear. There is also considerable concern amongst practitioners about the commodification and instrumentalism entering education. Post cognitivist psychologist John Pickering expresses these sentiments here.
Podcasting is just one of a plethora of new technologies which added together seem overbearing in their enormity. I feel the need to be familiar with a large number of quite complex software programmes such as Dreamweaver, Flash, Photoshop, A DTP package, PowerPoint, an audio package say Audition, Premiere Pro for video and video strreaming. I could also do with being familiar with audio equipment, digital video, digital cameras all of which are changing at an incredible speed.
On top of this I should be familiar with VLE environments and how to make the most out of them in a pedagogical way. All the content needs to be rewritten rewritten or even reinvented. Look at the emerging culture of Second Life for example.
The reality is that people learn as much as they can in a very eclectic way. Any strategy involving E.Learning technologies requires a clear institutional investment in ensuring that their educationalists are trained up properly in these technologies. Further more it is important that their training is achieved in relation to the courses they are delivering. Thus there is likely top be a long period of transition for most practitioners which needs to be taken into account.
Where it is possible, the transition to E-Learning needs to be organised on a team basis with clear tasks being given preferably flowing from people’s prior knowledge base and enthusisms. It also needs to be recognised that developments are ongoing things which can’t just be delivered in a one or two day training course. I am certain that a considerable amount of money is wasted within education delivering short ‘training’ courses on some piece of software or another. This is a tickbox attitude which can emanate from mnanagement structures themselves: “X members of staff have received training in Y software. 90% of aattendees said they learned something”. This approach has little to do with implementation, increasing familiarity with the available tools and embedding the technology within the teaching / learning environment effectively.
Here it must be emphasised that the very nature of Web 2 technologies changes the parameters of the educational environment itself, which adds another level of complexity to the equation. Overall considerable amounts of thought need to be invested in devising effective transistional training and development programmes for educators which will undoubtedly be expensive but cheaper in the long run than the odd ‘training day’.
Problems of Innovation: Educational Technologies Guidelines?
For those who are keen to incorporate change and to enthuse colleagues there need to be more practical guides written by academics who run practical production courses which should be available in a multimedia environment on the web. A range of special courses for education professionals could also be set up on ‘Technological Innovations and their Pedagogical Development_’. Educational practitioners could attend courses every week to learn the technologies and discuss their implementation within their own setting. The courses would be assessed on the introduction and implementation of E-technologies in the practitioners environment. these accredited certificates would be available for individual technologies. for the purposes of this blog “Podcasting within Education” for example.
This suggests that HE institutions need to be aware of the potential professional development market within education. Arguably one of the roles of the Higher Education Academy would be to encourage this approach by funding devlopment partnerships between HE & other institutions to provide this accreditation.
Effectively what is happening is a campaign to reconstruct the British educational environment. It sorely needs the active participation of the foot-soldiers. It these people who will put things into practice and develop a new cultural milieu. At the same time the budgets must be available in the institutions for the enthusiasts to be able to innovate. This is an argument for ring-fenced budgets to go to educational institutions for this purpose.
Here is a link to TELFRI which is an organisation concerned with the issue of transferability of educational technologies. I haven’t as yet had a chance to delve in depth into the contents but its on the ‘to do’ list.
The FE / Sixth Form Environment: The Discouraging of Change?
My comments are particularly addressed to problems of change and innovation within the educational foodchain below HE. The ‘A’ level environment consists of teachers taking low risk teaching strategies and things which work and are proven to work to get their students through. Innovation necessarily implies risk.
The intensely competitive environment where teachers do intense textual analysis on what is demanded by the examinations boards functions as a closure and unless process based reward is introduced into the public examinations system there is always going to be a serious problem as risk and innovation are inherently linked.
The current obsession with metrics means that even slight variations in student results are picked up. Unsurprisingly this encourages an attitude of “If it ain’t the broke don’t fix it”. Given that performance related pay systems are also in place the risk is a very real one. Despite the continual bombardment of creativity and change the system itself discourages change on the ground. If management structures order change and targets then people can blame the management if their figures change. We can talk about embedding the new practices or consolidating them.
I would suggest that performance related pay systems need to be linked to a range of different parameters and benchmarks rather than pure results in public exams to encourage the willingness and enthusiasm necessary to promote change from the bottom up. This would encourage the risk-takers and remove some of the conservative values amongst grass roots educators.
Media Production Courses for Radio
Below I have included a link to HE institutions which deliver radio training both theoretical and production based. Accessing their websites may well yield guidelines to practical production of programmes which can be applied to the creation of educational podcasts.
The importance of checking out available courses for practical radio / podcast production is moving up the agenda. Useful media links which I have accessed via the Higher Education Academy
Links to Higher Education Media Projects
For students and teachers in schools and FEs here is a link to HE courses which specialise in aspects of radio production
Successful Non-Commercial Radio Projects
Radio Warwick The student radio station
December 24, 2006
Using Podcasting in Education
What follows is a review of my research findings so far regarding the uses of podcasting in an educational environment and some ways of developing one’s own skills which have to take on board some technical issues at a fairly basic level and also production issues in terms of the contents of what is podcast.
What follows has already been influenced by the interactivity of Web 2 internet technologies which is only right. In many ways this has developed rhizomatically for all you (Deluezians out there). The work here is also preliminary work for a certificate in Innovations in e.Learning run by the Open University. (The course is starting in February so if you are inspired by this check it out).
Much of this work has been stimulated by some great experiences with my AS Media Students at Sixth Form College Solihull. We had a great time playing with the Moodle Virtual Learning environment as it was being installed. This experience convinced me that Web 2 represented a significant shift in the ways in which education can work. It made education fun again -right now an awful lot of it is so regimented that education in a liberal sense has been overwhelmed by managerialist discourse – and we were all learning the possibilities.
It certainly worked for some of my students. I met one in Harvey Nichols in Birmingham last week. She was clearly a fashion fan so it was no surprise that she was working there. What was lovely was that although billed to get a ‘D’ she’d managed to gain an ‘A’ on this particular unit and I heard that other students had done better than expected on this unit. That was anecdotal proof to me that being a little less prescriptive and giving students the possibility to drive things – up to a point – can (should?) translate into good results.
The cultural milieu which students work in is very important. There are many paths to learning in terms of developing higher order patterns of thought, and over-reductionist approaches to classroom management are not the only way to gain results.
Thanks to Chris Coe at Warwick e.learning for helping me on the path to blogging. Then thanks to Tom Abbott, the Warwick University Communications Officer, for offering and giving me some of his valuable time. Tom showed me some of the latest podcasting and video equipment and discussed some of the practicalities of producing podcasts particularly in relation to educational purposes. Thanks also to Robert O’Toole for commenting on a blog posting and putting me onto one of the registered suppliers for University of Warwick.
This supplier has got the some of the best descriptions about recording equipment and is a useful way into finding out about some (not all) of the major products which you will probably wish to consider if like me you are just starting out.
One nice thing about this is that there is an exciting atmosphere of ‘just get out there and do it’. As yet there are no precise formulae and there is the mental space allowed to make mistakes. There is something quite exciting about being able to get your voice (quite literally) out there in a way which offers interested people across the world or in your teaching sphere at the local level the opportunity to listen and to respond.
The initial financial entry barriers are very low for aspiring educators and it is clear that humanity is on the brink of another huge communications revolution which in terms of interactivity and reciprocity is opening up our horizons of possibility. This tempts me to point out that even if you are not doing it your students probably will be!
Below I have listed several applications of how podcasting can be used within an educational settting. On a separate posting I will summarise what I have found out about the equipment required to get into podcasting relating this to what you activities you will expect to be undertaking. Different equipment should be used in different settings.
Educational Applications for Podcasting. Production by the Educator
We can split podcasting roughly into two areas: direct usage by the educator and direct usage by students.
There is a range of applications in which podcasting can be used for educational purposes by the educator. This list is not meant to be comprehensive but identifies some common possibilities. There will be separate postings for each point listed immediately below. After that I discuss the advantages of podcast lectures / talks. I then argue that some of the outcomes make a persuasive argument for much greater institutional investment in these developments.
- Individual teacher / lecturer presentations
- Carrying out interviews within a familiar internal environment
- Carrying out location based interviews perhaps in the open
- Recording visiting speakers giving talks
- Recording student presentations
- Recording small group discussions
Podcast Lectures / Talks
This usage can be very rewarding although its use has been controversial. A lecturer at Bradford University has been one of the leading practitioners of this approach. ( Follow this link for more on Dr. Bill Ashraf ).
- Podcast lectures can function as a replacement for the physical lecture
- This gives students the opporutunity to predigest the original material and empowers them to ask more searching questions
- Students are able to listen as many times as they wish. they can also listen in places such as public transport where reading might be far less productive or entirely impossible. Student time can be used more productively
- The feedback process allows the lecturer to refine the original the original to make points more clearly if they have been weakly understood. Reflexivity is therefore built in
- Once the lecturer / teacher is satisfied that the content and mode of presentation is right it can be stored for use in the future freeing up development time
- Should significant changes in the knowledge base emerge the talk can be re-edited to ensure extra longevity.
- Digitally based archival storage medium is very stable unlike old audio tapes
- The product is excellent for team working across several groups. Colleagues can work productively on something else to develop an in depth resource base.
- Colleagues can also easily cover absences as they will know exactly what the students have been exposed to.
Summary of usage for talks / lectures
Making a podcast will initially take more time to produce. Even after going through the equipment learning curve careful attention to structure, pace and rhythm is needed. Attention to radio style communication is important. Lecturers and teachers will neeed training in the techniques. Communications media for teaching will undoubtedly become increasingly important for porfessional practice.
Institutions will need to create professional development time for their educators to learn these techniques. Teachers and lecturers will need to stop whingeing about whether this ‘creates more work’ and have a more get out and do approach. There is a professional responsibility required here. By the same token government (and therefore managers) need to become less obsessed by ‘metrics’ i.e. positivist quantitative reductionism and focus upon educational outcomes and what education actually means for society beyond the terminology of ‘skillsets’.
Pedagogically the evidence is that podcasting lectures is more effective, thus supporting the underlying logic of transferability and flexibility of the medium. The medium is highly flexible in terms of where, when and how it is used by the student. It also has the advantage that it is inherently more human than the more abstract form of communications which is writing.
The ability to use in teams or even to exchange podcasts on a global basis is something which could only be dreamt off in the past. The essence of Web 2 is the collaborative approach and cross-institutional collaboration can be made far easier and more effective. Thus a gradual move towards this form of communicative interaction will be far more cost effective and productive from the perspective of educational budgets.
The argument being put forward here is that even if none of the other uses of podcasting within education are considered the importance of being able to create a vast range of talks by large numbers of people with enthusiasm and expertise would dramatically widen the cultural milieu. It is therefore worth doing in its own right.
Another advantage of the system is that people not registered to courses would be able to gain access. They may be parents, prospective students etc. Thus openness and transparency would become embedded within the wider society and access to ideas and information would be easier and cheaper.
November 21, 2006
What is Podcasting?
Podcasting is yet another digital technology which has erupted on the scene and which is so hard for adults to keep up with in the ‘digital deluge’. Podcasting is only a couple of years old at the time of writing but it is rapidly developing into an important part of ‘new media’.
In essence the Podcast is the equivalent of being able to take a radio programme around on a tape and listen to it on your personal stereo (Walkman). It is in a computer file format which can be played on many different devices.
How to listen
Increasingly you will be able to play them on your car sound system, your sound system at home including portable digital radios as well as on iPod or MP3 players and also mobile phones which can store the MP3 file format. You can also play them on your laptop computer. With a set of headphones it is possible to lsiten and work on the train for example.
The iPod or MP3 player are the normal way of listening to these. These devices are becoming cheaper and more sophisticated all the time with many mobile phones having the facility to download and play MP3 sound files. The latest of these devices are able to store the content of dozens of CDs with hard drive memories larger than the average household computer of a few years ago.
The file format thus allows for what are sometimes described in media terms as place-shifting and time-shifting. Or ‘when you want it, how you want it, where you want it’ in plain English.
How do you get Podcasts?
Its all very well talking about them – and I’m writing this pretty much as I learn- but its another thing getting all the technology sorted out and wondering if it will all work together and then will it really be worth it when you’ve done all this when reading a good book in the garden might be more pleauarable.
I think the answer is yes or this article wouldn’t be here. The first thing is that you will neeed the correct software loaded onto your computer. The best software to use is “iTunes” from the Apple website. This also comes with the latest version of “Quicktime” which you will be able to download at the same time. The process is quite painless and you will end up with a couple of nice little extra icons on your desktop.
For cinema a good place to go to start the process is the Moviemail podcasts page
The site gives some explanation of podcasts and also gives you some options. You can listen to a choice of podcasts without actually keeping them or else you can follow the link which says ‘subscribe via iTunes’. This will take you to the Apple site. (It is a busy site and sometimes seems to get stuck as it did with me when writing this. Just go back later if this happens). once you are into the site followthe instructions for getting iTunes / Quicktime. You can then ‘subscribe’ to the Moviemail podcast lists. You will see a list of what is available and you can choose which ones to download. there is a button to click saying get this (or something like that I can’t check at the moment). The software gives you one of those annoying lists saying “customers who subscribed to this also ….” . Well actually it was quite useful as it took me to some useful podcasts from the Guardian and the Times / BFI London Film Festival.
Now the files are in your computer and can be downloded to other devices in the usual ways.
When I find more useful podcasts I will stick in links to the Podcastography (or whatever these lists are going to get called eventually).
Future usage on my courses
For the current Open Studies course on “Weimar and Nazi Cinema” I don’t expect us to be making our own podcasts but this is going to be increasingly possible as better recording equipment becomes cheaper.
If you are reading this as an A level media student I’m currently thinking
about converging podcast making into the coursework of making websites and radio. Rather than radio ‘broadcasts’ being made available for two weeks on a limited licence podcasts will be availbale on the network.
The great cultural critic Raymond Williams once described the Walkman as ‘mobile privatisation’, however this is a pessimistic view which doesn’t allow for the possibilities of being in communication in a different mental space form the physical space. This form of communication can be at any intellectual level. In reality people on tubes and trains can be remarkably private and locked into their own thoughts without any technology. one always needs to ask the question whther there is some sort of nostalgia present for a ‘golden age ’ of interpersonal communication based on ‘community’ which never quite existed in reality.
What is on the Way?
This weekend (Nov 18 / 06) The Financial Times ‘How to Spend it’ (Wish I had their problems :-) ) on the gadgets for Xmas page announced the world’s first digitally recording microphone mentioning that it will be good for podcasters. – It happens to be British – expect that some sort of device like this will be on all up-market mobile ‘phones’ (Multi communication devices might be a beter name) in about 18 months and in three years time they will be common. Anyway it’s called FlashMic
The point is that we will all reasonably soon be able to use a digital recording device in a commonly used file format and put it onto the web.
This means that there are good educational uses developing as well as the possibility of narrowscasting acoss the world.
A more reasonably priced but obviously bulkier item is the Marantz flash memory digital recorder. This means that you can record whatever on the same cards which you will be using for a digital camera. There is a customer review on there as well.
New Educational Paradigms?
From the perspective of education it is likely to be very useful in recording small group discussions in workshops and seminars. It will be useful in interviewing people and it will also be useful in recording research projects such as focus groups and semi-structured interviews.
The actual recordings can be used in a variety of different ways and for different target audiences. Already some university lecturers are making their lectures available as podcasts (Check this link). This means that peole can listen or re-listen to the lecture at their convenience. It may even mean that lectures become more infrequent to be replaced by other formes of delivery and learning techniques.
Supervisors and tutors will be able to listen to the focus group dicusssions and evaluate them, or else listen to small group discussions and give appropriate feedback. Furthermore all the small group discussions could be collected and a greater range of ideas made available to all course participants.
Furthermore all participants will be able to access and download these discussions. This will encourage a far better system of peer group assessment combined with tutor input. If the podcast recordings of say five discussion groups are uploaded to webspace the following day, a typical student formative student task would be to generate feedback upon other discussions. These could be discussed at the next workshop and also uploaded to a forum either in text or as a podcast as well.
The job of a tutor will be to give the criteria expected in an evaluative podcast for example. The criteria could include evidence of listening to all the other podcasts, synthesising and summarising the arguments and making an evaluative judgemnt about these arguments. This could be done in the more traditional text format or else delivered as a podcast. Thus there is no reason why much of the student work and tutor assessment cannot become aural.
From an educational perspective this is developing a range of skills which are much used in quality radio for example but little recognised. Much of the debate within media and cultural studies focuses upon the visual versus the written text. The rise of the podcast could have quite far reaching implications. One big advantage underlying the potential of the podcast is its flexibility. The contents are easily listened to while travelling for example at times when reading and notetaking may awkward.
Other Useful Links on Podcasting
This is a link to Warwick Podcasts where a number of interviews with academics discuss a broad range of issues. These show what can be done.
This is a link to BBC Podcasts