The Power Of A Podcast
Podcasts are by no means the newest trend in edtech but combined with traditional pedagogies using a digital tool like a Podcast (especially a cloud based tool like Soundtrap which I’ve recently become familiar with) enables students to develop what some educators consider one of the most under-developed skills in the modern era, research skills. At the end of last year I was inspired Audrey O’Clair and talking with her got me thinking about podcasts all over again.
How often do teachers assign a task like writing an information report only to have the students use google (or sometimes even siri) and then, at best, regurgitate the first website found or at worst they simply copy and paste it?
In a world of fake news and questionable sources we need students now more than ever to revive the dying art of research and critical evaluation. Librarians have been saying this for years. Being able to cast an evaluative eye over a piece of text is a skill that will serve students well, not only during their education but it is a crucial literacy skill that they will employ well into their adult years.
The trap with the unbridled accessibility of technology has been that in many cases (not all) research tasks and report writing has evolved from a long arduous task, where students poured over books to collect valuable information, which lead to student discovery to a fast paced task where students google enough facts to complete the work set by the teacher.
Both teachers and parents would generally agree that while technology has provided instant access to immense amounts of human knowledge it has become increasingly difficult for students to find credible sources of information and harder for them to process ‘google-able facts’ into deep-rich reports that go beyond surface level learning.
If you can google a series of facts in 5 minutes; Is that a task that is genuinely deepening a student’s experience as a learner?
Do students know how to evaluate sources?
Do teachers provide tasks that force students to evaluate the research they have collected?
This is often the sorts of argument that those opposed to teaching with edtech often use. The truth is however that the internet is part of our lives and it is not going anywhere. In fact ‘the internet of things’ is only going to become more invasive in our lives, and the lives of our students, as time goes by.
The solution is not to shun away from technology but to leverage it and maximise student learning. A powerful way to do this is through podcasting. Once upon a time you needed a complex kit-out to create a quality podcast but with the creation of cloud based podcasts like Soundtrap, which I’ve trialled this term, it is all too easy for even young students to create quality podcasts.
Imagine a series of short podcast episodes where students evaluate different components of a topic, or critically review a piece of literature. Having students articulate what they have learnt about a topic and then reflect on that creates opportunities for the student to develop their critical literacy and learn their topic in an effective yet very personal way.
Podcasts can be used:
-To replace written information reports
-Allow students to take on other characters and develop empathy by seeing through someone else’s eyes
-To interview experts
-Practise articulation and oral presentations without the stress of doing it in front of peers
-Evaluation texts and situations
-Review and summarise
Teachers can even respond with direct feedback but leaving comments
Teachers can also create their own podcasts to highlight crucial content
Tips for podcasting success
Keep it simple. Avoid high tech expensive gadgets. Some apps and online tools make basic podcasting seriously easy. The easier something is, the more likely people will use it
To err is human. We are not divine. Leaving in a few coughs or ‘umms’ won’t destroy the quality of the learning that is taking place for the student. That said, the more they focus on their notes and getting things accurate the more they learn and are likely to remember what they have learnt.
Vary the task. Set up tasks where students podcast in different formats. Instead of simply delivering one person reading a written speech have students, interview experts in mock (or real) scenarios, perhaps have students combine for Q&A-style interviews while taking on alter egos. The interaction between two people makes podcasts more interesting.
Don’t be afraid to post podcasts live either to the world wide web or an enclosed intranet. Having an authentic audience where peers and parents etc. can access their work gives students an incentive to produce quality products.