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Start talking at the back! How podcasting is making the classroom a richer place part 1


Podcasting is a technology that has been adopted across education, but its use so far has been generally limited to those teachers who are accustomed to confidently trying new technologies. Andrew Middleton and Graham McElearney talk us through the future.
However, experience from the Media-Enhanced Learning Special Interest Group suggests this is likely to change as podcasting is understood, not as a technology for amplifying the teacher's voice, but as one that is broadly defined and widely accessible to all. It is a medium that is able to promote the voices of all those who can add value to classroom experience: teachers, students, experts and the public. This article explains how a shift in emphasis from 'technology' to 'voice' is useful to education, and realistic too. The widespread adoption of techniques such as 'audio feedback' by less tech-savvy teachers, for example, suggests that where the idea addresses a real need, the technology will follow.
Similarly, an understanding of how audio, video, or screencast voices can be embedded to orientate, motivate, challenge and support learner reflection is much more helpful to the teacher than just proposals for teacher presentation. Podcasting, and the use of digital media more generally, can empower the learner producer too. There is a range of techniques that are able to provide a rich and authentic learning platform, whether learners are broadcasting to their class, school, or the world beyond. Once the ideas are in place, the accessibility of the medium becomes evident, allowing the creative YouTube generation to find its educational voice.
"Once the ideas are in place, the accessibility of the medium becomes evident, allowing the creative YouTube generation to find its educational voice."
The article presents a collection of simple to use and adaptable techniques for the classroom and outlines design principles and technological requirements for the educational podcaster.


Podcasting is a rare learning technology - once the idea has been suggested, it doesn't take long before teachers find themselves imagining many ways to use it in the classroom. This is the experience of the Media-Enhanced Learning Special Interest Group (MELSiG), a UK network of teachers, learning technologists and educational developers from Further and Higher Education. Most of those ideas build upon the ready availability of useful digital voices: teachers, learners, experts and the public. The richness of these voices is relevant right across education, whatever the level or subject. This article briefly describes some of the ways that podcasting is being used by those with little previous experience of learning technology.

What do we mean by podcasting?

There is some confusion about what is meant by 'podcasting'. There are strict technical definitions of course, but the term 'podcasting' was rapidly adopted by real users: those who liked, quite literally, what they heard. In 2005 the editors of The New Oxford American Dictionary made 'podcasting' their word of the year and in doing so defined it as "a digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player." This definition contrasts with more technical popular definitions, such as that found on Wikipedia: "A podcast (or netcast) is a series of digital media files (either audio or video) that are released episodically and often downloaded through web syndication." In a recent paper published by the Association of Learning Technologies Sutton-Brady et al (2009) defined it as "a series of multimedia files pushed to users for download via the internet."
However, if you listen to non-technical people talking about podcasting, what appears to excite them is that you can download audio recordings from the web, and with a little know-how, you can also make and post your own recordings to the Web. This, according to MELSIG, is enough to inspire educators to give audio and video some creative consideration. Educational podcasting, then, can be thought of as using digital audio and video to enhance learning, especially where it is published on the web or a platform that is generally accessible to the intended user community.
"It is not so much about 'added value' as about appreciating a new, richer, extended learning environment."
Finally, podcasting is usually associated with audio. Video introduces a new layer of production considerations and so a little extra thought needs to be given to video production ideas.

Creating a richer learning environment

In the early days of educational podcasting when it was only understood by those with a keen technical eye, podcasting was immediately seen as a way to supplement existing pedagogy. In universities that meant podcasting was synonymous with recording and distributing lectures. However, there are often two ways of evaluating new and emerging technologies: the first approach seeks to add value to existing methods and the second seeks to change or replace existing methods.
The second approach is about innovation and disruption: a positive idea that recognises the capacity of technology to remove or loosen constraints that may have determined teaching methods for centuries. Teachers and technologists are prompted, therefore, to ask "Now that we have this new technology, what can we start doing, and what can we stop?" It is not so much about 'added value' as about appreciating a new, richer, extended learning environment.

Part 2 will be published next week.

Andrew Middleton is a senior lecturer in creative development, part of the Learning & Teaching Institute at Sheffield Hallam University. Graham McElearney is a learning technologist at The University of Sheffield's department of Corporate Information and Computing Services. Both Andrew and Graham are leading members of the Media-Enhanced Learning Specific Interest Group, a UK network of academics and educational developers funded by the Higher Education Academy. Both are also active members of ALT, the Association for Learning Technology


A Word in Your Ear conference website
Audacity - The Free, Cross-Platform Sound Editor
Lee, M.J.W., McLoughlin, C. and Chan, A. (2008) Talk the talk: Learner-generated podcasts as catalysts for knowledge creation. British Journal of Educational Technology 39(3) pp.501–21
Oxford University Press (2005) 'Podcast" is the Word of the Year
Rossiter, A. Nortcliffe, A., Griffin, A., and Middleton, A. (2009) Using student generated audio to enhance learning.  Journal of the Higher Education Academy Engineering Subject Centre.
Sutton-Brady, C. , Scott, K. M. , Taylor, L., Carabetta, G. and Clark, S. (2009) The value of using short-format podcasts to enhance learning and teaching. ALT-J, 17(3) pp.219 — 232


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