Podcasts – encouraging autonomy, engagement, and technological literacy.

Research suggests that students thrive when they have autonomy over their learning. My idea aims to increase student autonomy by allowing students’ choice over what and when they study, through the use of podcasts. The content that would be traditionally communicated to the students on the teacher’s terms would be pre-recorded and available to the students all at the same time. Recommended activities and suggested content would allow the students to develop their understanding and be able to learn what they what, when they want (either at home, during class, or elsewhere).

The teacher would need to be available to provide feedback and guidance during scheduled class times. The guidance in class would need to be targeted via either scheduled mentoring times for each student or some other mechanism. Furthermore, a means of tracking which podcasts are viewed would be needed to ensure students have the background knowledge required before they are assessed.

For an example of this in action, take the English classroom. In the instance of novel study, the teacher could upload various podcasts on theme, techniques, background, character, setting, as well as more in-depth specific podcasts relevant to New Zealand, the world, or a teacher’s specific interest. The students would listen to the podcasts on their own terms, and, when in scheduled meeting times, discuss what they have learnt and an individual pathway forward. This would allow student autonomy as well as differentiated learning.

Update – 22/11/2016

After trialing Podcasts in the classroom, here is snapshot of from my journal and student feedback:

 Week 3 / 4 – 18/08/2016

Today I trialed a podcast that I created on Audacity with my year 11 English class. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to book devices for the students to listen to the cast individually, so we listened to it as a class. The verbal and written feedback I received was mostly positive and the students provided me with some valuable feedback. I have summarised their feedback in the chart below:

Was the quality (sound) of the podcast sufficient? ·        Yes

·        Clear, and easy to hear

·        Mostly. A little muffled but you could understand what you were

saying

·        Sufficient, could have been better

·        Nice and loud

What could have been better? ·        Short breaks if we are expected to takes notes

·        Stuttering was distracting

·        No music, or a bit quieter

·        Talk a bit slower

·        No background music when talking

·        Summarise everything that has been said at the end

·        Words on screen/no background noise

·        The quality of the audio

·        No music in the background

·

Was the content at the right level/helpful? ·        Yes

·        Good level of info, could talk more in depth

·        Yes, good information

·        Could expand on points and emphasise the important details

·        Good notes and examples

·        More historical facts would have been nice

·        Summarise into shorter sentences

·        Detailed and helpful

Any other comments? ·        Overall, very good. Maybe no music whilst you are talking

·        Repeat main information. Talk slower. More breaks

·        More simple sentences

·        I enjoyed the music in the background

·        Words on screen. No background noise

·        I think listening to the podcast on our own devices would be better with earphones so we can stop and write notes down at our own pace

·        Insert the music later, not record it

·        No lyrics in the music, keep low volume. Don’t speak so closely into the mic.

·        Key points

Evaluation of feedback:

  • Some of the feedback is contradictory
  • Some of the feedback pertains to the circumstances out of my control (you should speak slower if we are to take notes). The vision is that the students will listen to this by themselves so that they can pause when they want to. Therefore this issue will resolve itself.
  • Some feedback that I will take on board.

What to trail as a result of feedback:

  • Trial music in the background that is quieter and has no lyrics.
  • Talk slower and have lengthier pauses.
  • Start with short sentences that state what the podcast will discuss.
  • Summarise key information

1/09/2016

I trailed another podcast this week with the same class. Contrary to what my plan states, I used the same software as my previous podcast but tried to implement some of the feedback that my students had given me. They were:

  • Talk slower
  • No music in the background
  • Summarise key information

The students feedback is below.

Was the podcast better or worse than the previous one? ·        Good

·        Better

·        Worse

Why do you think that? ·        No background music

·        Less information to remember and compress

·        Easier to understand

·        You (DA) developed what you said more

·        Summary at the end

·        Not as clear

·        More examples

What worked well? ·        Helpful information

·        Mr. writing on the board

·        Time to listen to the music

What could be improved? ·        Give time to take notes

·        The amount of time to write (not enough)

·        Labels for sections of notes

·        Go slower

·        Sound quality of the music

Evaluation of feedback:

  • Some of the feedback is contradictory
  • Some of the feedback pertains to the circumstances out of my control (you should speak slower if we are to take notes). The vision is that the students will listen to this by themselves so that they can pause when they want to. Therefore this issue will resolve itself.

The next steps would be to:

  • Trial individually
  • Trail fixing the sound quality (perhaps with a different software)

It is becoming clear that podcasts could be used in a variety of ways. One could, as I have done most recently, play the podcast and write key notes on the board. However, I think it may be beneficial to change the way they view the podcasts. For example, teach them some shorthand for taking notes and facilitate conversations that encourage discussion of the material.

Closing thoughts:

  • One could trial different uses of podcasts. For example, as an occasional tool to maintain interest (in various forms), or as a complete rearrangement of the structure of the class (my original inquiry).

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