It’s no secret that students today belong to a very tech-savvy generation. Whether a consequence of an increased culture of technological innovation or perhaps the cause of it, today’s young learners have made technology an integral part of all aspects of their lives. As a reflection of this phenomenon, students no longer want to be passive consumers of their education (have they ever?), but instead want to be active participants in constructing knowledge. Recognizing this desire, many teachers are leveraging Web 2.0 tools to incorporate innovative new practices into their classroom instruction. One of these, podcasting, has found its niche at the postsecondary level of education already. Considered to be the audio form of a blog, educators are beginning to find meaningful applications for podcasting at the high school, junior high, and elementary levels as well.
Effective implementation of podcasts into the curriculum happens at two levels, instruction and activity. Cornelia Rüdel has broken podcasting down into four types of podcasts defined by the role of content creation in a recording. He categorizes podcasts by their ability to:
- substitute audio recording for a traditional face-to-face lecture;
- provide material to enhance students’ experiences with course content;
- offer supplemental information not necessarily essential to passing course exams; and
- enable students to generate content for the teacher or other students.
However you choose to use them, imperative to effective podcast integration into any classroom is embedding podcasts into a curriculum-based task design. Fortunately, the technology for creating podcasts for and with your students is readily available and often free. Audacity is an open-source online software that allows users to record sound, import clips, and perform a number of edits and digital enhancements to a recording before exporting it as a sound file and uploading it to a podcast hosting site like Podomatic or Podbean. Once uploaded to a hosting site, teachers and students can then connect the RSS feed of the site with iTunes to further enable downloads and the streaming of tracks.
Even simpler, still, is using Spreaker. With both a website and an Android/iOS mobile app, Spreaker doesn’t boast the advanced editing capabilities that Audacity does, but it has a significantly smaller learning curve without sacrificing general sound quality. Press one button to record, manipulate a slider to fade between music and audio, include various sound effects while recording, and press that initial button again to end. Users can broadcast their podcasts live or upload them to their Spreaker channel after recording. Additionally, Spreaker podcasts can be embedded in a website or blog, downloaded by listeners, shared on social networks, and uploaded to iTunes just like Audacity and many other software options can.
As numerous as the platforms for recording your own podcast are the opportunities for innovative applications of student-generated podcasting in the classroom. Creating a gallery walk, discussing a story, verbally synthesizing research on a topic of interest; these are but a few of the projects that students have created with simple podcasting technology. While each artifact is different in appearance, effective curriculum-based podcasting in any form aims at one objective above all others, to enable reflective thinking and meaningful knowledge construction.
It’s no secret that learning is an active rather than passive process. Academic podcasting helps students to see that they can actively create content for the curriculum. Where teachers fail to successfully scaffold the use of podcasting in the learning process is when they view podcasting as another technology rather than a teaching tool at the pedagogical level. When used correctly, podcasting in the classroom can create a mechanism that allows students to have conversations with themselves, other students, and curricular content all at the same time. Through leveraging language as an important part of the learning process, students build new knowledge from previous learning and content acquired in class.
To be clear, podcasting is no more important or valuable than reflective blogging is to learning. Instead, it is simply another medium for students to access content through a constructivist approach. Similarly, podcasting is an access point for teachers to engage students in higher order thinking skills. In a technology-driven world, the key to keeping students’ attention is meeting them at where their preferred forms of entertainment and technology use collide. When educators embrace this notion, learning and achievement can readily occur. With podcasting, such results are only the push of a button away.