- I am really thankful for science teachers who inspired these people to learn so deeply about the intricate systems of the human body and how, when possible, to fix them.
- I am really thankful for the teachers who helped them develop compassion and social assets to help comfort and communicate.
- I am thankful to the teachers and mentors who helped them learn to use strengths to work as a TEAM (not a mere group) so that every detail and issue could be addressed.
- I am thankful for all the technology that was available to help diagnose and treat my injury. I am so thankful that the medical professionals were life long learners who were completely up to date with the latest technologies and techniques. ? No excuses, being ready to use the latest approaches is seen as basic competency.
While mobile culture has been steadily growing as a force within education for some time now, it seems that lately it’s hit a kind of tipping point. ? The word “App” seems synonymous the new mobile culture and mobile learning. ? Apps are, of course, the built in and third party applications that run on mobile platforms like Apple’s iOS, Android and the like. ? It’s easy to get excited about all the development and new frontiers that emerging because mobile apps can represent completely new opportunities for teaching and learning.
However, I have noticed a disturbing trend running throughout the App world. ? There seem to be a lot a drill and practice apps out there. ? I mean a LOT of drill and practice. ? Many of these apps are centered around concept and skill practice which, in and of itself, is fine. ? What elementary student (or ahem…adult) can’t use a little extra practice in mathematical fluency. ? What is troubling to me is that they represent a very 1990′s technological point of view – the age of math blaster! ? What has happened to the constructivist strategies we’ve pushed for over a decade? ? ? I think there is a disconnect between the programming community and instructional technologists.
I think we need to declare to programmers what is truly important to us in terms of a student computing experience. ? Here are some of my wishes from the App programming community.
1. ? Give students a chance to process ideas and create products.
The iPod touch and iPad make web research incredibly easy, but we need more Apps that promote efficient note taking, analysis and comparisons, and the construction of models and products.
2. ? Make sharing and syncing easy
When students create products, make it easy for them to share things and collaborate between devices. ? I also appreciate when apps make it easy for students to send completed projects.
3. ? Take advantage of mobility, cameras, recorders, motion, gyroscope, and gps
Developers need to take a good long look at how to leverage the unique features of the iPod touch and iPad to create experiences that aren’t available anywhere else. ? I would love to see an augmented reality app that overlays and connects social studies concepts via the camera and gps. ? Think Urban Spoon for historical landmarks.
5. ? Think of ways to interface or chain experiences with other Apps
Part of the beauty of most apps is their singular focus. ? However, it would ? be great if developers would help users find other apps that interface or enhance the use of other apps.
What else would you like to see more of in the world of educational Apps?
Blogging and podcasting, whether done individually or collaboratively encourage our students to break out of piece meal thinking and start a long term academic journey. Even more importantly, podcasting can help our students see the connections between disparate parts of concepts.
Recently, I watched some example videos created in a high school social studies class. The videos each explored an “ism” within the political landscape (liberalism, progressivism, conservatism, fascism, communism…etc.). I found that as students focused on their one idea, they could easily lose sight of the function and relevancy of their “ism” within the context of all the others. To understand each, they needed to be experienced together, compared, commented on and debated. Beyond the political debates, the students can see how the construction of the media actually impacts the message.
This reminded me once again of the shortcomings of traditional “go find out about” topical research. Students delve into the surface and scrape off a bit of truth and present it back to the teacher with little regard for how their work compares or contributes to understanding the work of others. So, a couple pieces of advice:
- Make sure the academic rigor doesn’t stop once the shows are posted. Set an expectation that students will listen and respond to their work. Be sure to move them away from mere production critiques and steer them toward discussing how well the show answered questions and moved the conversation forward. Use the feedback to kickstart classroom discussions, online commenting, and follow up episodes to tie up the episodes.
- Use a feedback loop (commenting on your show’s blog, email back to the teacher, polling, etc.) to gauge the impact your shows have on the audience and benefit from their expertise and perspective.
- Try to visualize the arguments. Charting out the landscape of ideas in a visual form may help see connections and divisions among the ideas. For example, the “isms” project might have yielded an interesting concept map showing the relationships between schools of political and economic thought. It might also show names of people and events that relate to each of them. Another visualization tool is a word cloud. Using wordle.net or a similar tool the scripted text of the shows could be combined to create a word cloud representing the most prominent ideas.
. As you create podcast episodes, use the visualization as podcast episode or chapter artwork.
Don’t be afraid of complexity! Complexity is often misunderstood as an unfocused topic or disorganization. The truth is that most concepts carry with them complexity when you look beyond the basic facts. Finding comfort in sorting the details is a sign that your students are developing as academics. Podcasting gives your students a great scaffold for sorting these details because it is designed to break ideas up into episodes.
The toughest point for many student podcasters is finding direction for the content of their work and getting started. If you’ve been reading or listening to me very long, you know that I’m not a fan of topical research which merely reports out facts. So to avoid it, I think teachers should take a page from language arts and spend some time crafting effective prompts. One of the ways to tell a great writing teacher is to see the way that they can pull thoughtfully crafted writing from the simplest of prompts. A good prompt is like a trigger that acts as a catalyst for academic or personal inquiry.
So what does a good prompt look like?
a premise + a question + a constructive task
This semester we have learned that fresh water is perhaps the most valuable of our natural resources. How might our relationship with water change over the next 25 years in order to ensure access to fresh water? What is at stake? Create a short podcast episode that will begin a discussion of water conservation with your audience. Explain your ideas with vocabulary, ideas and examples from history and current events. Your 3 minute response to this assignment will be published as an episode in a series you will build upon
The prompt is very important, but so is the scaffolding that follows it. Stay tuned for more entries on each of these steps.
- The brainstorming process
- the introspection
- finding significance in the topic
- the research to substantiate a point of view or find kindred thinkers
- the organization of ideas
- and building the narrative from which your ideas find a digestible form for your audience
“The web is for scanning, not deep reading. People typically spend two minutes or less on a site. Why do you think the killer app is called a browser?” ? – How tablets will change magazines, books and newspapers, Fortune, Feb 2010
I was reading this morning about potential changes to the publishing world as mobile devices such as the iPad become mainstream tools. ? I was struck by Josh Quittner’s dilemma as a writer. ? His writing’s depth was somehow sacrificed, or at the very least altered, when it moved online. ? The browser/scanner modality of reading made it harder to go deep and tie together a longer narrative. ? Even as I made my way through the article I had a sort of “meta moment” when I realized I was doing exactly this same type of superficial scanning as I moved through it.
I compared the experience of scanning an article to the experience of listening to a podcast episode. ? I had just finished listening to the 400th episode of This American Life and I was struck with cognitive difference in the two experiences. ? As I listened, I allowed for every word, interaction, and the expressive elements in the podcasters voice, as well as the ambient sounds and music that helped build the story. ? I experienced the full “article” as the authors had intended and edited.
We often approach modality and media as a buffet of equal choices. ? Some people are just visual or auditory learners…and the like. ? Certainly, I am not completely objective on the matter being a decidedly auditory learner myself. ? However, I wondered if the nature of our relationship with media has changed the way that we approach different modalities. ? In other words, if we are? really interested in delivering salient details, perhaps we had better consider audio and video formats as primary vehicles for instructional support?
However, the answer isn’t to just jump to audio or video modes. ? The answer is to mix the media – to listen AND read AND respond.
1. ? Set things up by giving the students a significant and interesting task to complete
2. ? Provide students with the media that supports the information and knowledge requirements of the task. ? If possible provide a text transcript or printed material (including images, charts and graphs) that help conceptualize what they are hearing and seeing.
3. ? Prompt the students to stop the video/audio whenever they need to take some notes or just jot down a new idea.
4. ? Debrief – Give the students an opportunity to summarize and critique the important details of what they experienced. ? Specifically, what differentiates this idea from others? ? What is the “tricky part” of this concept? ? How is this significant to us?
3. ? Give the students adequate time to experience the media and the reading.
This week I was speaking to a group of would be podcasters who were a little taken aback when I asked them who their audience was. ? The look in their eyes suggested that they thought I had misunderstood where they were in the process…as if the audience is something that comes after you have a show. ? To be effective, you the opposite must be true. ? Student podcasters must consider their audience before creating their first show. ? Here’s why:
Audiences Build Authenticity
95-99% of what our students produce in school is academic exercise. (I’m basing this non scientific number on the dozens and dozens of speaking and training sessions I’ve conducted where I’ve informally surveyed my participants about their own academic experiences in K-12.) There is an audience of one or two people experiencing student work. ? If no one looks at your work, it is hard to see the relevance. ? Significance and audience are intertwined. ? I get the impression sometimes that students have been conditioned to think of their teacher as the only plausible audience for their classroom work. ? This is a trend that thoughtful podcasting classroom can break.
Audience Focuses Content and Voice
Often student writing is focused at no audience and has a sort of disconnected and vaguely objective tone. ? Finding their own voice is much easier when they are writing (and then actually speaking!) to a real audience. ? In systems planning, designers often imagine a “straw person” (an imaginary audience member or user) who moves through the system they are designing. ? This straw person makes refocuses the functionality and usability of the product or system. ? We can imagine the choices they might make and the reactions they might have. ? Try doing this as you sit down to write. ? Imagine a typical reader or listener:
- How old are they?
- What brought them to your site or podcast?
- What is most important to them?
- What needs are you trying to meet?
- What experience do they have?
- What do they value the most?
Take a little time and ask your students to describe (or better yet draw a picture of) a typical listener for your show. ? Annotate your description with as many specific details about your listeners as possible. ? Students may find they have some differing opinions about who the audience is and where their interests lie, but that is okay. ? Audiences are not homogeneous.
Once you have a picture of who they are, write directly to them. ? Speak to them. ? Address their needs. ? Anticipate their point of view without pigeonholing them. ? Read your scripts out loud as if the straw person was in the room with you. ? Develop a conversational voice that brings makes your audience feel as if you are a trusted friend who is there to help.
Your Audience Can Extend the Conversation
Your audience can do more than merely listen, they can contribute to the content of your show. ? Be sure to open up a line of communication to your listeners. ? Even just an email address to a class account managed by the teacher can give your listeners a way to share their reactions and ideas future shows. (hint hint: mine is firstname.lastname@example.org ) This kind of two way communication runs counter to the common perception of podcasting as a one way medium. ? Other options for feedback loops include:
Iíve received lots of emails lately from teachers interested in ďvodcastingĒ – short for video podcasting.? I? typically donít use this term because, as people begin learning the concepts around syndicated media, I believe it throws an unnecessary term into the mix.? ? Whether you use video, audio, enhanced or some variant of all three. ? It also sounds nearly indistinguishable from podcasting, which makes me a little crazy.? So, for me, I say take the extra millisecond and give yourself the luxury of all six syllables – say it with me vid-e-o pod-cast-ing.? See how nice that rolls off the tongue?
Okay, now that we have semantics and pronunciation out of the way, I actually have a lot of ideas about video podcasting – - even for someone who is almost completely podcasts in a simple audio format. ? Check out this episode to hear me try to dispel some myths about video podcasting, explore some ideas about what makes a good podcast, and give you some ideas about managing the video podcasting process.
To help differentiate between the video podcast and audio podcast it may be helpful to consider some factors that can influence whether you make a move to video. ? Here are some indicators that point toward the video podcast format:
- The nonverbal interactions between subjects provide significant information to the audience
- The content requires a visual model to scaffold understanding
- You are providing demonstrations on procedures that include motion
- If your audience is most likely to access your content from in front of their computer, television (Apple TV or Tivo) or on a portable media player (iPod)
Whatís the minimal equipment necessary to do a vodcast?
You can record video very easily with a built in web cam and software bundled with your computer.? For example, iMovie on the Macintosh platform provides a very quick and professional recording and production environment complete with titles, transitions, and video effects like picture in picture and green screens.
How do you suggest people get started beyond learning the basics of the equipment? Should it be a series, a blog gig, a specific project covering a single unit of curriculum, or something else?
A video podcast can emerge as a solution when you need it.? Podcasts donít have to fall squarely into one category of media, the content can dictate when a video might be more appropriate than an enhanced podcast or an audio podcast.
Any advice on divvying up the work among students? And what role should the teacher play?
Think of yourself as an executive producer.? Your job is to pull together the technical resources, guide the research and creative process and help remove barriers. The mistake that many teacher make is to confuse their role and take over the actual production.? That turns the podcast into an synthetic academic exercise, rather than an authentic research and communication experience.
Where should the videos be posted? Is there a problem with putting them on youtube?
I generally encourage podcasters to post their material in the most flexible and widely accepted formats.? This allows the audience to experience them in whatever medium makes sense for them.? For video, I recommend the MPEG-4 (H.264) formats because they provide really great video and much smaller data rates.? These formats are also compatible with the iTunes and iPod ecosystem; where a large segment of podcasting and educational media is distributed and consumed.? Creating your podcast in other formats creates additional work for you when you try to pull your content into the systems and formats your audience will be using.
What about YouTube?? Once considered the wild west of video, it is starting to offer educators more and more reasons to take a second look as a place to store and organize content.? The two big benefits of YouTube are storage and embeddibility.? In terms of storage, the sky is the limit!? YouTube doesnít limit the amount of content you post.? Their video upload tool does, however limit your files to 1GB in size and 10 minutes in length.
As for embeddibility,? Iím not really sure whether it is actually a word, but Iím going to use it anyway.? For podcasters that want to syndicate their media mostly for web consumption and hope to ďgo viralĒ and get their work embedded within the blogs, twitters, wikis, and web pages of other users, YouTube provides the easiest way for others to grab your video and make it part of their own stream of content.
The limitation of YouTube is that downloading the content you post can only be played back within the Flash based player in a web browser.? There isnít a built in? video download option to allow users to take the content with them on an iPod, iPhone or other media player.? Google has been experimenting with this functionality during the spring of 2009, but has yet to pull it into widespread use.
Part of the challenge that some podcasting teachers and students face is storage and network speed.? Storage should become less and less of an issue as technical improvements continue to push the cost of memory down. ? In some districts, arbitrary storage limits are put in place that have little to do with the actual needs of technical realities of users.? My advice is to have a conversation with your campus administrator and your technology director about what your are trying to do academically through your show.? Chart a path that includes the skills you are going to develop, the standards your students are going to be meeting, and the technical needs you are anticipating. ? By making the case from an academic point of view, youíll get farther with your technical arguments.
Whatís the most common mistake that newbies make in introducing vodcasting into the classroom Ė and how can that be prevented?
- Not considering the audience as one of the first steps in developing their show
- Thinking of discrete, individual topics, rather than a larger scholarly exploration of related questions
- Putting too much time and emphasis on the production, and not enough on the quality of content and conversation in the production.
- Letting questions of safety and security derail the process.? Be upfront and communicate with administrators and parents about how you plan to protect identity and personal information.? Be creative with your production.? Talking heads arenít as interesting and are a less secure approach to student produced video.
- Preview and review EVERYTHING before posting it.? The teacher must remain the gatekeeper for the safety, truth, copyright compliance and integrity.
- Reflect on your work – try to pull new ideas for continual improvement by watching and? listening to your show with a focus on constructive critique.? Also, become a subscriber to other student produced shows.? Compare and contrast your approaches and your strengths.
- Take it easy.? Start small and allow yourself and your students to grow into their scholarly and technical skills.
In this episode I would like to discuss the power of adding meaningful data analysis into your podcast as a way to increase the validity of your message and to help teach students how to talk about data in ways that promote understanding of complex issues. ? Podcasts offer us a great context for data explorations. Here are a few ideas for injecting more data inquiry into your podcasts:
- Develop a short survey related to an issue you are exploring. ? For example, if your students were producing a podcast episode around the question, “What impact do recycling programs have on landfills?” ? You could survey students’ families on
- Do you participate in a recycling program at home?
- How often is your recycling picked up?
- Can you estimate the volume of recyclable materials you put out each week? (hint: the volume of the container provided by our local program is about 7.5 gallons)
- What factors influence whether you will recycle?
- Find explore primary source or “raw data” source to give you statistics. ? For example, if you are exploring changes in state demographics, you might look to a government census bureau website, like the U.S. Census Bureau.
- If you produce your show as a class or divide responsibilities among groups of students, assign a group of students to be in charge of researching or collecting meaningful stats related to your research question. ? They collect data, move it into clear tables or charts and then provide an initial summary of what it says.
I often find that teachers get a little overwhelmed with the idea of producing an extended series. ? The prospect of committing to a long term or never ending publishing adventure is a little scary. ? I try to reassure them that it’s not overwhelming if you just take it one episode at a time. ? That actually works sometimes. ? In other cases, I try to shift their thinking from a multi season show to a mini series. ? A “mini series” is a short multi episode (as few or as many as you like) that is focused on a dealing with a specific inquiry topic or question.
A Mini Series would likely have:
- A consistent set of music, artwork and formats. ? You want the series to be identified as a set with a sense of unity. ? If the series is a special project of an ongoing podcast, tie your show’s identity pieces (logos, etc) together with the special artwork of the mini series.
- An introductory episode that details the scope of the series. ? What question(s) will you be exploring? ? What will listeners be able to take away from the experience? ? What can they look forward to in upcoming episodes?
- An episode? for each of the central questions or angles you or your students explore.
- A summary show co hosted by all the contributors in which the lessons of the previous episodes can be tied together.
Just a few examples of mini series we brainstormed:
- Animal Adaptations – How does an environment affect animal apprearance or the way they behave??
- Life Cycles – How do animals grow and change throughout their lives? ? Are there similarities between different animal life cycles?
- The Census – Why is the census important to our government? ? What can we learn about the past and future by looking at census data?
- 10 Inventions that Changed the World
- Creative writing – telling a story as a serial
- Pillars of Character
- Community Institutions
I am speaking and doing workshops this week at the WEMTA conference in Madison, Wisconsin.? I am posting a few of my resources and handouts here as way to extend the conversation beyond those attending my sessions.
First up is my workshop on Podcasting with Purpose (WEMTA Podcasting Handout (PDF) ) where we will be exploring the basics of podcasting, evaluating and assessing podcasts, and producing a podcast.? We’ll also be talking about logistics and getting parents on board (Podcasting Parent Information Letter ) with the process.
Here is the handout from my session on Podcasting for Success – Strategies, Activities and Ideas
In my current role, I work with a LOT of teachers and many are exploring how podcasts fit into their curriculum. I am most interested in getting students and teachers to create their own podcast episodes as products of their learning. However, there is so much wonderful content out there to use as supplementary curriculum material that I always spend some time working with teachers on searching out and subscribing to shows that might benefit their students.
Getting quality content that meshes well with your curriculum is only half that battle. In this episode we’ll talk about active engagement while listening to or watching podcasts. Special thanks to Stef Paramoure of Canyon Middle School in New Braunfels, TX for her inspiration for this topic!
Tune in for 6 strategies for engaging students as they listen to podcasts!
The next winner in this round of awards is the Portable Radio Point of View podcast for their work in the “Editorial POV” genre. ? This podcast comes from Nathan Toft and Jane Smith at A. Lorne Cassidy Elementary School in Stittsville, Ontario in Canada. ?
This podcast is produced by two classes of 5th and 6th graders. ? The 15-20 minute variety show showcases a wide range of interests, but its strength lies in its use of ‘point of view’ episodes in which students react to news or issues of interest to them. ? The students develop arguments and present them collaboratively. ? ?
You can check out their website here and subscribe to their podcast here.
The next category we are recognizing is the educator created “Study Guide or Learning Scaffolds”? This award recognizes a series of podcasts that are focused on helping students learn and or review content.? Our winner in this category is Brent Coley’s StudyCast from Tovishal Elementary School in Murrieta, California.
Brent provides his students (and many others outside his classroom) with a great resource for guided study.? His series shows how podcasting can help extend the classday and support at home learning.? It is also a wonderful model for other educators who want to leverage the power of podcasting.
The next category we would like to recognize is Professional Perspectives.? ? This category is designed to highlight an educator’s podcast that is designed to share their professional knowledge, perspective and ideas with their colleagues around the world.
The winner of this category is Steven Katz, from Country Day School in San JoseEscazu, Costa Rica.
Steve Katz has a simple goal — “to help teachers integrate technology in their classes, especially digital video and podcasting.”? His podcast provides solutions to problems and provide a structure for technology integration that is easy to follow.? His podcast, Teach with Video is a great example and a great resource.
Today’s featured KidCast winner is the? Elementary Spanish Podcasts from DVE sponsored by? Leslie? Davison in from Dillon Valley Elementary in Dillon, Colorado. ? Their podcast is both a documentary of their growth in literacy and an outreach activity to help other kids expand their language skills. ? One of my favorite things about this podcast is the way that both the teacher and students are involved in the conversation. ? It is a valuable insight into the methodology in Leslie’s classroom and the amazing rapport she has with her students. ? Their is a fun and authentic tone to the learning and I found myself picking up some new vocabulary and listening with great interest on every episode. ?
Congratulations on a job well done!