Podcasts in Education
“In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded, that in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium — that is, of any extension of ourselves — result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.” Says Marshall McLuhan in his article “The Medium is the Message”. (NMR p.203)
What does this mean for us? To me it means we have to go with the flow, changes and developments that happen every day. In our daily lives we are exposed to all kinds of media around the clock. McLuhan does not mean we are helplessly exposed to the Medium. Instead, he suggests that we ourselves shape the medium, make it an extension of ourselves. So by denying this we simply make life more difficult.
My major is education; thus most of my thinking revolves around education as well. McLuhan is quite inspirational to me. By reminding us that the medium is the message, he basically motivates us to integrate media into the classroom. Of course we have already integrated media in the schools; the black board was used much less when the overhead projectors made their way into the classroom. They were soon joined by VCRs, which replaced the old film rolls. Have we come to a stand still or why does McLuhan see the need to remind us of the important role of media in our daily lives?
His article was published in 1964. Even though it is almost 45 years old, it still carries the same meaning. It applies just as much today as it did 40 years ago. In some American classrooms whiteboards have been replaced with smart boards. Amazing technology, but many teachers do not even know how to use it. Somehow technology or new media is intimidating for many of us. McLuhan points out, though, that it is simply an extension of ourselves.
The majority of today’s youth doesn’t leave the house without an mp3-player. In order to help them focus on the material in the classroom, we have to find new ways to catch their attention. We can do that by including the modern media with which they surround themselves. Podcasts can be a wonderful addition to the classroom. As I became an expert on podcasts, I decided to make a few podcasts introducing several ways of integrating them in education.
My first podcast is a short videopodcast. It is very simple. As it focuses on teaching foreign languages I wanted to make sure the focus really is on the language. Nonetheless, I felt adding some of the text spoken in the podcast helps different learner types as they can read along. Also very practical is the space to explain unfamiliar vocabulary.
The benefits of Podcasts are plentiful.
1. Podcasts are generally short, so the attention span of our students is long enough to fully concentrate on the content.
2. Podcasts are already out there and can be a great source of authentic target language. I will talk about this in my third podcast. (coming soon)
3. Students might get interested and start subscribing to podcasts which will augment their knowledge
4. Podcasts can be used as a means of oral assessment; my second podcast explains the benefits.
5. Podcasts are fairly easy to produce when scaffolding the students. On top of that, it is a medium our students approve of, the motivational factor is much higher than with many other projects.
6. Anxiety levels are much lower than when talking in front of everyone as opposed to simply talking into a microphone.
7. Students may be proud after succeeding in making their own podcast, which is another motivational boost.
8. Authentic podcasts may foster interest in different cultures or promote interests in sciences or other subjects students never thought about before.
Podcast #3 authentic material coming soon…
2 examples of authentic podcasts great to use in the classroom:
British podcast on statistics and current issues, also comes with newspaper articles on BBC website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/more_or_less/default.stm
Great for activities…
Easy English on pop stars, made for the classroom, with native English speakers and interviews of stars as well as a short grammar exercise at the end. Only about 5 minutes long, full interviews can be read in their magazine and some facts can be found online…
Seymour Papert’s article from Mindstorms, “On Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas,” was the article that inspired me most, because I am talking about using New Media in education. Papert examines Piaget’s ideas in his article and comes to the conclusion that innovations are of tremendous importance in education. I’ll quote him to show the immense amount of significance Papert ascribes to new media: “Stated most simply, my conjecture is that the computer can concretize (and personalize) the formal. Seen in this light, it is not just another powerful educational tool. It is unique in providing us with the means for addressing what Piaget and many others see as the obstacle which is overcome in the passage from child to adult thinking.” (Papert, p.425 NMR) Papert believes that the computer makes such a big difference because it concretises formal thinking.
Seeing the role computers have in students’ lives we have to agree with Papert, that bringing them into the classroom can only enhance learning. Papert says further, “The intellectual environments offered to Children by today’s cultures are poor in opportunities to bring their thinking about thinking into the open, to learn to talk about it and to test their ideas by externalizing them. Access to computers can dramatically change this situation.” (Papert p.418 NMR). Podcasts are a great example of these new possibilities that computers have brought to the classroom. As said before they are a fantastic way of bringing authentic language and culture into the lives of students, in a way a textbook cannot keep up with.
– Magedanz Joseph (2007), How to get a student’s ear? Try podcasting, The Language Educator (October 2007)