Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pod Casting

Even though I own an i-pod I have never explored Podcasts before. Assuming that you had to pay for everything I didn't give it much attention as why watch something on my i-pod when it is on TV or YouTube for free? (I guess I harbour today's generations attitude about paying for things on the Internet)

Podcasting is essentially where audio files (or video files, changing the name to Vodcast) are uploaded to a podcasting server (like i-tunes) and can be downloaded (often for free) to a computer or mp3 player.

Looking through the huge variety of topics that were available I became quite excited when I saw that I could learn other languages via Podcast. Interested I downloaded Lesson 1 of Learning French however I discovered that I am more of a visual learner than I thought. It was quite difficult for me to grasp these language concepts by only listening - I was craving to have some sort of text in front of me so I could see what letters made up these words and start seeing the patterns of pronunciation.

Bearing this in mind I started searching for something that would be suitable for my Year 1 class. There were some Vodcasts on science experiments but these were either too long and the students would become disengaged or were better off as live experiments conducted by the students. Hooked on phonics also had some Vodcasts but with their black and white graphics and dull voice over I couldn't imagine my students remembering much from the segment. Switching over to Podcasts there were many sites dedicated to stories for children. Scrolling down I came across a story called "In the Dark" by Pinky Dinky Doo. The author's name seem interesting enough so I downloaded the podcast through the i-tunes store (for free!)

"In the Dark" opened with a great catchy theme and very quickly introduced the 'great big fancy word' of the story..."reluctant". A definition of the word was given in children's terms and each time this word was used in was cued by a trumpet fanfare. There are examples of what it is to be brave and also some problem solving skills. If you go to the Pinky Dinky Doo website there are also great activities such as the Great Big Fancy Word Game that help build on things learnt during the story.

This activity would work well for my classrooms it is useful to both upper and lower level learners. For my upper learners they are able to add new words to their vocabulary and follow on activites would require them to use the word of the story in a meaningful way in their writing or their speech. For lower level learners, podcasts help to scaffold the link between oral language and reading. By combining the podcast with something like a quiz from ClassMarker it is possible that all three areas of Oliver's Learning Design Construct are in action. Students can undertake an online quiz after watching the podcast. With guidance the teacher could then scaffold the necessary processes required to create a role play or to undertake a problem solving activity based on the Podcast.

Students can also create their own Pocasts and upload them through a web Url. This could be useful for publshing oral activities on other e-learning places such as wiki's or webquests.

Podcasts and Vodcasts are useful learning tools for twenty-first century learners. In most cases today's students "have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, video games, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age (Prenksy, 2001, p1)". Prenksy also states that for most college grads less than 5000 hours have been spent reading compared to over 10 000 hours on video games and more 20 000 watching TV. This does not mean that reading should become irrelevant for students but in order to install the motivation to learn to read it is important that we provide our students with resources that are engaging and provide stronger links between what they have access to at home and access to at school.

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