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Podcasting, pedagogy and informal learning

November 19th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

I’m in a bar in Sofia – grabbing a bit of bandwidth. And in comes this interesting email.

“Dear Dr. Attwell,” it says, (thanks for the Doctorate, I am a sucker for flattery), “I am a producer for the Spanish Americas Section of the BBC World Service. I am writing an article about Online Educa Berlin and I would like to have a telephone interview with you about Podcasting.

The idea is to talk about Podcasting as a tool for learning, what is the potential and the future of the tool, the plus and the minus points.”

Well how could I refuse. But I thought it might be time to do a little research about podcasts, as opposed to just making them. I remembered the excellent Impala project – I have an interview with one of the project researchers, Ming Nie, due out next week. The IMPALA project, funded by the UK Higher Education Academy, is investigating the impact of podcasting on student learning and how the beneficial effects can positively be enhanced.

Perhaps more interestingly, the IMPALA partners are experimenting with a range of pedagogical models to address specific challenges in teaching and learning.

I searched around the various project web sites, wikis, blogs and presentations. I am not sure about their first attempt at a model – it seems to me overly media / technology prescriptive. But some of the work looking at the pedagogic use of podcasts is very useful.

In a paper presented at a JISC Workshop on Innovative E‐Learning with Mobile and Wireless Technologies, they say podcasts can be used:To support online learning and to integrate other e‐learning activities – a profcast model

  • As extensions to lectures: summaries, additional learning resources, further reading and research
  • To enhance student learning in location‐based studies
  • To bring topical issues and informal content into the formal curriculum
  • To develop reflective and active learning skills
  • To develop students’ study skills during the first year at the university
  • In a presentation at Alt C, 2007 Ming Nie says podcasting can “facilitate collaborative learning and skills development through dialogue (Allen, 2005; Laurillard, 2002;Wenger, 1998).
    Ming Nie goes on to say podcasting can be used to “Capture Informal Knowledge, Experience, feelings, viewpoints through conversation, discussion, debate. Podcasting is Personal, interesting and engaging.”

    From conversations with e-learning researchers and practitioners in the corporate sector, I think education is behind in this. Many large companies are already using podcasting to develop and capture informal learning. the problem with education is it isn’t quite sure about informal learning. Yes it is there. yes, it is probably a good thing. But do we really want to sanction knowledge acquisition which takes place outside of the classroom or the VLE and outside the approved sanction of the official curriculum.

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