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  1. 1. 1 The ‘Double Life’ of an i-Pod – a case study of the educational potential of new technologies Palitha Edirisingha, University of Leicester, UK Introduction This presentation outlines a case study conducted at the University of Leicester in the UK to examine the learning opportunities offered by technological developments in information and entertainment domains. The study forms a part of a national research project funded by the UK Higher Education Academy to examine student learning experiences through new e- learning technologies 1 . The study explores how a ‘peripheral technology’, originally intended for entertainment and business can become a ‘core technology’ and be integrated into an institutional learning technology. The peripheral technology explored in the case study is the delivery of MP3 files for students to use via mobile devices with MP3 play back facility, such as iPods, dedicated MP3 players, and laptops – a simple form of technology that can be created by teachers with limited resources. Evidence of how student learning was supported by podcasts will be presented and an early model of creating pedagogically sound podcasts is outlined. The background The research study is rooted in a four quadrant framework supporting institutional implementation of e-learning (Salmon, 2005). The framework offers Higher Education Institutions a strategic approach for institutional-wide adoption of e-learning, using both core and peripheral technologies, to serve both existing student populations and to reach new markets. Core technologies include VLEs and electronic services offered by libraries, while peripheral technologies are mostly mobile technologies (e.g., smart phones, MP3 players) widely used for business and entertainment. Podcasting, widely used in entertainment, journalism and personal broadcasting, is filtering into education, increasingly catching the attention of the academic community. We urgently need to develop pedagogical models to use in supporting and enhancing students’ motivation and learning through these new technologies. Use of e-tivities based on the 5-stage model (Salmon, 2000), is comparatively less common in on-campus undergraduate teaching, compared to its wider use in other educational and professional settings. The current research aims to uncover its potential use in undergraduate teaching. The core content medium in Podcasting is audio, not new to education. Durbridge (1984) identified audio’s educational advantages as its ability to influence cognition through clarity of instructions and emotional aspects of learning by conveying immediacy and a connection with the teacher (see also Bates, 1981; Laaser, 1986; Power, 1990; and Kates, 1998). Tutor- initiated audio embedded into email messages yielded increased student participation in group activities, and added a sense of online community and satisfaction with the overall learning experience (Woods and Keeler, 2001). Chan and Lee’s (2005) pilot study on Podcasts for 28 Australian undergraduates shows that informal, short audio clips may help address students’ anxieties and concerns about the course and assessment while offering a flexible medium, with portability and social acceptance of use in public settings (Clark and Walsh, 2004). Chinnery (2006) discusses bringing an authentic cultural experience to students learning foreign languages, but such studies are seldom evaluative. 1 More information and progress of the research can be found at: LRA/BDRA demonstration file, May 2007
  2. 2. 2 The case study The study took place at the University of Leicester in 2006, over one semester of 12 study weeks in an undergraduate module in Electrical Engineering called Optical Fibre Communication Systems. Thirty 2nd and 3rd year campus-based students studied the module online, using Blackboard VLE. The professor began weekly podcasts to supplement his online teaching through updated information and guidance on the weekly activities, and to motivate his students by incorporating relevant news items and a fun item such as a joke. The podcasts complemented e-tivities (structured online group activities) based on Salmon’s (2000, 2002) 5-stage scaffolding model by providing summaries and further guidance to students. Each podcast appeared on the VLE at the beginning of the study week, for 9 consecutive weeks. The podcast format was: 1 Introduction to the podcast with a relevant news item 2 The main content section typically referring to learning activities for the forthcoming week and feedback on last week’s work 3 Lighter weight engineering / technology related items, e.g., a joke at the end The impact of the profcasting was studied. Six students were interviewed and 24 completed an end-of-semester questionnaire administered through the VLE. Content analysis of threaded discussions on Blackboard also contributed to our analysis. Findings Access to technology The results show that access to the technology was not a limiting factor for listening to podcasts. All students owned or had access to at least one device with MP3 play-back facility: a desk-top computer, a laptop computer or dedicated MP3 players such as an i-pod. The varying degree of portability and ease with which MP3 files can be accessed can have a bearing on potential use of learning material as MP3 files by students. Pattern and location of listening Students’ listening pattern and location of listening showed potential for use outside the classroom and integration with activities that are not related to studies. Most students (58%) listened to 6 or more podcasts; 32% had listened to the podcasts on the first or second day (the content was more relevant if they listened early in the week). Most said they listened while not engaged with any other learning activities; this demonstrated the podcasts’ potential to reach students on the move. Most (55%) listened to podcasts off campus, indicating potential for making academic content available for listening beyond the formal institution. How did podcasts help student learning? The questionnaire asked students to select the most important aspect of learning through podcats which as listed below. Rank order of the important aspect of learning through podcasts: 1. provided a good introduction to online learning material 2. helped organise my weekly learning activities 3. helped stay focused on the course 4. provided a sense of informality 5. helped in time management 6. helped to understand and to carry out e-tivities 7. provided a summary of e-tivities 8. helped to stimulate interest in the subject 9. helped with the motivation to study 10. helped with assessed work (assignments, exams) LRA/BDRA demonstration file, May 2007
  3. 3. 3 Student responses show that podcasts have helped students with many of the affective and organisational aspects of learning. Personal interviews with students revealed further contributions to student learning which included: helping to develop positive attitudes towards the professor whom they met only occasionally face to face; helping to develop as independent and effective online learners; making learning material available that suited their mobile life styles (to learn on the move); and deeper engagement with the learning material and deeper understanding of the subject matter. See Edirisingha, Salmon and Fothergill (2006) for a fuller analysis of student learning through podcasts. Moving from entertainment to learning Data from student interviews revealed issues related to switching from entertainment to learning. Students pointed out that although they were willing to use MP3 players for learning as well as entertainment, they needed to be in a static place for the first time of listening so as to be able to take notes. One student doubted he could walk and listen effectively! A second student said his attention is focused differently when listening to music and to formal educational material. Music, for this student, is something played in the background when he is engaged in other work. For another student, the mode of listening to educational material should be different, which requires ‘to sit down and work as opposed to multi-task with it’. These are astute comments which recognised that integration of podcasts with other activities and resources in the online course is important. These students’ views illustrate the difficulty of switching to using for learning a music player designed for entertainment. While students appreciated the flexibility offered by the device to access and use learning material while they are mobile, their perception of academic material as different from music has a bearing on the eventual use. For these students academic material requires serious engagement such as taking notes, not easy on the move. Concluding remarks and guidelines for podcasts This case study highlighted how podcasting contributed to student learning: supporting organisational aspects of learning; developing positive attitudes towards the lecturer, bringing in an informality and fun to formal learning; helping with independent learning; enabling deep engagement with learning material; enabling access while being mobile. The study also emphasised that listening to educational material is different from listening for entertainment; therefore, podcasts must be integrated with other learning activities, so that student’s i-pods can have a double life! – one for entertainment and another for learning. For this transformation to occur, we propose the following guide-lines. 1 Integrate podcasts into online courses with strong links to other activities and resources, especially if they encourage active learning and/or collaboration with others 2 Record them afresh each week and include up to date news and feedback 3 Make them partly reusable and recyclable by some sections not being dependent on news or feedback from that week 4 Make sure the file size is small enough so that they are downloadable onto any mobile device offering MP3 playback as well as tethered computers 5 Follow a ‘radio magazine’ style rather than a lecture LRA/BDRA demonstration file, May 2007
  4. 4. 4 References Bates, A. W. (1981) Radio: the forgotten medium? Studies in the use of radio programming and audiocassettes in Open University courses. Papers on Broadcasting, No. 185. Milton Keynes: Institute of Educational Technology. Chan, A. & Lee, M.J.W. (2005) An MP3 a day keeps the worries away: Exploring the use of podcasting to address preconceptions and alleviate pre-class anxiety amongst undergraduate information technology students. In D.H.R. Spennemann & L. Burr (eds) Good Practice in Practice: Proceedings of the Student Experience Conference (pp. 58-70). Wagga Wagga, NSW, September 5-7. Chinnery, G. M. (2006) Emerging Technologies - Going to the MALL: Mobile Assisted Language Learning, Language Learning and Technology, 10(1), pp. 9-16. Clark, D., and Walsh, S. (2004) iPod-learning, Brighton, UK: Epic Group Plc. Durbridge, N. (1984) Media in course design, No. 9, audio cassettes. The Role of Technology in Distance Education. Kent, UK: Croom Helm. Edirisingha, P., Salmon, G., and Fothergill, J. (2006). Profcasting: a pilot study and a model for integrating podcasts into online learning, a paper presented at the EDEN 2006 Research Conference, Barcelona, 25 – 28 Oct, 2006. Kates, R. (1998) Tape recorders and the commuter student: Bypassing the red pen, Teaching English in the Two-Year College, 25(1), pp 21–24. Laaser, W. (1986) Some didactic aspects of audio cassettes in distance education, Distance Education, 7(1), pp 143–152. Salmon, G. (2005) Flying not flapping: strategic framework for e-learning and pedagogical innovation in higher education institutions, ALT-J, 13 (3): pp. 201 – 218. Salmon, G. (2002) E-tivities: The key to active online learning, London: Kogan Page. Salmon, G. (2000) E-moderating: The key to teaching and learning online, London: Kogan Page. Woods, R., and Keeler, J. (2001) The Effect of Instructor’s Use of Audio E-mail Messages on Student Participation in and Perceptions of Online Learning: a preliminary case study, Open Learning, 16 (3): pp 263-278. LRA/BDRA demonstration file, May 2007