Saturday, January 27, 2007

Pocasting in Schools

I have been contemplating the use of the podcasts in the educational setting. I feel that there may be some useful applications, including support for Learning Disabled students and for English Language Arts classes. With the disappearance of cassettes and simple recording devices, we have struggled over the past few years with creating voice recordings. I recall many teachers creating recordings of stories and novels for absent and LD students to enhance instruction. Students often find it unnecessary and a waste of time to reread stories and novel selections. By providing audio recordings, students are exposed to another method of revisiting a story for further reflection and study purposes. The podcast would allow for simple rewinding, and a much easier way to tag and find certain sections of an audio recording. Over the past 5-10 years, we have purchased several types of software for our students who are non-readers including Dragon Naturally Speaking, Wynn reader and writer, and other cheaper types of software. The Wynn Program works very well, but it is very expensive for individual students and families. Because it comes with only one site, this makes access difficult. One of the main issues with these types of software is the quality and unfamiliarity with the voices. With the podcast, the students’ teachers can record their voices which I believe would be much more user friendly and welcoming for the student.

I think that because listening and speaking is integral to the ELA curriculum, podcasts could/should be a natural and necessary strategy for educators. I have always felt as an educator and as a parent, that the most influential and necessary component of creating literate children and adolescents is listening and learning to love literature, and there is nothing more compelling than listening to a good story and storyteller. With even the most difficult middle years’ classes, I have been able to captivate students with a good story. Currently I am reading a story called Daughters of the Wind to my grade nine ELA class as part of a unit called Indigenous and Norse narratives, and the kids love it even though they didn’t at the beginning. Initially the language was new and difficult for them, and they needed to reread and revisit the initial parts of the story. By using a podcast of the story, perhaps sections or chapters at a time, the students could do listen to the story at their leisure.

As an in-school administrator, there could be some uses for podcasting, but I’m not too sure that with our current hardware there would be huge benefits. This is the first school year, that our teachers have a computer and Internet access in their classrooms, so many of them are still in the early stages of tech applications. Many are still struggling with email, so I don’t think I’m ready to spend too much time creating podcasts for them.

I have thought of a few other ideas for the use of podcasts in the educational setting, and perhaps if there is something that is current and relevant to all students they would be useful. For example, if we plan to change the attendance policy, I could have it on our website in both printed and podcast version to make it more accessible to all students.

Just a few thoughts.