Innovating education with technology.
Most of us grew up with a clear educational directive - learn to read and write if you expect to get a career and succeed in the world. Text has been the primary medium used for communication and instruction ever since the invention of Gutenberg's printing press eventually led to the mass distribution of printed books and papers. Not only have students been expected to read text - and usually in black and white for economic reasons - but schools have traditionally demanded that students express their knowledge using text as well.
Success in the world "outside" however demands a variety of communication skills. Students will be expected to be fluent in multiple mediums that include text but also encompass video, audio and photography. Then there's the skill that is probably used most but often is the most neglected in schools - speech. Truth be told, if you walk around campus during lessons you'll usually hear ample talking but it's usually coming from a teacher at the front of the classroom. The old adage, "children should be seen and not heard" has truly been taken to heart in education. We haven't traditionally encouraged students to speak. The reason is unfortunately the same that has dictated far too many educational practices over the years ... organizational convenience. Teachers can deliver information (their traditional role) more effectively when students are silent. Management of large groups of students is more easily handled when students are quiet and follow directions. Tests can be administered simultaneously to large groups of students if they sit silently and complete the tests in writing. It makes life easier for us but it's not in the best educational interests of our students.
Today it's essential for students to develop a broad range of communication skills and technology affords us the ability to utilize multiple methods of expression. One such method is micro-podcasting. The use of micro-podcasting develops students' abilities to speak fluently and confidently. It has widespread application throughout the curriculum. Any discipline that currently requires students to write can effectively exploit the use of micro-podcasting. Let's detail how it can be done.
There are several great apps and web resources for podcasting. My personal favorite is a free service called Cinch. Cinch can be accessed over the web at the www.cinch.fm website. They also have a free app that you can download (see screen shot below - make sure to get the iPhone Cinch app from BlogTalkRadio). You'll need to open an account and then you can start creating your micro-podcasts (called "cinches") from the website, the iOS app or by phone. It's this ability to create and organize your recordings from multiple sources that makes Cinch an attractive choice (AudioBoo is another similar and very good alternative). Students can create their micro-podcasts using a laptop, iPhone, iPod or iPad in class. They can create them at home on any computer with a web browser. They can even call in their cinch by phone if needed (although it does require a regular toll call).
Cinch broadcasts can be arranged into "Albums" which are essentially folders in which you store your podcasts. Whenever you record a Cinch podcast you can select which folder to use for storage. One strategy that works well is to create a class Cinch account and then have an album for every student. Each time the student records a podcast they store it in their album. It's important to note that albums can be made public or private. The default state is public - you press Record, speak and your recording can be heard on the web within seconds of you clicking the "Publish" button. Make sure to check school policy when considering whether to make recordings public over the web. If you set the album to be private (by clicking the little lock icon next to the folder name) then only approved users can hear the podcast.
Recording yourself speaking isn't the simple process it seems. Have you ever spontaneously stood in front of a microphone and spoken for several minutes? Effective speaking requires preparation, planning and skill. Talk to your students about the factors that make one person a more effective speaker than another. Discuss the importance of tone and timing. Stress the value of collecting one's thoughts before expressing them.
There are so many ways you can replace that tired old "read the chapter and answer the questions" routine with micro-podcasting in the classroom:
I'm sure you'll also have a wealth of ideas. Include yours in the Comments section below.
Some final things to consider:
We all probably spend a far greater percentage of our days talking than writing. If we want our students to be effective, confident oral communicators then we need to help them develop that skill. Micro-podcasting is a great place to start.