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Preview: Reflections on Educational Podcasting

Reflections on Educational Podcasting

sorting out educational podcasting

Updated: 2018-03-06T20:19:04.354+00:00


Revisiting Educational Podcasting having found the digital voice.


I thought I'd drop in, back home to the blog I started in April 2006. I haven't been here for a while but I haven't stopped being active and appropriately vociferous about the potential of what then I called "educational podcasting."
Let's begin by giving you a quick lead to the Media-Enhanced Learning Special Interest Group (MELSIG), the group that emerged from the Podcasting for Pedagogic Purposes Special Interest Group with a change of name at the beginning of 2010. I have led MELSIG since then, and as you'll see, some of the principles that became clear to me while writing this blog are principles I still hold true: notably the importance of a personalised experience of post-compulsory education and the role of emerging technology in fostering this.
From 2010 to 2013 I led a writing project through MELSIG. The outcome of this was Digital Voices: a collaborative exploration of the recorded voice in post-compulsory education. You can download this free book, full of ideas, case studies and research from the MELSIG community.
The change from PPP to MEL, to some extent, represented a realisation that in all the thinking here, and with peers in the SIG, the real focus for us was the personalisation of learning through the recorded voice. At that time the MP3 recorder and the Flip video camera were still the dominant personal media recording devices. The mobile phone was not, in 2010, a device that was flexible or reliable enough for the professional academic wanting to record themselves, students or others to support learning. But that has changed with the advent of the smartphone and then the tablet computer. With that change to ubiquitous personal media-capable technology was a shift away from RSS (and therefore the automated serialisation of media) and away from audio. While I am still fascinated by digital audio as a medium to support learning, the ubiquity of video capture, editing and distribution has meant that academics and students wanting to record a conversation are more likely to use a video camera app than an audio one. More to the point, they are familiar with places to put video (YouTube, Video, Facebook, etc) than audio (e.g. Soundcloud).
Before I go I'll point you to Tactile Learning where I blog about the use of personal smart technologies for learning especially in relation to Bring Your Own Devices for Learning (#BYOD4L), an immerse online 5 day event myself and colleagues run from various institutions in the UK and beyond.

Abstract for eLearning 2.0 Conference, Brunel University, July 6-7th 2011


Enhancing the Student Experience with Digital Voices
Keynote for eLearning 2.0
This presentation considers how the student experience of learning at university can be enhanced through the academic and student generation of digital media in a collection of techniques that can be referred to as Digital Voices. Both spontaneous and carefully designed methods have been used in UK higher education, demonstrating how the recorded voice can be used to promote dialogic, learner-centred pedagogy. These approaches to e-learning accommodate the value students find in each other, in the people who teach them, and in those who are more peripheral, yet potentially significant, to the student experience of the curriculum. This aligns with the unique selling point of a higher education: the social, interactive and personally engaging experience it affords.
The value of our students’ relationship with the real world is also considered. In an age where employability and graduate attributes affect curriculum design, authentic connections between the curriculum and the world beyond university have never been so important; however, opportunities to experience that world through visits, placements, work-based learning and sponsored degrees are coming under pressure due to the current era of austerity.
The idea of Digital Voices addresses these dilemmas and this will be explored through examples of audio and video produced in higher education by academic staff and students.
Some key ideas are introduced that inform creative thinking about the opportunity. User‑generated content, celebrating Lo-Fi production, and the ‘red button’ ethos are three fundamental ideas that see a marked shift in education’s appreciation of digital media. Seven other characteristics will be highlighted that together indicate the difference between Digital Voice approaches and former institutional media provision.
A review of educational podcasting will establish the basis for considering innovative ways of using recorded audio and video, including a collection of media‑enhanced feedback techniques, digital posters, audio notes, and audio summaries.
The concept of media intervention will be introduced, proposing a shift from the broadcast of knowledge through recorded lectures to a mediated view of learning through orientation, motivation, and challenge setting, and supporting the learner’s reflection on their studies with media. Looking ahead, digital media’s relationship to mobile learning will also be presented. This paper proposes that what we once understood to be the formal curriculum, constrained by given times, places and expectations, has now changed. The richest spaces may exist in an extended understanding of the learning environment characterised by the asynchronous voices of tutors, students, peers, experts, ‘publics’ and others.
It is important to look at the challenges that may deter innovation. Colleagues will be asked to consider their own ideas for producing digital media and the difficulties they may face in realising them. Findings from previous Challenge Card exercises will be shared along with suggested solutions for supporting innovation. Participants will be presented with a set of design principles during the session and asked to use these to sketch their own ideas for using the recorded voice in and around the formal curriculum.

Screencast feedback


Just a message to anyone who attended the JISC Digital Media surgery. Please do contact me if you or anyone you know are using screencast feedback. Or thinking about it. Every story is different and I am keen to share what we are finding out.
My slides will follow soon.

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I continue to use my Challenge Card activity in my audio workshops. In the last year or so I have collected several hundred cards from people who are interested in using digital audio (they're coming to my workshops) but nonetheless identify challenges that they will have to address if they are to move forward. The challenges include all aspects of institutional infrastructure provision: access to equipment, storage quotas for staff and students, management buy-in and leadership, network rights, distribution tools, mentors, training, local e-learning support, etc.
Some of the workshops have been media-enhanced feedback workshops and some more generally to do with digital media. I've been meaning to write this up into a paper but have several others on the go, but I really need to get this academic frustration in front of people who can do something about it. I have a workshop coming up for senior management in the sector in relation to the Asset feedback project so that will provide a good opportunity.
Peter Bullen gave a useful presentation this morning in Ulster in which he cited a presentation given by Anne Miller at the recent JISC Online Conference where she had outlined four stages to the adoption of technology enhanced pedagogy. Stage 3 is the one where people are interested enough to go to events and are enthused by new ideas, but nevertheless are not able to progress to phase 4 - implementation. This is why the Red Button opportunity is so significant ( see previous post) - the technology barrier and associated anxiety is largely gone.
I must follow up Anne Miller's presentation.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Langport Ave,Manchester,United Kingdom

Digital Voices in Ulster


I have just finished running three workshops at the University of Ulster about the different ways academics and students in HE/FE are using the recorded voice to enhance learning. I played some examples of media produced by students, tutors and others featuring the voices of all of the above as well as professionals and members of the public. Probably my favourite piece of audio comes from the CIPEL CETEL and features a young women with Downes Syndrome talking about what it's like and the achievements that she is proud of. The point of the clip in the workshop is that I could write about what she said, and even transcribe it, but its power is in her voice, as you might imagine. The listener is able to make such a strong emotional connection with her. This allows me to talk about audio feedback and audio assignment briefing and the many other techniques that people are now using in the sector.
An important point in my workshops recently has been adaptability of the medium. Whether it's feedback or any of the other methods, every time I hear a story I am struck by how easily the medium has been melded to address the very specific context of the academic and their students. In part this is due to the highly granular nature of what people are producing, and in part to audio's role in affecting learning as much as 'delivering ' it.
I love demonstrating the 'red button' - four devices - what do they have in common? It is surprising how people don't notice the big red button at the centre of devices like Flip cameras and audio recorders. Even Audacity has a big red button, and this for me symbolises so much about why the time is right to pay special attention to Digital Voices right now. The smartphone, with apps like Recorder Pro, is the real killer app, so to speak. A large percent of attendees (perhaps 90%) told me they had a recording device with them. They were surprised to note this, but increasingly both students and staff have a way to record conversations in their pocket. And it's their device in their pocket (goodbye tech anxiety) And if they don't have a way of recording, the person standing next to them will have. More to the point, with the smartphone recorders, people not only have a recording studio of their own in their pocket, they also have inbuilt connectivity for the media they produce with the capacity to email or share recordings via wifi and Bluetooth.
A good day as usual and I just get more and more excited about what I see and hear.

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Mobile Reflection (MoRe) - collaborators wanted


A model for facilitating learner feedback and reflection using mobile phone technology was presented this week at the Media-Enhanced Feedback event in Sheffield. The MoRe approach was initially trialled with a small group of dyslexic student teachers over a period of 8 weeks during the academic year 2009/10 within Success North, a Centre for Excellence in Teacher Training based at Newcastle College by Chrissi Nerantzi. It uses and as accessible Web 2.0 technologies, allowing tutors and peers to communicate asynchronously via phones, building up a reflective log. She says, "Findings show that participating student teachers did indeed deepen their reflections as the pilot progressed and found the whole experience very positive, flexible and enjoyable. These findings provided food for thought and I am currently exploring further interventions." More information can be found at the pilot study's website and a case study will be published on the MELSIG website shortly.
Chrissi, now at Salford University where she is involved in teaching on the Post Graduate Certificate in Academic Practice, is looking for collaborators who would be interested in developing and applying the model in different situations. She says her ideas for collaboration could involve others,
  • running a parallel MoRe pilot within their own cohort and then comparing findings with the MoRe pilot starting in Jan 2011 and throughout semester 2 ,or
  • setting up a joint MoRe platform and running a collaborative pilot from Jan 2011 and throughout semester 2 that would link 2 or more PGCAP/PGCERT HE programmes and their participants together aiming to establish a wider community of practice, or
  • exploring the MoRe approach within non-educational programmes to enable the development of reflective skills and comparing findings with finding of the MoRe pilot used within an education programme, or
  • exploring the MoRe approach within mono- and multidisciplinary peer observation/review processes in a specific School/Department/Faculty or across a whole university.
If you are interested in finding out more about MoRe (!) then contact Chrissi (c.nerantzi AT

Media-Enhanced Feedback


Audio Feedback has always been the killer app for audio-enhanced learning. It is the perfect and obvious marriage of digital audio to the pressing needs of education, most notable in what students have been telling us for years in the National Student Survey: students want feedback on their work. This has been said often enough and probably in every paper that has been published on audio feedback in the last few years.
Last Wednesday about 60 people from UK higher education converged on Sheffield for the Media-Enhanced Feedback event that I organised on behalf of the Media-Enhanced Learning Special Interest Group, and the JISC funded ASSET benefits realisation project.
Notice the use of the term 'media-enhanced feedback' - this is more than audio feedback. It embraces innovative approaches that include audio, video, screencast and mobile technologies. Indeed, the use of personal/class response systems can also be included in this, as was evidenced in a presentation by Steve Maw (HEA Centre for Bioscience)

A set of 'howto' documents was distributed on the day to those who attended the event and these will be shared online along with case studies produced by each of the presenters about their innovative practice. Most of the sessions and discussion was recorded in one form or another and all of these materials and presentations will be posted on the MELSIG and ASSET sites in the next week or so.

Infrastructure for digital media


Susannah Diamond and myself are putting the finishing touches to our chapter on the capacity of infrastructure at UK universities to support innovation around user-generated media for learning. We have presented on this topic at ALT-C 2009 and a few other events in the last year or so. It's a relatively dry topic for me, but one that is absolutely critical. It is clear that there are great people out there doing great things with digital media. But this is despite inadequate infrastructure in their universities.
We are still keen to hear from people or institutions who believe they have got it right, or where they are still struggling to innovate with digital media. We are taking a broad view of what is meant by infrastructure and what is needed. This includes networks, storage, access to software and hardware, examples and case studies, training, support, strategy, educational development, etc. Anything that affects the capacity of staff and students to learn with user-generated media.
The topic becomes less dry when you start to think about what academic staff can do to influence change. To this end I've just been brainstorming a list of ideas and would appreciate your thoughts on this. So far my list is:

  • challenge perceptions of yourself and your capacity to be a change agent, or someone who can lead and influence change;
  • be clear about the pedagogic benefits of using user-generated media in your specific context, and more generally, so that you are able to challenge technologically determined positions;
  • actively seek to change local and institutional strategies and policies where they unnecessarily hinder innovation in this area;
  • collaborate effectively in developing techniques. If you work on your own you will not have the credibility of those you seek to influence, and it is likely that your ideas and evaluation will not be as strong;
  • develop and evaluate simple, low risk techniques. Understand what is specific to you and what is generalisable;
  • relate your ideas to existing institutional priorities so that your work is seen to contribute to the progress of the university and so that you can refine your thinking through institutional contexts;
  • find examples of what other people are doing at your institution and beyond;
  • share your own practice, and find examples of similar innovations, by:
    • submitting case studied to local and institutional LTA success story repositories, journals, conferences;
    • making available support materials, assignment briefs, examples and evaluation tools (etc) that you have produced;
  • join, or establish, local/institutional special interest groups on media-enhanced learning;
  • become friends (not enemies!) with people responsible for every aspect of the infrastructure. It is likely they are looking for someone who can help them make sense if it all;
  • invite external experts, including peers from other institutions (local and national), to help key stakeholders understand how other institutions value and support practice;
  • go for small victories within the big picture, but talk about the big picture destination at every opportunity.

Do you agree? Can you help me improve this?

Audio commentrary


Just reading Nicola Durbridge's contribution to Bates' 'The Role of Technology in Distance Education' published way back in 1984 I think. This is the era of the audio cassette and the chapter reflects on why it was useful for UK Open University teachers.
Durbridge first discusses audio, appreciating how modulation of the teacher's voice distinguishes audio from the written text. She then discusses the cassette in terms that will be familiar to those interested in mobile learning.
At this time there was no Internet and so the cassette provided an important contact point for distant learners, connecting them to their teachers between their infrequent meetings.
The use of audio commentary is a method described here and one that I believe is still valuable. In the age of the DVD, where films come with bonus layers of commentary, it is surprising that more is not done by academics or students in creating commentary recordings on texts and situations. The use of audio feedback, as a type of commentary on student assignments, is used. However, much more use of audio, the MP3 recorder and it's pause button, could be made. Commentaries or reviews of academic texts by academics is an obvious way of encouraging student engagement with key texts. Student commentaries, that might be compared, on readings is also a simple technique to implement.
Is anyone using such techniques?

podcasting and woolly thinking


I'm still reading too many articles on educational podcasting that praise or condemn it using inappropriate methodology. This applies to all learning technology, but obviously I tend to pay particular attention to those that deal with the use of digital audio.I am not going to name any particular articles here, but I will say I have seen examples of this woolly thinking in mainstream, peer reviewed journals.There are two things to highlight here: acquisition of the term 'podcasting' and the methodology used. Perennial question: what do we mean by 'podcasting'? (feel free to replace 'podcasting' with your preferred learning technology as you read)Podcasting is a technology, and one that is used in places other than education. Within education it's application is legion. Evaluation of a learning technology is only useful and of interest when it's very particular context is understood: who were the students? How many of them? What discipline, culture, topic were they part of? Who was the academic? What was their need, previous experience, expectation? What institution was involved and how well supported was the initiative by developers, technologists, services departments, strategies, policies and leadership? Pedagogically, did the use of technology complement, supplement or replace existing methods or content? Etc, etcDescribing such factors obviously takes a lot of work and makes presenting 'findings' tedious or complex, nevertheless I would suggest understanding the subtleties of a given context is critical in making any judgement. More important than this, however, is knowing what the word podcasting means to the writer. In reading between the many lines associated with usage of the word in the academic press (especially when it hasn't been made clear) it usually means 'distributing lecture recordings' or what I would call 'coursecasting'. Can we please pay more attention to describing how the technology is being used and avoid short hand assumptions? If someone at my university says "I hear students don't like podcasting?" my heart sinks. I think we know that many students don't listen to lecture recordings and that they should be regarded as supplementary. But this would not be the case with audio briefings or expert interviews, for example, that are distributed through a module's podcast. Or 100 other techniques that might be used by staff and students to make learning a richer experience. Some people (eg France & Ribchester) refer to audio feedback as podcasting. You might want to discuss that with them, but you can see how referring to the technology has little bearing in the value of what is done in a given situation. While I'm griping, the second thing I want to mention is inappropriate research methodologies in discussing academic innovation where it involves technologies such as podcasting. In disciplines where quantitative methodology is common, an academic will frequently use quantitative methods to evaluate educational applications. This is very often inappropriate and lazy. Often sample sizes are too small, the subject being evaluated is emerging and I'll-defined, the criteria or measures are too precise to capture inexact behaviour and opinion. Qualitative methods, on the other hand, can be used to capture rich stories and diverse accounts. They make fewer claims to certainty and are more reliable and even generalisable. They often require more effort in terms of collating and interpreting the data, but immersion in such data usually is evident in the rich writing that follows. So can we have more papers that talk about the nature of the teaching and learning experience as mediated by technologies and more qualitative accounts that allow the reader room to interpret what they read and so map findings to their own contexts?- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone[...]

Why all academics should use generic audio feedback


This is a rather provocative title and perhaps it is there to provoke me more than anyone else.
I'm not going to give specific references to the literature on this as I'm on the move, but if you're interested in what others have had to say on the topic please do contact me directly and I'll provide you with useful pointers.
There is some debate about the value of generic feedback compared to what is called personal feedback - that which is directed at the individual. Of course there is also feedback given to groups and so the feedback is given more in response to the group's approach and product rather than the individuals as such.
Generic feedback's weakness, however, is usually thought to be in it's untargetted nature: the danger is that nobody believes it is intended for them or that if it was really important the communication would be more targetted.
Conversely, in an age where there is a widespread recognition of the need for formative feedback, a generic approach can at least be manageable and timely. When it is based upon a sample of student work, at least the feedback can be returned whilst the assignment is still relatively fresh in the mind of the students.
Obviously this is important where the cohort is large, especially where it is given in response to early stages of a longer piece of work.
The art of the generic approach is to make it meaningful to all who receive it so they will use it and learn from it. This means effort should be given to embed it well before it is used in anger. It's use is perhaps just part of a broader dialogic module ethos.
The student should also know what to do with the feedback, and instructions about the use of the feedback should be embedded in the language of the feedback itself. It is not just a list of points to listen to, for example. Instead the feedback is introduced to set up the expectation that the learner will respond, and each point is accompanied with a clear suggestion about how they can take action now and later.
Finally, each student should engage with the feedback - personally. Though it is a general message the individual listener needs to see it as personal - "How does this apply to me?" It becomes valuable because it is perceived to be personal.
So, generic feedback can be designed so that it becomes specific by not just telling the listener about what was good and what could have been better, but by comparing their own work to the achievements and weaknesses of others.

Digital storytelling, media and plagiarism


Education has put a lot of effort into addressing plagiarism in recent years using e-learning technologies like electronic submission, Turnitin and Google. How does plagiarism relate to digital media assignments such as podcasts and digital storytelling?
I've been involved with running machinina assignments over recent years involving students making good use of virtual worlds like World of Warcraft and Second Life. When does what they capture become their own work? Hoe much of the environment represented in their dork belongs to them?
Richer media, whether aural or visual, introduces not only new layers meaning, bit new layers of rights (and wrongs).
On the face of it. It is simple: students are instructed to acknowledge the work of others and to not pass it off as their own. But with text this is relatively easy to check. With audio or video it's not.
Self-plagiarism is another issue - what is to prevent a student from submitting the same work, or something very similar, for more than one assignment lead by different tutors. This just happened to me and it was only coincidence that led me to spotting what was going on.
From the student's point of view, he had not made the connection that you can plagiarise with media other than text. And anyway, there's a question as to whether reused footage represents a breach of regulation in this case. I think the best I can do, until I hear about other prople's experiences, is to advise students to avoid reusing their own work or that of others without clearly acknowing the source.
I'd love to hear about any work that has been conducted in this area.

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Location:Lambra Rd,Barnsley,United Kingdom

Getting messy in the cloud (and finding ways to get tidy)


One of the ideas I keep returning to, and have used personally, in my consideration of educational audio is a-PDP. This is one of the mobile and opportunistic approaches that I believe demonstrates the value of the medium.With this idea the learner autonomously records a note at the end of their learning day (a personal point in each learner's day when they make some disconnection from their studies). The learner simply answers the following three questions: "What have I done today? What have I learnt today? What am I going to do about it?"The next day, perhaps as they walk onto campus, they spend five minutes listening back to their notes. Periodically they return to their audio notes at a time when they have the capacity to reflect - perhaps once a week for half an hour on a Wednesday. They spend that time listening back and writing (yes writing!) deeper notes around what they have heard, focusing more on the actions they took or did not take and what they learnt by taking those actions.With this scenario in mind, technically what happens?This is partly based on the idea that most students carry an audio recorder with them wherever they go; the Voice Memo tool on their mobile phone. Last year we handed out about 60 mp3 recorders to students and when my own daughter started uni thus year I bought her a tiny 4GB recorder for about £35 too. So whether it's phones, Mp3 recorder, laptop, netbook, flip video camera, or whatever, students increasingly have access to technology suited to supporting a-PDP.Turning from the idea and the technologies involved in capturing the learner's thoughts, where do these a-PDP notes go? And how? And this, as with other great ideas for educational podcasting is where things can get messy. The simple answer would be that the audio doesn't go anywhere. It stays on the device used to create it and that it where the learner listens back as the later synthesise their immediate thoughts into more considered notes. However, this is not good enough for some who like the idea of using a portfolio. So far I have described a-PDP as being entirely autonomous and informal - it sits outside the formal, planned curriculum. But student Portfolios have been an important and ongoing focus for educatators in UK HE since Dearing. Attempts have been in place to see PDP and portfolio systems integrated into academic practice for some time. Therefore, sometimes PDP practice isn't private and autonomous. Sometimes there is a requirement to manage and reflect in public, or at least within eye shot of your tutor.Evernote is a system I've been looking at recently ( It offers free accounts and a premium service too It allows the user to make, store, tag and discover notes in a number of media including audio voice memos. These notes can be made using the apps Evernote have developed for a good range of smart phones and operating systems. The desktop application has more functionality, but the mobile app allows the user to not only make a-PDP notes but to manage and develop those notes in written form too. My only concern is with relying on the service in the wake of Ning's service closure to free users. It looks like a fantastic tool, but should we risk putting our stuff there? PDP is a long term commitment that a learner makes. I'm also seriously considering using it to store my personal research database of abstracts and quotes culled from what I read. How secure is it and how long will it be there? Can I get my stuff out of it if I need to and in what format?With these caveats in mind, it seems like Evernote is a great tool for education and it's support for audio is particularly refreshing, where we are thinking about a-PDP or the other ideas that abound for the educational use[...]

Educational podcasting and diversity - How can audio enhance inclusion?


I went to a really useful workshop at Sheffield Hallam yesterday organised by my colleague Manny Madriaga and presented by Mick Healey from the University of Gloucestershire. The workshop, 'Reflections on developing an inclusive curriculum', was as thought provoking as I hoped it would be in terms of my media-enhanced learning remit.A couple of things in particular stand out, mostly because they connect to current themes for me. 'Variety' seems to be my word of the month. It's a response to the often silly suggestions about the way that people rationalise their use of podcasting; that it meets the needs of student's various learning styles. A much more useful way of looking at this, I believe, is looking at the benefits of variety in the way we engage our learners. In this workshop 'variety' was less concerned with 'mixing it up' and more to do with offering and supporting several ways of meeting learning outcomes and being assessed. By taking a more open approach to 'content' (and allowing for this in validation procedures) and by offering a negotiated assessment approach, we not only end up with a curriculum that is more meaningful and potentially more creative, but one that is able to address the diverse needs of our students and which makes the most of their differences.By far the largest proportion of disabled students are those that declare their dyslexia. As has been evident in the work I have conducted with Anne Nortcliffe in Engineering and other colleagues in Art & Design, working with audio in various ways has clear benefits to dyslexic students.I recently ran an assignment in Computing where the written form was patently excluding many students from demonstrating their true capacity. Given a variety of tasks that included writing a report, giving a presentation and making a podcast, these particular students, almost without exception, were comfortable and articulate in producing a group podcast. However, the written work was, in the main, startling to me. The presentations were also good but, to me, lacked the depth that was evident when just listening to the students.What is more, the students had no training in making a podcast. Again this surprised me, but they showed how resourceful they were. All I heard about it was the podcast they submitted. No tales of woe.I am conducting some research around this module and others and will hopefully give more useful reports on this experience elsewhere.One of the useful outcomes of the workshop for me was the emphasis on difference rather than disability. This, on the face of it, sounds superficial and PC, but it's not. My story of the Computing students demonstrates that if we are really interested in supporting knowledge construction and assessing it in a meaningful way, then the needs of all students should be considered in terms of the way they are able to engage (not in terms of the way we engage them, for example).I marked the podcasts last, and until I did I had felt quite despondent. There seemed to be little life and ownership of the assignment by the students until then. What I saw as disinterest in the subject was, to a large extent I think, a disinterest in the medium used to convey their knowledge. Now, part of the assignment was indeed about report writing, which is why they were asked to respond in several media, and there were some lessons to be learned by all about such skills with the marks reflecting this. But as an unintend consequence of that assignment I was able to directly observe how some media and methods inhibit learning unnecessarily.The second point to reflect upon from Mick Healey's workshop was cultural diversity. And here I have just some fresh questions. Healey referred t[...]

Audio feedback – asynchronous thoughts!


I’ve just been going through my notes from a mini-conference at the University of Reading in relation to their Assett project on media-enhanced feedback. This meeting happened in mid-January and time has moved on rapidly, but I found myself needing to sort through files on my laptop and discovered a few gems including these thoughts from a presentation by Claire McCullough (UoR) who presented on "Talking about student’s writing".She uses a written summary sheet and uses audio to add detail. This is the mixed approach that I have written about before where one uses each media to its strengths.She notes that, as well as providing the opportunity to personalise the feedback, the audio allows for a greater sense of space to comment and to properly acknowledge student effort.She also reports that, though it is easy technically it is tiring and emotionally draining. This is a useful and timely reminder for me as I am currently considering the emotional dimension of educational audio especially in relation to emotional intelligence.McCullough’s research has analysed what is actually said by those providing feedback in this way. The most commonly occurring comment was about setting tasks, though she highlights the use of elaboration and the use of examples: ‘what I mean is’ ‘for example’. This is a richer layer of feedback often not evident in perfunctory written feedback.She says that students have an awareness of having real readers of their work, yet there is a greater need to be sensitive: “it can hurt at that proximity.”She suggests audio feedback begins by asking the student if they have got their essay or summary feedback sheet. This is an important point that isn’t made often enough. Others have noted the need to begin feedback with more administrative concerns, such as stating the name of the student, the assignment title and its status. This suggestion that the student should have their work with them before listening begins to create a picture of the student’s academic use of the feedback and takes design from pragmatic concerns towards its pedagogic purpose. I usually add that the student should be clearly empowered as a result of the feedback: they switch off the recording knowing what specific action they must take next. She also suggests that it is a good idea to vary your feedback approach and do things to get students to revisit it.I like quotes from students. They don’t always fit in neatly to a research hypothesis, but are rich nevertheless. McCullagh offers the student comment, “If I feel good with the feedback I will be more ambitious.”Finally, she proposes something else that I think is important and resonates with my own Corridor Feedback model (where students move out of the class room to provide feedback to each other on project work in a conversation facilitated by the teacher). She says ask students to compare their feedback with selected other students. This contradicts the assumption that many have that feedback should be a private affair between a tutor and a student. Obviously it depends very much on the context, but if a student can benefit from a piece of feedback then surely a culture of sharing feedback can result in a metacognitive dimension in which students are able to appreciate their own strengths and weaknesses and those of others and so lead to a more supportive and social constructivist dynamic if properly supported. There are obvious dangers here, but it may be worth thinking about the principle. Indeed, in the ongoing work that I am conducting with Anne Nortcliffe we have found that students often do compare their feedback informally and report the benefits of having done so.I[...]

Voice: the new text


This article on CNN asks "Is voice becoming the new text (again)?"
I like the question and I suppose it echoes the one implied in the papers I produce including 'Reclaiming Mobile Audio', which I presented at the IADIS Mobile Learning 2010 conference this weekend, describing the mp3 recorder as the modern day pencil case.
The CNN article, however, is about voice control, especially in the context of small interfaces that are tricky to manipulate. But it reminds me of a problem I have identified in the area of student-generated media: the anxiety that is evident amongst many when it comes to talking into a microphone, especially in public.
Will the advent of voice control help to normalise talking into recorders? Obviously the general user seems to be oblivious of others when it comes to making phone calls in public (though appearances may be decieving. I hate making phone calls in public and I know I am not alone). Voice control is different because it involves the speaker talking to the device rather than a person at the other end of the call and this is similar to using the device as a dictaphone. There is nothing normal (currently) in this behaviour. I haven't noticed people using voice control in public as a matter of course and the CNN article points out that it's useful for times when it would be difficult to otherwise operate the device, eg when driving. I don't use voice control on my iPhone because I would feel like an idiot, but if this took off it's impact on the student's interest in recording personal audio notes could be significant.
I generally don't record in front of others unless I am demonstrating the technology or interviewing people. This is an issue that requires thought in order to ensure students feel comfortable to verbalised their thoughts. One of the take-aways from IADIS was the opportunity to think about the relationship between audio and instilling learner confidence. This dilemma relates to that, but is in opposition to my thoughts at the weekend about how audio notes and video notes can instill learner confidence. Hmm, a few ideas are all emerging at once here. More later on the recorded voice, anxiety, confidence and emotional engagement undoubtedly.

Harnessing audio found on the Web


I have just found this useful site for people (e.g. teachers) who want to aggregate their own podcasts using audio resources that find out there on the Web. It's called Huffduffer ( There's no reason why those bits of audio should not be your own.

It says,"Create your own podcast - i.Find links to audio files on the Web. ii.Huffduff the links—add them to your podcast. iii.Subscribe to podcasts of other found sounds."
This could be useful for those who have not got a VLE tool for producing feeds, but still the main challenge facing educators is where to put their own audio. As mentioned previously is one place, but at some point I must get round to checking this out and putting a list here.
If anyone has any suggestions, please post them here.

VLE is still dead


I've been listening back to Steve Wheeler, James Clay, Nick Sharret, Josie Fraser and Graham Atwell from ALT-C last September. A great debate on a serious matter handled with great fun (as would be expected from all named).
A bit late then? No, timely. Very timely.
This story illustrates one of the main benefits I see in educational podcasting, so please bear with me.
I was there (indeed I contribute at some point with a comment about informal learning).
Firstly, it was packed out - a lot of people couldn't get into the session, so the recording James Clay made had immediate and obvious value by extending access. And I think the audio captures the event quite faithfully. The humour and excitement comes across well despite the lo-fi approach to the recording.
Secondly, it was good to hear the arguments a second time. I heard Steve Wheeler (who presented first) after I had already heard everyone else (live some months ago). The context for my personal engagement with his contribution was different. And it will be different again if I listen to it a third or forth time. On a revisit the whole context for what is being said is changed for all sorts of reasons. For example, this morning I listened to the debate while walking the dog along the canal on a sunny spring morning and this contrasts markedly with being there in a stuffy room after lunch and highly engaged, to the extent that I made a contribution in this heady debate. I can reflect on the contribution I made as well as those made by others (Was it useful? Did it make sense? How did people respond?)
Finally (but very much not least), this recording becomes valuable for another, unintended audience: my students are developing PLEs as a framework for learning about mashups and professional identity; all of this debate is not only pertinent to backgrounding the concept of PLE, but of mashups in general too. Therefore, Clay's recording allows me to bring in authentic and expert voices grappling in a lively way with the student's topic.
I am writing this on the train and may not be able to link from here to the recording. You can google it. It appears on JC's 'elearning stuff' podcast and is titled 'The VLE is Dead'.
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Revision notes are go


I have just set the first tranch of audio revision notes loose on my students. Though I posted them with Podcast LX to Bkackboard a day or so ago I felt it was important to scaffold their use. I wasn't actually teaching this week, nonetheless I realised that it was important to take five minutes to explain what they were, why they were there and, most importantly, how they should be used.
A lot goes on in the module's podcast feed. Unfortunately Podcast LX only allows you one feed per module - this basically makes it a dumping ground. Within the module site you obviously embed the audio materials in the pertinent places, but the feed gathers such audio together and churns them out sequentially. That's why good titles and description fields are so important. The description field should not only summarise the content, but why it is useful and how it can be best used. This leads to a metacognitive approach and so aids engagement and hopefully learner reflectivity.
Why audio? Having made outline scripts, why don't I just give the students the scripts? NO! The who point is to help the learner re-engage with their own experience. They are asked to build upon these barebones not by putting things onto their own words; hence the need to introduce their use. I will be evaluating this technique, however I am not sure how the students in this module will react. Many come expecting to do practical, taught work and are finding university particularly challenging. But maybe the audio method will hit the spot. We'll see later.

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Opencast Matterhorn


I've been thinking a lot about infrastructure for supporting educational podcasting and I feel like it's time to get something in place. The Opencast Matternhorn project is geeting quite exciting with release of 0.5. This video provides a useful overview.

Further information is available on the Opencast site.

Planning audio revision notes


I'm on the train producing outline scripts for my module audio revision notes. The framework of '5 things you need to know about [any topic]' is working well. I recorded some on Friday and feel that one or two sentences is more than enough to prompt recall of some of the learning activities with which the students have been involved. I went through the five points, then told the listener how to respond by listing and developing the points in their own words, then repeated the five points. I will evaluate this method later. Obviously the main concern for me is the extent to which people can just learn by listening at all. Hence the need to embed guidance in each and every note on expectations for their revision activity.

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Location:Gray St,Barnsley,United Kingdom

Running out of steam (radio)


A colleague asked me the other “How long will this audio recorder last until the battery runs out?” I shuddered. He always asks very good questions, and this was no exception. We have many of these audio recorders around – we use M-Audio devices. The quality’s great, but we’ve had them for a year and a half. Some get used a lot more than others and like any device you do get the occasional failure.

I knew my colleague was about to go off and run a series of focus groups and I suddenly realised I didn’t want to make promises that could well come back to haunt me. How old was the recorder he had? When was it last charged? What condition was the battery in? What settings was he going to use? I feebly said “Keep an eye and an ear on it. If it’s been charged up it should last you several hours… take two! Have one as back up!” He dashed off and I dashed off to our respective meetings.

I haven’t seen him or heard from him since (which I take to be good news!), but this little story highlights how fragile confidence is in such matters – if the battery had failed on him he would never touch the thing again. He just wouldn’t take the risk. I know that, and I wouldn’t blame him. But part of my job is to encourage people to pick up such devices to realise how they can open opportunities. If I set out caveats to do with battery failure, for example, it really undermines the encouraging sounds I strive to make.

Suggesting the second device was probably a good idea to inspire confidence, but not the sort of advice that is realistic in scaling the use of digital audio.

Casting around


I have spent the morning caught up in thinking about casting, one way or another.First of all, I spent some time responding to an article in the Times Higher Education that reports on concerns about the practice of ‘coursecasting’ in HE – the practice of recording and distributing lectures. The concern is that it threatens the jobs of academics. Well, in this day and age you have to be careful about responding to such things too glibly, but given that, it is often said if it is possible to capture your lecture then you probably aren’t lecturing very well. If you feel threatened by such technology, therefore, perhaps you should look at what you bring to student engagement and how you bring it. Now, that does sound glib, but I recognise whilst many teachers may understand the value of their engagement methods, it is possible that managers just don’t get it. Above all, for me, the idea of recording lectures is just not very interesting to me – claims about the benefits of coursecasting to the learner have never convinced me. Students might say they like, academic staff might say they like it (or not), but at the end of the day it implies that teaching can be commoditised in a very simple way – but that simple way takes us back in time to the age of rote learning. No, we should be looking ahead to see how technology now enables students and staff to take more engaging, active and authentic approaches to learning and teaching.Next this morning, I find myself making the audio revision notes that I have discussed already this week. Well, it all worked really well and I think I have a simple, highly engaging little technique that conveys essential concepts briefly and invites the student listener to develop what they hear into written words that are meaningful to them. So, on the one hand I am ‘casting’ 3 minute nuggets, but on the other I am building into that an articulated expectation for each learner to work with that recording in their own way – to make sense of it.And as I write, an MP3 recording is winging its way up to where earlier I had already uploaded a PowerPoint from the workshop that my colleague Susannah Diamond and myself ran earlier in the week at a regional JISC event on Pedagogy and e-Learning. The intention is to add the audio to the PowerPoint and so create a Slidecast. Something I’ve not done before, and something I’ve not been inclined to do before. It seems relatively straightforward, but isn’t this just a way of coursecasting? Do I think it is valuable? Well, err yes… I want to communicate (with Susannah) something about our work which includes an invitation for listeners to participate. But you know, this may cause me to get shot by stepping into the territory of the pedagogue! Oh, I don’t know. I suppose all I can say is, things are not cut and dried here, and at least I’m reflecting on what I am doing.By the way there’s a useful tutorial from Mike Bogle at the University of New South Wales on using this technique: Excellent video tutorial about Slidecasting…And this is the Slidecast from our session (quite easy to produce as it happens)SupportingUser-Generated Media-Enhanced LearningView more presentations from Andrew Middleton.[...]

I can’t manage myself!


I’ve been doing some work on ‘managing your online identity’ with some computing students. I have interviewed Careers staff for the module podcast on the subject, quoted some discussions from useful podcasts, and linked to online articles (eg).

The best advice came via EdTech Weekly (as usual) who, when discussing the topic in episodes 153 and 154, say that you should use your real name for professionally related endeavours of which you can be proud and for more dodgy things use another name. If there are stories out there that do not reflect so well on you, then you must outweigh them with good deeds (why do you think I blog and podcast! – to make up for earlier sins, obviously!!).

Or maybe I’m making up for the sins of people who share my name.

Doing a quick regular vanity search using Google Alerts I discover this week that I have,

  • Met with a state leader in Oklahoma;
  • Written a blog post on click mentality;
  • Taken some photographs of a hill;
  • Been doing something with Honda in track and field (very unlikely);
  • Done something with a bicycle in Birmingham;
  • Struggled to keep awake in the opening ceremonies of the Olympic games.

…And now of course Andrew Middleton has declared himself incompetent in front of the whole world.

Actually, this week, only a small number of these would be true.

I conclude, therefore, that if you have a really unusual name you should take a lot more care than if you have a name that is shared by others.

…Though it can’t be bad if people think I’m a fit young cyclist.

Beating click mentality


I was listening to a discussion on my favourite podcast and the phrase 'click mentality' jumped out at me.
I'm sure I've heard it or used it before, but it's one those things where timeliness is everything. It coincided with some vague thinking I've been doing towards articulating the benefits of audio as an engaging medium. It helps to explain, perhaps more usefully, why 'the novelty factor' attributed to techniques such as audio feedback should not be dismissed. Actually, I would tend to ignore 'the novelty factor' as being a useful attribute to considering the use of audio; after all, once you've done it once it's not novel anymore, so where does that leave you and your students? However, the phrase 'click mentality' puts it's finger on something (so to speak!!). It is about breaking normal or usual engagement patterns to ensure that engagement takes place. Some people talk about this in terms of the benefits of 'variety' in pedagogy. This all ties into my regular use of the term 'the extended learning envuronment' where the various media provide the facilitator with a range of engagement tools. Whilst some talk about learning styles, I think this is problematic and too deterministic. The picture I have of addressing diverse students with diverse types of knowledge is one where there is a highly usable and diverse toolkit, containing a tool for every occasion - occasions which only become clear at the last minute sometimes.
Audio can be used to address the dilemma of click mentality or automatic thinking, by accommodating diverse pedagogical strategies.

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Location:Sheffield, United Kingdom