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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Revisiting Podcasts for E-Learning and M-Learning

With a new surge in popularity of mobile devices, including tablets (iPads) and aggressively app-oriented smartphones (Droid, iPhone), podcasts can be employed in even more settings in both mobile learning and single location-based e-learning. Further, podcasts that form a component of integrated applications (archived webinars, narrated slideshows), can be used in new ways to accommodate conditions and contexts of learning, as well as learner preferences and styles.

Audio recordings for ubiquitous learning which involves a combination of e-learning (with laptops) / m-learning (with mobile devices) for both education and professional development and training. Podcasting has been around for 5 or 6 years and has was eagerly embraced by educators and institutions from the beginning.

New technologies often revitalize older techniques and technologies. Podcasts are no exception, thanks to new mobile devices and access, with 3G and 4G wireless networks. Podcasts are ideal in all courses and degree programs, particularly business (with case studies), natural sciences (environmental field trips, etc.), humanities (memoirs and debates), cultural studies, and composition. Podcasts are also used to keep students informed and connected.

Podcasts are particularly effective for brief, intensive training, or online college courses that require field work and which incorporate informal learning. They often incorporate newscasts, human interest stories, and investigative journalism.

Characteristics of effective podcasts:
*the speakers tell a story and incorporate personal experience -- encourage listener engagement
*optimized for easy download
*variable length
*lively voice -- ideally with a conversation
*narrative and organization easy to follow, even with ambient distractions
*multiple locations / mirror servers / convenient and ubiquitous access

Podcasts are most effective when they are integrated with an application or cluster of applications, and have Web 2.0 elements (social networking, RSS feeds, downloadable via Facebook, announces via Twitter, etc.) The accompanying applications should encourage reflection and internalization of the content as a whole. So, mp3 files /podcasts can come bundled with other elements such as:

*companion website with supplemental readings (links) and guiding questions
*downloadable or streaming presentation (animated or static powerpoint)
*discussion board
*aggregated tweets or posts
*poll or questionnaire (zoho polls, zoomerang, survey monkey)

How and why podcasts are effective when integrated with mobile applications:

*Engage by replicating a conversation
*Reinforce content with webinars
*Rehumanize the e-learning / m-learning space
*Accommodate learning styles / preferences
*Motivate via self-efficacy / self-actualization / self-determination
*Achieve ideal time management
*Give confidence and more complex understanding of the topic via expert insight
*Encourage collaboration / dynamic exchanges of content

Question: Is mobile learning merely a fad?

"Buzz Breaker" panel responded to the question at Meridian Knowledge Systems "Learn and Know" e-Learning Conference in Chantilly, VA, April 19-21, 2010.

Mark Bower, Karl Kapp, Susan Smith Nash (e-learning and training panel members) discussed the question with corporate trainers. Conclusion: with new mobile devices and expanded connectivity and access, we're likely to be right on the cusp of yet another explosion of m-learning, particularly as different apps are mashed together and there is significant media-mashing (audio with images, etc.).

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