So what do you think the children get from Podcasting?

This interesting question was posed to me by a visitor to school the other day, as I played back some student recordings, and has given me pause for thought, as it is likely to be the first question from the lips of colleagues, when it is suggested they use podcasting as part of their work with students. It is a question which I think actually requires us to change our mindset regarding ICT, to shift from teaching ICT to learning with ICT, and I want to outline a few things before I engage with a relatively short reaction. I have been trying to write this stuff for weeks, but have really struggled with the how. And now I feel I have a context.

Obviously as an ICT subject leader my primary concern is that ICT is being taught consistently, and that there is progression and continuity in students learning oppportunities. This places high expectations on the standards and quality of "teaching and learning" in this core curricular area. But as with many colleagues I have a tapestry of tales regarding knowledge and understanding among my team about how ICTs work and how they might be used to develop and support learning. I have also encountered the syndrome discussed by Alan November the other week of "with everything else going on I don't have the time." We are very busy people, but as a local and national issue targetted support and directed CPD is the only solution to plugging this skills and knowledge gap. And this is where notions of vision, changes in pedagogy, and commitment to understanding the potentials of ICTs within the learning process and not just teaching/delivery is an essential prerequisite next step in school and local developments.

I have been concerned for sometime that our overreliance on a give and go culture, has lulled many of us into a false sense of security regarding what it means to teach and learn with ICT. If we deliver what we have been given we can't go wrong. (eg QCA and Local SsOW). This has lead to an acceptance of their off the shelf use, as a script. Our colleagues feel they are being lead by the hand, step by step through activities, which represent best practice because they have been developed centrally. As subject leaders we are also largely happy, as we know colleagues are "teaching" ICT or at least a verion of ICT where we perceive the basic "Subject knowledge and skills" are represented, through documentation officially endorsed as a representations of the ICT Curriculum, and so boxes can be ticked. However the most important part of any of developing and working with any unit of work, is in thinking about learning and why the students are learning what they are, their integrated tasks usually hold the key to this, and are where the crosscurricular links are often most apparent, however how many of us look here first. Perhaps the problem with these documents is the headlong rush onto skills programs, with the project outcome being placed at the end, perhaps as a summary of learning and an overview or brief we should consider placing the outcomes at the beginning. OooooH! so thats what we are trying to do? I am teaching this because the students need to learn that, or how. Ultimately however I feel we need to own what we are teaching, and the students need to own what they are learning. Often when we work with ICT what the children are to achieve is actually six weeks away, for sure there are small steps on the way, but if we know where we are going, then doing bold has a purpose. Better still if we link this to literacy, and create a newspaper, or rework poetry mutlimodally then doing bold, changing fonts style and colour, not only make our text look pretty, but can also engage us in a thinking process about how we can use these effects for a wider purpose in supporting meaning making as reader and author, for our intended audience. So what?

I am reminded here of a picture book I once shared, I can't remember the title or the author, which is a shame, and if anyone knows the one I am thinking of, I would be grateful for a reminder. It told the story of a duck, who believed that all knowledge was held in books. He desparately wanted a book because then he would be wise. One day while out walking he found a book and picking it up, he tucked it under his arm feeling very pleased with himself, as he was now the posessor of wisdom. Wandering about the farmyard feeling important he set about giving advice to all the animals. His advice though didn't make him popular, it caused pain and arguments and squabbles broke out. But because he had the book, this could not be his fault, he had the knowledge and so he was wise. Then the wind caught him, he dropped the book and in the gust the pages blew open. He discovered to his horror, he couldn't understand the strange markings, he felt foolish realising that the wisdom he sought was not in the book but in the words he couldn't comprehend on the pages themselves.

The layers in this children's story and the depth of the moral says so much to me about what has happened to school based learning and teacher knowledge in recent times, it has become compartmentalised, shut away inside its seperate little books, while the duck as recieved wisdom tells us what we need to do and how we should do it, despite going against our better judgement, we have let learning about learning take a back seat to performance and accountability. Content has taken over from process, until eventually as now recieved wisdom challenges us to undo all that we have done in its name, to unpick the words for ourselves, to interpret them, to take ownership of our classrooms and personalise the curriculum to become creative with it and to focus on what classrooms were always for, or so we would hope, learning. What recieved wisdom chooses to forget however, is because he has told us what to do, and judged us on our ability to perform his tasks for so long, some of us are now reticent, unsure and reluctant to do so, fearful to risk opening the cover and finding we have forgotten what they mean, or worse still in going against what recieved wisdom said until yesterday, we may not trust ourselves, or indeed really be trusted; and looking over our shoulders we wait for recieved wisdom to catch us out and punish us for our failures.

I displayed recently at the UWE conference a photo montage, entitled putting the C in ICT, as I wanted to model how the work I had done with students this year was different to that which had gone before. In the first Instance the C represented creativity. Taking a multiple tool approach, I have focussed on learning ICT skills in context, across the curriculum, embedding where possible skills development in cross curricular activities. This has been possible through the ability to evaluate as I go, drawing on the affordances of particular pieces of kit and using them to develop skills teaching within the context of wider curricular activities and processes. As part of this process I wanted to demonstrate what a multi tool approach to teaching and learning with and about ICT looks like in practice, while reflecting on the learning processes which evolve as a result. To this end the process has been photographed, and monitored, students have been interviewed and observed, while the use of the cascade saving model I have promoted means we have a record on the network of tasks as they have evolved. The use of has enabled review of children's thoughts and feelings about what they have been engaged in and the introduction of a new self assessment and peer review system through Help2Learn, has begun to enable myself and the students to identify gaps and set targets for new learning, or what still needs to be developed. The focus has been on the learner and what they are learning, not on entirely on my teaching and what they are doing, and this brings me to the initial question and another C in ICT, Communication.

So What Do You Think Children get From Podcasting?
Or should we reword this a little and ask
What are children learning when they engage in creating a podcast?

Most importantly Podcasting engages children in writing for a purpose

  • Student writing becomes a script and so we are engaging them with learning how writing is used, in this case their writing is for reading and performance?
  • As authors we seek to engage an audience, we are learning how language structures, word choice, influence what and how we say things, and how our audience might react,
  • In engaging as writer and audience through rehearsal and playback, we are gaining an understanding of how we phrase things in order to share meaning, we cannot say this is.. we must describe so we can create images in our listeners mind.
  • As performers our oral work must be interesting to listen to as we want them to come back, we need to read with expression, and the purpose of punctuation as indicators of how we will recieve our text.
  • Within a podcast each mode of representation used is embedded in the purpose of the other, and helps us think about the roles each play in meaning making.

Examples of learning from the students

A student who finds difficulty in prolonged engagement with tasks, does not work well with others, and is unwilling to accept suggestions on how to improve her work, takes 20 minutes to record one section of her episode, "lets delete it, it don't sound right," asks support of a friend, "what do you think? I still ain't sure, should I do it again?" corrects herself on playback, " I still sounds like a robot," before finally being happy with what she lays down, " yeah thats alright, it your turn now."

Another student working alone, makes several mistakes, as we engage in a scene from it'll be alright on the night, as I delete the track for her to have another go, I turn round to see her rehearsing the track in her head, lips moving to mouth her output.

Finally on the subject of punctuation, a discussion with a student who gets it that thats what they are for. "I think I need an exclamation mark there, cos we were surprised about Tizz," before delivering her seesaw script full of expression. It was a little too rocky for me, but it is interesting what the effect of hearing your own voice can have. "That was alright, but I think I could have done better!"

Maybe it is not a question of why should I do podcasting? I could ask the same question about wordprocessing or making a branching data base? And students no doubt ask similar questions still about algebra, or learning their tables, and a recent question from a student about why we have to write raised an eyebrow for me? Perhaps the questions we should be asking is not what am I do in ICT this term? What tools might I use in ICT to help me do this? This will lead to ownership of the curiculum, an identified need to engage with technologioes to support practice and learning; and a greater understanding of what learning means when it is ICT mediated or supported. Perhaps the question should be is there a tool that will help contextualise and provide purpose for writing scripts or performance poetry? Help me support children in developing expression while reading? Scaffold and enhance understanding of the purpose and use of punctuation? These shift the focus from teaching centred to learning centred ICT sessions, where skill development is an inherent part of the wider learning process, rather than the outcomes. So endeth today's sermon.

1 comment:

Joe said...

Great sermon. Here's my take:

Best wishes