Podcasts Makes It Academic

Ah, the halcyon days of academia when you spent hours in great halls absorbing wisdom from your instructors, more often than not by osmosis because you d fallen asleep on your textbook while the grizzled pedagogue droned on about some incomprehensible concept. (*snoz*)

Podcasts offer an alternative to sleeping though a professor s lecture. A psychologist at the State University of New York developed an iTunes U podcast of a lecture for an introductory psych course as an experiment. The student volunteers were split into two groups; one half only attended the lecture in person and received a handout while the other half just listened to the lecture on their iPods. After a week the students were tested and those who attended the lecture averaged a D while those who only listened to the podcast averaged a C. Intriguing results that suggest a new avenue for education. Perhaps the study group should have been split into thirds: one third lecture only, one third podcast only and one third listening to both. I m willing to bet that the third group would have achieved a much higher average grade. Given the differences in people s learning styles it would be foolish to think that there is only one acceptable method of teaching. There will always be a need for one-on-one interaction between student and teacher and the value of work groups shouldn t be overlooked. Podcasts simply bring another tool to the educational banquet.

Apple offers a free kit to colleges and universities for developing podcasts and uploading them into iTunes U. Podcasts bring the classroom to wherever the student happens to be as long as they have an iPod or iPhone and allows the undergrads to learn at their own pace, pausing to replay confusing points, fast-forwarding over areas already conquered and repeating the lecture as needed. Check out which schools have utilized podcasts simply by clicking on iTunes U in the left hand column on iTunes. You ll find prominent schools like Cambridge, Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Stanford, UCLA and Yale. There are also a limited number of schools in the K-12 arena that have created their own curriculum-based podcasts. This trend will continue to grow as teachers become more comfortable with creating their own podcasts.

The potential scholastic benefits are exciting for the latest generation of students who re already accustomed to instant information access whenever they want and wherever they re at AND they expect to be entertained as well as educated. Using podcasts to reinforce concepts and introduce new material in a compelling manner increases the appeal of learning for a much larger, busier audience.

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