2 What is podcasting?
3 Learning Possibilities for Students
4 New Media vs. traditional teaching methods
5 Requirements and objectives
5.1 Requirements for students
5.2 Learning objectives for the students
6 The Curriculum
6.1 Curriculum References in general
6.2 Curriculum References in detail
7 Comments on the individual lessons
This teaching unit has been designed for eighth graders at the gymnasium who learn English as a first foreign language. The unit contains six lessons of 45 minutes each. The general aim is to learn what podcasting is about, how to listen and subscribe to specific podcasts, and the most important point: How to create ones own podcasts and how to share them with students from a twinned school. After the six lessons the teaching unit won’t be finished. What follows is a steady setting-up of a correspondence between two twinned schools that is to say the German school, and a school from the USA.
In this term paper we will discuss what podcasting is in general and which learning possibilities we will have for the students when working with podcasts in the 8th class of a Hessian Gymnasium. In the next chapter we will contrast the New Media with traditional teaching methods and point out some advantages concerning the teaching project. Afterwards the requirements for the students and the learning objectives will shortly be illustrated. In chapter six we will investigate the curricular connections of the given teaching unit and finally chapter seven gives a detailed description of the teaching unit.
In the appendix one will find the six session plans and the confirmation of authorship.
2 What is podcasting?
The term podcasting derives its name from the combination of the terms (Apple's) iPod, and broadcasting. The term iPod just symbolizes any portable mp3-player. You do not need an iPod to listen to podcasts, you can also listen to them on your computer. Or for more mobility, one can use an MP3-Player or another mobile audio device. (Cf. King/Gura 2007:24) The term broadcasting implies the distribution of audio or video signals to an audience. The most common broadcasting streams are for example radio or television broadcasting.
But what is the difference between radio broadcasting and podcasting? The answer is that you can find many sound (or video) files on the web, that are distributed via a Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed. In most cases those audio files are no single files but are part of series that appear at regular intervals. (Cf. King/Gura 2007:8) You can download an episode on your computer or subscribe to single episodes or a whole series and then it will automatically be sent to your computer. The contents vary in a gigantic diversity: Weekly shows, novels, short stories, reports, interviews, debates, critics, news pieces and so forth.
The most interesting thing about it is, that there are no restrictions in publishing information. In the past there were only mass media that were able to broadcast. Nowadays everyone with a microphone and a computer can create and provide podcasts and everyone with a computer and speakers is able to listen to them.
But why should podcasting be considered as a good opportunity for education? In the next chapter we will point out the different learning possibilities for students who work with podcasting-projects in school.
3 Learning Possibilities for Students
As podcasting has obviously something to do with listening and speaking and therefore is a recorded word product, it is obvious that it can be embedded in school lessons with language instruction easily. Podcasting is not only helpful for English Language Arts but also for English as a Second Language (ESL) Programs. Students who are concerned with learning a second language have “a natural need to consume content that is rich in listening to spoken language and instructional programs designed for them require constant acquisition of new content to satisfy that need.” (King/Gura 2007:147) This need can be satisfied by listening to the authentic audio material that will be offered by the students of the twinned school or by classmates. On exchange the students create their own podcasts and thus different literacy skills like reading, writing, listening, and speaking are gained, as well as a variety of media literacy skills.
But podcasting has many educational benefits. Creating a product and sharing it with a potentially worldwide audience is an enormous possibility to express one’s inner thoughts and feelings about different things and opinions. This forms the character and self-awareness. Hearing one’s own voice and playing with it is always an interesting challenge to get the best out of oneself. And students will for sure try to get the best out of themselves because they always keep in mind that there is a real-world audience, so they probably want to create something spectacular. “The process of putting together an audio recording is extremely valuable and is certainly a cross-curricular experience.” ([INT 1] Vincent, T.)
Another factor for example is the factor of motivation. Often it is hard to motivate students to practice English outside of classroom time. By subscribing to selected podcasts the students will automatically receive the latest audio material that has been put online. They do not need to attend class to listen to the podcasts of their classmates from both, their own school and their twinned school. They can download them on their MP3-Player at home and listen to them wherever and whenever they are in the mood for it. So the chance to listen to the foreign language outside classroom time is much higher than having access to it only in lesson.
Besides that, in our teaching unit podcasting is used as project-based learning. The fact that this will be an extraordinary project and no “regular lesson” motivates the students as well and they can enjoy a different learning method.
In our teaching project we also have several research skills embedded which is a great learning possibility for the students as well. They learn how to use search engines professionally and how to differentiate between reliable and non-reliable sources.
Another advantage that students can take from this project is that learning in collaborative teams becomes a natural way to work on tasks. Working in groups is not only sociable but also the key competency of teamwork can be trained.
What the students will also like about podcasting is that the contents reach into their areas of motivation and interest. No one has to talk about something that he or she absolutely dislikes and everybody can participate actively in creating a podcast according to one’s wishes.
Another learning possibility is technology learning, which plays an important role in today’s adolescents’ life. More and more youths know how to use new technologies for their leisure time. Helping them to transfer this knowledge for educational reasons can open a new era of learning.
And last not least podcasting also helps to make global relationships and communication much easier. The audio material is easy to create and to provide on the Internet. So communication around the globe is just getting easier.
(cf. King/Gura 2007:9)