Constructivism & Technology/Case Examples/Podcasting
The Basics of Podcasting
The word podcast uses the “pod” from Apple’s iPod and “cast” from broadcast which emphasizes the range of this medium (Schmidt, 2007c). Jonassen (2008) explains a podcast as an audio recording that is saved as an MP3 file. According to Wikipedia (2009), a podcast is series of digital audio or video files placed on the Internet for anyone to subscribe to. The syndication of the delivery is the difference between a podcast and audio files that are streamed or directly downloaded. Software applications, or podcatchers, such as Apple’s iTunes can automatically download new episodes and store those files on the subscriber’s computer or other device for offline use. Podcasts use RSS, Really Simple Syndication, language and feeds which allow for the subscription to their content (Jonassen, 2008). A podcast with video enhancement is called a vodcast (Lipscomb, 2007).
A podcast is created by recording audio using a computer, microphone, and software. Audacity or Easypodcast are free audio software programs for Windows and Macintosh that can be used for recording and editing podcasts while Apple’s GarageBand is available only for Macintosh users. FeedBurner or Feeder are programs that can provide the RSS feed. The final step is loading the MP3 files and feed files to a Web server and posting the podcast link on a Web page or blog (Jonassen, 2008).
Podcasting and Constructivism
Constructivism promotes students creating authentic content and sharing their ideas and work with a real audience (Daniel, 2007). Web 2.0 tools such as podcasts present opportunities for learners to actively participate in their own learning. When students create their own podcasts, they co-construct knowledge and engage in a high level of negotiation of meaning (Schmit, 2007b). According to Seitzinger (2006), the learner-control and flexibility is the most obvious way podcasting supports constructivism. She also explains that an interview with an expert is another excellent way to use podcasts in constructive learning. The expert can share knowledge once and the learners can access it whenever needed. Also Seitzinger believes podcasting makes using simulations for authentic learning affordable.
As students produce the podcast for an authentic purpose they perform on an advanced cognitive level where ideas are applied and synthesized into new content. According to Schmit (2007b), by its very nature podcasting is active, constructive and content-driven. Schmit (2007b) states that “every podcast should start with a question for which no one in the group really has a definitive answer” (p. 38). That question will guide their research, organization, analysis, and decision making which are all part of creating a podcast. Through podcasting, students write and produce for a global audience, improving their digital and literacy skills in an authentic learning environment. They are able to share their experiences, research, ideas and points of views. It also provides students who have better oral communication skills than writing skills a chance to excel (Jonassen, 2008).
According to Schmit (2007a), podcasting offers authentic artifacts for assessing student knowledge. As a student creates a podcast, the teacher is able “observe factual and conceptual understanding in the cognitive domain”(Schmit, 2007a, p. 16). A student podcast that continues over a long period can serve as a portfolio of student progress.
Podcasting in the Classroom
Effective podcasting activities are not technology-focused activities, but “curricular focused activities with technology tools and processes which appear to help us capture, distill and distribute our ideas” (Schmit, 2007b, p. 30).
Value can be added to podcasts by expanding their content through other media such as a blog. Ideas can be written in a blog with links to other Web sites and a podcast related to that blog entry (Jonassen, 2008). Students can also benefit from the interactivity of our Web 2.0 world by allowing visitors to send email or leave comments on a class podcast blog (Daniel, 2007).
Students at Willowdale Elementary School in Omaha, Nebraska produce Radio WillowWeb which according to its website http://www.mpsomaha.org/willow/Radio/ was one of the first podcasts by elementary students. One of their latest podcasts is Perfectly Presidential created by 5th graders to share what they learned about the office of the president and the election process. Inspiring Inventors is a recent second grade podcast presenting information about being an inventor.
Our City Podcast http://learninginhand.com/OurCity/ is created for kids and by kids. Students from around the world are invited to submit a podcast describing the city in which they live. There’s detailed information on the website for teachers and students on how to participate. Coulee Kids’ Podcast http://wiki.sdlax.k12.wi.us/groups/couleekids/ is created by seventh grade students at Longfellow Middle School in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Although the podcasts are created during writing class, the content is driven by an integrated learning environment, including social studies and math.
Two Australian high school science teachers and their students are using podcasts to enhance teaching and learning. Rod Blitvich has posted the Year 12 Biology student podcasts on his website http://web.archive.org/20080731223320/web.mac.com/blitto/Blittos_Stuff/Welcome.html . Richard Meagher's chemistry podcasts contain both audio and video files and can be found at http://meaghersclasses.podomatic.com//.
These are just a few examples of educational podcasts. There are many interesting topics and questions for students to explore for and through podcasting. The possibilities are unlimited.
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Jonassen, D. (2008). Meaningful learning with technology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Lee, J. W., McLoughlin, C. & Chan, A. (2008, May). Talk the talk: Learner-generated podcasts as catalysts for knowledge creation. British Journal of Educational Technology 39(3). Retrieved April 6, 2009 from Academic Search Premier database.
Lipscomb, G.B., Guenther, L.M. & McLeod, P. (2007 April). Sounds good to me: Using digital audio in the social studies classroom. Social Education, 71(9). Retrieved April 3, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.
Reynolds, C. & Bennett, L. (2008, July 7). A social constructivist approach to the use of podcasts. ALT Newsletter. Retrieved April 4, 2009, from 
Seitzinger, J. (2006, July 31). Be constructive: Blogs, podcasts, and wikis as constructivist learning tools. Learning Solutions. Retrieved April 3, 2009, from 
Schmit, D. (2007a, January). Creating a broadcast empire…from the corner of your classroom! MultiMedia & Internet@Schools, 14(1). Retrieved April 6, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.
Schmit, D. (2007b). Kidcast: Creative podcasting activities, strategies and ideas. Bloomington, IL: FTC Publishing.
Schmit, D. (2007c). Kidcast: Podcasting in the classroom. Bloomington, IL: FTC Publishing.
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Vincent, T. & van’t Hooft, M. (2007, April). For kids, by kids: Our city podcast. Social Education, 71(9). Retrieved April 3, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.
Wikipedia Podcast (2009). Retrieved April 3, 2009 from Wikipedia: 
Zuger, S. (2009, February). The science of class collaboration. Technology & Learning, 29(7). Retrieved April 7, 2009 from Science Resource Center database.
1. True or False The difference between a podcast and streamed audio files is that you can listen to a podcast more than once.
2. True or False A podcast could be an authentic artifact for assessing student knowledge.
3. A podcast with video enhancement is called
a. podcast 2 b. RSS c. vodcast d. GarageBand
4. Podcasting supports constructivism because
a. the student is creating authentic content b. the student is sharing ideas with a real world audience c. the student is restating factual information d. both a and b