m-Learning, sometimes referred to as "wireless" or "ubiquitous" learning (Alexander, 2004), offers students the opportunity to use their own personal devices to engage with content, collaborate with others, manage their learning experiences, and meet their learning outcomes. Defined by Wexler (2008, as cited in Powers, 2013), "[mLearning is] any activity that allows individuals to be more productive when consuming, interacting with or creating information mediated through a compact portable digital device that the individual carries on a regular basis, has reliable connectivity and fits in a pocket or purse" (p. 7).
Indeed the 2016 NMC Horizon Report notes that the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement is one of the most important developments in higher education, with the time to adoption being less than a year (NMC, 2016). Studies have demonstrated that 99.5% (Emanuel, 2013, as cited in Witecki and Nonnecke, 2015) of students own at least mobile device, and a recent study at the University of Guelph found that 93% of students bring at least one device to class (Witecki and Nonnecke, 2015).
Powers (2013) suggests a CSAM strategy is useful for designing mLearning experiences in that the resulting learning opportunities should be collaborative, situated, active, and potentially most importantly, truly mobile in that learners have "the ability to move from place to place freely...mLearning means the ability to engage in rich and meaningful learning activities while moving" (p. 2).
While it would seem that there is no downside to mLearning, there are some important considerations to heed. Oakman (2016) notes that many of the potential challenges are largely technical in nature and that issues of security, access, network infrastructure, and availability of IT support are critical considerations.
One of the activities explored in this week in MDDE 610 as part of our "mLearning" experience was podcasting....and I could not have been more excited. After suffering 2 concussions back-to-back in 2014/15, I quickly discovered podcasts as they were one of the few things I was allowed to "do". I even worked by way through this entire list from the Atlantic of the 50 best podcast episodes of 2015, not to mention getting hooked on Serial like everyone else. Once back in good health, I also discovered podcasting was an excellent solution to my "I hate running" problem...suddenly I forgot to think about how much I hate running 800 times each and every kilometer.
Since that time, I have often thought, in the context of my own role on campus, as to how we might bring podcasting more intentionally into the curriculum. Our former CIO is a big fan, and offers conference presentations on the "Pedagogy of Audio", and more recently, at least one history professor on campus has her graduate students complete a final course assignment delivered by podcast (I know, as I was asked to be a voice!).
As part of this week's activities, I even downloaded Audacity and decided to play around - no resulting "podcast" but at least a start in developing my skills in this area. You can listen to my 60 second recording here.
So what did I learn?
On reflecting on uses of podcasting in education, in particular podcasting in higher education as it is my context, I have compiled a short list of use cases to consider. These are not original ideas, as certainly instructors have explored all of these uses with both success and failure (and with failure comes innovation!), but without further ado -
Podcasting as Content
Wouldn't it be awesome if you could create/curate a series of podcasts to deliver content? While this could be a simple audio recording of lecture material (zzzzz!), if it were well done, I would argue that *some* students would much prefer to slip in their earbuds and enter an immersive delivery of content - podcast as the new textbook? There is some evidence to support the assertion that delivering content in this way can improve student learning. Morris (2007) reported significant performance gains on formative assessments by a control group of learners accessing podcasts versus "traditional" methods. Of course, students have preferred ways of learning, and so this is an important consideration.
Podcasting as Assignment/Assessment
In my opinion, this represents the most exciting and pedagogically valuable use of podcasts in the classroom. Learners as creators, what could be better? Professor Stephanie Bell at York University has been exploring this opportunity, and has even created a site evidencing the project. Another great example comes from McGill university and is described on this blog post. Of course, if you are considering podcasting in this way, it is important to remember to scaffold your assignment/assessment to ensure that students are carefully supported throughout the process. Another way to look at this is to ask students to curate podcast content as part of an assignment/assessment - podcasts exists on ALL subject matter it would seem - and so perhaps asking learners to reference audio content as part of an assignment would be a way to improve their discernment of quality content, while providing a new way to access and think about content. If you are looking for a fun assignment in your classroom, this might be it!
Podcasting as Feedback
Providing learners with quality feedback on assignments and other assessments continues to be the "Achilles heel" (Winstone & Nash, 2016) in higher education settings. Increasingly learners are demanding increased quantity of feedback, in addition to responding to issues of quality and timeliness (Winstone & Nash, 2016). While many Learning Management Systems now include the functionality to provide audio feedback with the click of a button, perhaps a more innovative way to deliver this feedback would be via podcasts? France and Wheeler (2007) tried this approach and found that learners were very receptive to podcasts as a feedback mechanism. While it would be potentially labour intensive, perhaps the gains would make it worthwhile especially on consideration of the importance of feedback! Then again, you could just click that button in your LMS!
As a final note, I have highlighted some of the potential challenges and opportunities presented by mLearning, and with attention given to podcasting in particular.
Mobile learning represents a shift away from centrally organized and managed computing solutions. As such, staff and instructors may require additional resources to provide maintenance and support across multiple devices and platforms
Potential disparity between students' data plans and connectivity
Time required to adopt podcasting as pedagogy - potential resources required for course redesign etc.
Don't assume that your students are technically savvy - we hear the phrase "digital natives" lobbed around often - but the truth is, that this generation of learners has often been given little instruction in media literacy - meaning not only the technical skills to produce media, but more, the necessary skills required for discerning and producing quality content, and the impact of their digital presence on the web. Scaffold your assignments accordingly!
While some studies have indicated that the use of mobile devices in class (and arguably outside) is a distraction (and so this point could well exist under challenges as well), if careful thought is given to pedagogically appropriate use of handheld devices (including laptops, tablets, cellphones) there exists an opportunity to harness what already exists in the classroom. A good overview of this debate was recently published in the Globe and Mail and can be accessed here.
A consideration of podcasting in particular, especially podcasting as "assignment", provides students will opportunities to learn skills around narrative and storytelling, critical thinking and reflection, and writing!
Alfrink, K. (2006). Headphones [Photograph]. CC BY-2.0 Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/h4G51
France, D, & Wheeler, A. (2007). Reflections on using podcasts for student feedback. Planet, 18(1). Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.11120/plan.2007.00180009
Morris, N (2007). Podcasts and mobile assessment enhance student learning experience and academic performance. Bioscience Education, 16(1). Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3108/beej.16.1
Oakman, H. (2016, Nov. 24). Overcoming the technical challenges of BYOD in education. Education Technology. Retrieved from http://edtechnology.co.uk/Article/education-and-boydhow-to-overcome-the-technical-challenges#disqus_thread
Winstone, N. & Nash, R. (2016). Can student feedback become a two-way street?. Retrieved from https://www.timeshighereducation.com/comment/can-student-feedback-become-a-two-way-street
Witecki, G., & Nonnecke, B. (2015). Engagement in digital lecture halls: A study of student course engagement and mobile device use during lecture. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 14, 73-90. Retrieved from http://www.informingscience.org/Journals/JITEResearch/Articles?Volume=14-2015