of scheduled learning time. By covering basic course content in a podcast, I now use class time for group
discussion, problem solving, and
Course time is available now to look
into current events like global warming and the chemistry behind nuclear
energy, “clean” coal, and other alternative sources of energy. We can talk
about the people behind the science,
including Nobel prize winners and
scientists involved in current research.
Instead of school being a place where
students watch adults work, it becomes
a lab where we all work together.
Students’ time at home can be spent
learning and reviewing the podcasted
material. The podcasts allow students
the freedom to go over the information at their own pace. And if a student
gets stuck, the podcasts can illustrate
how to work out sample problems.
We can show students that technology is not about
gadgets, but about tools that help us learn and understand.
Students experience real-world uses for technology.
Our class time is dedicated to the
problem-solving approach. Modeling
problem solving is as important as the
practice of problem solving because
the teacher becomes a guide or a facilitator of learning and not a constant
presenter of information. Students
work collaboratively on processing course content, receiving guided
help, and solidifying understanding
with the teacher and peers during the
scheduled learning time.
Replacing lectures with podcasts
brings contemporary technology into
the curriculum. We can show students
that technology is not about gadgets
but about tools that help us learn and
understand. Students experience real-world uses for technology.
There is possibly no better way to
convey the process of whole-life learning than when teachers show they are
also learning through their teaching.
The production of course content can
be a collaborative effort between teachers and students. As we encourage our
students to continue learning outside
of school, podcasting allows course content to be accessed anytime, anywhere.
Unlike a traditional lecture-based
format, podcasting moves learning
from school to learning anywhere. How
valuable is that for the students to see?
Brian Hatak teaches chemistry and AP chemis-
try at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Col-
orado. He is a team leader for the 21st Century
Learning Cohort and works hard to keep
up with his colleague Karl Fisch.
podcasts are not. By default, we lecture for substantial, if not uniform,
periods of valuable classroom time.
We inform, share, guide, direct, and
lead. When our lectures are modeled
correctly, our students often become
effective lecturers too.
Because lectures are live, synchronous events, they require students to
be present for, not absent from, class.
Thus, they necessitate that students
be routinely responsible. Podcasts
are not yet holographic, but lecturers
are sentient, three-dimensional human beings who move dynamically
through time and space, appealing to
students’ innate bodily kinesthetic,
linguistic, interpersonal, and visu-ospatial intelligences and varied learning styles. During lectures, effective
teachers purposefully move up and
down aisles through space and time,
making eye contact, often tapping on
students’ desks to keep learners focused and attentive. Podcasts do not.
Effective lectures are live, immediate, in-your-face events that
are not meant to be carried out primarily over long distances
in asynchronous fashion.
Despite the popular notion that
daily classroom lectures are carefully
scripted events, effective lectures
typically possess the qualities of spontaneity, adaptability, and nonlinearity. Podcasts do not. As we all well
recognize, serendipity and schooling
go hand in hand. Adolescents often
ask questions that are both divergent
and unanticipated. Effective lecturers
welcome appropriate student queries
in order to rephrase or clarify a point;
are willing to shift to new lines of
reasoning based on students’ spontaneous insights; message and improve
each successive daily lecture based on
discoveries they make via the corrective feedback they receive naturally
from their students each period; and
“reshuffle” cogent points they wish
to make to address the needs of their
random learners in an on-the-spot,
just-in-time fashion, adapting and
tailoring lectures for each unique class,
which possesses collective as well as
individual abilities, maturities, and
personalities. Podcasts do not.
Effective lectures are live, immediate, in-your-face events, that are not
meant to be carried out primarily
over long distances in asynchronous
fashion. The two-dimensional asynchronous podcast, although a viable
alternative to the lecture, especially
as it applies to distance learning, has
its rightful place in schooling, but it
does not yet altogether replace the
effective, live synchronous lecture. It
should therefore not be eliminated.
John J. Sweeder, EdD, is a professor of education at La Salle University in Philadelphia. He
teaches educational technology.