IPods, Facebook and using e-learning to get students to talk to one another (February 27, 2008)
From Case Studies Wiki
The post is just replicated here to catch all the words for archive purposes, to read the post in its original form and see the links, photos, videos etc., go here:http://www.good.group.shef.ac.uk/blog/?p=86
February 27, 2008 iPods, Facebook and using e-learning to get students to talk to one another Filed under: Wednesdays » GoodPractice @ 12:42 pm
Chris Stokes is a Senate Fellow from the School of Dentistry, who does very interesting things with technology. What are “these interesting things” (you asked with raised eyebrows)? Here he writes about exactly what is the point of teaching with technology. I know that in particular that many of you are interested in Facebook and whether or not it should be used by Universities. Chris has chosen to use Facebook (among other things)and explains here how and why.
I’d like to use the blog entry today to talk about teaching with technology, and in particular how it can encourage students to get together (to learn, hopefully). I’m getting a bit of a reputation it seems for being an arm-waving e-learning zealot, but don’t let that put you off as what I will describe today puts the emphasis on the students to do most of the fiddling with technology leaving you to be as active a facilitator as you dare. I’ll finish with a note of caution and contention (we can joust it out in the comments!).
For this teaching recipe you will need: a course that requires students in groups to present a topic, and a MOLE course.
If you find yourself spending lots of time, sitting through lots of PowerPoint presentations by groups of students, think about getting them to podcast it instead. After nearly expiring from boredom sitting through umpteen presentations that didn’t seem to offer much to the other students watching (a load of bullet-points and a handout) I thew in the towel and thought there must be another way.
I wanted the students to critically appraise some literature, and present the outline of their criteria and what they found. This sort of thing can be presented by audio, so it made an ideal pilot for student-led podcasting. I gave the students a small handout explaining which software to use (Audacity for a PC, Garageband for a Mac), stipulated that I wanted something 5 minutes long, that each member of the 6-person groups should say something in the recording, and that the final file should be an MP3 and posted as an attachment to a ‘Podcast Wall’ in a MOLE course I had set up.
When I set the task, I expected a revolt, but actually got mild indifference (and then a load of questions I didn’t expect such as “does it need to be stereo? (No), can we have a backing track? (if you want), can we do it like Radio 4 (by all means).
Being an ‘arm-waving e-learning zealot’ I am often told that this type of thing will work for me as I am technically-minded. With that in mind, I decided to record each instance of when I was asked for help by the students, so I stuck a bit of paper to my desk to log all enquiries.
Hand-in day came and I had heard nothing. I was worried! I logged in at the deadline time and found 13 podcasts had arrived. So far so good. I sent the students a peer-assessment sheet (they each had to evaluate 2 others according to some criteria we had agreed) and I went home to listen to them on my hi-fi.
They all worked. Some were better than others (music, role-play etc), but something became clear as I sat through them. It seemed that without exemption, all the podcasts had been recorded by putting something in the middle of the room (a laptop, mobile phone) and then the group recording their discussion. This task seemed to encourage the group to get together and thrash it out. Also, as it was audio only, the old ‘reading the slides’ trick wouldn’t work. The course evaluation threw up a few comments from the students which you can read about in my Case Studies Wiki entry.
To save you the clicking for the minute, essentially the students reported that they thought that making a podcasts as a group was fairer, and quicker: “At least with this approach we spent the evening working through it together, so we all contributed equally.” and “No-one could really get away without doing any work - you know how some people are just far too nervous to speak in a presentation and are very persuasive in leaving it to other people.”
Before we all go and grab our microphones, just one note of caution. This activity deliberately relies on the use of MOLE to host the podcasts for review and archiving. My own work shows that students are actually reluctant to listen to formal learning media on their MP3 players (be they Apple flavoured or not) - they report that they like to listen to them at home, on their PC, with their notes in front of them. To them, their iPod is not yet a learning tool, but a fun thing.
I think the same issue applies to Facebook as a collaborative learning space. Before embarking on setting up your course on the site I’d urge caution. It has recently been in the national press that Facebook and MySpace have seen the first drop in members since the phenomenon began. This maybe a plateauing of numbers (as most people who want a profile on these sites probably has one by now), but the BBC has reported a different angle:
“Social networking is as much about who isn’t on the site as who is - when Tory MPs and major corporations start profiles on Facebook, its brand is devalued, driving its core user base into the arms of newer and more credible alternatives” (Nic Howell, read the full article here).
I do not believe that teaching staff should not have FaceSpace accounts (as they too should be able to get the warm fuzzy glow of denying a friend request to someone who bullied them at school). On the other hand, we should be cautious when we cross the divide from formal learning spaces (be they MOLE or a lecture theatre) into the social spaces. This applies equally to podcasting and social networking; students (I think) like to keep their social and learning lives not actually separate, but at least in their place.
I personally treat Facebook like a pub. I’m quite happy for learning to occur there, but I would not turn up on a Friday night and give a seminar.
I’m not saying that if you have a good thing going with students in Facebook, close it now. But I think that if we are not careful, we will lose a valuable collaborative tool as our students move on to the next virtual space.
My suggestion would be to start a online space, away from the pictures of their holidays and drunken nights out in some of the other social networking sites (that are often better suited to learning). My suggestion would be Ning.
Comments always welcome!
Dr Chris Stokes, School of Clinical Dentistry