Field of Dreams? If you Podcast, will they come (and listen)?

Well maybe, maybe not…?

I was listening (yes actually listening) to a recent episode of a podcast called This Week in Tech (TWIT) on my computer a couple weeks ago, and they mentioned an August 2006 PEW Internet & American Life Project Study on podcasting. The results of the study indicated that 12% of Internet users say they have actually downloaded a podcast which is up from 7% in Feb-April 2006. More interesting is that 1% report downloading a podcast with any regular frequency in a typical day (see the report: http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/193/report_display.asp)

I’ve seen some in the media play this up as a rapid growth of podcasting that nearly doubles in 6 months time. Although it’s true that a rise from 7% to 12% is nearly double, however, I find the 1% statistic potentially more telling of actual podcasting consumption. Personally I tend to interpret the 12% as, “yes, I’ve tried that podcasting thing I’ve heard so much about, but after downloading a few, I don’t really see the value in it.”

In regard to education, where’s the added-value? Now I will guard my position by agreeing that podcasting is still at an early point in its development, and although I haven’t yet seen a great deal of evidence for improved learning in higher education or k-12, I’m optimistic that added educational value does exist for it, if it is used in the right ways.

I think this underscores the most important aspect of technology use.  It is not the technology itself that will change education and learning, but rather the educational practices (i.e., active learning strategies) that can be reinforced by a new technology and determine if it survives after the hype has dissipated.  For example simply broadcasting a sage on the stage-style lecture via podcast will only amplify the poor instructional style.  What is useful via the technology is the opportunity to engage students outside of class with additional media or materials so that they may be more prepared in the next class session.  Or provide a five minute preview or review of the course material outside of class to provide additional opportunities to focus student learning.  I think these are examples of good educational practices that can then further benefit from ICT use.  In regard to whether educational podcasting will survive the current hype cycle?  We will see…

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