Friday, December 16, 2005

Critical analysis of podcasting at Hillside

The work stimulates the following ‘Intelligences’: Musical (selecting an appropriate piece of music for the various segments of the podcast); Logical/mathematical (sequencing of chosen segments); Linguistic (putting thoughts into spoken word, for maximum impact and appeal); Spatial (organizing segments of spoken work and music using GarageBand); and Interpersonal (networking, interviewing, working with expert for first time, meeting a target as a team).

We feel that podcasting is much more of a media tool than an ICT one. It should allow us to facilitate parts of the Media Studies cluster in a cross-curricular way eg by producing a news report on ‘The Road to War’ (Social Subjects unit). It is a ‘low-threshold, high-ceiling’ activity, and will focus us on our development of a Music curriculum, in that the class was very motivated to choose an appropriate track to soundtrack their segment. They evaluated the ‘free music’ that was on offer. With the availability of the ‘sound box’, boys will be able to compose their own podcast soundtracks.

Creativity was evident at the planning, recording, and sequencing stages. There were tangible results at all stages of the project, with a finished podcast produced within the allotted time. There was collaboration, sharing of goals, and respectful turn-taking. Pupils were on task for a much greater percentage of the time compared to average. It provided an alternative to the written word, although a great deal of thought had to go into verbal contributions eg consideration of audience, sustaining interest, and working within time constraints. Communication skills were developed through interviewing and debating. Pupils understood that much of this good work would be left on the ‘cutting floor’, however they seemed to grasp the idea of selecting good content (12-15 minutes maximum). It provided a way of showing knowledge and understanding of a topic (which I feel I could assess) in a more worthwhile and comfortable way than, for example, a written test or whole class, teacher-pupil oral questioning.

I will consider how certain NAB assessments (maybe in RMPS, Social Subjects, and German) could be rewritten in a way that a podcast can be planned and recorded to meet the Performance Criteria.

The podcast website (linked through iTunes podcast directory) will need to be developed and maintained, with visitors being able to subscribe to future productions. I will use Michael Geoghegan’s book on podcasting to help, as well as studying how our original site was set up. Pupils may be encouraged to include requests for further information in their future podcasts, for example asking any people with stories related to the ‘Road to War’ to get in touch with the teacher. Additional pupil-led podcasts may be produced if a further (non-FLaT related) funding application is successful. Podcasts may be ‘healthy living’ related, or otherwise. Already we have witnessed the possibility that one or two pupils have the potential to benefit from media-related work experience in S4 eg through the BBC Talent initiative. It is vital for continuity and whole-school influence, that this tool is promoted as a central part of the FLaT project, even though it is too recent a concept to have been directly referred to in the FLaT application. At present, participation in the production of one podcast will be a feature of a target in each pupil’s IEP for Spring 2006. From Easter 2006, a podcasting after-school club will a) assist in the lengthening of the school week, and b) help to widen access to this opportunity in a safe, educational way.

We feel that it would be important for some link to be made with the Apple Masterclass, in order to obtain an iBook, and to arrange further training in digital technologies in the classroom. Sessions need to have a simple structure eg allowing pupils a choice of, say, 3 angles to approach their planning. We would need to purchase an iRiver due to the CD quality of voice recording, as opposed to the standard .WAV file. Pupils will continue to rehearse their contributions with the aim of reducing the amount of content which is script-based. Finally, monitoring of content is vital in our setting and everything to be podcast to the world must be played-back to senior management beforehand.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Video Conference with the Royal Observatory, Greenwich

Our first video conference (VC) took place today. This was between Class 2 and The Royal Observatory, Greenwich (ROG). The session was all about the Moon, and had been booked 2 months previous via Global Leap. The time since the booking had been spent identifying an appropriate location (as FLaT room is being finished), working with our IT guy on firewalls, protocols, ports, network hardware etc, and communicating with Clarissa at the National Maritime Museum, Mike at Global Leap, Stuart at Learning Teaching Scotland, and Jim and others at JVCS, Edinburgh. The reason for relying on so many people working in the field of video conferencing was that our connection with Greenwich did not appear stable, therefore we had to register (as a guest initially) with UKERNA which is a VC booking service available to the UK, though not as yet Scotland. JVCS used the UKERNA 'bridge' to guarantee our connection.

The class entered the room at 9.18am, unaware that Graham Dolan from ROG had called us (and been automatically connected) at 9.15am. It was a surprise to find him inviting us to sit down and introduce ourselves in our own classroom with him 500 miles away! Seriously, it is important to be on time; sessions and connections are limited eg the UKERNA 'bridge' was set for 9.15 - 10.00 (yes, we did lose him at 10.00). Layout of the room (seating, light, background, complexity of foreground) need to be gravely considered and we benefited from our class of 3 being able to fit into the view of the V500's lens without being too distant. Graham, spoke about the moon and it's: views, stages, orbit, craters, eclipses, landings, gravitational pull etc. The session was interactive, though pupils had very little prior knowledge and were happy to listen and watch. Graham made use of PowerPoint slides as well as hand-held contraptions. Next time we will project the VC onto a white wall as it was difficult to see some of the objects that he was holding when there was a split screen. The benefit of communicating information on the class, their backgrounds, and stage of education was vital, as it allowed Graham to differentiate.

Afterwards, the session was evaluated. Key positives from staff included, "worked really well", "allowed all boys to interact", "showed genuine interest", "(pupils were) respectful", "eliminated petty interruptions", and "positive experience". All pupils strongly agreed that, "I would like to take part in more video conferences", "This was a good use of my time", and "I would be confident to work with other young people using VC".

We will continue to work with Global Leap, UKERNA, and LTS to provide our pupils with video conferencing opportunities. Soon, we will look at establishing a link with a school via the British Council, though in the meantime we are still planning a VC in the new year with Rathmore Centre in Antrim. Next time we will: book a longer slot to allow for introductions and plenary, work on improving 'upload 'speed, work with the 'far end' to see objects more clearly, and ensure that content is linked specifically to the curriculum at an appropriate level.