Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Podcasting, Webcasting, and Coursecasting

The advent of iPods and the MP3 format have given users the freedom to download audio files from the internet for later listening. In education terms podcasting has allowed learning materials and resources to become more portable and accessible than ever before, simply because so many students have access to an MP3 player of some kind.

It is predicted that podcasting will soon become a mainstream application, providing those in the teaching and education professions with a cost effective way of distributing course materials and resources. While I don’t think it will ever replace classroom learning, the use of podcasts, webcasts and coursecasting means that the needs of more students can be met in a simple, effective and cost efficient manner.

Like everything else, there are always downsides to such a great technology. For example, having sufficient bandwidth to download the podcast and format compatibility issues. Podcasting does not allow for participatory learning either or any form of audience interaction as it is a form of one-way communication. However, many feel that the possibilities for this form of educational resource are endless and that there will be a rise in the number of podcast aggregators particularly where education is concerned. Students are able to get access to missed lectures, experiment or assignment instructions and other course notes. There are also plans to provide video content within podcasts so students will also be able to view material whilst listening at the same time.

For educational purposes, coursecasting is rapidly being taken up by educational providers such as universities and schools, although some studies have shown students are either unaware of the existence of such resources or are unwilling to use them. The potential benefits to education from podcasting, coursecasting or webcasting are huge so long as they can expand on the classroom learning principles and create new learning experiences which students are willing to use.

Networks of Personalized Learning

The Personalized Learning model was developed over ten years ago within the public charter school sector in California. It has shown that by tailoring the curriculum to the needs of individual children it can help them to learn with greater success compared to more traditional teaching methods. Many public charter schools across California adopted the model and further research has confirmed its value in contributing to children’s academic success. Although there are many definitions for personalized learning, its core function is ‘putting the learner at the heart of the education system; (Leadbeater, 2008).

Personalized learning systems allow for the creation of different learning experiences to engage and motivate students into learning in a way which meets with their educational needs. The model was initially adopted by schools, but has now become a key approach to learning throughout many types of educational establishments.

There are many methods used to present a personalized learning course to a student. Some will involve traditional teaching methods; others will utilize technology and computers along with online resources to bring together a course which represents the needs and abilities of the individual student. It has been shown to bring a greater degree of flexibility and choice to students about what is taught, when and how it is taught and where.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Educational Blogging

In terms of social media, blogging is sitting at the top of the tree. From personal diary style sites to topical news and features pages, blogging has become a firm favorite for disseminating news and information around the web. When it comes to keeping my finger on the pulse I turn to my personal favorite blog sites such as TechCrunch and Mashable to help me stay up to date with current events in social media, internet developments and the latest tech releases.

For education, blogging represents a unique challenge. While teachers, lecturers and students alike can identify blog sites that are useful to their curriculum, ensuring the quality of information can be more difficult. Many universities and their lecturers have personal blog sites on which they post articles related to their respective fields and these have quickly become another form of scholarly article sources for anyone who is interested.

Traditionally, scholarly articles would be published through industry publications or journals and potential authors would need to prove their credibility to stand any chance of being published at all. Blogging however has changed that and now offers opportunities for scholars, academics and experts alike to publish papers, articles and research quickly and without the need for explanation. You could say blogging has taken freedom of speech to another level.

Whether it is a blog site dedicated to the faculty or a course resource, blogging is quickly becoming a valuable addition to educational resources and sites are now a common appearance on students reading lists and cited as references in academic work.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Mobile, Wireless, and Ubiquitous Learning

As mobile and wireless technologies have improved then the potential for their use in ubiquitous learning techniques or u-learning, has been explored. It has become a trend in recent times for such technologies to become integrated into electronic learning practices allowing students the freedom to study anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

However, despite the maturity of mobile and wireless technology, there are still issues with the large amounts of data generated through such learning practices, a challenge which many systems simply cannot handle. The answer has been the development of Grid technology to provide a platform for not only delivering content but storing it as well. Wireless technologies such as WLAN, Bluetooth and RFID can be used for geographical and context services, while web technologies can be used to provide the content in a format compatible to the device in use.

In educational terms the adoption of mobile and wireless devices along with associated applications means there is a great opportunity to develop curriculum with a socially based learning and teaching aspect. These technologies can enable interaction away from the classroom and outside of the limitations of conventional desktop computers, giving students and teachers alike the ability to interact on a scale never used before.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Alternate Reality Learning: Massive Gaming, Virtual Reality, and Simulations

It came as a surprise when I learned that technologies such as virtual reality and massive gaming have been in use within the education sector for sometime. While they are being used in other areas of education, these technologies have been used in medicine and aviation for quite some time. Their uses within the classroom and their effectiveness within developing applications are being explored further by researchers interested in adding the technology to various curriculum.

Over the years there have been many studies carried out to show that students respond well to a variety of teaching techniques and it has been acknowledged that the use of computer simulations and virtual reality presents a powerful tool to learning. Its uses have been developed to provide students with a means to learn skills and concepts that they may otherwise only ever read about in a textbook. As a student that learns by “doing”, I can certainly understand this.

Computers and software have become a fundamental element in teaching and in the classroom. Their importance as teaching aids is well documented and the continued development of multimedia and virtual environments means teachers now have the ability to introduce to students virtual simulations of situations which could otherwise be too expensive or dangerous to carry out in the real world.

Whether it is virtual reality, massive gaming or other forms of computer simulation, students are now able to interface with situations which have a high degree of interactivity, immersion and realism. However, the software requires high quality graphics often of a 3D nature and the use of specialized hardware components such as head mounted displays and specialist clothing to be able to achieve this high degree of interactivity and realism. Because of this the concept of virtual reality has taken more than 30 years to find its way within the budget of many research establishments.