Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Podcasting as an Assessment of the Research Process

I've been thinking about podcasting for a long time - learning the tools needed (easy!) and trying to understand what it takes to really make podcasting a learning experience that makes a difference in instruction (a little more challenging!).

A while back I had worked at looking at what it takes to create a podcast and that brought my thoughts back to Understanding by Design. In their book, Wiggins and McTighe discuss lesson design using what they call a backwards design - establish the learning goals then begin to work on the assessment. Interesting... Most of us were probably taught to design a lesson from beginning to end. The problem became that, by the time you got to wrapping up the lesson, no worthwhile assessment was in sight or the assessment had nothing to do with the learning goals in the first place.

I was brought back to UbD in a conversation with a school librarian who has been thinking about how he could make use of podcasting in his program. As we began to discuss this, the conversation turned to the thought that the podcast itself isn't the point of the learning, it's really the assessment. If we use the UbD idea of lesson planning then, we need to think about the skills that need to be taught or reinforced in order for the student to be successful in completing the assessment of learning. Well...if we want our students to present information orally, then we need to teach them how to find good information in the first place. That information seeking needs some definition - what are we looking for? what questions are going to be addressed? The research process - no matter what the information task is - perfectly supports the process of creating a podcast. So we drew a visual to help ourselves think through this:What do students need to know and be able to do in order to successfully create the podcast? The students will be taken carefully through the skills with the research process.

What's the podcast going to be about? We thought about two things realizing that there are many, many possibilities:
• book reviews (taking a look at the really nicely done book reviews at BookLook as an example)
• content area focus such as Social Studies: take on the role of an early 20th century immigrant and tell us about your decision to come to the US and what your life was like after you settled in this country.

So our information specialist then has his work cut out for him but he also has a very clear focus on the skills that he'll be working to refine with his students. We're also looking at what other technology tools will support this. For example, for task definition and information seeking strategies, we'd like students to know more about using Inspiration for organizing information. For location and access, we'd like students to learn more about using search tools and library subscription sources. Not only do we want them to bookmark what they find for easy access but we're thinking that if we show them how to bookmark using Diigo then we can easily have them gather notes from their sources by using the annotation feature of this tool - this will apply to use of information. Then we'll work with them to synthesize what they've learned - probably taking some wisdom from Tony Vincent's work on Radio WillowWeb and the strategies he shares for structuring podcasts with students. And finally, the podcast! We'd like to employ some learning from 6+1 writing traits and make use of the RAFTS strategy. We'll define a role, give the students an idea of their audience (worldwide and published on the web!), describe and model the format, present the topic and explain the focus, and provide them with the strong verbs that will guide them - describe, explain.

Recent talk among edubloggers has been focused on our thinking about the product as being the end of the learning rather than the beginning of new possibilities, new learning. I believe that, with a project such as this, we'll be forming new thinking about learning with our students and will be giving them a solid foundation for thinking about the creative expression of learning and the process that's involved. This is going to be an exciting project which might also serve to be an advertisement for the possibilities when you collaborate in meaningful ways with your building's true information specialist.


Justin said...

Fancy seeing you out in cyberspace. So you stumbled upon my rambling blog? I promise a full refund.

In all seriousness, I like where we're headed with this project. Many of the discussions at BLC 07 place great value on authentic tasks like the one that we're planning out.

The conference so far is highly engaging. In the first day alone, I was stimulated more than all of the other local conferences that I've attended COMBINED.

What do you say we put in for conference money so we can attend in 2008? :)

I'll be in touch...

Diane Quirk said...

I really like your rambling blog - love your enthusiasm for your profession. Yes - 2008 sounds good. I've been wanting to attend BLC.