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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Podcasting has No Inherent Pedagogical Value

Found via Dave Boggs - Consensus: Podcasting Has No 'Inherent' Pedagogic Value

This would seem to be another article where the headline sounds more interesting than what the content turns out to be. The article tells us:
The pedagogical value of podcasts depends almost entirely on student motivation and the learning "context" of the application.

Podcasting does not contain any inherent value. It is only valuable inasmuch as it helps the instructor and students reach their educational goals, by facilitating thoughtful, engaging learning activities that are designed to work in support of those goals.

Isn't that a no duh? Isn't that any technology? It's not the technology - it's how you how you apply it?


Karl Kapp said...


I agree.

Tons of educational "research" on the latest technology for improving learning always indicate that it is not the technology that makes an educational is the design of the instruction. (see cassette research, radio-based training research, video-based training research, computer-based training goes on and on.)

Badly designed podcasts are bound to be as poor as a badly designed lectures. A brilliantly designed podcast will be as powerful as a brilliantly designed lecture.

When will our industry stop focusing on the technology and start focusing on the DESIGN of the instruction...or blog...or podcast...or game...or simulation...or wiki.

Instead of worrying about the technology...we need to focus on universal design principles like the spacing effect or using examples and non-examples for teaching concepts or one of the many other effective design practices that can be used regardless of the technology...a podcast that is effective probably starts with an advanced organizer, is structured sequentially and transitions properly from one topic to another, helps the learner anchor new knowledge to existing knowledge and provides known metaphors and stories to help codify the knowledge of the learner for later recall and application.

The content of bad postcasts? We've all heard them...rambling, no summaries, odd sequencing, etc.

So, maybe we should declare a Design Day and everyone in the training/education Blogosphere blogs about Good Design and not about technology. (I know we have the Big Question...but maybe this could be seperate.)

Tony Karrer said...

Karl - I completely agree that we need much better understanding of what really works. If you have an idea for a Big Question topic that would help on that end, you know I'm all ears.

At the same time, I'm not quite as quick as you to separate design from the medium. I equate it somewhat to an artist needing to understand both the artistic concepts and how to work in watercolor vs. oil vs. charcoal.

Of course, we have many more layers to deal with when you talk about formal vs. informal and all the tools. The possible elements in an overall learning design seem to be growing.

What I always suggest to folks is that there are some base tenants about how humans learn, how to diagnose needs, etc. that have remained relatively unchanged, but the fuzzy cloud that is learning design has become significantly more complicated.

Or am I missing something here?

By the way Karl - I've really appreciated the dialog on this topic and on your blog. Thanks.

understand what makes good design, I'm not sure that you can quite as easily separate it from the medium.

Barry Sampson said...

I think this raises two points:

Firstly I agree that this is something of a "duh, so what?" moment.

Of course podcasts don't have any inherent pedagogical value, nor do books, face to face courses, elearning activities or anything else that could potentially be used in learning. No medium, technology related or otherwise, has any inherent pedagogical value. As Karl says, it's about the design.

Secondly, is a recording of a lecture a podcast? I would strongly suggest not. My understanding of a podcast is that it is episodic, and therefore similar to a TV or radio show.

I think it's unfortunate that the term podcast is being given to any piece of audio posted on the web. To do so is as ridiculous as me posting my holiday video online and calling it a TV show.

Tony Karrer said...

Barry - I've noticed the same thing on the term "podcast" - it now seems to mean voice audio on the web.

It used to mean that it was an audio file on the web, ready to be downloaded to a portable device and having an associated RSS feed that would allow regular updates of new audio.

From Wikipedia - "a podcast is distinguished from other digital media formats by its ability to be syndicated, subscribed to, and downloaded automatically, using an aggregator or feed reader capable of reading feed formats such as RSS or Atom."

But most people don't refer to it that way anymore.

Barry Sampson said...

"But most people don't refer to it that way anymore."

Do you find that's true outside of the world of learning? Leading the sheltered life that I do I find most of my conversations (well, those in which podcasts may be a topic) are with either web professionals or learning professionals.

The first group still seem to apply the term to syndicated content, the latter to any form of voice audio file.

Normal people of course have better things to talk about!

dmcoxe said...

While it appears a "no-brainer" that the success of technology is driven by how, and how well it is designed and used, there is a fervent band of technophiles who argue that teachers must whole-heartedly adopt all manner of techonology into their presentations, regardless of how comfortable they are using the technology.

Just take a look at how one professor, Rob Gardner, is treated after he write, admittedly tongue-in-cheek,in the Chronicles of Higher Education about his efforts to find out how to add technology to the class he has been teaching for 20 years. Stephen Downes, who I respect as a proponent of personalized learning, summarizes the snarky attacks that befall Mr. Gardner's article from the pro-technology crowd.

I think it takes studies such as the Carnegie-Mellon study to remind us all that all of these web-based tools that are being introduced into the learning environment are just that, tools. Just as a hammer can't build a house, but a carpenter using a hammer can; so a podcast cannot build knowledge in a learner's head, the learner has to listen to the message, reflect upon it, and build new understandings.

Anonymous said...

yes, a bit of a non-story isn't it? Someone said this to me last week of a different technology 'ah, but what's its pedagogic value?'. I responded that any technology has pedagogic value - a car for instance can be used to teach about design, physics, engineering, marketing, etc, but you wouldn't say it has intrinsic pedagogic value.

Karl Kapp said...


Thanks for the response, I do plan on answering the Big Question although, I am up to my ears in my Second Life class.

Just one comment here, doesn't an artist...regardless of the medium still need to understand perspective and how to create it when drawing, painting, or sculpting a landscape? (larger items in the foreground, smaller in the back...I'm not an artist)

The techique of creating a perspective is basically the same, the execution differs. But perspective has basic requirements no matter what medium is used.

Learning design, I think, is the same still teach a concept...regardless of medium with examples or non-examples or metaphors...the underlying design doesn't change just the it a visual metaphor, do you write it in a blog, do you allow others to modifiy in a wiki, do you describe it in a podcast...same basic technique just a different delivery. The design fundamentals are the different execution styles favor one medium over another but even a medium as basic (old school) and one-way as text on a page still can help someone learn, if it is designed properly.

Anyway, as always I enjoy these discussions and the input of yourself and other bloggers on the really forces one to re-examine their ideas. Keep up the great work on all these discussions.

Take care

dmcoxe said...

Just so you're aware, I took Karl up on his challenge in his initial comment and have posted my thoughts on good design at I declare "Design Day!"

Tony Karrer said...

Karl - you said - "the underlying design doesn't change just the execution" -

While I agree with you that much of the basis for the design will be consistent independent of medium, in my experience you do adjust what I call the design based on the medium. I believe that's true in art as well. You don't try for as much detail in charcoal or watercolor as you do in oils. If I have a way (via technology) to hit people more often over time as compared to having them in a classroom for 2 hours, I will define a different design.

I'm assuming you've had a similar experience where the medium does impact your learning design.

Anonymous said...

How about?:

"Consensus: Blackboard Has No 'Inherent' Pedagogic Value"


"Consensus: Book Has No 'Inherent' Pedagogic Value"

or even more:

"Consensus: Carrots Have No 'Inherent' Pedagogic Value"


Any tool pedagogical value depends on its fair use... do we need research to discover this?