Students perform better with podcasting

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Something we endorsed some time ago is now ‘scientifically’ proven: the use of podcasting technologies make students perform better in class and is therefore better than the ‘real thing’. According to a study executed by the State University of New York “Podcasted lectures offer students the chance to replay difficult parts of a lecture and therefore take better notes”, says Dani McKinney, a psychologist at the State University of New York in Fredonia, who led the study.

To study the differences between traditional ‘live’ attendance to lectures and the ‘on demand’ lectures McKinney had 64 students taking a single class on an introducory psychology course. Half of the students who physically attended the class received a printout of the slides from the lecture. The other 32 downloaded a podcast that included audio from the same lecture synchronised with video of the slides. These students also received a printed handout of the material. They were told that they would have an exam the week after.

The results came out pretty clear: students who downloaded a podcast got a 71 (out of 100) on average, whereby the ‘traditional’ students got a 61. But if you were also taking notes during the listening of the podcast the average score would increase to a wobbling 77.

There are several hypothesis for this variation. One explanatioon could be that new technology is…well.. new. And most young people tend to start trying new technologies fast, and hence adopting it. So what would be the effect if the ‘new’ wears off? Back from scratch?

Having said that, the fact that with a podcast you can determine when and where you can consume your lectures plays in my view a much more significant role compared to the ‘latest and greatest’ motivation. Who doesn’t remember physically being present at a lecture on university, but mentally in another universe? Either because it was just not your timing, of you had a terrible hangover (or both, actually). To complete the disaster you would have a professor trying to squeeze an inhumane number of words in a sentence, preferable without interpunction. Bye bye exame.

But if you would have the same lecture on audio synchonized with the slides? First of all, you would follow that lecture once your hangover gained an acceptable pain-level. Secondly you could rewind the wordcruncher over and over again, just as long as you need to understand the guy. And that helps improving understanding (and thus scores).

We are living in a new world where technology is leading us the way. In the Netherlands, classrooms  don’t have a blackboard. They have a whiteboard, attached to an ethernet socker so you can go on the internet. Teachers can show multimedia presentations, as well as the kids. And kids have their own laptop which they bring to school. Every statement done by the teacher can be doublechecked immediately. These kids need new ways for training and education. They can not be formed and shaped like we were (talking 30+ years ago). But also grown-ups can benefit from these new technologies. May be even more since time is often even less available. Within DigiRedo have proven over and over again that the use of these new tools dramatically increases understanding of your message. And understanding the message is what it is all about. Who’s next?

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