Shortly after posting Metalearning and Learning Styles I glanced through the latest edition of Chief Learning Officer and came to an interesting quote, "Many CLOs believe podcasting is oversold because few people are auditory learners and its no different than cassettes or CDs from the past 15 years." You can read the article at, A Look at the Industry in 2010 (the quote is on the last page, top paragraph).
I find this quite interesting as CLOs should be the thought-leaders in our profession and yet they are following Marshall McLuhan's quote spot on:
The past went that-a-way. When faced with a totally new situation, we tend always to to attach ourselves to the objects, to the flavor of the recent past. We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future. - The Medium is the Massage.
Rather than looking backwards through a rear-view mirror, they should be looking at McLuhan's tetrad: four laws for looking at our culture and framed as questions:
- Enhancement or extend: what improved performance does it provide over the old
- Obsolescence: what does it make passe
- Retrieval: what new media is pulled from our cultural inventory
- Reversal: we tend to over-do the new until we run out of benefits and into detriments
Thus, the four questions that should be asked about podcasting are:
What does the technology extend or enhance?
It extends the benefits of dL (distance Learning) by providing the best medium for delivering lectures. See The effectiveness of m-learning in the form of podcast revision lectures in higher education and Turn on your iPod and learn. Note that lectures are an effective means for departing subject matter knowledge and is just as effective as discussions (Dunkin & Barnes, 1985; Kulik & Kulik, 1979; McKeachie, 1962; Ryan, 1969). In addition, the CLOs in the survey are guilty of placing too much stock in learning styles. The question is not "what media should we use for a learning style," but "what method of learning is best for the knowledge or skill that must be acquired.
Podcasts also enhances the device itself in that it is digital and a more versatile package than cassette or CD players.
What does it make obsolete?
Time spent in the classroom can now be spent on interactions and activities rather than listening.
Podcasting, part of the audio digital file family, is already eliminating the need to keep track of extra media, such as cassettes and CDs.
What is retrieved?
Subject matter knowledge.
What does the technology reverse into if it is over-extended?
It reverts into classroom training that is composed of nothing more than lectures. Thus while podcasts may be used strictly on their own in a few select instances, they should normally be used to train the subject knowledge required for a task, in addition to being used with classroom or elearning activities that will actually give the learners the skills to use the knowledge gained with the podcasts.