Educational technologies can offer many affordances; nevertheless, using these tools can equally create barriers, negating any potential benefits. My Twitter handle is @LoveEdTech, and I do love EdTech, but it is more of a love-hate relationship knowing the raw imperfections and challenges in using EdTech to support diverse learning experiences. Morris and Stommel (2017) argued that tools are often deceptively promoted, and educators should research their value. These affordances and barriers are becoming relatively commonplace; nevertheless, rarely do we have opportunities to dig deeper into more critical issues surrounding the use of these tools.
Participation in a group research project and subsequent sharing event allowed for the scrutiny of learning experiences and preliminary research findings surrounding various critical issues. Significant issues of social justice, including neocolonialism, gender exclusion, intercultural underrepresentation, access inequities, academic elitism, data harvesting, and the corporatization of education, were exposed. Each session inspired, while some evoked disgust, anger, and sadness for the realities of many, and often, the ignorance of those in places of privilege.
Weller (2018) emphasized patterns of anticipation and anti-climatic stagnation when technologies throughout history promised to revolutionize education. The presentations reinforced this sadly cyclic history. Questioning and challenging systems, tools, and glorified platforms as saviours of education are the business of anyone who believes everyone has a right to equitable learning opportunities. In my small way, I can overturn rocks, pick at the layers and set out to discover more in my research. Borton’s (1970) “What-So What-Now What” model can help me to examine these issues in a new light as I approach writing my final research paper.
After all, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” (Dyer, n.d.)
Borton, T. (1970) Reach, Touch and Teach. New York:McGraw-Hill Paperbacks.
Dyer, W. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/wayne_dyer_384143
I recently participated in a Podcast learning event with a small peer group to research Podcasting technologies and the application of these, primarily digital audio files for use in educational contexts. Post-listening, we discussed the event and collaborated to capture our experiences in a reflective blog post (Aartsen, Gedak, Lloyd, Moore, & Nevay, 2020).
As a teaching and learning with technologies strategist, I often recommend the use of audio files for providing students feedback and for designing and implementing activities, assignments, and assessments. Additionally, I sing the praises of audio files and Podcasts for delivering content, lectures and instructions to students and by students. My department hosts an episodic series of Podcasts, which I enthusiastically promote to faculty wanting to polish their pedagogical approaches, nevertheless, ironically, I have not indeed taken the time to experience this technology to its full potential for myself. Building upon this experiential research, I have begun to conduct a literature review to critically analyze the use of podcasts as an educational technology; and the effectiveness of Podcasts in supporting learner variability. Selwyn (2010) argued that democratic and social justice issues surrounding learning technologies demanded a deeper exploration, and I intend to examine the use of Podcasting in educational contexts through the lens of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework and its guiding principles. I am interested in examining this topic, as all learners should be supported in meeting the learning outcomes. UDL approaches access as a matter of equity; making sure “all students have the ability to interact with and learn from curriculum rather than being given individualized instruction that further separates their learning from that of their peers” (Venkatesh, 2015, p.11), which aligns with my values and beliefs.
Meyer, Rose, & Gordon (2014) emphasized the importance of using the principles of the UDL framework that Meyer and Rose previously developed nearly two decades before and argued that these values were increasingly important in current contexts with diverse learners. In the recent weeks of supporting faculty in transitioning to remote teaching, issues surrounding learner variability and access have become more pronounced, and considerations for supporting learning equity are demanding a more in-depth consideration. All students deserve the ability to access and interact with the course content, activities, assignments, assessments, and the learning community equitably.
Can Podcasts as an educational technology effectively support access and equity for diverse learners? Podcasts are arguably convenient to access on personal computers and mobile devices (Berlanger, 2005; McLoughlin & Lee 2007), and provide low barrier access to content as they are generally free (Hew, 2009). Pedagogically, Podcasts can be used to encourage discussion and discourse (Edirisingha & Salmon, 2007; Hew, 2009). Berlanger (2005) argued that Podcasts could be used to enhance support for individual learning needs, reinforcing their potential in supporting diverse learners meeting course and program outcomes.
In contrast, Podcasts are generally not visual. The captioning of audio files is possible; nevertheless, that is not always the case, which I experienced firsthand when participating in our group activity. There was also no transcript provided limiting the learning event to a purely auditory experience, which could negatively impact the ability to access the contents of the recordings for some learners. I have also found challenges discovering literature that critically examines Podcasts as an educational technology through the lens of UDL and am searching for further empirical evidence that supports or counters the use of Podcasts in providing equitable access for all learners. I welcome input from others on this topic to inform my deeper research in this area.
Have you used Podcasting to support diverse learners in meeting the learning outcomes in your courses?
Venkatesh, K. (2015). Universal design for learning as a framework for social justice: A multicase analysis of undergraduate preservice teachers (Unpublished Ph.d. thesis). University of Boston College.