Podcasts will (save/replace) us all!

This is a bit of a follow up to the paper I wrote last semester that I posted a few weeks ago. I’m going to go off on a bit of a rant (like I didn’t vent enough in the comments of a post on ReadWriteWeb) about a research study by McKinney, Dyck, & Luber at SUNY-Fredonia about the effectiveness of iTunes U in delivering lectures to an introductory Psych course. The title of the paper is provocatively titled: “iTunes University and the classroom: Can podcasts replace Professors?”

In this study, two groups of students listened to a 25 minute lecture. One group listened in class, the other listened via podcast. When given a test on the subject, the podcast group scored 71% and the in-class group scored 62%. Within the podcast group, those that took notes while listening scored significantly better than those that didn’t (who performed more or less the same as the in-class group). The study generated significant controversy among their colleagues because “the podcast condition was not used to enhance a college lecture (perhaps giving students who attended the actual lecture a chance to listen to it again), but rather was in place of attending the lecture.”

On the one hand, this study engages the issue of podcasting in a serious manner. Lots of investment is being made in this area by universities, which is strange given the lack of research or data regarding its effectiveness. In comparison to some of the other studies I’ve read, it’s incredibly thorough.

On the other hand: Stop it.

Just stop it. For the love of god, it means nothing. Why must we continually have these studies where professors take old ways of teaching, dress it up with technology, and ask if technology is really worth our time? About half the time, the results go towards the technology, half the time they don’t. Does it really matter? You’re still talking at students and seeing how good they are at regurgitating it back to you. All these professors are getting up in arms because students can use the podcasts to avoid going to class. News flash: not having podcasts has never stopped them before.

So who cares? Why must people keep doing the same damn media comparison studies over and over again? Why the same old lame questions asking if technology will replace teachers? All these things ever seem to do is bring out the same comments:

“Technology is crap, you’ll never replace a teacher!” (goodbye, tenure) or

“We have to change the way we work to accommodate digital natives!” (so they can be bored with technology too) or

“Podcasts are great because you can rewind them!” (as if rewinding is the panacea for all our educational woes).

I’m not trying to disrespect the lecture as a way to deliver instruction. I’m not trying the disrespect the podcast as a medium to deliver instruction. In fact, a couple days ago I listened to a podcast lecture by Michael Wesch that blew my mind it was so awesome. The reasons I liked it had nothing to do with my ability to rewind it or listen to it on my commute.

The reasons I did like it were three-fold: the content, the speaker, and the access. The fact that the lecture took place a month ago in a different location, and required attendees to pay some exorbitant registration fee did nothing to prevent me from hearing it.

Technology is a game-changer, but these researchers are still playing the same old game.


Posted on March 1, 2009, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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