Alternative Teaching and Learning Strategies

The potential of using audio material to support learning has been around for some time. Podcasting can not only build on the range of existing material that exists in other formats, but can also be tailored for specific in-house topics and learning activities in many curriculum areas.

Broadly, the advent of podcasting provides teachers with the potential to employ alternative approaches to teaching and learning by:

  • building and extending existing audio methodologies (tapes, CD, on-line);
  • providing bespoke content linked directly to class topics and curricular activities;
  • creating additional materials to extend the "gifted and talented" and supporting those with specific learning needs;
  • supplying instructional content to reinforce particular curriculum tasks or activities;
  • presenting additional materials to support independent learning for revision and homework.

For some time, teachers in primary schools have used audio tapes to provide children with material to listen too. Often, these are associated with the development of language skills, particularly at Key Stage 1. For older children in primary and young people in secondary schools, such materials are also used to supplement the teaching of foreign languages. The advent of podcasting is already being considered by some on-line publishers as another medium because it naturally builds and extends the existing approach for audio books into the realm of "on demand", at anytime and anywhere.

Story telling in audio form also has great appeal and most literary categories and many book titles are available on-line, to download or purchase. Typing "audio books" into an Internet search engine will produce a list of specialised websites that feature audio materials, including poetry, readings from the Bible (available in different languages) and extracts from famous speeches in the twentieth century. Of course, there is nothing to stop the enterprising teacher from selecting text from on any topic and arranging for this to be recorded as a podcast. Here are a few illustrative examples:

  • A collection of poetry readings from Year 6 pupils are recorded as podcasts for use by younger children in literacy lessons.
  • A series of audio explanations of key scientific concepts recorded by a teacher of physics in a secondary school to complement the material in the standard text book.

Creating materials that are tailored specifically for the more able learners or those needing additional support has always been a challenge to teachers. Podcasting may also provide another option to consider when presenting certain material to different groups. There is scope for involving support staff in the development of such materials, particularly where the activities may, of necessity, be repetitive in nature. One such example is instructional activity - such as conducting an experiment in science. Another is revision, an area that frequently challenges young people, their teachers and parents alike! The on-line Bitesize series produced by the BBC takes curriculum content, breaking it down into more "manageable chunks". Could a series of podcasts provide material that links directly (or otherwise) to learning in school? For the learner there are some advantages - they are listening to the "wisdom" of somebody they already know and likely to motivate and inspire the extra effort!

The potential uses are limited only by the imagination, time and resources that are available and the relevance of the activity. Podcasting is not, of itself, a magic solution, but could complement other teaching methods and enrich the quality of learning, particularly personalised learning.

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Providing alternative pedagogy