Thursday, 30 October 2008

Mark Pentleton - Two years of podcasting.

I've had the pleasure this weekend of finally meeting Mark Pentleton. Can't believe we have never actually met before! Mark is a really busy man so I grabbed the opportunity to find out more about why exactly he is up from before dawn to way after nightfall!

I first heard of Mark when he worked on Partners in Excellence (PiE) in Scotland, a project with the purpose of raising achievement in East Ayrshire by establishing a virtual school with pupils contributing through such things as film making, animation and latterly podcasting. The project involved 29 schools across islands and down to South Ayrshire, a very large geographical area with diverse sizes and types of schools. For some, the project became a case of expanding peer group of pupils in tiny schools by use of VLE to develop a community.

The PiEcast was a way of keeping everyone in touch as well as a learning tool for the particpants. It began as a podcast containing news about events, interviews and news reports to give the community a voice. As time went on, this expanded to include a learning element such as listening material in French, Spanish, German and cultural element. This then led to something else - the Verbcast. This was an intense 10-12 minute nightly podcast for four weeks for 25 young people, looking at French verbs. Having listened to the Verbcast, pupils received a text message each day testing them on what they had learned the previous day; the answer was posted to the website - very interactive! Verbcast used relaxation techniques - feedback was good from pupils and teachers were really pleased with the grasp that pupils had of verbs after participation. (Note to Mark - do it in Spanish please!!)

Radio Lingua Network
Mark saw a gap in the market for beginners Spanish podcasts - Notes in Spanish is good for intermediate. So he started Coffee Break Spanish with Ciara in October 2006; a premium version with access to extra materials was launched in January 2007. Lesson 79 was looking at imperfect subjunctive so it wasn't all easy peasy!!

Mark then began his quest for world domination as follows:
February 2007 - My Daily Phrase German / Italian
September 2007 - Coffee Break French - on episode 41
October 2007 - One Minute Languages x6 in response to requests for basic phrase podcast - Norwegian, Polish, Luxembourgish, German, Gaelic, Russian - 10 lessons
Another 6 just launched - Mandarin, Catalan, Danish, Japanese, French, Romanian
September 2008 - Show Time Spanish - after first few episodes of preparation got soap opera for show - to be released at end as an entity in its own right
October 2008 - Write back soon - EFL podcast tackling phrasal verbs - emails between students using lots of phrasal verbs that are then explained.
Although he didn't mention it, I particularly like his idea of a week of podcasts leading up to Valentine's day last year entitled Love Lingo that taught the language of LUUURVE in Spanish, German, Italian, French and Norwegian!

Podcasting fits our lifestyle - it's hard to learn from a course that is linked to a text book when you’re driving, walking etc. It's so much easier to listen alone- and less obvious too!! And that's why podcasting is so successful!

Mark then shared some future projects for RLN - but I'm not allowed to blog those so you'll have to wait and see ;o)

So, to the lessons learned:

Learning -
Podcasts give-

  • content in the learner’s context
  • ‘secret learning’ - lack of peer pressure
  • massive storage opportunities - 670 hrs in 5 years lang learning/1000 on an iPod
  • access - if it’s there, they might just use it! If it’s not, they don’t have the opportunity!
  • just in time delivery via RSS - time things to happen just before an exam, at a particular time etc
  • learners learn most by making podcasts

Sharing information
Podcasts show that
  • learning not just for pupils
  • podcasting inherently builds community
  • collaboration

Style of delivery
Podcasting should NOT be recording of classes delivered - must be created eg four main points rather than whole lesson
Should they be scripted or non-scripted - most of RLN's are non scripted

Technical lessons
  • equipment - CO3U Samsung USB mike
  • mic techniques
  • recording
  • systems
  • ‘respecting the ear’ - if people are listening through headphones, avoid crackles!!
I found all this fascinating - I am not going to launch a business empire like Mark - for a start, he's too good and I wouldn't stand a chance against that competition. However, the lessons are applicable to all podcasting and podcasters. It also all showed exactly why Mark never seemingly sleeps - he has no time!!

If you're going to the Language Show this weekend, you can catchup with Mark and the RLN crew yourself on stand 20!

Keep up the good work Mark - and I look forward to the next lot of RLN projects in the pipeline - they sound very exciting - but my lips (and cheeky tweets!) are sealed ;o)

So - for all your language needs - check out RLN - there's something for everyone!!


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