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Confucius and Podcasting

Richard Mobbs, Head of Learning Technology at the University, says we should start thinking about delivering education to where the student wants it and not to where we say they will get it.

In 450BC Confucius is reputed to have said: "Tell Me and I Will Forget; Show Me and I May Remember; Involve Me and I Will Understand." The ethos of this statement is often quoted as being a tenet underpinning many learning and teaching pedagogies. But times have changed or have they? Confucius lived at a time when the spoken word was the main form of educating others but today we have other means at our disposal, so is the Confucian philosophies open to some debate? For instance, what do I remember if you keep telling me? What do I remember if you keep showing me? As lecturers do we want to keep repeating ourselves and isn’t this what technology is good at?

From various research sources we know that we remember from: the Lecture (5%); Reading (10%); Audio Visual (20%); Demonstration (30%); Discussion group (50%); Practice by doing (75%) and Teaching others (90%). So quite clearly we need to turn our students into teachers to make them understand what they should be learning. Recognising that this might not be achievable we need to look at other means of improving learning and the gaining of knowledge.

The use of the spoken word has been fundamental to our learning processes since the beginning of time and it is no surprise that a digital equivalent has risen in popularity within online learning and it is colloquially known as “podcasting”.

There are several origins of the term “podcasting” but the commonly quoted derivative is associated with the Apple iPod (pod) and the iTunes philosophy of sending users a reference link to new music files (the cast). When prompted the user (also called the “catcher”) picks up the music file and can either listen to the file from the original source or download the file to play on a personal system. These are generally iPods or any suitable MP3 player which are now very much part of the youth culture and rank very highly on the “must have” list.

The teaching and learning process is very complicated but we know that we learn best of all when we want to learn and that requires having easy access to the learning materials. Virtual Learning Environments facilitate on demand learning but they still require that the learner has Internet access. So what can be better than to give the learner portable learning materials.

We should start thinking about delivering education to where the student wants it and not to where we say they will get it, to this end we need to deliver the resources to the student and not the student to the resources.

True “podcasting” has two components: the source file and the broadcasted information that the file is available. The creation of the sound (MP3) source files is not complicated and can be done from most desktop computers. All that is required a microphone (which might be part of a decent headphone set such as the Logitech 250). It is also quicker to record, say, a ten minute student briefing than to type it. Sound files can be uploaded into the Blackboard VLE for access but don’t forget to do the “cast” bit and tell the students that the files are there!

Watch out for the University’s IMPALA Project for further information on podcasting (shortly to be available at

-Dr Richard Mobbs Head of Learning Technology

  • The Guardian has carried two features recently highlighting learning technology innovation at Leicester. You can access this via:,,1724616,00.html,,1745825,00.html

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