Research: As Good as the Real Thing?

I forgot to post this assignment to review a scholarly paper on the use of podcasts in education.


 Educational Podcasts in National Parks

 I chose to research the use of podcasts in formal interpretation, as I am interested in studying new media as a means of communication for National Wildlife Refuges.  I discovered an article about graduate work done by a park ranger at Canyonlands National Park on the efficacy of using podcasts compared to in person ranger talks, As Good as the Real Thing? A Comparative Study of Interpretive Podcasts and Traditional Ranger Talks.  Karen Hanker and Greg Brown (2011) tested three different formats for delivering identical interpretive talks about 8 different topics in the Park: live Ranger talks, podcasts available at the Visitor Center, and podcasts available online on their website.  A single ranger conducted both the in-person talks and recorded the podcasts, using the same script for consistency, and participants took a voluntary survey to assess the effect of the talks on their intellectual and emotional connection to the Park, as well as their feelings of stewardship.

The researchers documented responses that included enjoyment, personal relevance, thematic importance, interest in the topic, curiosity for more information, a knowledge score to assess understanding of the content, and a sense of stewardship that the participants appreciated the protection of the resource, wanted to help protect the resource, and an intent to change behavior to help with protection.  Classic interpretation develops along a theme designed to connect an audience with a natural or cultural area and it’s relevance to their own lives; although instruction is an important component of interpretation, presentations or materials also attempt to inspire an audience with a sense of the place and a desire to contribute to its well-being.  Historically, interpretation has taken the form of signs, brochures, exhibits, living history re-enactment, and ranger talks.  As new media becomes a way to reach out to diverse audiences and those who may not otherwise visit a park or refuge, podcasts hold a lot of promise for expanding interpretation to online audiences.  Little research, however, has been conducted on the effectiveness of podcasts in producing the same reactions and responses of traditional interpretive methods.

The researchers found statistically significant differences between the live talks and the podcasts, but concluded that the practical differences were minimal and that podcasts are almost as effective means of interpretation as ranger talks.  Participants had the strongest responses to the live talks, with the online podcasts similar, and podcasts at the VC showing the weakest responses.  According to statistical results, the researchers found that “it seems that online podcasts are nearly as effective as traditional programs for forging some intellectual and emotional connections, while traditional ranger talks are best at fostering stewardship” (Hanker and Brown, 12)  I found this to be a relevant and interesting result, as I had predicted that the emotional connection from podcasts would be weaker than an in-person interaction.  I am curious if the stronger sense of stewardship from a ranger talk may result from feelings of accountability that are heightened in a group setting or from actual experiences of enjoying the place that is interpreted.

I also found it interesting that the desire “to learn something” ranked highest across all three test group as a motivating factor, even though other motivating factors differed between groups (ranger talk participants chose to attend for fun/to experience with family while the online podcast viewers listed pictures and travel information).  It is useful for me to have the researchers’ results summarized as “these results affirm others’ findings that ranger programs of any format are seen by their audiences as valid sources of information… in our study, both podcasts and ranger talks were highly valued by audiences for their educational merit”(Hanker and Brown, 14).  I can utilize these results to advocate for using podcasts as an interpretive tool for our Refuge website, especially because we are a remote station with limited visitation and podcasts could be an effective way to connect with online audiences who may not otherwise visit Kodiak.


Podcast Prezi

This is a short presentation about utilizing podcasts for communicating about the Refuge.  The assignment was to use an online presentation program to create a brief series of slides on an educational topic for your colleagues:

Response to online presentation forum:

This week we experimented with different online presentation programs.  I decided to experiment with Prezi after seeing a colleague’s first prezi – I definitely needed the tutorials to learn the different tools, and I watched several of the “explore” featured prezis, then was able to start working with the program fairly quickly.  I really enjoyed the design flexibility, but found that I had to think out a visual concept and topic clusters before I got started, which is different from the way I work with Powerpoint.

I thought that the use of motion and pathways added a lot to the dynamic on screen, and I can see the potential for creating prezis that people would actually navigate on their own from a website (I quickly lose interest when I download someone’s powerpoint and click through slide after slide of bullet points).

I would use prezi in the future for work presentations – I think it will help alleviate the death by powerpoint feeling that our planning meetings have.  I could also see using it to create informational presentations that are meant to stand alone on the web or in an email.   I haven’t looked into it yet, but if there is a way to record the voice or play music with the Prezi, it seems like a fine tool to use for a short podcast.

Gray Whale podcast

I couldn’t attend the two in-person classes for my podcast class, so decided to make a video podcast as a project for the class and for the Refuge.  Although I have several projects in different stages of completion, I started a new one that I knew could be put together quickly because the interviewee was practiced at telling her story, and there were plenty of photos that would complement the interview.

Stacy Studebaker agreed to the project and we filmed about 60 minutes worth of footage about her 7 year experience of re-articulating a gray whale for the Visitor Center display.  This is a lot more than I needed, but I plan to create other instructional videos that might be incorporated into training for our seasonal staff, telling the story in more detail.  The final product is about 10 minutes long and narrates the process from start to finish:

The Kodiak Gray Whale Project

I just posted this to our FB page to celebrate the 4th anniversary of the installation on Halloween night, and was really glad to see a response from a teacher (mother of a volunteer) in Pittsburgh who enjoyed the podcast and plans to show it to her class before their Halloween party tomorrow.  I think that this is an ideal way for social networking to connect classrooms with our visitor center – even when they are a continent away!  If we can keep up with posting educational materials, teachers and students may be more likely to check in with FB than with a webpage that tends to be more static.

Ning Reflection

We explored social networking this week; although I’m very familiar with facebook and we utilize it at our Visitor Center, I had never heard of before, and did not realize that there were so many focused social network sites out there…  I do think that we could do more with Facebook to engage local students in the Kodiak community, but I also see the advantage of a focused social network that is an internal resource for professional collaboration and development:

Please post your reflections on the potential value of social networks as a professional collaboration tool in education.

I suppose my answer here is a bit different, because I am not in a profession with other teachers – at least, not in formal education. But, I could really see one of the Ning groups working out really well on a national level for our Fish and Wildlife Service Visitor Services professionals. One thing I really miss from my previous job (grant contract for the EPA) is the regional and national conferences I got to attend, and all of the in-person networking that happened there. Those conferences were valuable not so much for the different panel topics, but for the time in between panels when I could meet and talk with other people that were focused on similar projects and might be further along with tools like GIS or databases that were specific to contaminated site on Native lands.

I feel that I could really benefit from a national site that allowed me to “meet” visitor services employees from around the country, with a central location for blog posts, events, and forums, such as the ones on Classroom 2.0. Each region could have it’s own sub-group, and there could be other sub-groups for specific positions, such as for people working with volunteers, specialists in environmental education, or people managing visitor centers. Forums on use of technology or exhibit design would give me a much larger range of people to learn from, and I would be able to share some of the things I learn in this program with my colleagues.


In searching for podcast examples that are relevant for my work with the Refuge, I came across a really wonderful resource for independent filmmakers, Terra: the nature of our world.  Appears to be a site sponsored by Montana State University, and I think it mostly features advanced student work.

I just watched this 30 minute film about wildlife connectivity and ground truthing a corridor between Yellowstone National Park and the Frank Church Wilderness.  Worth watching!  And, I want to do the same thing for our research projects.  The Kodiak bushwacking would put these guys to shame 🙂

Connecting the Gems

Terra: The Nature of Our World

Mobile Podcasting

I’m linking an experimental podcast that I did as an assignment for CSE 696.  We used an online program called Yodio to create a narrated slideshow by uploading photographs and calling in by phone to record voice segments.  I’m not really a fan of this method because it was labor intensive and I can get a better product by recording my voice on my phone or computer.

This is a narrated slideshow of a recent trip into the Refuge for a public use camp – the audio is a little awkward because I did not script anything ahead of time, but the photos are pretty 🙂

Uganik Podcast

RSS Feeds & Cognitive Surplus

For CSE629: Post a short reflect on your experience setting up your subscriptions in Google Reader. Was it frustrating? Did it go smoothly? How can you envision using subscriptions and Google Reader in your classroom or work?
I’m glad I finally got the kick to look into RSS feeds – I’ve noticed the RSS symbol plenty of times, and I’ve sometimes accessed the RSS news headline feed on my browser window, but I had never explored the process of setting up a reader to collect my own feeds.  The Google Reader is easy to use, although I wish that I could just hit the symbol and have it automatically collect to my reader, instead of logging in to Google or copying the url of the feed site.  I’ve started with two classmates’ blogs, and have added two others from Kathy’s list: Open Thinking and Tammy’s Tech Tip of the week.

I really see the advantage of using the feeder to passively collect updates from sites I find interesting, although I do miss visiting the actual sites for their creative design and formatting.  However, the ease of filtering sites into a single access point appeals to me and enables quick sorting until I find something I want to read in more depth.  This process has already led me to some wonderful posts I might not otherwise have discovererd: from Open Thinking I found a post about “crowd sourcing” and collaborative creativity, which in turn led me to another blog by Dean Shareski with the following post that introduced me to the idea of “cognitive surplus” and features a great collaborative video with detailed background information and another awesome video (a TED talk) by Clay Shirky, with a link to his keynote address to Web 2.0 Expo in 2008:

Crowd Sourcing

Keynote Address

Cognitive surplus refers to the increase of leisure time that people put to use in creative collaboration, specifically the products enabled by Web 2.0 tools, rather than consumption (like using your free time to watch TV).  Wikipedia is one example of cognitive surplus that results in an active community working together to contribute their knowledge and creativity to the world.  RSS seems like a powerful way to navigate and collect the results of this surplus, especially as the products available online just keep proliferating.

USFWS News: Open Spaces blog & Twitter

In the interest of exploring my own agency’s use of social media, I’ve found a pretty neat blog called Open Spaces on the USFWS headquarters page:

Open Spaces

It just so happens that USFWS HQ also has a Twitter feed.  Since I’m now on Twitter, I just chose to follow their updates:


Which led me on to the Audubon Society Twitter feed:


And then on to the USFWS Twitter page for Alaska:


May be an easier way to follow the news than reading through the website articles – definitely a quicker update!