Soundbite Learning's GCSEpod helps pupils with revision

SINCE we're now trusting our mobile phones to bring us everything except a cup of tea in the morning, why shouldn't they be able to help with revision too?

Anthony Coxon and Ian Thompson

SINCE we're now trusting our mobile phones to bring us everything except a cup of tea in the morning, why shouldn't they be able to help with revision too?

It’s this sort of thinking that’s helped Newcastle’s GCSEpod to claim a 4% share of the UK secondary schools market.

The idea has been developed by Soundbite Learning, which launched in 2008 to provide revision podcasts devised by teachers, read by professionals and locked into the curriculum.

Co-founder Anthony Coxon said: “It’s tapping into the technology that’s in the student’s pockets, and enables schools to get content to students in a cost-effective way. The enthusiasm for this in the secondary sector is particularly high.”

The system is now being used across the country, but was put through its paces in North East schools such as Longbenton Community College last year. It offers subjects ranging from English and maths to biology and chemistry, and it’s compatible with the six main GCSE exam boards. Language podcasts are also being brought in to meet the needs of the English Baccalaureate.

Coxon said: “We’re very excited about the results coming out today, and we hope GCSEpod supported the students and helped them achieve high grades. It’s the next natural step, as these devices are part of their everyday life. Instead of pushing treacle up a hill, it’s helping us to improve results. Students have got that flexibility to learn when they want rather than when they’re told to learn.”

While mobile devices may be a huge part of our world now, the company took certain steps to make sure what it offered could be easily digested.

Coxon said: “When we briefed the teachers, we told them to present it for audio and not for an essay. You need to make the content more visual and paint pictures with words.

“The other consideration was length of content. Students have a relatively short attention span and you need to make it short, punchy, accurate and relevant. We decided the chapters should be around three to five minutes long.

“We’ve also set it up so you can put the content for a given exam on your device as a playlist. If students have a certain exam coming up, it makes it easier for them to prepare for it more efficiently.”

The initial downloads were marketed directly at the students themselves, and that still remains an option. But at the start of last year, the company announced a new model in which the licence was sold to a school itself, and then made freely available to all its students.

The interface was originally designed to be compatible with the iPod Nano, so it is easily simple enough to be read on larger devices such as smartphones or tablets.

While Coxon said the interface works effectively on the iPad, he does add the company are starting to look at the potential of the tablet.

Future developments for the company include the introduction of language podcasts, which will offer a more curriculum-based language learning experience.

Coxon said: “There are an awful lot of things out there, but what they do is target the market of people who want to learn a language to do something like go on holiday. This is for a student who wants to learn so they can pass a GCSE.

“We’re also working on a new version of GCSEpod which will enable users to stream content regardless of their type of device. It will identify the type of connection – whether that’s fixed line, wireless or 3G – and deliver the quality and file size most suited to that connection.

“We view educational media like BBC iPlayer views its media. It’s very popular for schools as they see it as a great way to give resources to students so they can achieve their potential.”


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