I'm slowly catching up with the ongoing discussions from here in Japan, a day ahead and eight hours behind SFU (Vancouver), while my head and body are still trying to sleep on Pacific Daylight or Mountain Standard Time yesterday.
I'm an associate professor teaching English as an additional language to undergraduate administrative studies majors. Alhough you may consider me a techno-cynic, I'm also boot-strapping professional development activities using low-investment technologies with secondary school language teaching associates and university teaching colleagues.
I have never created a podcast, and wonder who has the time to plan, script, produce, contextualize, find, retrieve, listen to, (re-)view, annotate, transcribe, index, analyze, (re-)organize, synthesize, evaluate, or otherwise utilize podcasts for formative purposes. That is, I wonder, is there really such a thing as a bear in a can?
I am going to move this message and make it into the start of a new thread on the dangers/weaknesses of podcasting. This is clearly a topic with "legs".
The "Bear in a Can" is a package that I noticed at a National Forest Visitor Center outside Tucson, AZ a little over a week ago - the kind of thing a grandmother buys and sends to a grandchild for her birthday. The label on the tin can sports a warning: "Open only under adult supervision," because what could go wrong with the gift is that, once opened, the cut edges of the previously innocuous package pose a cutting hazard, regardless of soft cuddly contents you might expect to find inside.
Now does that remind you of podcasts?
Didn't mean to hijack your post and yank it into a new thread - I am still new at the moodle discussion management style and didn't realize what was going to happen when I clicked on "split." In any event, I am glad we're talking about what could go wrong, as I am sure that there are some major ones in podcasting.
I have an example, which is common to many of the technology "add ons" I bring to the classroom:
As soon as you bring something in to the classroom, even if it is "extra" and an "enhancement", someone is going to find it useful and start to depend/rely on it. And when it breaks, you will hear about it. Big time.
I blew the sound on my podcast last week and the grumbles were very loud. Even though there wouldn't have been any "buzzy" sound if I didn't go the extra mile and do the podcast. There would have been no sound at all. But nevermind. Now that I have started it, I have to do it every week. And do it well. Sometimes this is not what we, as teachers, are geared up to do.
Providing copies of your lecture notes is the same - if you never do it, no one will complain when you miss a week. But if you start... well, heaven help you if you forget or the copier breaks down.
Any other "war stories" to mention - especially in the podcast realm?
In other postings in the intro thread we heard from people (Wai-Ling) who wondered about the impact of slow or no internet connection, and the dangers of "backlash" from school administrators, parents, supervisors who might see this as a waste of time/money or worse a distraction/pollution fo the educational environment (Heather).
We also had the basic question of what - exactly - is being added here, and the concern that we're just playing with new toys to do something that has already been done to death (cassettes with audio).
I've responded in part to the latter concern in the "benefits" thread, but I am sure there is more to say on both that concern as well as the others raised here.
Since the "reply" function seems to work pretty well (once you set moodle up to show threaded discussions), let me suggest that this area could be used to both question and respond to those questions - what problems do you see and what - if any - workarounds are available?
I do worry about the use of podcasting as a purely broadcast medium and the pedagogical implications of that. This technology has the potential to further our pursuits as teachers for enhanced or even new pedagogies. 15 years ago you could get an audio cassette to play in your truck or while jogging. I know it is a good start, but if we only use podcasting to assist in the mobility of learning is that enough? <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
However this ease of use I think points to the potential for doing things that are really different from the "jumped-up cassette" vision of podcasts. Bronwyn's mention of what Gilly Salmon is doing at Leicester was very interesting, it seems to me that the immediacy inherent in that approach (which is related to the ease of use) is very important. To me it suggests the possibility of podcasts as a kind of extended reflective conversation...need to think more about that though, it's late in this corner of the woods!!
I discovered an interesting tool that might overcome the purely auditory issue http://www.innertoob.com/ This site allows you to add written comments to broadcasts.
Auditory learning is my least preferred mode and I found this approach useful.
Just like PageMaker resulted in lots of really bad desktop publishing, it also resulted in a lot more newsletters and so on getting distributed. And, gradually, some people got better at it and even started to earn a living with it.
I think podcasting tools are like PageMaker 1.0 at present. And most of us are not familiar enough with the principles of audio production to create a good aural experience for our students.
And, I'd suggest, almost NO ONE knows what to usefully do with the tiny little screen on an iPod or mobile phone.
So we have a long way to go.
That said, I have found that there ARE ways to produce acceptable results AND not kill yourself doing it.
In my case, I have built the podcast into an activity that I already do - prepare lectures to be delivered in the classroom. And, to save my sanity, I don't record the lectures separately, I record them WHILE I am lecturing. And to make that possible, I use a combination of suitable software (I can't recommend ProfCast highly enough) and help from our technicians.
I have created a podcast about creating podcasts, if you'd like to see it you can look at it by clicking on the linked file, above.
Thank you for recognizing the process and all that could go into podcasting! Last week I was asked why I don't write more (for publication). There are only so many hours in the day, and a lot of my time goes into the production of an audio podcast and not production of a manuscript. Sadly, the two activities, while they may both be forms of scholarship, are not evenly rewarded.
Ooooh, I do sound grumpy, don't I?
Me, I think I've taken the "bread machine" approach - my podcast is almost totally automated, and takes me almost no time at all. But that wouldn't be the same for everyone, is it?
What could go wrong? How about spending thousands of dollars on professionally scripted and recorded podcasts and having minimal readership! Argghh! Audience, audience, audience.
Oh well, I took the podcasts and added them to my WebCT course, so it wasn't a total loss.
I follow George Siemen's blog. He has a knack for making very simple but powerful statements. The other day he wrote:
In many ways the talk show format of some podcasts, and even recorded and unedited lectures, can be closer to conversation than content. If we get too polished and formal about podcast production, and concerned about shelf life, are we losing some of the appeal? Is some of the educational value of podcasts in the spontaneity?
Actually, the content wasn't the issue. The issue was very poor communication about the availability of the broadcasts and an audience of technology neophytes (very few of the audience use email, let alone the Internet). You can build the best mousetrap in the world, but if no one knows about it or believes in its usefulness, your company will go bankrupt. My point is you need to understand who your audience is, particularly if they aren't residing in your classroom. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
I've been in education for 35 years and there is this consistent story of great technology, sitting in a box. My most recent tale is interactive student response systems (clickers) were installed in our largest lecture theatre. Faculty were trained in using it as an interactive tool. A year later, students were complaining about how much they hated the clickers because all they were used for was taking attendance. The audience (faculty) hadn't bought into the interactive learning model!