Monday, August 17, 2009

Podcasting -- my first try

My brother, Eric, to whom I get closer year after year and who I think is quite brilliant in his own way, says he hates to read. This is totally surprising to me because he is a deep thinker and I associate reading and deep thought. He's a great speaker and a wonderful listener, so this is a bit of an enigma. Perhaps for Eric reading just takes too much time, or it may interfere with the stream of his own consciousness. However, it may also be that he just doesn't like print.

One of the assignments in the Web 2.0 course -- now finished -- was to create a podcast. Here is my first, dedicated to Eric. Perhaps this medium will interest him more -- after all our parents were both radio broadcasters. He could record his various talks and presentations and later edit them for sharing with others through one of his new websites. Eric, if you're listening, this one was for you.

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For a very funny take on Gladwell, I offer Kirby Ferguson's video below. Please be warned, the language and humour are a little 'off colour' and as they say on TV "may be offensive to some viewers," but I include it because I admire the quit wit and inventive thinking that goes into Kirby's work -- so enjoy or skip as you will.

Podcast creation strikes right at my personal perfectionist streak. I have a hard time saying 'enough' until I have every music beat and every bit of narration just right. My podcast was created using a free program called Audacity, and although I don't even understand what all the functions do to a sound file, I 'm confident having completed this first try, that I could get my students started in similar programs as we are not allowed to download Audacity at school. They're pretty quick at figuring out what various software programs can do and would soon show me more effective ways to handle the minimal effects I attempted. With this kind of program a little knowledge and some determination seem to go a long way.

[Note: if using Audacity, you may also need the Lame MP3 Encoder because Audacity does not export in MP3 format. Fortunately you only have to direct Audacity to this file on your computer the first time you need it. After that the process will be automatic. However, to make it work that first time, you must know where this file was installed, so make note of its location on your computer when it installs or put it on your desktop.]

So - how is podcsting a tool educators might use?

I really like this process for classroom work. Without images and video, students have to be really succinct in their explanations. They can't rely on the audience to make unspoken connections. I also think that the processes of editing and repetition that are needed to get the script just right are great ways to reinforce learning. Essay editing often stops after a couple of tries because we don't have the heart to make the kids revisit their work over and over. With podcasting one can hope that their the natural instinct to want this kind of published material to show them at their very best will take over and that the long term memory of the content will linger.

Here are some of the other suggested uses and examples created my co-students in this Wilkes course:
  • creating a series of instructional podcasts to accompany class lectures; embedding or linking to them from a class or school website or wiki. This becomes a great reference for students who like to listen again to the key ideas of important classes and to help students who are absent keep up with the class (from Kate)
  • Denise's podcast was in the form of a riddle to be used to help prepare a group of younger children for a field trip to the zoo; she also pointed out that this would be a good way for speech and second language teachers to get students to practise and listen to their own voices.
  • students can record mock campaign speeches when doing a unit on elections (from James)
  • record math raps or songs-- as Pam said "anything to get students excited about Math"
  • help young children improve listening skills by giving them practice in following instructions (from Patricia)
  • create a jingle or advertisement for a new product or an upcoming event (from Joanie) -- I can see myself using this as an a assignment in a new Science and tech program I'll be writing for our online division this fall. (Her actual podcast about a lesson that mashed up Mcdonald's, math, geography, cultural studies and Google Earth created the most controversy in the discussion forum, but I love her concept.)
  • Tari made a "6th grade survival guide."
  • Donna composed her own musical intro to her podcast introducing young students to an assignment on melodic composition.
  • Gina and several others mentioned the benefits of being able to communicate more frequently with or post special online bulletins for parents.
  • Breanne used her podcast to introduce a very sensitive subject for Black History Month.
  • Meagan and Rod (both fellow Canadians!) mentioned the benefit of using podcasts to share ideas with other teachers; Megan looked at digital story telling and Rod discussed five of his favourite Web 2.0 tools
Finally here are a two podcasting websites of interest:
  • EPN - The Education Podcast Newtork: "an effort to bring together into one place, the wide range of podcast programming that may be helpful to teachers looking for content to teach with and about, and to explore issues of teaching and learning in the 21st century. "
  • Tech Chick Tips: "Tips and tricks for teaching 21st century students using 21st century skills from two Texas educators obsessed with anything digital!"

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