Monday, 13 October 2008

Attack of the Pod(casting) People!

All right, so I’m going to let you know right off the bat that I am not in a good mood! I’m very sick (cough cough hack hack gag gag sniff sniff ache ache) and I’m actually quite frustrated! I thought his whole podcasting thing would be . . . well not easy . . but . . . not harder than anything else I’ve done in this course.

All these other people seem to be podcasting and subscribing to podcasts (even my husband, who is quickly falling behind me in his tech knowledge, subscribes to a couple of podcasts). And admittedly that is quite easy, as simple as a quick visit to my husbands iTunes account and I’ve subscribed to three podcasts (I am becoming one of the pod (casting) people!) I have subscribed to David Warlick’s podcast, to “Women of Web 2.0” and “Why? The Science Show For Kids” as I’m hoping to find some things I can use with my students. So I’m not frustrated about the listening part of podcasting, that’s very easy.

I’m actually very excited about turning my students in to pod people. Almost all my students have iPods, or some other kind of MP3 player. Our division has recently passed a policy stating that no electronic devices are to in the possession of the students during class time (including MP3 players, cell phones and digital cameras etc) UNLESS they are being used for educational purposes. (See this post from Will Richardson that speaks to this issue of dealing with technology and hand held devices in the classroom)

Oh how popular I would be if I had my students download a podcast the night before (something created by someone else, or me, and applicable to the day’s lesson) and then gave them 10 minutes in class to listen to the podcast and then another 10 minutes to discuss it with their friends, then on to the meat of the lesson. I know its not really about being popular, its about engaging students and hooking them by using the things they are most familiar with and use on a regular basis.

And oh how wonderful it would be for those students who hate homework too. Imagine if I were to tell them that their homework was actually to go home and download a podcast episode and listen to it before the next day’s lesson. And what about those kids who can’t access the science text because its actually written at a level that is 3 grades above their real grade and they actually read at a level 2 grades below their real grade! A podcast of me reading the text and stopping to explain items using my funny metaphors, examples and anecdotes could really help those kids and they may actually be willing to listen. Plus listening on a MP3 device is a private thing so if some kids are listening to one version of the podcast and others are listening to an easier version, no one will know or be embarrassed.

I’m also energized (ok strong word since nothing could really energize me right now (hack gag ache sniff) but I’m energized in spirit) about the possible professional development opportunities for myself. I am VERY VERY busy. And to be honest I can’t see myself spending hours online everyday to look at all my bookmarks on Diigo, or to look at all the videos from the professional development channel in TeacherTube. I just don’t have the time. But down load a couple podcasts, while I’m sleeping, pop the ear buds in while I drive to work or clean the house or cook dinner . . . THAT I CAN DO!

So let’s get to the frustrating part . . . I had trouble figuring out how to get my podcast onto my blog. Luckily I had no trouble creating the audio file. I was fortunate to find this link: Podcasting for Teachers & Students while I was doing all my Social Bookmarking stuff last week, and as some of you may know I offered it up to my classmates as a starting point for our podcasting assignment this week. For anyone who is thinking about podcasting with students, this is an excellent resource. I followed the instructions given and downloaded Audacity. Then I started recording and editing. SUPER easy. Then I downloaded The Levelator, as instructed in the Podcasting booklet and optimized the sound on my file. All done. So what’s the problem? First I couldn’t figure out how to get my file on to my blog. I tried divShare but when I tried to link the uploaded file to my blog it didn’t work. So I went back to the Podcasting booklet and read some more. Oh there it was, I had to convert the “wav” file I had to an MP3 file. DUH! So then I exported as an MP3 file and tried again.

While I was waiting for my file to upload, I put the RSS feeds for my podcast subscriptions on my blog (see over there à). Which wasn’t as hard as I first thought it would be. Then I began to check out what the “pro’s” say about podcasting. While searching I found this post from Will Richardson about teachers loving podcasting because it really engages their students (as I thought it would). I also found this post from David Warlick talking about Media Literacy and he asks some important questions:

“This increasingly ubiquitous access to multimedia production technology makes me wonder what affect it has on basic communication skills for the future — literacy.”
“What skills are our students already practicing, and what new avenues of conversation are they defining and bringing with them into their future?”

On the same topic of Media Literacy in a digital age I found this podcast delivered by Susan E. Metros, Deputy CIO & Associate Vice Provost at the University of Southern California. Its called "Challenging IT Leaders to Mashup, Twitter, Tag, and Poke: New IT Strategies for a Digital Society". Here is a description of the podcast:

“Today's youth are digitally titillated, visually stimulated, and socially connected. To educate and engage this new breed of learners, institutions of higher education are revisiting and revising the basic tenants of a general education by asking, What does it means to be literate in today's society? As educators transform the way they teach and conduct research, IT leaders also must alter their institution's IT strategy to best support a mobile, global digital citizenry.”

Again, more talk about what it means to be literate in a digital age (this seems to be an ongoing theme in this course), and again some very interesting points are made. However, this podcast is 57 minutes long, which brings me to an important aspect of podcasting: you do actually need to find the time to listen to them. As I mentioned up there, I would do it while I’m doing other things, but this blog post I found by Eric Woods on JABET (Just Another Blog on Educational Technology) discusses something I had never thought about: learning addiction, which is when a person “continues acquiring vast quantities of knowledge far and beyond any practical ability to apply it”. Mr. Woods goes on to mention some of the problems with podcasts, including the following:
“there is very little navigational control once you are in a ‘chunk’ of audio. Thus it is much harder (than with a newspaper or internet article) to:
· skip to the next topic,
· read a topic heading and decide if it is relevant to you,
· skim through a topic of minimal interest,
· bookmark a topic to look into further later,
· or jump to the references and read about that item in more depth.”
He then says that “the system generally makes us consume more information than we need to - possibly causing, but at the least, supporting ‘learning addiction’.” This is an interesting concept that I can definitely understand. There is a temptation to sit online or listen to podcasts all the daylong and do nothing else. Which is where we must refer back to David Warlick for this little piece of wisdom:
“The best thing we can do is to open up as many avenues of connection and conversation as we can — to give our students opportunity, support, and encouragement to develop their communication skills by communicating richly and authentically.”

Its all about authenticity and applicability. We as teachers should never ask our students to listen to a podcast or create a podcast in a class-type setting unless it is directly applicable to an authentic educational experience. (deep thoughts!)

Ahh finally, my upload is complete.

So here is my podcast of me reading Chicka Chicka Boom Boom:

(Oops, it’s actually an alternate podcast, listen and you’ll understand!)

So after all that, podcasting wasn’t actually as frustrating as I thought it was while I was in the throes of it. And I could probably do another podcast episode in about 10 minutes. Lesson learned today: do not attempt new learning when very tired and very sick!

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!


Joanne de Groot said...

What a good copyright citizen you are, Christine! It's a good question--I'm not sure what the rules are about posting a podcast of you reading a book would be. A book review, with excerpts of the book would be no problem obviously; and you could certainly share your podcast with your own students. A very good question--all this copyright stuff becomes so very fuzzy in this web 2.0 world.

I appreciate your honest, and funny, reflections of learning how to create a podcast. You have some great ideas for using podcasts with kids...I think you would be a hero if you asked kids to download a podcast, listen to it at home, and then come prepared to talk about it at school the next day! Listening to an iPod for homework??? They would love it!

Hope you're feeling better!

Jes said...

Hi Christine,
I know how hard it is to do anything when I am feeling sick. I have all of my fingers and toes crossed so that I don't get sick during the next two months of classes.
I also briefly wondered about the copyright issue of reading a story for my podcast, and that's when I decided to avoid that. I also don't like the way my voice sounds when it's recorded - so instead I let my daughter do the talking for me.
I still haven't quite figured out how to get my podcast onto my blog, so I just ended up linking it. I'll have to try to figure it out this week, because I don't want to admit defeat.
Hope you are feeling better.