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[berkman] Podcasting and News Media in the Classroom

Mark Frydenberg of Bentley College was teaching Intro to Tech last spring for freshman who have some background in tech. He started podcasting his lectures using a pocket pc. He asks who in the room has used wikis in a classroom. Lots of hands go up. People have used them to develop a class taxonomy, to sign up for groups, and to work together. Mark also used it for people to make up questions for an exam; Mark then chose from among the questions. He also had them create a video podcast about one of the topics of the class because he wanted to know what might be useful educationally about podcasting. (It wasn’t graded. It was an extra credit project.) [As always, I’m paraphrasing. And because Mark ran this primarily as a discussion, it will come across choppier than the session was.]

This semester he’s having the students use Blogger, Feedburner and PodZinger to create the podcasts. PodZinger makes podcasts it searchable.

He found that his students would listen to a podcast of the course for 6-10 minutes. (The course podcasts were an hour and 15 minutes.) So, he asked them to make podcasts of that length about the course topics. The first were talking heads. Then they tried recording screen shots by pointing the camera at the screen, which doesn’t work very well. They found Camtasia, which works better for live screen capture. (CamStudio is an open source product that does something similar, Mark says.) As more students did their videocasts, they’d start to one-up each other, figuring out how to do picture-in-picture, etc.

“You don’t know something until you have to teach it,” he says. [Very true.] How might podcasts be used in a class, he asks us.

Phil Malone says he uses it to have law students simulate oral presentations to clients and colleagues. Rebecca MacKinnon says that it surfaces knowledge in the class beyond what the teacher knows. Mark says that because he didn’t give any guidelines about content, it helps surfaces when people don’t know some things.

He found that students weren’t tempted to skip the class and just listen to the podcast because it was clear that more was going on in the class than lecturing. He sometimes found himself repeating questions for the mic. The big thing he saw was that having students create podcasts “let the students be themselves” — the sense of humor, humility, comforting other students, etc. He notes that it added a liberal arts element to a tech course. And it aids critical thinking by requiring students to plan how they’re communicate in 7 minutes on a pocket PC screen.

Colin Rhinesmith asks if the experience changed students’ understanding of mainstream media. Mark says that they understand better what it takes, plus they had a sense of empowerment that they could put their media up in public.

Rebecca asks if this ought to be done younger as an educational tool. Mark replies that all college freshmen ought to be taught how to create podcasts and videocasts so it can be assumed that they have those skills for use in other courses.

The podcasts are available on the Web but Mark didn’t publicize them.

He shows a graph of downloads of the podcasts. They spike around exam times—he put up a review podcast instead of a review sheet. Downloads by hour: 2am was surprisingly popular. Also, right after the class was held.

Phil asked what Mark learned that he will apply next time. Mark says he’ll continue to use Feedburner and PodZinger. He wants to have people comment on one another’s podcasts. Video was the right way to go.

He also has his students blog.

I ask about using a wiki to have the class create a group paper, or a site that’s a student guide to the topic of the class. How would you grade it? Mark thinks and says you could give groups of four a particular topic and grade them that way.

Q: Are you making former content availble to the next class?
A: I don’t want to make them available because I want students to go through the same moments of discovery as the students did last year. I’d rather make them available afterwards. [Tags: ]

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