So I did manage to get the last 40 GB iPod in New Jersey right after Christmas and I’ve been starting to play with it in between family gatherings and big meals. Let me first say that I am very psyched about the Belkin microphone adapter I got which allows me to use the iPod as a recording device. I’ve been interviewing my kids, and I can see all sorts of ways to use just that piece of it in the classroom…recording classwork, oral histories, interviews for MovieMaker voice overs. The best part is that it automatically dumps each recording as a .wav file to your hard drive when you sync up with iTunes on your computer. That’s an easy import into Audacity if I wanted to include them in podcasts.
Problem is, I don’t know that I’ll be doing much podcasting in the future. While my two attempts were fun, I guess, I can’t help but wonder what anyone really got out of my droning on about my high-fallutin thoughts on the education world. No links to follow. No way to engage in the ideas. Nothing there that wouldn’t work just as well in a blog post.
And on the listening front, I have to say most of what I’ve heard so far has been pretty uninspiring. At the risk of being snarky, my reaction to today’s daily podcast by one of the A-listers was downright discomfort. References to the horrors in the tsunami stricken countries was peppered with questions about whether or not to each the cheesecake before the guests arrived. The “concern” was so gratuitous that I had to turn it off. And most of what I’ve listened to is either equally self-indulgent or doesn’t get over the would-be-just-as-good-if-not-better-in-a-blog bar. Talking through a list of links that’s posted somewhere else just seems kind of pointless. I have to agree with Alan when he says that most of this comes closer to yawncasting than anything else.
There are some podcasts I do enjoy because they are intended to instruct or make me think rather than spew personal interpretations of the day’s events. For instance, Rob Reynolds at Xplana does a five-minute essay on tech related issues that is obviously well-written beforehand and usually leaves me thoughtful. Or the IT Conversations recordings of tech events or special shows. Some of the Engadget shows are pretty interesting as well. And I’m sure there are others that I’ll find as I continue to dig through the list at iPodder.org.Not all of it is great radio, but at least I feel like it was time well spent.
Of course, as a faithful listener of NPR, my assessment of all of this amateur radio is probably a bit unfair. But I think podcasting should be an attempt to emulate the good stuff we hear on radio not just idle rambling about why one beer is better than another. There should be some reporting, some background work, some meaning.
I’m thinking about how to do that. One idea I like right now is doing some regularly scheduled 20-30 minute interviews with edubloggers to pick their brains about how best to make all of this work in schools and where it might all be going. Or maybe doing some interviews with teachers about what they see the roadblocks are. It would be like research shared through a syndicated MP3 file. I’m open to ideas.
I don’t want to dissuade people from trying the technology and seeing what it and they can do. That’s the only way we’ll see what podcasting might be good for, the old “see what sticks” method. But I’m pretty much finished with the personal podcasting meme. To quote Alan once again, “If I am absorbing content by audio form, it should be because it presents it in a way that extends the information in fresh ways.” If it’s just as good in text, why bother.
Rob Reynolds says
This is great insihgt, Will. Personally, I haven’t been too sure about what to do with podcasting from a blogging perspective. If you’ve looked at my pieces, you can see that they have evolved to include text etc. One of my colleagues, who is hearing impaired, complained that he wanted to access my ideas but couldn’t “hear” them. So, I have now decided that I will provide a transcript or PowerPoint outline of all my posts, depending on the content. Next week, for example, I am starting a 10-lesson feature on creating an online course — this will have PowerPoint outlines with links. I must admit I do like having the ability to speak from an outline (for the lesson pieces) without having to write. Also, this spring I intend to share some of my student work from my intermediate Spanish class and podcasting will work well for that also.
Steve Brooks says
I have only done a few personal audio and video postings. I think, from an education point of view, audio and video is just another tool. Without getting all “educationy”, I think it is fair to say different people learn differently. A post with the lesson plan, an audio or video enclosure of lesson highlights, and a list of links for more information would be pretty powerful.
I have tried out Audacity and, while I enjoy adding the bumper music and generally trying to lift the production values, I’m not sure that is what students really expect or care about. Mobile phone cameras take lousy pictures but people love them because of their spontaneity. I think it is the same with audio and video on the web.
I don’t think of podcasting as blogging. There are no pictures (yet), no links, etc. I think of it as radio when I want to hear it. When I am tramping in the Port Hills on the South Island, I enjoy listening to interesting conversations. Interesting is highly subjective, but there are a lot of tastes out there. I think there is an opportunity for bloggers to become full content creators if that is what they want.
I like Eric Rice’s audioblog.com. It allows for easy and quick posting of audio and video to a variety of blogs. It uses Flash, which may turn some people off, but it also allows for in-browser streaming, a plus for me. I use Movable Type, at least for now, and there is a plugin for creating enclosures which show up in my rss feed. I think Feedburner or one of the others can do this too without a plugin.
I really enjoy your site.
Will R. says
Thanks for the response. I totally agree with what you write about differntiated learning styles and that the combination of text and audio or video being a powerful teaching tool. You got me thinking about what it could be: wouldn’t it be cool if somehow a listener could click a link a record a response to the podcast? Even better, if she could insert it where it’s relevant? I’m sure two years from now we’ll be calling this the Dark Ages… Thanks for the link to Audioblog. I’d seen that before, but I may need to check it out a bit further. Have a happy New Year.
Alan Levine says
It’s good to hear some well balanced voices out there- people tend to look for binary responses, all podcasting is great or all podcasting is crap. It’s all a spectrum. I am hoping folks give some more thought to appreciating the strengths and weaknesses of different media and communication forms.
Audio (and video) suffer from things inherent to their form- being mostly linear, they cannot be addressed or linked to small portions within, they are “bulky” (well at least unti educators find a way to exploit BitTorrent??), and the bigger unsaid issue- they are relatively production heavy compared to blogging- digitizing audio/vide, editing, compressing, takes time and effort. It is certainly easier than it was before, but it will not be everybody’s cup of tea.
I dread some first reactions like “I can put all my lectures as podcasts!”
That said, if we can look at what audio can do well– bringing voice to content and issues, bringing in voices not easily available, currency, and integrating with other media layers… well that is the sweet spot.
Anne Blocker says
WHY — HELLO.
This is my first attempt to post to a blog, so be gentle, please.
I am addicted to my iPod as a learning tool. I am visual in style, like 38% of students. I have reading problems that are related to going through a windshield without a seatbelt.
On my iPod this week, I read book reviews from amazon.com, On Writing by Stephen King and the sample magazines on zinio.com. I listened to NPR, All things Considered for December, heard the poetry of Dylan Thomas, the book on Steve Jobs and learned about stem cell research and tsunami centers. I also explored new music recommended by US News and World Report’s special issue and processed a couple of hundred emails. I listened to my grocery list, made sure there would be blackeyed peas and cornbread tomorrow and listened to Christmas carols on my SoundDeck from my iPod. I learned some Russian greetings, a few French phrases and the web site on my MIT course online. All of my CDs are now on my iPod and music is organized into playlists to do what I want to do — start, routines/rituals, finish, walk, and write.
I am using a Macintosh so I hit control-A on your Blog page, then control-J to have the material read to me and I listen a bit, but mainly I capture the text with Wiretap and save it. With Amazing Slow Downer, I speed up, rather than slow down the text so the delivery is many times faster than a teacher can talk. I drag it into iTunes and transfer to my iPod. I am sure this must sound like a convoluted way to get from web to iPod and I am open to suggestions. Then I do something else, like exercise, play a game, or rest with my feet up and listen to my email, my websites and research communications. The speech is fast enough to form visual imagery for me and I then do braingrams (like spider webs) of ideas, then number them and then write from the imagery. The system is more direct (and more complicated) with audible.com. Going from CDs to the iPod is a piece of cake. I get them at the library and used on the Internet.
While I am engaged in education and learning research, I follow closely the use of iPods in schools, particularly the project at Duke. Having an iPod means I am guaranteed to make it through content at an appropriate rate that optimizes my learning.
I have been unsuccessful thus far in convincing Apple, Audible.com, SimplyAudiobooks, Duke or MIT funders, or test schools in the advantages of speeding things up. Slow students need everything faster. Getting things slower just guarantees that the same students fail faster and more certainly.
I have the iPod on me about an hour a day. The rest of the time it stays on the SoundDeck. I no longer worry about its short battery life. I can’t imagine having an iPod and ever being bored. I can’t imagine a life without constant learning.
Will R. says
That’s an amazingly good first response to a blog post. Thanks so much for taking the plunge here. You’ve made me think more broadly about this technology and I’ve been trying to catch up with how to make some of your methods work in a Windows environment. Do you know if there is anything like Wire Tap Pro for Windows? Thanks again, and please feel free to post here as often as you like. Happy New Year!
John Blake says
Thanks for the inspiration. I needed to read this today.
Anne Blocker says
Will, we tend to embrace each new piece of technology and get as much out of it as we can before switching to the next new thing. (Will check for a Wiretap equivalent.) When we consulted with IBM on Project A+, we recommended the Macintosh for all the visual right-brain students. So many of them are labeled slow — with lowered expectations.
The beneficial effects we found from IBM’s products were from increased time on task by putting the screen at right angles to the student’s eyes and head — a bit of neurolinguistic programming (NLP). Working from the same NLP information, we were successful at getting an inner city middle school to allow its slow students to lie on the floor while doing writing assignments and taking standardized tests in order to increase their performance.
It is always great to see failure converted to success.
We have high hopes of getting our methods on the iPod since lessons can be downloaded like iTunes. There are so many PDAs available today. Almost any solution works.
Happy New Year to you as well!