Goin' Mobile - Podcasting from the Classroom

Anyone who has been following the news over the last couple of months has probably already encountered the term "podcasting". Perhaps you've even subscribed to podcasts since Apple incorporated support for it into iTunes. (Despite all of the "pod" language, you don't need an iPod, or even an iPod-like device to listen to them - any internet connected computer will do.) It's a great way to receive information about subjects that are interesting to you. But have you considered producing podcasts? If you haven't you're missing half of the power of this important new communications medium.

Making podcasts is easy. All you need is a digital voice recorder - I use an Olympus DM-10. Don't have one of your own? Check one out from CTC's Media Equipment Checkout. Another alternative is to simply buy a microphone that you can plug into your computer's sound card (~$10 at Radio Shack). In fact, most laptop computers produced these days come with a condenser microphone built in. Next step: record! When you've made your recording, save it in some audio format that most media players can interpret - MP3 is the most common format used for podcasts, but WAV, WMV, Ogg Vorbis, and others work, too. Finally, post your podcast to the web, ideally in a blog or other webpage that generates an RSS feed - like the little orange XML Syndicate button at the bottom left of this page (more on RSS/XML in a future column). Voila! You're a podcaster!

So with no further ado (drumroll please...) here's the first Goin' Mobile podcast: goin_mobile_podcast_080205.mp3 (0:49 - 778K)

Okay, but how is this useful to you as an educator? Here's how I plan to use podcasting in my fall semester classes...

Last spring, when I first discovered podcasting, I had considered simply making a short podcast each weekend that would preview topics and assignments for the upcoming week, and perhaps briefly discuss and item of geology in the news. Then, this summer it dawned on me - Why not podcast all of my lectures, too? Of course, the immediate concern for me was, "but won't that discourage students from attending lecture?" I should note that I already post all of my lecture outlines to the web. In the course of simply weighing the pros and cons of this idea it quickly became apparent to me that the pros far outweighed the cons. Here's what I've come up with so far:

    Pros:
  • Students who cannot attend class (sickness, etc.) can hear the lectures straight from the horse's mouth
  • Students can review lectures when studying for tests (with fast forward, rewind, and pause capabilities!)
  • Faculty can review and improve lecture presentation skills
  • Peers/supervisors/administrators can better evaluate classroom teaching style (with no additional burden to the faculty member!)
  • Allows prospective students to "sample" your class (free advertising!)
  • Minimal additional work/effort on teacher's part to produce

    Cons:
  • Students may conclude it's unimportant to attend class if they can get the lecture notes and audio from the website
  • Security/Copyright concerns

I've thought about these issues quite a bit over the past week and I could probably write a tome about the intricacies of each item above, but with an eye to sparking more blog discussion I'll leave it there.

Looking forward to your feedback!

Ron Schott
rschott@fhsu.edu

re: interesting ideas!

Ron, these are intriguing ideas. I am glad you are charting the technological developments at FHSU, as this is a key moment in which to play a role. The innovations can make learning even more stimulating, and I too had been getting interested in how the popular podcasting could be useful for education. Heart the blog!

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