Thursday, 28 February 2008

Pathfinder podcasting special interest group: what did I learn?

A few lessons learned from the HEA podcasting special interest group [ Podcasting for Pedagogic Purposes], held in Chester, on February 28.
  1. Two interesting questions were raised, which need to be disseminated to academics thinking of podcasting: why is audio valuable? Why does audio work?
  2. How do we move our use of podcasting forward beyond the end of our Pathfinder project? I am wondering whether we can get some of our leaders (Deans, Directors etc.) to cast some pods, about particular institutional or operational issues. Malcolm, our podfather, is leading a DMU podcasting interest group [PIG] in a discussion about institutional use on April 9.
  3. I am wondering whether we can use podcasting to refresh our staff development approaches, in particular by linking them to pre-work or the outcomes of face-to-face sessions. Steve Mackenzie has been doing some refreshing using synchronous classrooms, and I think we have some professional development opportunities here too.
  4. We need to get some digital voice recorders for continuation beyond the end of the project.
  5. We will produce Pathfinder briefing papers for each WP and for overarching project themes as podcasts.
  6. I wonder whether we can incorporate the metaphor of playlists, with ratings, tags and comments into pedagogic practice. Other possible pedagogic uses included the delivery of better feedback, which could be either personalised or generic. It was felt that students responded well to the tone and sensitivity of an audio file, in particular where a few simple messages were relayed. Students also valued a conversational tone, with clear chapter points around which they could make notes. The argument here was the students moved beyond shallow learning, especially where other tools like blogs or Skype are used for added impact through follow-on activities. In some disciplines, students created podcasts for peer assessment or reports on fieldwork. It was also felt that the time taken to produce simple audio files was less than in the production of text-based feedback.
  7. The impact of podcasting on feedback and assessment depends upon the timing of the audio file release (it links to the student's cycle of engagement with their learning task).
  8. There were some interesting points made about how long you store MP3 files, and institutional policies for these cultural artefacts.
  9. On technologies, some staff indicated that they used iTalk + iPod to create simple MP3 or MP4 files that could then be uploaded onto a blog or wiki. Other staff used a Mac + iPod with mic, and produced the final file using GarageBand and cast it using iTunes.
  10. The Berkeley Opencast project was cited as good practice.

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