I went to an informal workshop/discussion this afternoon held by some folks in Continuing Education about audio files, podcasting, and some other multimedia technologies for teaching, mostly for teaching online. Mostly, a good time was had by one and all– mostly. I think the tech support guys for CE did a good job, and, while I was very much non-prepared and experienced some technical problems (which, on the plus side, gave me a chance to mock Windoze), I think at least some people got something out of what I said. So it was mostly good.

But not completely. Thus the title of my post.

Here are what I saw as the problems:

  • Podcast frenzy! Podcast frenzy! Not all but many of the faculty at this event were there because they had heard of this thing called Podcasting and, based on the buzz, they figured they had better get on the band-wagon and get on right now. But it seemed pretty clear to me that many of these folks– again, not all, but many– really did not know what they would do with a Podcast or if they would ever Podcast or, really, at the end of the day, what a “Podcast” was. I didn’t ask, but it might have been interesting to ask how many of the attendees had actually heard a podcast.
  • Tangent-Land. Somewhere along the line, someone brought up one of those issues, maybe the issue, that always comes up at sessions that involve teaching with technology: what about copyright, what about fair-use? For me, the main reason why these issues are always so frustrating are because no one— certainly no one has not made IP and copyright their full-time business– knows the answer. Furthermore, no one– certainly no one in academia– wants to admit that they don’t know the answer. So what ends up happening is people talk about things they may (or may not) know about IP and copyright, at least until someone says something like “we can’t solve that now, so let’s just move on.” Ultimately, I think this fear of the rules and not knowing them and being afraid of some unknown consequences are enough to chill innovation. But that’s kind of a tangent in itself, so let’s move on.
  • We can’t do that, real and fake. Okay, there is a lot of things we really can’t do with online classes and with things like podcasting. We can’t assume that all of the students have a high-speed internet access (though most of them do). We can’t assume students have this or that kind of computer, which is also probably true. But then there’s the fake can’t due. For example, it became clear after a while that there were any number of things that were just a lot easier to do with a Mac. So someone asked at one point “So, does that mean we can’t do this stuff if we don’t have a Mac?” (And, of course, my answer is why don’t you have a Mac already?)

    The most troublesome “we (or really, you) can’t do that” of the afternoon for me is I was told that it was “against the rules” for me to use a non-EMU server space to host teaching materials, as in any of the pages available here. The conversations I had after this event with various folks suggests this is just wrong, but again, it’s another example of a knee-jerk “we can’t do that” for no good reason sort of rule. Sounds like an administrator to me….

7 thoughts on “Buzz-kill”

  1. Sounds like the best approach is to just do what you need to do without getting bogged down in any of the tangents. I’d be curious to know whether any of the discussion centered on student-created podcasts vs instructor materials, especially for the distance ed classes. Again, if you want, it can be done, but I bet there are few doing it.

  2. During the spring semester, my technical writing students created documentation for podcasting without a mac. Currently, you may see them at

    The documentation was created for our client, the IUSB Writing Center. Eventually, they may post the documentation, but I think the Writing Center is planning on creating podcasts of their own. The plan is to record tutorial sessions for students to listen to later. They may also use it to record grammar podcasts, but I’m finding it difficult to believe students would download them. I’d love to know the statistics of use for Boilercasts.

    I’ve heard that IUPUI has some excellent rules listed on their website regarding fair use and other relevant issues. But I agree with Daniel, podcast away and don’t get snagged up in all of the side issues.

  3. As far as students making podcasts go: That wasn’t on the table at all during this session. It was all about instructors “broadcasting” content.

    I’m supposed to be working on a revision of an article right now where I am talking about the use of audio files and podcasts as teaching tools in an online class. Initially, I didn’t assign podcasting as a student activity for a bunch of reasons, In my way of thinking about it, the reason for including audio files in my class (which I think is different from podcasting because there’s no RSS feed with these files and they are built in to a class shell for my teaching) was simply to help deliever some instructional content to my students– stuff kind of like a lecture.

    I also thought it would be hard to require students podcast, at least at EMU, since they really don’t have the technology or the know-how. If I were teaching this class on campus and if I had easy enough access to a computer lab, that might be a different story.

    After I started “doing just audio” for my class cms, I figured out how to set up a podcast and I also figured out how to set up a podcast with audioblogger. This is how I do Krause’s English 328 Podcast, in part as a modeling tool for my students. I’ve encouraged my students to set up podcasts of their own, but so far, no one has taken my up on it. My theory is is that my students are willing to put their writing into a quasi-public space, but when it comes to their voice out there, well, that’s a different thing. I for one am not a fan of the sound of my own voice…

    Anyway, this is a long way of saying that my thinking on all this has been evolving. I’m teaching online right now, and I might try to push podcasting a bit more for the second part of the term. We’ll see how it goes….

    As for the tutorials: my article is turning into half teaching practice, half theorizing about the ways that students do (or don’t) use these audio files, and half tutorial about how I did what I did. Yes, my article is as big as three halves….

  4. I like the 328 podcast site–great idea to organize them all in a separate space. Also it looks like the audioblogger is a pretty elegant solution. So, do you use the telephone to record the podcasts?

  5. Yep, just a cell phone. Audioblogger is kind of a buggy service– sometimes, I just cannot get it to work– and it limits posts to five minutes. But it is completely free, and if you can make a phone call and have a blog on blogger, it will work.

    I also have a Feedburner Feed set up for it, too, and you can subscribe to it via iTunes.

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