tales of podcasting

As soon as I started teaching in an online context, I busted out my microphone and started podcasting. I knew I didn’t want my lessons to be text-based — I had taken online and distance courses and found that was not a style of learning that served me well. But I also didn’t think it was realistic to produce a weekly video lecture, nor was it necessarily desirable for students on the go.

(I realize I’m saying this on an almost entirely text-based blog. I contain multitudes.)

Enter the podcast.

My early podcasts were rough: probably too long, and definitely dull. Over the years, I’ve learned to keep my podcasts to about 30-45 minutes (I don’t expect face-to-face students to tolerate more than 30 minutes of straight lecturing; it would be unreasonable to expect it of my online students!), to use music cues and breaks to separate sections so it’s easier to listen to in chunks, and to offer both streaming and downloadable options for students to use (I get pretty much 50/50 take-up for the two methods).

My students have had a lot of positive things to say about podcasting as a tool. Busy parents listen to lectures while they ferry kids around; athletes listen while they train. I love the intimacy of talking about nuanced, challenging lecture material in my students’ ears. And I can see clear evidence of lecture engagement in their essays.

My failing to this point is on the issue of transcripts. I don’t script the podcasts — they’re more like the reflective process of a class lecture, where I select passages on a theme and riff on their connections — and that makes it difficult. I supply students with a list of the themes and passages, but there’s certainly content that gets missed in there. Ultimately, I need to prepare proper transcripts, and I will — it’s always an issue of time, and I don’t have the easy workaround for podcasts that I do for video blogs.

I’m thinking of using PD time and money this summer to use a service like Trint to produce transcripts, provided I’ll be teaching this course again (and here as always the mercenary realities of course scheduling and commitments and release butt up against my UDL ideals — was it ever thus?).

(If you’re curious to hear what one of my podcasts sounds like, you can check a sample lecture out here. And don’t say I didn’t warn you: it’s a barebones affair. But I own a good mic.)