If you missed the 2017 Teaching, Learning and Innovation Summer Institute (TLISI) or would like to revisit a TLISI topic, follow along with us as as we feature various sessions on the Prospect blog over the course of the 2017-18 academic year. We’ll be sharing posts on the following themes: Teaching in the Jesuit Tradition, Incorporating Difficult and Timely Topics, Innovative Teaching Practices, Technology Enhanced Learning, Evidence-based Teaching and Learning, Inclusive Pedagogies, and Cross-Institutional & Cross-Departmental Collaborations. Many of the sessions were recorded and are viewable on Digital Georgetown (accessible by anyone with a Georgetown NetID). You can also find a links to all of our recorded sessions on the TLISI Resources page. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook and sign up for our newsletter to stay updated on posts and more!
How can you incorporate podcasts into your classroom, and why should you?
In the TLISI “Live from the Classroom” session on May, 23, 2017, Nikoo Yahyazadeh, a Multimedia Specialist at Georgetown University’s Gelardin New Media Center, discussed how teachers might begin to think about incorporating podcasts into their classrooms. One important take-away she stressed was the concept that professors should not feel limited by their own technical proficiencies when it comes to incorporating technology into the classroom. The Gelardin New Media Center can help faculty implement podcasts assignments and guide their students through the technical processes of creating podcasts
Yahyazadeh encouraged those who are thinking about creating podcasts to think critically about the media and why they want to work in that form, and also encouraged educators to consider the amount of planning time necessary for classroom integration. A podcast assignment can be time consuming for students and can take just as much effort to grade as a traditional essay. Implementing a podcast in one course may not be as successful or effective as implementing it every semester again and again and improving the process.
Faculty who are interested in implementing podcasts into their courses can follow the below helpful steps, and can reach out to Gelardin for additional support.
The first step is inspiration, which can also be the most stressful step. A good podcast for a classroom is one that connects to the learning goals and helps the class to understand the content of the course in a deeper and more engaging way, rather than just having the assignment be the equivalent of an audio book report. It is also important to consider the structure of the podcast and narrative presented. An effective podcast builds upon itself every week not only requires a coherent narrative, but also demands the engagement of the listener from beginning to end. A more traditional radio show , however, allows for a listener to drop in and out of different episodes.
The second step is preparation. To develop the assignment, it is necessary for professors to develop a rubric for what they would like to see reflected in the final projects, and to consider such things as whether the students are allowed to use copyrighted material or whether they should work independently or with partners. A breakdown of deadlines is also helpful in keeping students stay on track (such as a timeline for a finalized script, interviews, and edits to the podcast) , and it is often helpful to incorporate time for peer feedback.
The last stage of launching a podcast is implementation. This is the exciting, hands-on part of the process, and the stage where it might be helpful to have students come into Gelardin for the initial equipment and software training and to learn about the process of using mics, set-ups, and programs like GarageBand. Gelardin can also offer follow-up lab time and follow-up one-on-one consultations.
No matter what form the final podcast may take, however, as a platform for scholarship and creating a dissemination of knowledge outside of academic formats, many professors at Georgetown have found podcasts useful in expanding the impact of a course outside of the classroom and helping their students to engage more fully with the course material.
Adam Rothman (History) spoke about his experience in implementing a podcast assignment in his undergraduate course, American Studies 272: Facing Georgetown’s History. Rothman explained that this class came out of a pre-existing curriculum in the American Studies department focusing on Georgetown’s history of slavery and spoke on the importance of the podcast to the learning goals of the course, which was socially engaged and aimed to produce knowledge that would benefit the public. He explained how he wanted students to produce knowledge that would actively advance the goals of Georgetown’s Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation. He thought that the potential of the podcast to become public would encourage students to take their projects more seriously and commit more fully – as the stakes were raised and the students knew that people other than their professor might end up listening.
Rothman played clips of the various projects students had chosen, which included interviewing descendants, discussing the privileging of acceptance for descendants of slaves, an exploration of the history of families who had sued for their freedom in the 19th century, and another podcast based around a photograph.
Marcia Chatelain (History) discussed a podcast she created called “Office Hours: The Podcast,” which she developed after realizing there was a critical mass of students whose personal lives and individual struggles went virtually unknown by their professors. In this she saw a divide between access and quality of experience of students in universities, and hoped that a podcast could shed light on these students and help to form a model for other professors of ways to engage their students and get to know them while still maintaining professional boundaries.
On her podcast, Chatelain interviews one student a week around a general theme. She played a variety of clips from her show and then spoke about h the specific ways she approached recording difficult conversations with students, such as making sure they felt comfortable with the process by having them review the final edit before it was made public, and asking students to wait and think about it for a week before releasing the podcasts online. She also noted that most students are very familiar with the notion of how things on the internet will last forever, and that many have already experienced things like trolling and cyberbullying and know what they are getting into. With that said, many of the students revealed very personal things on her podcast and so she remained constant and vigilant about students’ comfort. She often asked: have you spoken about these personal matters publicly before? Chatelain emphasized that the point of this podcast was to be a conversation between the student and the community, not an exposé.
Of course, despite their unique benefits, podcasts also pose challenges for faculty in terms of determining how to grade these nontraditional assignments and measure their outcomes. Panelists mentioned that it is possible to grade students holistically based on how dedicated they are to the podcast, independent of the quality of editing or even of writing (since many conversations on podcasts are extemporaneous), but that a more exact rubric, evaluating the podcast specifically for certain goals in terms of content, analysis, and editing (whether the podcast incorporated sound effects, for example), could also be used. Other complicating factors of Podcast use that should be taken into consideration are students’ comfort with hearing their own voices, the possibility of a podcast to extend to a wider audience, who might be listening outside of the understood context of the class, and the appropriateness of the monetization of podcasts and use of ads. However, despite the technical, conceptual, and ideological considerations and imaginings that often accompany the creation of a podcast, all panelists agreed that the conversations they have inspired in their courses and for their students have been meaningful.