Instructor Testimonial: The Benefits of Having Students Podcast

Professor BJ Roche from the Journalism Department shares her thoughts on the benefits of having students podcast and shares tips for other instructors considering having students podcast:

In journalism, as in many other areas, it’s becoming increasingly important for students to understand that their presentation matters as much as the content. Most students are terrible speakers, they mumble and use “like” a lot. Podcasting requires them to think about how they sound, and it requires them to write for the ear as well as the eye. This is increasingly important in the digital age.

A podcasting assignment requires the development of several skills: the research and writing of a topic; the choice of tone and musical accompaniment; the delivery, which includes thinking about breathing, diction and cadence; and the technical aspects of editing and revising the voice track.

So it’s definitely worth doing. The technology now makes it easier than ever. We used Garageband to record, but you can also use easier, simpler programs, like Audacity, which is available as a free download, and is an excellent way to get started.

My first podcasting assignment was to write and produce a segment of “This I Believe,” the popular essay segment on National Public Radio, (www.thisibelieve.org).

Students had to read several esssays on the website, then come up with their own “belief” and write about it. Students recorded their essays on their own digital recorders, then brought them to class for our Garageband workshop. By the end of a two-hour session, we had finished products.

Tips for faculty:
Keep the focus on the writing! Make sure the writing has been revised, revised, revised, so it’s the best it can be.
Keep the assignment short–no more than 3-4 minutes, which is about 400-500 words. This I Believe is a good format, because they are short, wide-ranging in subject and emotion. My recent favorite: Penn Jillette’s This I Believe

Have students record their pieces ahead of time so they have “tape” to work with in class.
Grading is based on the quality of the writing, and the tone, i.e., does the delivery, music and sound effects add up to a cohesive feeling about the piece?

You can listen to some of the results here: scroll down to October 10.
http://umassjournalismwebwriting.blogspot.com/2007_10_01_archive.html

Instructor Perspective: Creating Regular Podcasts of Interviews

Matt Militello from the School of Education writes: “I use Podcasts between each class. Students subscribe to the Podcast through their music program. Most often they involve administrative reminders- e.g. what to read for next week. However, I have been conducting interviews with authors of many of the articles we are reading for class. This has provided students with context and a voice as they read. For example, students read Ahnee-Benham, M. (2002). An alternative perspective of educational leadership for change: Reflections on Native/Indigenous ways of knowing. In K. Leithwood & P. Hallinger (Eds.), Second International Handbook of Educational Leadership and Administration (pp. 133-166). Dordrecht: Khower Academic Publishing. I interviewed Dr. Benham with my iPod not about the content of the article, but rather her rationale for writing through a critical lens and how this type of work can help current practitioners. I also had the opportunity to interview Dr. Francisco Guajardo the University of Texas Pan American. Francisco discussed his use of digital stories with the youth-based organization he began with his brother (Miguel Guajardo, assistant professor at Texas State University) in South Texas called Llano Grande.”

A sample of Professor Militello’s weekly podcasts (the interview with Franciso Guajardo) and a sample digital story from a student in my class (Quick Time format) can be downloaded from: Link to Podcast and Digital Story

Read more about Professor Militello’s experience with podcasting at: http://www.leadertalk.org/2007/03/technology_embe.html

Instructor Perspective: How are Podcasts Useful?

Journalism Department Professor BJ Roche writes: “As a writer, I use podcasting on my website, www.bjroche.com. It’s one more way to get my writing out to an audience, and I have been surprised at the response to my little forays into podcasting. People seem to like them, for example this funny essay about procrastination.


https://udrive.oit.umass.edu/bjroche/How_not_to_be_a_writer.mp3

As a receiver of information, I download podcasts from all sorts of sites, like vanguard.com, which offers information on investing, and magazines like Business Week, which offer lots of podcasts about career management. Also, NPR offers a morning podcast of the 7 a.m. news, which is good to download and take on the go while I’m in the car.

I believe it’s a real medium of the future.”

Student Responses to Podcasting

From Journalism 392W Writing for the Web students (provided by BJ Roche):

“We’re using a medium that’s far more friendly to this generation.”
“It’s portable and ready to go.”
“You can take it in at your leisure, when you’re most receptive to information.”
“As journalists, we’ll probably end up doing things like this, so good to learn how to work with audio.”
“Fairly easy to make one.”

Additional comments from Professor Roche: “It’s also easy to send parents the links so they can “hear” the students’ work. Increasingly, journalists are being asked to work “cross platform,” for print, audio and video. These students are learning to do that. We have a course next semester in narrative news podcasting.”

Instructor Perspective: Having Students Create Podcasts?

David Perkins from the Journalism Department tells us: “Listening to themselves –and imaginging an audience–forces [students] to prepare well, think things through, and write clearly. I think this is good for their writing. Academic writing models are full of jargon and inside talk, podcasting presumes a lay audience, since you have to imagine anyone listening in.”