Podcast Apathy ~ What’s my problem?

I am struggling with why I am having a difficult time embracing podcasts. Many (many!) edtech folks I admire create, consume, and promote podcasting, yet I don’t feel the same enthusiasm. I’ve heard some good podcasts; loaded with info, catchy music, well-produced. I think that listening to audio isn’t my preferred learning style. I long for something more interactive. Listening to a podcast while driving or walking the dogs doesn’t work for me, either. I want to write down what I hear, access the sites mentioned, or contribute to a backchannel. Video podcasts seem to hold my attention better, but again, I want to stop them and browse the resources mentioned. And I just never seem to find a good time to watch them if they are longer than about 10 minutes.

Because of my apathy about listening to podcasts, I tend to shy away from having students create them. I do know how to create them easily with GarageBand, KidPix, etc. I just usually find another way for kids to express themselves with audio; like with a VoiceThread or recorded Keynote. I have heard some great student podcasts. Radio WillowWeb is still among the best. I just don’t see students or their parents sitting and listening to a 20 minute podcast about Native Americans or whatever.

What’s wrong with me?

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4 Responses

  1. I don’t think that you are alone. My Principal recently asked “why?”, “Why, are people interested in it?” I didn’t have a clear cut answer for him. I guess if you don’t have video capabilities then a podcast is the way to go. I personally like seeing the video.

  2. There’s nothing wrong with you. The medium has to be suited to the assignment. I’ve had students create podcasts for dramatic readings of literature (think old-timey radio shows) and for practicing Middle English pronunciation and fluency (and, secondarily, as providing a model for intrepid Googling English majors or grad students who may be searching for audio clips of Middle English). I’ve also had them record audio to accompany slideshows, but I would never have them podcast a research paper, for example. All those assignments used audio recording as one component of a larger project and skill practice (e.g., drafting & revising, graphic design, characterization, tone, summarizing, etc.), and they fit the verbal nature of the assignments. I don’t feel like I forced the fit with any of these.

    If you can’t find a nice, natural fit for the technology in the assignment, it’s better not to use it. You seem to have found that with VT/Keynote assignments. I guess a question you could ask might be, “If I had no access to recording equipment, would/could/should there still be a verbal component to this project?” If the answer is yes, it might be a good candidate for a podcasting project. I know many foreign language teachers who use podcasting and Skype in their classes because it suits their subject matter and modality well.

    For what it’s worth, pretty much the only time I listen to podcasts is in my car on my way to or from work. I rarely sit at my computer and listen; I’d much rather read!

  3. There’s nothing wrong with you, it’s just a matter of style or perhaps you don’t have a purpose for podcasts (and that’s perfectly OK). I think one of the problems is that podcasts, like many things, has become the flavor of the year. Often we’re left to believe, if we’re not engaging our kids in creating podcasts, then we must not be 21st Century Teachers, right?

    Creating a podcast for the sake of a product is hardly a good reason to have kids do podcasting, yet I see that happen all the time. Often teachers begin with the product in mind first and don’t really think about what the students might be learning while they are creating the podcast or what they are sharing during the podcast (and who their audience might be). Instead the goal is to have a product that is impressive and podcasts certainly are; if done well. Even if not done well, people are easily impressed by anything digital. In my opinion, there aren’t too many examples of really well-done student-created podcasts out there.

    I think you have to take into consideration the age of your students and their needs. It sounds like you are doing some great project-based activities with your kids using VoiceThread or Keynote. I wouldn’t give podcasts another thought!

  4. Is the traditional podcast going away because video podcasts are much better?

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