Don’t look to me for a feel-good story about podcasting…
Podcasts have been used in a few of my classes and I always choose to read the transcript instead, if there is one available. That’s because I can read the transcript at my own pace – rereading and writing notes – without the added need for manipulating a recording while attempting to attend to the spoken word and comprehending through slow speech, a monotone voice, or unfamiliar accents. This may not be the PC answer that you were looking for, but I calls ’em as I sees ’em.
What’s the big deal? Content is content in a podcast. If you want to learn about quantum mechanics, Stanford has provided some podcasts for that. And look no further than Yale for podcasts on the philosophy of death. If you want to learn how to create a podcast, there is a podcast for that! [Here comes the but.] But, there is no interaction with the presenter in a podcast.
There are no opportunities for further discussion or to ask the speaker for clarification. The most that one can hope for is a comment box (to where…nowhere?). Now, provide me with synchronous access to an individual of interest who has knowledge or experiences to share and – absolutely – I want to see and hear them, but there is potential for interaction in that experience! For me, that interaction makes all the difference…
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not stating that there is no value in podcasting. Absolutely not. All that I am saying is that emerging technologies have given us new and exciting options and that we should consider fit – fit to objectives, fit to content, fit to context – before we decide how to incorporate them into our practice.
This brings me to my first point – versatility. Some of my peers really enjoyed that opportunity to listen to podcasts. They liked hearing the content – they found that they could attend to it well through listening and/or watching and they liked being able to listen in the car, on the treadmill, etc. I am not good at attending to the spoken word. My mind wanders – just like it did back in the fifth grade – and I find myself staring out the window and daydreaming about lunch and recess. Hey, at least I’m honest.
Versatility is about a variety of options for providing and consuming content, in addition to the co-creation of new content. The other fantastic thing about Web 2.0 is the creativity that can be harnessed in the co-creation of content with the existence of emerging technologies and the media sharing that they support. As a learner, would you rather hear that you are going to be watching a movie or making a movie? Like podcasting, watching a movie represents a unidirectional flow of content. Of course, discussion points or activities may be added throughout, but the movie itself is just slightly more exciting than reading text with lots of pictures. After all, in a movie, the pictures move…
What happens when the boundaries that traditionally define and separate the roles of teacher and learner are blurred and content is co-created with digital media rather than just being consumed? Creativity takes over and shared media allows the learners and the learning to enter the global classroom. Global classrooms are not restricted by walls and rosters. Just the opposite. Global classrooms share and build on content. Global classrooms are student-directed, networked, participatory learning experiences. What does that mean? Can’t imagine what that looks like? Well, watch this! Or this!
So, what, exactly, is this? This is a digital ethnography project that was led by Dr. Michael Wesch, a cultural anthropologist and 2008 U.S. Professor of the Year, when he was teaching at Kansas State University. This is his story on how digital media has taken off exponentially and how his project, Mediated Cultures, came to be. When it comes to unpacking the impacts of new digital media on the Web, Dr. Wesch says it best in that “it’s not just about information, it’s actually about linking people…and linking people in ways that we have never been linked before and in ways that we can’t even predict.”
Emerging technologies and digital media give us new tools and new opportunities for teaching and learning. They give us versatility in how we present and exchange information and foster creativity in how we share media, apply it to our own unique context, and co-create new content through collaborative knowledge building. Offering a variety of methods with which to interact and exchange and create content puts the learner in the driver’s seat. The learner can then choose the optimal method to accommodate the how, when, and where of their learning experience and determine the size of their own classroom. Versatility and creativity in teaching and learning, of that I am a fan.