Sunday, April 09, 2006

turn off the radio

What is the significance of podcasting?

The slightly hyped optimistic view from Doc Searls:
PODcasting will shift much of our time away from an old medium where we wait for what we might want to hear to a new medium where we choose what we want to hear, when we want to hear it, and how we want to give everybody else the option to listen to it as well.
- Doc Searls, DIY radio with PODcasting
POD = Personal Option Digital, or, Personal On Demand

I've been looking around for some theorising about podcasting and its significance in the scheme of things. Some comments by Clarence Fisher at Remote Access were helpful:
Have they learned in this time what podcasting is all about? Should we be continuing, or should we move on? This is always the question that teachers are asking themselves, but in many ways, it comes directly back to what we believe educational spaces are for, and about the value of what happens in our classrooms.

When we move on, when we leave a project or a concept behind, we do so because we believe that kids have mastered, to the greatest degree possible, whatever it is that we are wanting to teach them. We can't obviously do everything at one time so we need to move through content using multiple forms of representation, allowing kids time and effort to acquire the expertise of showcasing their knowledge and understanding in various ways.

So how does blogging and podcasting fit into this idea? Blogging truly doesn't. Blogs are a reflective space where kids work through their knowledge in ways that are almost always formative. Blogs are spaces where kids write, think, re - write, and re - think. Their ideas are undergoing constant redevelopment in this space and as educators, our role is to support and empower their understanding, and their (hopefully), increasingly deepened understanding of what they are doing. Without this growth, blogs simply turn into online journals. So blogging is not a space or a form of representation that can ever be mastered. A students can never reap all of the benefits possible from blogging. The next post may always bring new insight from someone you have never heard from before. Blogging needs to be an always ongoing process.

Podcasts are different. First of all, podcasting is not about the conversation like blogging is. Certainly we see instances of a podcast starting a debate, other people chiming in with their opinions either on blogs or on podcasts of their own, and the debate continuing; but podcasts, like we are recording them anyway, are a stand - along work. My students have made podcasts on entertainment, book reviews, the latest movies, health and exercise, etc. These pieces can certainly be listened to and commented on both for audio quality and for the quality of the recorded content, but they are far less a conversation then our blogs are.
I also found another discussion, what is real podcasting, which presents a sort of podcasting manifesto, a comparison with traditional radio, which includes points such as:
- is personal - the podcaster talk about his personal life, feelings, emotions, expression of one's mind***

- with spontaneity*

- improvise, explore the unknown which is of course what brings in innovation*

- portable*

- available in any time and space*

- free*

- directly connected to the web*

- organic and alive, can start or stop at any time*
But when I read the critical comments at the end of this blog, they had more weight to me than the "manifesto" itself, particularly the comment from Patrick who said:
"what can you embed in a podcast? chapter markers, images? Links? Could you have live links when someone says something?"

and also,
"... because radio is an audio-based linear-time medium, the conventions that exist in current 'traditional' radio are there like the conventions of typography, and the medium (lead type vs. laser printer) didn't really change the basic rules"

Patrick's comments seemed to tie in with Clarence's view that blogging is conceptually more significant than podcasting.

Clarence has a consistent theme running through his blog that we are moving into a new world, where networking assumes far greater importance. I liked the way in which he explored this theme. Of course, podcasting is important from this perspective so that creates some counter balance.

At this stage, the bottom line for me is this: Blogs are machine searchable, podcasts are not. From my understanding of XML/RSS this makes a huge difference.

I'm particularly interested in other views on this one.

UPDATE:(10th April)

I'm wrong!! Podcasts are machine searchable. Here are links to podscope and podzinger, which do just that. Thanks to Peter Allen and Sean FitzGerald for putting me right about that.

I'm suitably astonished but also delighted that things are moving so fast

From the podzinger About page there is a link to BBN which explains the technology



Blogger Ewan McIntosh said...

Trying to dfine how podcasts help the learning process, either by making them or listening to them, can be helpful in using the tools correctly. My problem is when personal reflection becomes, as you put it, like a manifesto or 'thou shalt' document which newbies take as gospel, instead of thinking for themselves.

This is also one of the biggest problems in teachers taking on these technologies. For once, they require the teacher to think about how they are teaching and require the students to do some work. The 'old' classroom of PowerPoint teacher-led lessons with worksheets and 'interactive' hotpots games is a world away from what these technologies can bring to learning.

Would you agree that it's too young a technology to start saying categorically how it should be used?

11:11 PM  
Blogger Bill Kerr said...

hi ewan,

It is a young technology but I'd like to find more attempts to sum up the experience of using it by teachers. Just thoughtful reflections, not manifestos. Clarence Fisher at Remote Access is providing this - my article is partly a call for similar sorts of reflections by others. I think I was thinking, "blogging is good so podcasting will be good", but now I think that podcasting will be different and probably more difficult to implement. So, I'm looking for guidance since it's a new area for me and I'm more of a writer than a radio show producer.

4:42 PM  
Blogger Vicki A. Davis said...

Today I wrote about how podcasts are changing because they can be more effectively searched.

With the ability to convert voice to text and text to voice I believe that podcasts will indeed add to the conversation. The exciting thing is entrance that podcasts will give to students who are blind or have issues with written text. As the seamlessness of written and oral text blur on the Internet everything changes!

10:33 AM  
Blogger Bill Kerr said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:08 PM  
Blogger Bill Kerr said...

I visited vicki davis' site (coolcatteacher) and found both her own comments v. useful and some of her links too

podcast interview with bob sprankle (room 208) about how he makes a podcast and the learning rationale behind it- at the end, he is asked and answers the question, "what new learning is this producing?", at some great length. There is also a summary of important points by David Warlick right at the end.
create recordings from your browser or phone (simple way to start the process?)

details about podzinger, searching podcasts

more vicki
this made me realise that for my new game making team work projects I should be using a wiki not blogs

10:12 PM  

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