Tag Archives: science

Podcasting problems and potential

After my initial reservations over the recent podcasting exercise we were given – small groups, prepare a podcast of approximately 10 mins duration, including music – I ended up quite enjoying it.  My colleagues and I certainly had fun recording and editing the piece, and we even managed a serious discussion about the pros and cons of MYP.  Then the gremlins in the computer ate it and regurgitated it in an unrecognizable fashion.  This is certainly frustrating, but provides an important lesson.  When technology functions as it is designed to, it is awesome.  When it doesn’t, it sets you back big style.

frustration-by-dieselbug20071 on flickr.com

frustration-by-dieselbug20071 on flickr.com

We ended up starting the assignment again from scratch and re-recording the entire thing.  It actually took us half the time on the second attempt since our learning curve had been practically vertical.  Lessons learned from podcasting, in no particular order:
  • Plan an outline of what the podcast will be about and break it down in sections.  First time around we rambled on for ages.  On the rerun we were much more succinct and subjected our listeners to considerably less waffle.
  • Try to do the whole thing in one take without stopping the recorder.  It is much easier to edit out the bits that you don’t want rather than having several tracks to deal with and splice into each other.
  • Save, save and save again – after every amendment.
  • Make a note of the times on the recorder to give you an idea of where to look when editing.
  • Have everything ready before you begin.  Choose your music first, so you can properly acknowledge the source during your single take.

You can listen to the final version here.

Initially I had trouble seeing how this tool could be used in my lessons in a meaningful way, but then a little light bulb went on over my head.  Oh, and I did a bit of reading as well. I am certain that I am not the first person to come up with this idea, and it is no doubt being done to great effect in countless other educational establishments.  The notion I have is that next year’s grade 9 Integrated Science students can produce a fortnightly podcast in groups of 2 or 3.  This would mean each student having to produce one per semester, but they would be required to listen to several more.  They must make it on some aspect of science in the news, so it will be current.  Something short – say 5 mins – should not be too onerous, and would therefore not take too long to listen to – either in class or on a student’s ipod any time they choose.  Read more about the benefits of this here.

I like this because it will (hopefully) encourage students to read about current scientific issues, and allow them to share their findings with their classmates.  I have done something similar in the past, but instead of making a podcast, students were required to summarize the news article.  I was the only audience, and the most interesting pieces ended up on a noticeboard which nobody read.  I can see podcasting in this way allowing students to make connections between what we are learning in class and the big wide world outside of school, and having to talk about the article in a podcast may eliminate the “cut and paste” temptation.  I guess not if they just read the article out loud, but this is to be discouraged.  I’m envisioning the need to model a really good podcast as a demo for them to start off with.  Maybe even listen for homework and then comment on the class blog.  The group could even email the scientists involved to set up a skype interview for the class – the possibilities are endless!

Watch this space…

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