Invitation to a podcast on podcasts

Recently, I read an article by Ian Lamont about podcasting. Written for a business journal, the author questioned whether podcasting had actually lived up to the hype that had been generated a few years before. He looked at the value in monetary terms with podcasting and asked whether the technology was actually paying off. Essentially, he was asking “How many people are listening?”


Of course, loyal readers of this blog are well aware that I hate when education is compared to business, and I also don’t like people saying that we should do something in education because the “real world” wants us too. (Like education is not part of the real world.)


But pod casting is something that has rapidly matured as a technology, of course inside and outside of education. So, perhaps it isn’t untimely to ask now, whether or not pod casting has lived up to the hype in the education community.


So, I can’t answer this alone. I will need your help.

On Tuesday April 22, 2008, at 4:00 PM Mountain Daylight Time, I will be hosting a one hour Skype chat to discuss the topic: Has Podcasting in Education Lived Up to the Hype?


If you wish to join in on the audio Skypecast, please send Tim Holt in El Paso Texas a buddy invitation so I can add you to list of participants.


It would be very neat to hear from people all over the world on whether or not Podcasting is working as promised, what is being done with podcasting, and whether or not the technology needs to improve.


Let me know if you are in!

Views: 21

Comment by Sharon Eilts on April 15, 2008 at 1:21pm
Never done a podcast!
Comment by Michael McVey on April 15, 2008 at 1:49pm
I'll be driving back from a conference on the other side of the state, but I'd be game. In fact, I'm working on a series of podcasts about podcasting. The technology is certainly ripe for a moment of introspection, but I think it will fare well but a few caveats.
Comment by nlowell on April 15, 2008 at 2:21pm
I can't attend at that time, Tim, but it's an interesting topic. As a podcaster myself, I have to say, "We haven't scratched the surface."

In the first place, podcasting hasn't "promised" anything. That's a cute idea but misses the point. Most people still think a podcast is an audio or video file that you store on a server for people to download. For the record, a podcast is any file that is delivered via RSS. It could be audio, video, wordprocessing files, pdfs, or any other kind of content that can be encapulate as an enclosure in an RSS feed. So long as the majority of people (not just teachers) fail to make that differentiation, we're going to have problems. Podcast isn't an audio archive. Podcast is a distribution schema the same way that radio, tv, and magazines are. It's a mechanism for delivery, not a content type. Emphasis on delivery.

In the second place, most "educational" podcasts aren't. There are a lot of people who are putting recorded lectures on their websites for students to download and calling those podcasts. They're not terribly educational, and they're not podcasts. Lectures *can* be delivered via podcast but when you can do a REAL instructional audio piece, using 'phone it in' applications of audio technology as "educational" podcasting ... that's just missing the boat. And putting it on your server without an associated feed automatically disqualifies it as a podcast.

In the third place, the technology is good. It can always improve, but most people get waaaay too carried away with the technology without paying attention to the basics of message design. It's like thinking that having a really good camera will make you take terrific pictures. Ya, it helps to have professional grade tools, but if you don't understand composition, light, and color, then it won't matter how fine your control of aperture, shutter speed, and film.

Likewise with podcasting -- and I'll just talk about audio here since it's the most flexible -- if you don't understand the difference between compelling text and compelling speech, your mastery of CUBase LE won't matter. If you think that recording your lecture as you deliver it to the class and putting it on your website for students to download constitutes an 'educational podcast' then we *really* need to talk.

The bottom line on technology is that if you have mastered audio content creation, then the current tools are relatively cheap and easy to use already. If you're willing to invest a little in equipment, you can get MUCH better, but that's no more necessary than trading your Ford for a Lamborghini for a drive to the coast. In both cases, you need to know how to drive before the vehicle matters.

I appreciate that I'm probably kicking a few people in the stomach here, but I don't know who's doing what so it's nothing personal. I think it's a horrible practice. If you do it, I'm sure you have good reason, but you're not doing "educational podcasting" any favors. Just my opinion. You're welcome to disagree, but you're not going to change my mind. As with anything, there's an exception to the rule, but dont mistake the exception for common practice.

Last, I don't use podcasts with my class because I have neither the time nor the inclination to produce the kind of quality audio needed to for educational purposes. I *do* podcast and you can find my work on Podiobooks.com and iTunes.

Summary, the potential is huge. The barriers are low. The skill and knowledge needed to make podcasting an important delivery mechanism for educational resources are not unattainable. What's lacking is a willingness to learn the basics and the persistent misconceptions about what constitutes podcasting in general and educational podcasting in particular.
Comment by Sharon Eilts on April 15, 2008 at 2:37pm
You have said all the things I have been thinking but didn't have the words to articulate. I haven't done a podcast because those that I have heard are just an audio of someone "talking." They didn't feel pedagogical at all. Thanks for the notion that we need to have them be great and only after having some kind of professional development that supports it.
Comment by Anne Mirtschin on April 15, 2008 at 3:15pm
Hi Tim, I would like to attend from Australia, but I will have to check our time zone times with yours. We are gmt+10 as I may be teaching at that time. No, having just checked the time it is early morning here so I will try and attend.
Comment by janien on April 15, 2008 at 3:21pm
In Sharon Eilts' words I say: "never done a podcast" ... But I think it must be a great tool, when you can use it, especially in language learning. I want to experiment. Thank you for your invitation, Tim!
Comment by Michael McVey on April 15, 2008 at 3:42pm
Thank you, nlowell. You have outlined the precise argument I have been making this year. I must note, however, there are articles in the popular press I have encountered that have overtly promised that podcasting will improve grades, retention, excitement for learning, and will toss a salad and serve it to you all at once. I daresay people still have yet to talk in terms of the variety of podcasts including, as you say, the variety of file types that can be fed into an RSS Feed.
Comment by Jeff Utecht on April 15, 2008 at 4:02pm
I'll be on a bus on my way to school. Sorry I missed it sounds like a great conversation!
Comment by nlowell on April 15, 2008 at 4:04pm
Yea, I know, Mike, but that's just more edu-snake oil. We're awash in it. We've got cases upon cases of magic bullets, too, but we seem to be missing the magical calibre firearms that they go into.
Comment by Tim Holt on April 15, 2008 at 5:27pm
Here is the original article that got me thinking about this topic:

http://www.thestandard.com/news/2008/04/11/why-podcasting-failing

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