Web 2.0 Booklet

Friday, March 16, 2007

Podcasting in Peoria: How is podcasting being used in one school district

By Shawn Wheeler

Over the past ten years there have been a number of “new” technologies to hit the market that caused me to become extremely excited. I am sure it is no shock to read that one of my first passions with the computer was the ability to edit video. In fact, I was so enamoured with this technology I gladly gave Apple Computers 3000 of my hard earned dollars for a Macintosh Performa 6400 with an Avid Video card. After making only a few videos, I began to lose interest.

Was the technology bad? Of course not, in fact it was outstanding. However, I discovered that it required a substantial amount of effort to produce a product and it really didn’t fit into my curriculum. Let’s face it, edited or not, Christmas morning videos are still not exciting.

Several years later, Movie Maker 2 from Microsoft emerged on the market. I was back into video editing like never before. However, I still had my same reservations with video. My colleagues in the district were clamoring for this technology and I wanted to help develop an army of Spielbergs and Coppolas. For several years, we facilitated workshops teaching teachers how to create movies using Movie Maker in their classroom. To be honest, a number of wonderful projects were created. Unfortunately, the process is time-consuming and video production began to slow.

A year later, Microsoft gave us Producer, which marries PowerPoint with video and/or audio. I thought we had the next killer application for educational technology. This product should have taken off. Maybe we as technology educators just failed to embrace it. However, one very interesting item came to our attention as we facilitated workshops on Producer. The participants wouldn’t get in front of the camera for their project. Oddly enough, when we told them they could instead use the microphone on the computer and record audio only, the excitement for the product grew.

With all this background it still took the creation of the RSS enclosure tag for the “light bulb” to click on. What is so special about the RSS enclosure tag? It was the birth of podcasting.

In my mind, we have discovered the Holy Grail of Education Technology. It has taken millions of dollars in equipment, software and infrastructure for us to come full circle back to one of the first forms of mass communication… Radio! However, in our, “I want it when I want it, not when you want to allow me to have it”, world, this generation may become known as the Tivo (http://www.tivo.com/) generation -- radio just doesn’t cut it. We want our content when and where we want it. The mode of radio that fits this model is Podcasting.

This publication is loaded with several great explanations of Podcasting, for this reason I will not go into the technical specifics of Podcasting. I will share some of the ways teachers in my district are using podcasting, as well as some of the processes involved in building excitement for the concept.

How is podcasting being used?

When I first became excited about podcasting, (October 2005), I am ashamed to say that I had a horrible case of tunnel vision. In fact, I only saw two major uses for the technology; the first being the obvious, remediation, the second communication with the community or staff by the school administrator.

This past June, I was able to facilitate two podcasting classes for 28 teachers in the Peoria District. (I had only intended to teach one; however, I had so much interest that I ran two separate classes.) During each of these 3-day workshops, I was very pleased to see the level of excitement pouring from these educators. Equally impressive was the dialog that took place in the classes. One person would state how they intended to use Podcasting in their environment; another teacher in the room would say “Oh wow and then you could do…” Toward the end of the class I asked them to post on the class discussion board how they intended to use podcasting in their environment. The following are some of their comments.

I will definitely use it to record major lectures for English 1 students. That way, those who are absent or those who want to review the information may do so at their convenience.

I will use podcasting on my staffweb page to keep parents and students informed of what is going on in my classroom. What better way to get the word out about curriculum, assignments, and upcoming events. I also hope to add podcasting to our school website that I'm going to work on this year.

I have three immediate uses:

  • Record meetings for those who cannot attend;
  • Record information on selected professional development topics;
  • Personal use on an oral family history project.

I would like to post class discussions of important topics so that students can listen to the discussions again or absent students can hear the discussions. I would also like to have students create "radio show" type broadcasts. I am sure many other ideas will come to me as I begin to investigate this type of media on the web.

Oh boy, where do I start? Audio clips will become a huge part of the DSS, (Decision Support System). On every page found in the DSS, there will be audio "help" instructions, (i.e. what data is found by clicking on "state tests", when new data will be posted, how to interpret the data, etc). My vision is a teacher who can examine the data while listening to the above steps. This eliminates having 5+ documents...

Career & Technical Education (CTE) will use podcasting in multiple ways:

  • Provide directions and information to CTE teachers on special projects and initiatives;
  • Provide information to students on the student zone;
  • Provide information to parents on the parent zone;
  • Provide information to the media about CTE in PUSD.

Creating "study guides" for the students to listen to and write answers. This is great for kids who don't have anyone at home to quiz them. They can listen to the questions, and write down their answers.

I have already started a Podcast Club for students at Desert Harbor. I also have students recording our school newsletter articles. This year I am also teaching a podcast elective and anticipate learning some advanced techniques with my students. Additionally, I have also been uploading Podcasts for our administrators and hope to help them...

I think this technology will be used in many ways in my classroom and school. A few ideas worth sharing will be encouraging my Principal to make a monthly podcast message to post on our website. I will be using it in my classroom to, among other things, record our weekly spelling words so the students can practice taking the spelling test just as it will be presented on testing day, homework assignments...

As you have read, these classes oozed excitement which only fuelled my passion for Podcasting. Quick, download Audacity, pick up your microphone and start podcasting!

Don’t be the only podcaster in your school.

The best way I have found to build excitement for technology is to be a practitioner and an evangelist. Of the two, I would rate practitioner the more important. Review what you do in your classroom or school. Ask yourself where your students or community would benefit from audio content. (You may come up with several areas so keep a list.) Next, pick one topic and get started. Wait until you are comfortable with the first topic then worry about moving on to the next topic on the list.

After you have posted a few shows, it is time to put on the evangelist hat. Talk to your friends, colleagues and most importantly, your students and community about your Podcasts. Ask for feedback from those who have listened to your show and don’t get discouraged if a person says something you consider “not nice”. To this day I still have people tell me I am wasting my time, or it should be called Podlame, Podboring etc… I smile, tell them they mock what they don’t understand and show them the statistics of my podcast site. (I must also note, these same people have never listened to my podcast, Adventures in Podcasting, at http://portal.peoriaud.k12.az.us/personal/swheeler/My%20Pages/Adventures%20In%20PodCasting.aspx .)

The most important part of building excitement is to be excited yourself; don’t be afraid to let your passion for Podcasting spill on other people. Once they start asking questions, your podcasting classroom is open and it is time to start teaching the value of this most powerful technology.

In closing, I would like to leave you with the following: The fact that you are reading this book tells me you’re interested in making a difference with your students and community. The topics discussed in this book make a difference in lives of our students. Podcasting may not be the best fit for you where blogging or other Web 2.0 topics are better. The important part, you are willing to learn about the new technology. Find what fits for you, embrace it, learn it and use it. The quest for knowledge is a journey which we should never allow to end. Welcome to the New Worldwide Web.

This chapter contained several links attached to words. If you are reading the print version of this book, you may find the actual URL helpful.

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