Podcast advice

I’m loving creating podcasts for three reasons.

One, my students are listening to them more than once. They’re using them as review tools, and they can download them to their iPods. Two, they’re sharing them with their friends, even the ones that are sort of boring. Maybe they’re just laughing at me, but they’re also encountering new information, and that’s fine. Three, it’s possible to create general-purpose podcasts that have broad applications outside my own classroom, so that any student in school could find them helpful… and it’s nice to get thanked by someone who you don’t even teach, normally.

Thanks to our helpful (if overwhelmed) technology department, I now have a little program called ScreenMimic, which allows me to record what I’m doing on the screen in a word-processing program or a database program or, really, anything. It creates .mov files, or .flv files, and apparently a couple of other formats, though these seem to be the two I need for my podcasts. It’s possible to drag the .mov files into GarageBand, and then lay down an audio track, add a few jingles or accents to the voiceover, and voila!, a podcast is born.

I’ve now made a quartet of podcasts that are merely audio recordings, each on how to do a specific review sheet for the exam. But I’ve now made a few video podcasts on writing, which are not great but probably OK. They’re not flashy, I don’t think, but they are reasonably clever. The ones in bold are already done; the ones in italics have the movie done but not the audio text overlaying it; the ones in plaintext are just planned.

Subjects include:

  • Writing a thesis statement
  • Writing a short answer on an examination
  • Writing a narrative paragraph
  • Writing a descriptive paragraph
  • Writing a comparison paragraph
  • Writing a contrast paragraph
  • Adding footnotes or endnotes
  • Composing a bibliography

    I think I also need to create a series of videos on how to make a podcast at all, so that I’m not the only one contributing to the program, and others can do the same thing. I think a series on the Dewey Decimal System, for example, could be a great boon to our students, whose only real research tools sometimes seem to be Google and Wikipedia.

    So now I’m asking you, dear readers, for advice. There are three questions:

    1) What do you wish you could have had a simple, 3-8 minute explanation for in school, that you could review again and again? (Writing, history, philosophy, theology… those are my areas of expertise… please don’t ask me to explain organic chemistry or trigonometry.)
    2) What elements of podcasts bore you or anger you?
    3) Do you make podcasts at all, and what tools do you find helpful?

    OOOOOH… and I just realized that I could take screen movies of Google Earth or SketchUp, and run little tours of places in the ancient world… teach geography that way. Hmm!

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    1. screencasting, Google Earth

      I rather like screencasting as a format. There are a bunch of programs that can be used to do it, I hadn’t heard of Screen Mimic but being able to record FLV is a pretty nice feature.

      I saw an archeologist speak about using Google Earth in one of his classes a couple of years ago but I don’t recall anything else about it. A new multidisciplinary course at Harvard has used Google Earth a bit, both in and outside the classroom.

      “Travel and Transformation on the High Seas: An Imaginary Journey in the Early 17th Century”

      Unfortunately, the course site requires a Harvard login but a KMZ file for Google Earth is publicly available. Use Add > Network Link in Google Earth. It starts at a 3D model of the Globe Theater.

      This blog post has a few screenshots from the site.

      Other stuff:

      Harvard Humanities Students Discover the 17th Century Online

    2. Making the Sicily post into a podcast, with video from Google Earth, actually wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

      I agree with your take on listening vs. listening and looking. You need to have something to do with your hands when you’re absorbing new information, really.

    3. Still trying to think of a good topic to request. I’m interested in the cross-conections like you outlined between Sicily, Carthage,and Greece.

      Podcasts bore me when there’s too much kibbitzing. I don’t like talkshow formats. I usually listen to be informed. Bad interviews make me cranky too – more specifically, bad interviewers.

      It can be difficult to listen when the information is too complex. I listened to some podcasts of Biology 101 lectures, but stopped when there was more detail than I could absorb from listening. I believe they posted class notes with diagrams on the class site, but that doesn’t help when I’m driving.

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