Has anyone else noticed the magical properties of the word ‘iPod’? Just say iPod in a conversation and suddenly the angry child is appeased, the spouse smiles and the co-worker is calmed. If you don’t believe me, try it!
Strangely the word ‘podcast’ contains a different kind of magic. The terms podcast and podcasting evoke a variety of responses. At one end of the spectrum some see this as a way to use technology to help students with different learning styles or disabilities learn like the folks at the University of Aberystwyth. At the other end, there are those who think podcasts will destroy the very bedrock of the student-teacher interaction experience and the Socratic Method. Others take a more pragmatic view that at best podcasts help busy students who may commute long distances by letting them time-shift the lecture or at worst it gives students another reason to skip class.
Technology doesn’t always make things better, rather it makes things more efficient. Thus a boring lecture will not be transformed through podcast technology to a great lecture.
I believe there is a time and a place for podcasts and that time and place varies depending upon the subject, teacher’s style and pedagogy. For some subjects it is a way to add a new dimension to the course by bringing in additional resources (e.g., interviews, audio postcards from a field trip, audio commentary for a collection of images) or taking students to places they would not normally be able to go. For other subjects it may be a way to convey information to people with learning or other disabilities. There is no one-size-fits-all podcast policy, strategy or technology for education.
There is a lively debate featuring all kinds of perspectives on podcasting happening now on the Blackboard Listserv (BLDBRD-L) hosted by Arizona State University. If you’d like to tune in and read the archives or join the conversation you can by joining the listserv.
Other resources for podcasting: