Podcasting in the Classroom

This post is written by Julia Kaziewicz, Graduate Student, American Studies Program/Adjunct English Faculty

My project proposes using podcasting in the English 207 classroom in lieu of the traditional short paper, capitalizing on the engagement of rich media to enhance student learning.  Over the course of a semester, each student will be part of a team that writes and produces two podcasts on our course texts.  This summer I’ll be working on exactly how to distribute the duties of writing and recording among the students, but for the moment the sequence of events looks something like this:

After reading Sloan Wilson’s 1955 novel The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, students in Group A will identify what themes from our course the text addresses: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), consumerism, and conformity.  Each student in the group will pick one topic to write about, using examples from the text to show how the theme is illuminated.  For example, if assigned PTSD, the student would write about main character Tom Rath’s inability to be honest with his wife about what happened during World War II, his sudden thoughts of extreme rage, and his father’s suicide after World War I.  The student would then submit to me a rough draft of the podcast script, which I would mark up for revision. After I provide comments, the group will create a master podcast that will be peer-edited, and then submitted for final approval. In their editing process, students will have to make sure their scripts stick to a pre-set time limit.  Students will then record and produce their podcast.

While students will be using the same analytical skills needed to produce a short close reading paper, they will also be working collaboratively on audio scripts that will benefit them later when studying for the course final.  Because students that take English 207 are rarely English majors, I want to develop a classroom where students remain engaged regardless of their majors.  Podcast development utilizes skills valuable for a variety of majors: use of multi-media, collaboration, peer editing, presentation and performance, and production.  Thinking about the habits of Generation M, this project will encourage mobile learning and multi-tasking; students can review for the final exam by listening to the podcasts while walking around campus, or doing the dishes.  Keeping in mind that not everyone is an auditory learner, students will be required to publish their podcast scripts on the course website along with their final podcast.

I draw from my own experiences as a student to shape the classes I’m now teaching.  I’ve been thinking a lot about why I didn’t pay attention in class when I was an undergrad, and often it was because of a lack of engagement with either the material, or the professor’s teaching style.  Because English 207 is a non-majors course that fulfills the GER 5 requirement, and less than ten percent of the students I have in each class major in English, I am always looking for ways to keep all of the students in class interested, regardless of their educational pursuits.  The podcast project will challenge students across disciplines, keeping them engaged with our course material as well as developing useful skills in collaboration, editing and production.  I also plan on basing the final exam largely on the information put forth in each podcast, meaning that the students’ input will fuel the final.  I’m hoping that student engagement with the course materials will increase not just because of the podcast production, but also because the students will feel involved with, and in some way responsible for, their graded course evaluation.

I’ll let you know how it goes!