Friday, 18 April 2008

PPPSIG Meeting at University of Hertfordshire

This meeting was for the Special Interest Group concerned with Podcasting for Pedagogic Purposes (hence PPPSIG) and was the second dissemination event of its kind. The whole day was interesting so this is just a summary of what happened:

The most useful presentation of the day came from Andrew Middleton and Alan Hillier, who basically went through and talked around a series of samples from actual podcast files delegates had sent in. This was a really good way of demonstrating the various forms podcasting can take:
  • monologue or lecture form
  • recorded discussion
  • video guidance in real-time
  • edited/produced video

Each of the examples also represented different gradients of formality. My favourite examples were a short video spoof of a legal claims advert which was used to teach science and an example of a help guide to Blackboard which was done really informally (there was a phone ringing in the background, for example, and as the support officers navigated their way around the site there was more informal chat about the tool and some general banter). The former was professionally done but also very informal while the latter was obviously recorded on the fly but still remained informative.

Of all the examples I saw, the “rough-edge” approach seemed to work the best and I imagine would be most effective in creating or strengthening staff-student connections. The presenters seemed to think this was true too; the student feedback revealed that they liked it when they could hear, for example, their lecturer turning pages while they gave feedback on essays or the sound of another glass of wine being poured… One could make the argument that podcasts provide the potential for more intimacy than even the face-to-face setting of a huge lecture hall.


We got a chance to make our own podcast too. In about forty-five minutes, a group of four of us put together a script, recorded it using free software and then published it online. It’s only about two minutes long and you can tell it’s a bit on-the-spot, as opposed to hitting one, but the results are here. (The obligatory out-of-the-office photo is above.) At this workshop we were also given a step-by-step booklet and a CD of resources.


The other workshop I went to was run by Andy Ramsden and focussed on designing and planning podcasts. This was more of a brainstorming session and some useful experiences were shared. One of the ideas I came up with there was for getting students to make podcasts for tours of the campus so prospective students can chose to walk around themselves with the file to guide them around. The idea of the workshop was to take everyone’s ideas and see if and how the finer details would work: in this example, iPods would need to be available to borrow for those that don’t have them, for instance.

We also had an overview of the IMPALA (Informal Mobile Podcasting And Learning Adaptation) project, funded by JISC, which had some interesting ideas and approaches to podcasting.

The day ended with a panel-led discussion on what we’d all learned and how useful the day had been, complete with a real-life student who had herself recorded podcasts. She warned that the process was very time-consuming though she conceded that the professional magazine-format approach she had chosen to take required a lot of recording and editing.

Lastly, some of the panel seemed particularly concerned with the idea of “sustainability”; how one can keep an effective community of practice going after funding has ended. Along with actually acknowledging and addressing the issue throughout the day, the group keeps a PPPSIG wiki which anyone can visit and anyone involved in the SIG can contribute to.

Further thoughts from the panel:
  • Do students change note-taking technique if recorded lectures are available? Allows students to be more attentive as they could flesh out notes later on?
  • Would students stop attending lectures if recordings were available?
  • Does it matter if students don’t attend lectures?
    • As long as they learn it doesn’t matter.
    • But lectures can give student-life structure. In fact some students complain if they don’t have enough since this is what they’ve paid fees for.
    • There is, however, a difference between attending and learning.
    • The temptation to unpick podcasts might lead to unnecessary time being spent on listening to recordings repeatedly?
    • Interestingly, the student on the panel added that podcasting would probably tend to dissuade only the disruptive or disinterested students from attending lectures, meaning better learning for everyone
So if you're interested in podcasting I'd recommend getting in touch with someone via the wiki above and seeing if you can attend the next event!

[This post is back-dated. 27-06-2008]